The planet Cybertron, one million years ago... Cyber City is a wondrous, peaceful place protected by the heroic Autobots, guardians of peace and justice. It has come to the attention of the Autobots that their fellow Cybertronians, the Mini-Cons, are coming under attack by a rogue group calling themselves the Decepticons. Mini-Con village C52 is next to fall and the Mini-Cons are all too aware that the Decepticons are using the captured Mini-Cons as weapons.
Hot Shot is in a hurry. The Autobot races through Cyber City and barges in to see Optimus Prime. He then plays a message given to him by a deceased Mini-Con. It contains a frantic plea from Leader-1, head of a Mini-Con village, asking for help. It seems a faction calling themselves 'Decepticons' have been attacking Mini-Cons and are right now attacking his village. His plea ends abruptly with a giant fist grabbing him. Prime decides that this constitutes a 'problem'.
The scenery changes to a Mini-Con village making preparations for the coming attack by the Decepticons. Two inhabitants, Sparkplug and Rollbar, set up some force shield generators and discuss the unknown threat. Meanwhile, another group, ostensibly led by Incinerator, works on the finishing touches for their shield generators and two of them, Longarm and Jolt, compare notes about the looming menace. Longarm details a story he heard about experiments being performed upon Mini-Cons to link them to the Decepticons, thereby increasing the strength of their captors.
The group's preparations are ended by the somewhat pained arrival of Sparkplug, who informs them of the enemy's arrival before falling unconscious. After some frantic moments, they get the force shield up and an ominous silence envelops the village. It's quickly ended when Cyclonus erupts through the floor. He and Demolishor make quick work of the Mini-Cons while Sparkplug gets swatted away. They radio Megatron to inform him of their success and ask what's next. His response: "We declare war."
An interesting set-up from Sarracini, who shows that he can actually write the Transformers somewhat decently (after his below-par stint on the Generation 1 title). The issue has plenty going for it with the mysterious way the Decepticons are handling themselves. It really does help heighten the suspense of the issue. One could almost say the Armada debut surpasses that of Marvel's G1.
The art is certainly superior as Raiz's pencils have a nice, crisp feeling to them, even though they look a tad distorted in some places. There's a great entrance for Cyclonus (which really emphasises the Transformers' huge size compared to the Mini-Cons), as well as stunning splash pages for the debuts of Prime and Megatron (Megatron's new look on the last page is jaw dropping), plus theres a grisly flashback sequence. It makes a nice change from Pat Lee.
The story itself, while more smoothly flowing, doesn't quite have that early 'epic' feel that the first issue of Marvel's G1 did. Then there is the main problem of the extended cast, which plagues the book right into its transformation into Energon. We don't know anything except that the Autobots are good, the Decepticons evil and the Mini-Cons are caught in the crossfire. Little is actually done with the larger Transformers and their characterisation suffers for it. Still, the emphasis on the Mini-Cons distinguishes the title from previous Transformers continuities and offers something genuinely different. And in contrast to the Armada cartoon, they're actually afforded characterisation and can 'speak.' However, at this early stage even the Mini-Cons don't get much except a few brush strokes. The main thrust of the issue is the attack on the village and, for better or worse, everything takes a back seat to that.
It's strictly white hats vs. black hats and remains such throughout the other 17 issues. It's very clear who to root for and who to boo at, though the main good guys, the Autobots, are mostly passed over this issue. All we know is that Hot Shot is a tad reckless. We don't get much from the Decepticons either. All we know about them is that Cyclonus and Demolishor enjoy their work. The main development goes to the Mini-Cons.
Jolt has a rather anxious manner about him, though it is understandable given the circumstances.
By contrast, Longarm is rather calm and reserved. An achievement considering the situation.
Though he doesn't get too much spotlight in this issue, Sparkplug eventually comes to the forefront of the Mini-Cons. He is the most receptive to the Autobot plea for help from them later on and becomes Optimus Prime's personal Mini-Con. He also will tend to act as a liaison between the two races.
The Mini-Cons live in seemingly disparate villages in their own personal sectors. Whether or not this is their choice is unclear, but it most likely is. They have no real line of communication with the Autobots, or Optimus would have been aware of the Decepticon attacks sooner. They also seem to have no organised government and just probably follow the Autobots.
It's probably worth mentioning that a lot of names are recycled from G1 and are applied with a bit of humour. Sparkplug, for instance, is basially a clone of Bumblebee with a pun on the name of the Witwicky patriarch. Leader-1 is the name of the Gobot leader, the franchise of which was acquired by Hasbro. Optimus Prime, Megatron, Cyclonus, Smokescreen, Scavenger and Rollbar all come from G1.
Given that Megatron now feels confident enough to go to war, he must have a large collection of Mini-Cons to sustain an army. How they could have collected so many in relative secrecy is rather unclear and a bit odd.
The Autobot capital of Cybertron is Cyber City, with an annoying Greeter out front and it's own traffic rules. The government centre is a large, unnamed tower with the motto of "Truth. Justice. Freedom." on it. It houses both Optimus Prime and, as we learn in Energon, the High Council. Autobot society seems more coherent and orderly in Armada and there is no trace of the strife that the G1 Megatron used to start his civil war - although the term 'Autobot' society may not be completely appropriate as here they are referred to as 'protectors' of Cyber City, which suggests they are a status above the rank and file and may not have influence outside the city.
Optimus himself is more of a military leader in this continuity and, unlike his Dreamwave G1 counterpart, is already a military commander. As shown in Energon, he has to bow to the Council's authority, unlike Marvel's G1 in which most of the Council were assassinated after the Ark disappearance and Optimus really seemed to be in charge of everybody once he got back on his feet, though he likely let Xaaron handle the little legislative needs.
How the Decepticons discovered the Mini-Con potency for power is never made clear. Nor is there any kind of stimulant for insurrection, as there was in Marvel's G1 with the war that Megatron used to come to power. How Armada Megatron gained followers is a mystery. It may simply be that he tapped the aggressive element of a peaceful society with the usual 'superior lifeform' rhetoric the Decepticons use.
In a marked contrast to the start of G1 continuity, this story is set 1 million years ago, rather than 4.
Scavenger and Smokescreen call Hot Shot 'sir', suggesting a higher ranking.
Most Transformer character designs do not incorporate their later Earthen character models.
Hot Shot has to have his identification authorised to enter the inner parts of Autobot HQ. He does by having receptacles protruding out of his fingers scanned.
It was Hot Shot who discovered the beaten Mini-Con in Alpha Sector.
Leader-1 is head of Mini-con village D10.
The villages have force field regulators that result in Energon dome umbrellas over the tops of the villages.
Longarm's friend has seen a Decepticon before. He's referring to the Star Sabre group. Longarm also used to build satellites in village B13.
"Next? Next, we declare war." Megatron.
"If we can't transform your frown into a smile, well then we just haven't done our job!" Greeter Droid.