Friday, 1 January 2016

Transformers - Spotlight: Galvatron

A couple of thoughts came to me on re-reading this issue which made me think considerably less of the thing.

Firstly there's the superficially fresh idea of having Galvatron himself be a totally different character to Megatron. Despite some minor confusion regarding some promotional material for the Japanese Scramble City OVA back in the early days of fandom and the intentionally non-committal wording of the original toy's Tech Spec (to avoid spoilers for the 1986 film) this has never really been done before. However, when you think about it, it basically has.

Furman's own time travel material for Marvel muddied the water by purposely playing up the pair's differences while having them team up against everyone else and by the time of the second clear cut Galvatron on Furman's American run it's even more abstract. Following Unicron's defeat in "On the Edge of Extinction " that Galvatron becomes a future version of "our" Megatron that can't come to pass in "our" timeline as Cybertron's destruction is averted, or at least the same destruction seen in "Rhythms of Darkness". Which doesn't make that Galvatron a different character, but does lessen the impact here - we're used to situations being contrived to allow Megatron and Galvatron to co-exist.

The Marvel USA Galvatron does bring up a second familiar element of this Spotlight - the character as a reluctant, rebelling herald of a dark force threatening life across the universe - just as he was in relation to Unicron. Now, this might be a little uncharitable (but considering the general quality of Furman's work on IDW I'm not feeling particularly charitable) but isn't Nova Prime actually a lot like Unicron? The heralds, the plan to consume everything, the dire astral warning given to Optimus in Escalation... It might be hard to remember now, but between Dreamwave's output, the potted myths of the Ultimate Guide and the Armada cartoon Transformers fans in general were really getting fed up with Unicron's over-exposure at the time IDW's material got started up and it's worth speculating whether the whole Nova Prime/Dead Universe thing was pitched as a Unicron arc before being overruled and tweaked. Or it could just be that Furman's got a limited imagination when it comes to having a great darkness threatens everyone.

That said, while Galvatron isn't as fresh as he could have been he does at least make an interesting subject, both in terms of his new back story  (the idea of him being the one to plunge the Ark-1 into the Dead Universe is a great mirroring of Optimus Prime's fateful decision to set the original Ark on a collision course with Earth in the Marvel series ) and in terms of his resulting personal conflict. His power level is nicely handled too, and it's nice that his agenda to regain his independence for once gives a good reason for him not just killing everyone. As yet the Dead Universe plot is intriguing but it's difficult to get too hyped when there's so much else already going on.

Talking of which the issue takes a page or two to touch base with the Earth plot, establishing that Sunstreaker and Ironhide are still missing after their problems in Escalation and that Verity really deserves to be stepped on.  The absence  of Sunstreaker leads to the issue's other thread - his brother Sideswipe is stationed at Galvatron's destination (a small pocket of artificial environment on Cybertron) as part of a unit led by Hound guarding Thunderwing's body. Naturally he wants to be posted to Earth to help the search but he's being kept away to keep things simple. Both the fraternal relationship and Sideswipe's character actually deserve more space than this comic can afford them, and it would have been a better use of pages to follow this up than what the next three Spotlights served up.

As it is we get a few frames of introspection before Sideswipe has to battle Galvatron and it's difficult hard to tell if some of the Autobot's dialogue is character work showing he's taking Leadfoot's death personally in response to his brother's disappearance, if Sideswipe and Leadfoot were friends or if it's just bad melodramatic dialogue. The rest of the Autobots get even less space though the redesign of Hound is nice and the Generation 2 fan in me is delighted not only to have Skram and Road Rocket show up but also not dying instantly as cannon fodder.

Overall despite the intended freshness falling flat this is a largely enjoyable read and therefore nudging its' way towards the higher end of Furman's work with the format. 


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