Review: TRANSFORMERS: REGENERATION ONE #86 – NATURAL SELECTION PART 1

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Posted on: December 4th, 2012
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Writer: Simon Furman

Art: Andrew Wildman (Lines) Stephen Baskerville (Inks) John-Paul Bove (Colours)

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Synopsis:

Incarcerated by a reconstructed Scorponok on the planet Nebulos, the Dinobot leader Grimlock may be about to discover that his greatest torment comes from within! Elsewhere, there’s more than enough soul-searching to go around as the dust settles following the climactic confrontation between Optimus Prime and Megatron, whilst Cybertron’s fate would appear to be slipping through the fingers of the chosen one – whose hands (or perhaps claws) it ultimately ends up in remains up for grabs!

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Review:

The second arc of Regeneration One begins and it’s time to face up to what you’ve done, while you still can! After part one, ‘Natural Selection’ would appear to be something of a deliberate misnomer as the suggestion is that the key players in this story arc are going to be quite ‘unnatural’ beings indeed.

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Flashing-back five years, we open on Grimlock and the Dinobots watching on helplessly as fellow Autobots reanimated with the powerful but unpredictable super-fuel, Nucleon, suffer myriad incapacitating side-effects – Slag, never the tamest Dinobot to begin with, has regressed to a savage primeval state. It’s not clear if Cybertronian mythology has a line to match our proverb that says ‘the road to hell was paved with good intentions’. What is clear is that Grimlock realises he is responsible for what has happened to so many – and if striding right back into the flaming abyss is what it’s going to take to put things right, that’s just what he’s willing to do. Unfortunately for Grimlock, fate (and Scorponok) won’t make it as simple as that!

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Simon Furman has never made any secret of the fact that Grimlock is one of his favourite characters to write – why wouldn’t he be? Predictably unpredictable, deep thinking but straight talking and more than capable when it comes to a ruckus – what’s not to like? The Autobots’ own tortured soul is always a prime candidate for those looking to investigate the shades of grey that exist between the black and white of Megatron and Optimus, the perpetual conflict between good and evil.

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Grimlock has done many questionable things in his time – fighting Blaster for the Autobot leadership, ignoring orders and absconding to recover Nucleon from Hydrus IV – but his intentions have always been relatively good; he’s loyal to those who are loyal to him and usually this benefits the Autobot cause. When push comes to shove though, which is the greater priority – loyalty to his fellow Dinobots or the Autobot cause? Well, Scorponok’s about to give ol’ T-Rex chops a mighty push and a shove…

Scorponok is another intriguing character that really transformed once Furman took over the reigns of the G1 book from Bob Budiansky – again, exacerbating the ‘flaw’ in Scorponok’s character, his binary-bonded Nebulan partner Lord Zarak, Furman took the weakness and turned it round one hundred eighty degrees. Without Lord Zarak asserting his, ahem, ‘humanity’ (well, nebulanity doesn’t work does it?!) over the Decepticon leader and uniting the hitherto warring Cybertronian factions, the battle against Unicron (TF#75) may have had a hugely different outcome.

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Thing is, Zarak died battling Unicron. So did Scorponok… or so we thought – seems as though what we thought we knew about Transformers needs to be revised somewhat! What is apparent though is that this Scorponok is much more akin to the nasty piece of work we first met in the Headmasters mini series than the character who perished battling alongside Optimus Prime. What’s more, he now appears to know a worrying amount about the true nature of Cybertronians. Cunningly, he’s also got Grimlock pretty darn sussed too…

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Someone else who’s got Grimlock sussed is artist Andrew Wildman – it was always going to be a case of ‘after the lord mayor’s show’ following the epic events of #85, but there are some smashing panels in this issue, particularly those featuring everyone’s favourite former tyrannosaurus. It’s quite strange actually – there are quite a few wobbly panels (the scene featuring Hot Rod, Blurr and Grapple pondering what to do as Soundwave continues his clandestine assault, lacks facial details and has some compositional issues for my money) but then there are some absolute beauties on a par with the stunning stuff from last time out.

Quite how Wildman and Bove are able to get so many different emotions out of a character who has both a facemask and a visor across his optics is beyond me, but Grimlock looks simply incredible in almost every panel – a tweak of colour intensity here, a tightening of an angle there, clever stuff boys! A few minor quibbles but on the whole, Regeneration one is still a fantastic looking comic book.

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If ‘Loose Ends’ was all about tidying up the aforementioned trailing plot strands and saw Furman putting all his Regeneration one ducks in a row, ‘Natural Selection’ sees him locking and loading the heavy artillery. The revelation on the penultimate page of the issue hints that the aptness of the ‘Regeneration’ subtitle is about to be revealed, with very little ‘natural’ about Furman’s protagonists over the next few issues – a couple of hostile heads, a lobotomised lieutenant and a time-traveller with no future… or should that be past? The plot thickens…

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Verdict:

Regeneration One continues apace with all the subplots from the first arc moved to centre-stage for the start of ‘Natural Selection’ – it’s not the most shocking issue of Transformers ever (if you missed last month, shame on you!) but events play out nicely and there’s a marvellous homage to the ‘86 UK annual story, ‘Victory’, for all of us longtime Dinobot fans. One question though – how in the name of chopsticks is Scorponok operating that computer terminal with those great big ruddy claws?!

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