With the First Strike event still blasting chunks out of Cybertron, it’s left to the supporting cast of Optimus Prime to continue to carry the title for another instalment. Unfortunately, said supporting cast is also several hands down as players like Marissa Faireborn are also on the wrong side of the space bridge, so it’s down to this year’s winner of Worst Paint Job Award, Aileron, and her bickering posse of ‘bots on the trail of the fugitive Jazz to tell us a story.
Wearing her Reluctant Leader badge as proud as anybody named Jack Shepherd ever could, Aileron’s team located Jazz down in Mexico (wearin’ a red bandana and playin’ a blues piano), surrounded by heavily-armed locals keen to discuss their views on the US President’s foreign policy.
We check in first with Thundercracker, paying a visit to Sanctuary Station and the always-anachronistic Cosmos. He’s the Transformer who becomes a bright green UFO, for reasons nobody ever understood, and is currently playing the John Tracy role of keeping a watchful eye on this corner of the galaxy. Flanked by comedy duo Buzzsaw and Laserbeak and the quirky Sky-Byte (transforms into a shark, writes bad poetry), Thundercracker is accompanied by his adorable mascot Buster as we segue into another set of vignettes as various ‘bots talk to camera. The reason for this framing device remains unknown, but will doubtless play out at the conclusion of First Strike.
Back in Mexico, Aileron struggles to keep her gang in line, particularly Slide, still hurting from the loss of twin brother and combiner partner Oiler by human hands. You know whenever a Transformer tosses out the slur ‘fleshling’ that their Decepticon tendencies are showing, but after a bout of occasionally excessive force the humans are driven off. Jazz didn’t ask for a rescue – his concern is where the guns are coming from, ex-Earth Defence Command hardware that could spark a whole heap of trouble if too many humans get their hands on them.
More talking heads give us a slice of human viewpoints – mainly seeing the new weapons as a means to defend themselves against the unpredictable nature of sharing a planet with the Transformers. Given their habit of getting embroiled in universe-threatening catastrophes roughly once a year, who could blame them?
One awkward Men In Black/Pulp Fiction meta-crossover sight gag later, Jazz finds the closest stash of guns in a remote warehouse and takes out his growing frustrations on them. Two small ‘bots try to flee the scene, and Aileron’s team corner them to reveal Rumble and Frenzy, another pair of Soundwave’s mini-cassette minions, making a fast buck on rising human paranoia.
Given that the ‘war’ is officially over and there are no more ‘sides’ to be taken, Aileron decides to wait for Prime’s return to decide what to do with the pint-sized purloiners – a fact that does not sit well with Slide. Nor with Jazz, who is more hurt by the fact he still feels hung out to dry by his former compatriots. He deliver a jazz one-liner and departs, leaving a troubled Aileron to escort the weapons back to Autobot City.
More talking heads play up the division within the ranks, as clashing ideologies and opinions join the uncertainty over what’s happening on Cybertron to give Aileron another sleepless night.
Again, it feels like not a lot is allowed to happen this issue – the big money story is still over in First Strike, meaning the ongoing titles are on clean up duty for other plot points. It’s well-written, well-drawn entertainment, but feels very much like the B-story while the real action is taking place on another channel.
Optimus Prime #12 is now available from IDW Publishing.