The fate of Cybertron lies in the hands of Starscream and Windblade as each tries to win allies and support for control over the Council of Worlds. After the costly victory against the Titans, Iacon is in shambles and Starscream finds himself on shakier ground than ever. The key to his political (and likely literal) survival rests in the outcome of a very unlikely event: the trial of the Council’s first official war criminal – Chromia of Caminus! Collects #9-12 and Annual 2017.
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Written: Mairghread Scott
Art: Sara Pitre-Durocher
The swansong for the well-received Till All Are One series (the first ever all-female creative team in Transformers history too), Volume Three finds us fresh from the aftermath of another colossal battle across the face of Cybertron, as chronicled in the crossover event Titans Return.
Focusing as always on the little details – a regular strength of this series – we have Starscream adjudicating a trial related to the events of Bruticus’ recent rampage, musing on the upheaval of recent events and the delicate balance of politics he’s becoming more embroiled in maintaining in post-War Iacon.
Of course, we know that during the final beats of Titans Return, the Transformers universe’s very own Satan, Liege Maximo, escaped for parts unknown and will almost certainly be back for a showdown within, oh, say the next four issues or so. When Starscream confronts Elita One over this (and her recent grandstanding, an amusing IDW take on ‘fake news’), we get a quick flashback – rendered in gorgeous, Alex Ross-style fluid colours – impressing the need to present a united front when Maximo returns.
Starscream – still haunted by the ghost of Bumblebee, because comics – makes for a fascinating figure throughout this series. Pulled from pillar to post by his old ways and a fluctuating desire to be better, the cumulative positive effect of Windblade’s presence always looks like it’s close to making him turn over a new leaf, only for him to do something dastardly and take two steps back again. Creatively, this makes him a heap of fun to write for, as evidenced by his plan to restore the comatose Combaticons to normalcy (i.e. loyalty to him) through some highly morally-questionable mnemosurgery.
A brilliantly manipulative interaction with the recovering Blast Off shows Starscream at his best – conniving but always with a silver tongue. By promising to give team mate Onslaught a nudge to allow his stalled romance with Blast Off to develop, Starscream successfully persuades Blast Off to buy into his deception, also conveniently covering up Starscream’s almost-murder of Swindle. Ooh, what a delicious bastard he is – Scott arguably writes Starscream better than anybody in IDW, having a real knack for creating situations that give him room to be his insidious best alongside generating genuine sympathy for him.
We get to test that dual nature when Starscream is told the evil Vigilem downloaded his consciousness into Windblade’s mind before his brain module was ‘sploded, and an angry Starscream berates his ghost-Bumblebee (his conscience, maybe? It’s left purposefully vague) by saying every time he’s tried to be better, things have gone wrong. It’s just easier for him to keep on being bad.
Meanwhile, Windblade is finally seen again, and things have gone full-on Inception as she hides within a decaying cityscape pursued by the gigantic form of Vigilem, his powerful consciousness attempting to destroy hers so he can live on in control of her body – and have access to Metroplex, which would be bad news for all of Cybertron. As they fight, Windblade gains the upper hand before Vigilem tries to win her round with words – his own form shifting to mirror hers in a great sequence of panels full of striking artwork.
All of this leads to an increasingly overwhelmed Starscream deciding to venture into Windblade’s mind to save her. Vigilem is too powerful for either of them, and takes his fight into Starscream’s mindscape instead, taking the form of ‘classic’ Megatron to pummel him into submission. Windblade rescues Starscream’s spark and uses it to generate an army of everyone who ever influenced him – Autobot and Decepticon alike – with some metaphorical hammering unleashing Starscream’s true form.
Quick Transformers lore sidebar – Starscream was one of countless ‘bots ‘cold constructed’, wherein a new spark is placed into a prefabricated body instead of evolving into its intended form, as a means of quickly producing new soldiers during the Great War. By showing him the form he should have evolved into if left to it – and it’s a glorious, Japanese-design blaze of red, white and blue – Vigilem is overwhelmed and defeated at last.
Windblade strides from the medbay, renewed of spirit and purpose, and Starscream is left to process the revelation of the heroic nature denied to him, but that still lies within his soul – if he’s prepared to go looking for it.
The Volume closes with the 2017 Annual, a full review of which you can find right here on Set the Tape.
Till All Are One was an important piece of the overall IDW Transformers line – a thoughtful, character-driven series not short of setpieces and action, but that followed the same narrative ground that gave such success to series like the original Beast Wars cartoon. Keep your regular cast short and take as much time as you can to fully develop and flesh them out. Starscream and Windblade alternate between protagonist and antagonist for each other as well as against outside forces, and while the series was hampered by the awkward inclusion of several instalments of the Titans Return crossover, it forged its own unique path creatively, much like the fan favourite Lost Light is still doing.
Now that the complete series is available across these three Volumes, you owe it to yourself to grab them and settle down for a deep dive into how a planet full of transforming warrior robots starts again after a devastating war. You may be surprised, but I guarantee you’ll be entertained.