Ouch! Grimlock meets his match as both he and Jetfire are easily overpowered and captured by The Fallen. With half his objectives complete, The Fallen sends Larry, Moe and Curly to get Hotspot, while he personally goes after the 4th objective, Blitzwing! Despite the best efforts of the Protectobots and the Autobots, Bludgeon and company are able to snag Hotspot, while The Fallen easily breaks Blitzwing free from an Autobot prison. Oh and it turns out the Fallen needs each of them to restart the war between Primus and Unicron. Ouch.
The Well of All Sparks, Autobase, The High Council Pavilions - Iacon, Neutral Territories
Apparently The Fallen was none too happy with Grimlock’s near execution of Jetfire back in issue 4 of the Dark Ages, so he has come above ground to personally take care of the LSC commander. However, Grimlock still has some fight left in him and after disposing of Bludgeon yet again, The Fallen overloads Grimlock with dark energy, knocking the LSC commander comatose. As The Fallen carts off Jetfire and Grimlock back to the Well of All Sparks, The Fallen orders Bludgeon and his crew to capture Hotspot, while he personally will deal with the fourth subject. As they leave, the previously unconscious Shockwave reactivates…
Back at Autobase, Ratchet is busy repairing the battle damage sustained by the Autobots in their recent fight against Trypticon. Meanwhile, Prowl comments that while they’ve been playing by the rules, the Decepticons have been raising the ante with larger and more powerful weapons and soldiers. As Trailbreaker notes, the situation is rapidly escalating out of control with no end in sight. At this point Swoop notifies Autobase that both Jetfire and Grimlock are missing after their supposed meeting with Shockwave. Prowl then starts connecting the dots concerning Jetfire’s recent inquiries and the destabilisation of the Cybertronian conflict. But just as he’s about to start accessing Jetfire’s personal log, Autobase’s intruder alarms go off!
Deep down in Level Zero, a prison sector of Autobase, The Fallen has made his appearance and he’s after the inmate of cell D-43 - Blitzwing! Jazz, Sunstreaker and Mirage are there trying to hold him off, but to no avail.
At the High Council Pavilions, the Protectobots are busy going over their recent battle with Devastator to find out just what went wrong with Defensor’s mind. Despite being a later generation combiner, and supposedly free of the defects that Devastator suffers from, Defensor went on a rampage during the conflict. Hotspot decides that until they can figure out the problem, Defensor should not be used.
At that point Bludgeon, Bugly and Mindwipe make their presence known as they come in guns firing! Despite the best efforts of the Protectobots, the combination of the Chaos Trinity’s ambush, and Hotspot’s inability to use Defensor due to his fears of losing control, make the Protectobots fall quickly.
Back at Level Zero in Autobase, The Fallen advances still, despite heavy firepower from Jazz, Mirage and Sunstreaker. As the Fallen gets close and starts manhandling Jazz, Sunstreaker attempts a last ditch effort by taking a missile from his missile launcher and throwing it at The Fallen at point blank range. Unfortunately this only makes the Fallen annoyed and Sunstreaker pays the price as he is blasted by The Fallen’s built in weaponry. Now unopposed, The Fallen snatches Blitzwing and prepares to leave.
However, Prowl and Bumblebee erect a level one forcefield around Level Zero in the hopes of containing this new threat, but it is to no avail as The Fallen easily breaks through and escapes.
Later, deep below in the Well of All Sparks, Jetfire, Grimlock, Hotspot and Blitzwing find themselves bound to a large array which is firing an energy beam at the seal of Primus down below. Jetfire awakens to hear The Fallen remark that soon the war between Primus and Unicron will restart, and all chaos will follow…
This issue is enjoyable for several reasons. Firstly, it provides excellent background into combiner technology and how the combiner teams function as one. Secondly, Grimlock stays almost entirely out of this issue, allowing others to nab the spotlight for a change. Thirdly, Prowl once again demonstrates that he’s a damn good leader, and finally we see what The Fallen’s true purpose is.
Pacing has definitely picked up a bit from the last four issues as the mini-series draws to a close, but it is by no means rushed and instead complements the overall story arc well as this is supposed to be a dark, chaotic time in Cybertronian history. Having events occur quickly reflects that.
Dialogue and characterisation are very well handled, as one could divorce the text from the art and still know who is saying what. For instance, Prowl once again cements his position as a great Autobot leader by quickly taking charge and analysing the problems at hand, ranging from Trypticon, the arms race and the Fallen’s attack on Autobase: “It’s a vicious circle. They escalate, we’re forced to respond in kind, the war steps up another notch in scale.” Grimlock also gets some great lines in early on, reinforcing his earlier statement in War Within Vol 1 that, “Me Grimlock badass!” still holds true: “Not you. You. Had business here… with him. And you interfered. Small matter of execution for treason. Be right with you Jetfire.”
The problems with the issue stem from the art. Although still good, it is not as clean as issues 2 and 3 were. For instance on page 7, the close ups of Prowl’s face are slightly 'off' and look like a few minutes editing it would have helped tremendously. In addition, as with Wildman’s other pencils in the Dark Ages, the further the character in question is in the background, the quicker they lose pencil, colour and ink quality. Now granted, level of detail obviously fades with distance, but there is little spectrum of quality here - it is either awesomely detailed or under-developed, with very little in between, which is a shame.
Examples of art failure occur when The Fallen is dragging away the very sketchily drawn pair of Jetfire and Grimlock, and later on, when Mirage and Sunstreaker are fighting during the jail break scene. In the former case, Jetfire and Grimlock just look awful. It would seem that some of this stems from the colourist and inkers simply painting over Wildman's art. It's disappointing and irritating to an extreme. During the interior fight scene with Mirage and Sunstreaker, both look sloppy and unfinished, particularly when Sunstreaker pulls a missile out of his launcher. It's a real waste considering the potential for some excellent art for that scene.
However, the action sequences are fun, easily understood and portray a real sense of movement throughout the issue. For instance, when the Fallen is marching through Autobase to free Blitzwing, he looks positively unstoppable and quite menacing. Very cool.
Grimlock hasn’t quite connected the dots yet between Jetfire, The Fallen and Shockwave, but that makes sense since this is Grimlock from the old days, not his slightly less hot-headed self that we find in the G2 comics. Grimlock's view of Prime is also fairly insulting: "Have me confused for someone else! Someone bit soft. Optimus Prime maybe." Despite what happened in the first Volume, he's still not in awe of the Prime, and also shows a lack of respect for the dead, as thats what Prime is presumed to be. Also, the way he blindly takes on The Fallen is pretty rash, as he's clearly not in the same weight class.
Jetfire still dithers a bit, but has a vague idea of the Fallen's origins.
The Fallen doesn’t waste energy where it isn’t needed. He just goes in with his objective in mind and that’s it. He doesn’t even bother shooting back at his enemies, and merely punches them out of the way. The Fallen is a bit annoyed that he had to reveal himself after his disciples struggled to neutralise Grimlock. He now wants to accelerate The Unbinding. Interestingly, he decides that he will get Blitzwing himself instead of the others, possibly because the Decepticon was heavily guarded.
Bludgeon just doesn’t quite get that he’s not in the same league as the heavy hitters like Grimlock. He pays for his arrogance by having a large chunk of metal smashed on him.
Swoop is happy to follow Prowl's orders, and says, "kind of like old times, eh?" Perhaps he's nostalgic for the days when the Autobots weren't fractured into several factions.
First Aid tells Hot Spot that enough is enough after he's subjected the team to a rigourous review of their recent battle. He tells him that they're all tired and that he should let it go for now.
Sunstreaker keeps up the tough talk ("This is going to hurt you... more than it hurts me!") when taking on the clearly superior power of The Fallen.
Prowl is leader-ific! Despite the near-defeat by Trypticon, Prowl is quick to notice the escalating conflict and the deeper causes behind the Great War. In addition he is quick to respond to events as they occur, such as the intruder alert in Level Zero. Prowl seems able to distance himself from emotion when making important decisions, and is here shown willing to abandon the Autobots in the prison block so that Blitzwing doesn't get free. Unlike Prime he doesn’t waste time getting depressed. Awesome.
Since self-doubting Optimus Prime can’t make an appearance, someone else will have to do, in this case Hotspot. Despite the ability to combine into Defensor and utterly smash Bludgeon and his crew, Hotspot doesn’t transform cause he’s afraid Defensor might break something.
Despite Grimlock, Jazz, Sunstreaker and Mirage’s mightiest efforts, The Fallen is unharmed by their respective attacks. The Fallen is built Ford tough apparently.
The Fallen uses Space Bridge technology to get around quickly (see Page 6, Panel 1).
Ratchet uses a surgery bed and robotic assistants to replace Skids’ arm.
The combiner teams fiasco is the latest symptom of a rapid escalation of the conflict between the Autobots and Decepticons. Apparently the weapons technology is advancing too quickly for anyone to control.
Level Zero holds Blitzwing, a Decepticon that Shockwave was experimenting on, but the Autobots captured. It's interesting that he is not in stasis, as having Blitzwing just sit there endlessly would be a waste of the Autobot’s energon. Blitzwing was presumably experimented on as one of the first Triple-changers.
The early generation combiners suffered from intellect problems which the Autobot Science Harmonium supposedly solved in the later generation gestalts. However, despite, "compartmentalised neural processor(s) [that] should maintain the integrity of... individual brainwave patterns, while drawing on each for an intergrated whole," Defensor still went out of control.
The Protectobots review the battle with Devastator afterwards. Its not known whether this is common protocol for them, but in this case they have, "reviewed, scrutinised and analysed every official or classified schematic and dataspool available on the combiner process."
When combined, the Protectobots theorise that Mindwipe’s mind control should fail to function.
Bludgeon’s has no obtained an energo-sword, another step to his ultimate destny as a master of metallikato. It's possible he steals the sword from Grimlock.
Sunstreaker is packing two large missile launchers on his back, the contents of which can be manually thrown and set off with explosive results.
The Fallen plans on breaking the seal of Primus which will restart the war between Unicron and Primus. In addition on the last page, the shadow that the Fallen is casting on the wall behind him is of Unicron, and not The Fallen. Spooky.
The Fallen appears invulnerable to firepower.
Blitzwing's cell is D-43. This is also the number Takara assigned to the Blitzwing toy back in the 80's.
The Autobots are able to set up a "level one containment field with a coded subspace perimeter" to prevent escape/entry to certain parts of Autobase. The Fallen is able to punch through such a forcefield effortlessly.
Jetfire has a personal log.
The Fallen can reduce Grimlock and Jetfire to unconciousness merely by touch. He is also able to manipulate physical objects from a distance as shown when he crushes the Level Zero guards' weapons effortlessly by merely flexing his hand.
Jetfire says that The Fallen is from, "before the Golden Age, before recorded time."
Hotspot - "I'm sorry."
Bludgeon - "No Hotspot, you're ours."
"Remove yourselves or meet your maker. Sooner rather than later." The Fallen.
"I admire your steadfastness, your stubborn refusal to admit a lost cause. But there is a fine line between tenacity... and stupidity." The Fallen.
“Not you. You. Had business here…with him. And you interfered. Small matter of execution for treason. Be right with you Jetfire.” Grimlock.
Prowl - “It’s a vicious circle. They escalate, we’re forced to respond in kind, the war steps up another notch in scale. Just look at the whole special teams fiasco. It’s out of control. It’s..."
Trailbreaker – “All falling apart…”
“The Seal of Primus will break… and all chaos will follow!” The Fallen.
Swoop's body is once again miscoloured red instead of blue.