Sunstorm is bashing up everybody. Bruticus gets walloped, Bumblebee's ship crashes, and Starscream makes a run for it, with Sunstorm in pursuit. Back on Cybertron, Autobot training is not going well, but at least Magnus is back online, with Prime soon to follow (after having the matrix wrenched from him at the end of Vol 2). On Earth, Starscream reaches the Nemesis under the ocean, but Sunstorm catches up to him. Sunstorm claims to be his brother, but Starscream, not a big fan of family get-togethers, wakes Jetfire up from stasis to take him on.
Issue
Vol 3 002
Writer
Brad Mick
Pencils
Don Figueroa
Inks
Elaine To
Colours
Espen Grundetjern / Rob Ruffolo
Release date
01/02/2004
Autobots featured
Bumblebee, Cliffjumper, Powerglide, Seaspray, Cosmos, Prowl, Ironhide, Swerve, Outback, Hubcap, Tailgate, Pipes, Red Alert, Hoist, Optimus Prime, Ultra Magnus, Streetwise, Groove, Hotspot, Blades, Firstaid, Jetfire, Brawn, Ratchet, Warpath, Beachcomber, Powerdasher Drill, Powerdasher Car, Powerdasher Jet, Skylynx, Wheeljack
Decepticons featured
Thundercracker, Skywarp, Soundwave, Starscream, Frenzy, Onslaught, Vortex, Swindle, Brawl, Blastoff, Bruticus, Runamuck
Humans featured
Sunstorm
Origin of
Death of
First appearance
Locations featured
Oregon, USA - Earth, Autobase Infirmary, The Epsilon Border - Cybertron, The Nemesis
Story synopsis
The issue opens with the Earthbound Decepticons defending themselves from the newly arrived Sunstorm. As the Decepticons fire at him Sunstorm rants at them about threatening Earth and mentions something about purifying the planet for what is to come. The Decepticons' assault has little effect and Soundwave, Thundercracker, Skywarp and Frenzy rapidly fall as Sunstorm seemingly drains their energy.

With his first line of defence down, Starscream orders the Combaticons to combine, which they duly do. However, Sunstorm seems unphased. The orange Seeker squares up to the Combaticons’ combined form but before he can act the Autobot shuttlecraft Orion turns up and blasts a big hole in the side of Bruticus’ face.

Onboard the Orion, Bumblebee congratulates Cliffjumper for his fancy shooting, but outside Sunstorm is less than impressed by the interference. Sunstorm attacks the Autobots' shuttle, overloading it with energy. The overload causes the ‘internal surge protectors’ (you know, just in case) to initiate a shutdown and the shuttle heads for the ground. Seeing all this Starscream abandons the injured Bruticus and makes a run for it, followed quickly by Sunstorm. Back on the Orion power comes back online just before impact and Powerglide is able to pull the shuttle's nose up just enough to ensure the crash landing isn’t too messy.

On Cybertron, Prowl and Ironhide oversee a training session involving Pipes, Swerve, Hubcap, Tailgate, Outback and Red Alert. The session doesn’t go well and Ironhide bemoans the lack of fully trained Autobot soldiers. Their comments imply that war with the Decepticons has broken out anew on Cybertron after Shockwave's fall. Prowl and Ironhide head to the Infirmary where they find Hoist tending to Optimus Prime (who is almost back operational) and Ultra Magnus is there, fully functional once again.

As the Autobots are talking, Prowl receives a message from Streetwise, who along with the other Protectobots is investigating an energy anomaly the Autobots picked up (caused by the awakening of Sunstorm last issue). Streetwise reports that the lab has been pretty much wrecked and that First Aid is trying to revive Runabout and Runamuck but they don’t expect to have any clear leads soon. Ironhide is of the opinion that its just another of Shockwave’s failed experiments, but Prowl seems more concerned.

Back on Earth, Sunstorm tracks Starscream underwater to the crashed remains of the Nemesis (the ship that originally brought the Decepticons to Earth), where Starscream seems to think he has an ace up his, er, gun barrel. Starscream instructs the Nemesis computer to alert him to any security breaches but barely has he finished the sentence when Sunstorm has him by the throat. Crackling with energy Sunstorm announces his name to Starscream and refers to the treacherous ‘con as ‘brother.’

Meanwhile, back at the remains of the Ark the Autobots try and decide what to do with Bruticus. Brawn ends the debate by using the fallen Decepticon as a punching bag. As Brawn works out his frustration, Bumblebee walks away and attempts to console Ratchet, telling the medic that it was the right thing to do to blow up the Ark and Teletran-1. After calling Brawn off Bruticus the Autobots activate the Powerdashers who set to work repairing the crashed shuttle. Brawn comments that he is surprised that humans haven’t noticed their presence, not realising that the ‘bots are actually being observed from a distance by helicopter.

On the Nemesis, Sunstorm instructs Starscream to tell him how his Decepticons came to be on Earth. Starscream tells him of how the ‘cons stole a shuttle from Cybertron, and how said shuttle turned out to be Sky Lynx (as shown in Volume 2 issue 6). It transpires that Soundwave was able to hack into Lynx’s neural processors and gain a modicum of control, but that the Autobots resistance meant that they barely made it to Earth in one piece. Sky Lynx’s fate beyond this point remains unclear. It becomes apparent that last issue's attack on the Ark was an attempt to gain parts to repair the Nemesis. Starscream recounts how he used ‘an abandoned military testing ground nearby’ to provide Earth modes for the Combaticons, and how everything we going quite well until Sunstorm turned up.

Starscream goes on to question Sunstorm as to his nature. Sunstorm responds by stating that he is Starscream’s saviour, who will aid him in achieving his true destiny. Despite Starscream’s scepticism Sunstorm goes onto state that he has been made one with ‘The Oracle’ and been given ‘the knowledge and the power necessary to carry out its divine mission.’ Sunstorm asks Starscream to join him, but Starscream looks on in amusement as a reawakened Jetfire emerges behind Sunstorm.

Later, back in Oregon, the Powerdashers have finished repairing the shuttlecraft Orion. Ratchet and Bumblebee are the last to board, but just as the ‘lil yellow fella is about to follow Ratchet onto the ship he is rocked by a blast from above. Picking himself up, Bumblebee finds himself at the feet of Starscream… and Jetfire!
Remarks
Firstly, and most importantly, a better issue than the last. Plot wise this issue addresses a lot of the previous one’s faults - more or less gone are the heavy handed nostalgic references, Sky Lynx’s fate is (to some extent) revealed and the weight of the decision to destroy the Ark is given more weight here than in issue 1. Additionally, some of the questions left hanging from last issue, such as why did Starscream need the Ark and why is Prime taking so long to recover (because of the shock to his system at having the Matrix removed), are answered. On top of this, the story itself is a bit pacier (perhaps because so much page space is not wasted with pointless Transformers: The Movie references), moving from location to location and giving us a bit more insight into the fallout of the events of the second mini-series on Cybertron.

The characterisation is also stronger in this issue, with especially nice moments for Starscream (reflecting that he is always underestimated), Sunstorm (given enough exposition to make him seem more interesting this issue) Bumblebee and Ratchet (firstly Bumblebee’s attempts to reassure Ratchet that he did the right thing blowing up the Ark, later Ratchet's mockery of Bumblebee for cloaking the Orion before the last two are aboard and, most touchingly, Bumblebee’s insecure reaction, despite his having done a good job). In addition, Mick does a good job in utilising a large cast (as can be seen from the amount of characters featured in this issue) without interrupting the flow of the story.

Sadly, as with most of Mick’s work thus far, there remains faults, some of them reasonably glaring. For one, there is a creeping feeling that a lot of this ground could have been - and would have been better - covered last issue. More glaringly, Mick continues to do a poor job of utilising ‘comic book science.’ Last issue it was the dubious explanation of Ratchet and Brawn’s navigation of the Ark’s defences, this issue it’s the curious phenomenon of the Orion plummeting toward the ground with Cosmos’ display screen reading power levels of zero (after the ship has essentially blown a fuse, which is fair enough) and then moments later Powerglide announcing that power is back online. This can probably be explained by some fan thinking but with good writing this shouldn’t be necessary.

Also still present is Mick’s tendency to under exposit – both the status of the war on Cybertron and the fate of Sky Lynx are hinted at, but remain unclear, which is somewhat frustrating. This is compounded by the feeling that while the issue hops around nicely in terms of location and characters, not a great deal really happens in terms of plot development. This is a shame as now we are no longer constrained by the six issue limited series format it would be nice to see plots being stretched a little less thin. Less intrusive, but still a bit irksome, is the fact that Mick’s humour tends to fall a bit flat - Brawn using Bruticus as a form of therapy and the other Autobots irritable reaction seems to be an attempt at wit, but fails in its execution, which in turn ultimately renders it a waste of page space. Finally, and on a more personal note, it remains a real shame to see Soundwave reduced to a voiceless toady of Starscream - hopefully it will turn out that Soundwave is playing along for a reason, but that has yet to be seen.

To conclude on the writing front, Mick still suffers from a number of foibles but on the upside this issue is an improvement on the last and some of his more irritating habits seem to have been addressed. Whether this trend continues or not remains to be seen but while this issue itself is slightly above average fun rather than fantastic there are some positive indicators.

And then of course there is the art. Pencilwise its Don, so, making no bones about it, its pretty damn good, and unlike Mick, his fan references are much more subtle (although that assumes that they are always Don’s idea, which may be unfair). However, Figueroa has been around long enough now that he can be judged by his own standards and, as with Mick, this issue seems a little crisper than the last. That said, Don could still improve in some ways – his action scenes and story telling still lacking the kinetic feel of previous Transformers artists such as Andrew Wildman and especially Geoff Senior, despite the fact that Don is clearly technically a superior artist. Of course some of this may be down to the inking and colouring, which remain a little clinical (as with most of Dreamwave’s work). It’s a shame that in aiming for as ‘realistic’ a look as possible, Dreamwave sometimes miss the opportunity to exploit artistic licence and provide an edgier atmosphere, something we have only seen so far (from a Dreamwave perspective) from Jae Lee’s work on the Gi-Joe crossover. Of course, ultimately all this can only do so much to detract from Don’s obvious skill as an artist, and his loving attention to detail when it comes to rendering Transformers. In other words, if these other aspects were nailed we would be looking at a 10/10 instead of a 9, so there is still much to be grateful for from any Transformer fans point of view (see? I can be positive).
Character development
Starscream continues to get a lot of attention, and whilst remaining an ambitious braggart and a coward (all things we have seen before) he has an interesting moment when he reflects that he always has a plan B, and others are always underestimating him. Whether this is indicative of more arrogance on his part or some actual development of Starscream’s traditionally treacherous but slightly inept personality remains to be seen. Starscream also seems to be a particular focus of Sunstorm (who calls the sneaky Seeker ‘brother’) so there could be some interesting times ahead.

Sunstorm remains a zealot, claiming he has been at one with ‘The Oracle’ and talking of purifying Earth in preparation for what lies ahead.

Bumblebee shows he has what it takes to command, but still lacks faith in himself, taking a joke by Ratchet about his command abilities seriously.

In turn, Ratchet is portrayed as a complex mechanoid, both wistful about the destruction of the Ark but then also happy to poke fun at Bumblebee.

Brawn continues his macho riff, using the fallen Bruticus to work out his frustration.

Cliffjumper is a good shot.

Hubcap, Swerve, Pipes, Tailgate, Outback and Red Alert are all displayed as ineffectual warriors, failing the fifteenth battle simulation in a row (It's possible that Red Alert was not training with the others, and was merely putting the Minibots through their paces, but this is not specified).

Sky Lynx is a snob. If you take Starscream's word for it...
Trivia
Jetfire has been in stasis on the Nemesis for some time. His current allegiance is unclear... This is his first appearance in a comic strip with his mask/armour.

Sunstorm has the ability to drain the power from other Transformers. He can also expel large amounts of energy with seemingly no negative impact on himself.

The Autobot shuttlecraft Orion is equipped with sufficient weaponry to severely damage a gestalt. The craft is also equipped with ‘internal surge protectors’ to protect it from overloads, however, these have the impact of shutting down all systems when triggered. Furthermore, the shuttle is equipped with a cloaking device. The cloaking device can be disabled temporarily by throwing something at it, like a rock (either that, or Ratchet simply knew where to throw the rock to activate the shuttlecraft's door).

The Powerdashers appear to be used primarily for maintenance work and are only activated when they are required. To what level they are sentient remains unclear.

The drones used to train the Autobots on Cybertron resemble (to some extent) the drone Hot Rod trains with in Transformers: The Movie.

Losing the Matrix, even for a brief time, severely affected Prime’s internal systems. A clue to this is probably found in Prime's War Within origins, for instance, the Matrix made Prime what he is. In Marvel continuity, losing it wouldn't make him ill because Prime was already very tough beforehand.

Prowl and Streetwise use comm-links built into their forearms to communicate. This resembles the communicator Optimus Prime used in the original cartoon. Prowl's transmission from Streetwise comes in the form of a hologram.

The Nemesis, the Decepticons original transport to Earth, is crashed under water. This resembles the ship's fate in the Beast Wars cartoon. This differs from the original Marvel comic where the Nemesis remained in orbit (and in the UK run was destroyed by a time hopping Galvatron as he tested a new weapon), and in the original cartoon series it crashed on dry land.

Judging by Bruticus, when a gestalt is rendered unconscious his component parts are also rendered unconscious, or at least are unable to engage.

Streetwise talks about repairing Runabout and Runamuck, which considering the former had his head incinerated last issue speaks volumes about Transformers' durability.

Starscream also uses old military vehicles that he finds on an island to create the Combaticons in the cartoon episode 'Starscream's Brigade.'
Good quotes
“LESS questioning and MORE firing!” Starscream.
Bad quotes
“Uhrrruuhhh!” Bruticus, as eloquent as ever.
Mistakes
Story rating
6 star
Art rating
9 star
Media
Reviewed by
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