COUNTDOWN: 10 noteworthy moments from Skybound’s Transformers #3

It’s hard to believe that we’re already three months into Skybound’s exceptional new Transformers series, given how palpable the hype remains!

Yet, at the same time, so much has happened within the book already that it feels equally bizarre to acknowledge it’s only the third issue! The latest entry dropped this week and did nothing to quell the breakneck pace and wonderful character beats of the previous parts, with plenty to discuss contained within its page.

So today, purely and simply, here are 10 noteworthy moments from Transformers #3!

WARNING! MAJOR SPOILERS ahead for Transformers so far, including #3!


#10: Cliffjumper vs Laserbeak

We’d seen Cliffjumper’s heroic takedown of the notorious Decepticon cassette Laserbeak in previews, although that did not dispel the excitement of seeing it in the broader context of this book’s opening moments. With Carly having learned that her father has been killed at the end of #2, things begin on a highly sombre tone before the ornithic menace unceremoniously gatecrashes the proceedings, leading to some exceptional high-energy panels of the humans scrambling for safety. Daniel Warren Johnson’s art always does a fantastic job at conveying the kinetic energy of a scene. So it is here, meaning that by the time the Autobot charges in punctuated by a very on-brand shout of “Back up, Laser-freak!“, you can’t help but cheer! True, it ends with Sparkplug shooting Cliffjumper in the head as thanks for his troubles, but still, it’s just great to see the devilish red lad get his time to shine in Transformers fiction, with more to come!

#9: Starscream vs Soundwave

Starscream gets much less focus than in previous entries, but this brief scene with Soundwave gives the audience plenty to go on! Whilst cradling a fallen Ravage, Soundwave eloquently explains their current energy woes are the reason they have been unable to fix Teletraan 1 (previously namechecked as ‘Teletraan One’ in #1, interestingly) before quietly mentioning Megatron’s name. The mere utterance of their leader vexes Starscream, who responds with a swift and brutal backhand that sends the Decepticon communications expert to the floor before he’s given a demeaning finger-pointed lecture on the subject. It paints a different portrayal of these characters from what we’re used to, with Starscream more menacing and intimidating than his usual cruel but bumbling persona and Soundwave rather meekly tiptoeing around him. The slap, in particular, was an uncomfortable moment for fans of he-who-would-usually-consider-himself-superior. Still, one suspects the balance of power will shift considerably should Megatron reappear down the line (which is inevitable!). Starscream is just the kind of bully you know is due a narrative comeuppance, and it will likely be quite something when it finally happens.

#8: Sparkplug vs Cliffjumper

Sparkplug takes Carly to the bar we saw in #1, where many of his friends and co-workers have assembled as a militia in response to the invading robot threat. At this moment, Cliffjumper makes a second attempt to be friendly, even suggesting they “got off on the wrong foot“, which ends with sadly predictable results. Still, the sight of Sparkplug unloading his gun at the diminutive red lad was quite something, even if it didn’t cause too much damage. We’re used to stories of humans incorrectly identifying the Autobots as a threat, but there’s something particular about this small hometown setting that makes it feel all the more personal, and with disastrous consequences soon to drop.

#7: Skywarp vs everybody

And drop it does once Skywarp makes an untimely entrance on the scene, as it’s not long before all hell breaks loose! After dispatching Cliffjumper with a swift but forceful fist to the face, the Decepticon Seeker sets about cutting through the human ranks with deadly glee, revelling in every moment like the worst kind of villain. One thing this book has done consistently well (and as a real contrast to the more ‘shades of grey’ approach often adopted in the IDW comics) is make the bad guys out to be absolute jerks at their core – like the worst of the worst. Plain and simply, they’re bullies with too much power who wield their contempt for what they perceive as lesser species like a perverse badge of honour. It’s horrific to watch, yet it makes for compelling reading, amping up the stakes considerably as you cannot help but sit mouth agape whilst it’s all kicking off (quite literally) on the page!

#6: Carly vs Skywarp

Ultimately, SKywarp makes quick work of the humans and, after tossing a few cars around for good measure, taunts Cliffjumper by looming over him and preparing for a killing strike. However, Carly bravely shields the Autobot, attempting to do for him what he did for her just at the start of this very issue (even though it already feels like a lifetime ago, somehow!). Realising that she will never be able to be a physical threat to the giant Decepticon, she pleads for him to stop, eliciting the most predictable but sinister reactions as Skywarp laughs uncontrollably. Still, as fruitless as it all is, it’s yet another moment that shows just who Carly is at her core and how valiantly she’s willing to step up for her new friend. We already know that her and Cliffjumper’s partnership will continue, thanks to #4 previews, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from there!

#5: Optimus Prime vs Skywarp

In the grand old tradition of last-minute saves, Optimus Prime makes a startling and heroic entrance by swiftly taking down Skywarp in one of the most exciting panels of the issue. The ensuing fight is exhilarating beyond belief, as Prime tells Spike to run for safety before going toe-to-toe with the Decepticon in ways that I honestly don’t recall seeing in Transformers before! The two run at each other headlong until Skywarp mischievously uses his signature teleport ability to phase his hand and grab the back of Optimus’ head, slamming him into the floor. We get flashes of the Autobot leader desperately trying to power up his energy axe weapon (in a way that feels much less convenient than how it’s typically portrayed, again raising the stakes), all whilst more blows are traded along the way. Having already dished out some surprising fighting moves in #1, Prime here undertakes what appears to be a riff on Japanese wrestler Kenta Kobashi’s Burning Hammer, something Daniel Warren Johnson relishes in portraying through the vivid art style. The finishing move is enough to take Skywarp down and give Prime’s axe time to fire up, leading to the masterful moment above. All in all, it’s a savage fight, full of visceral, ferocious shots of both characters going at it, leaving you unable to look away as it unfolds.

#4: Everyone vs Optimus Prime

Sadly, Prime’s victory is short-lived, as Sparkplug’s human forces fire a missile and decimate his arm, halting his energy axe function. It’s a devastating blow that will have readers slapping their foreheads in frustration, especially with the dire consequences it immediately leads to. Skywarp takes full advantage of Optimus’ downfall, piling in with his own contribution to the Autobot leader’s torment and escalating the punishment to his injured arm, whilst the human militia continues firing away, unable to distinguish friend from foe. We’re all quite familiar with seeing unspeakable things happen to the franchise’s most famous face by this point (it was a signature of the Marvel comics, after all!), but even then, there’s something so ferocious and perturbing about this series of events that it’s impossible not to be affected by Prime’s plight. It’s also worth saying how incredible the artwork is throughout all of this, letting you feel every painful moment!

#3: Spike is shot

All of this ends in a way that feels unavoidable in retrospect, yet is still quite singularly shocking when it happens, especially because this stark moment occurs after a page-turn! Spike takes a stray bullet to the chest in a panel punctuated by how cold and sparse it is, immediately at odds with the busy, colourful action of the rest of the fight. The realisation of what has happened is swift and immediately unsettling, as the reader instantly knows the stakes of the sequence. Somehow, such a tragic event was almost inevitable as soon as Spike opted to tag along with Optimus at the end of #2, despite the Autobot leader’s initial protest, but that doesn’t make it any less heinous.

#2: Optimus beats Skywarp with his own arm(!)

As if you needed any more convincing of what a cold-hearted, ruthless thug Skywarp is, he leans over and prepares to dispatch a motionless and wounded Spike with a simple flick of his finger. It’s a cruel gesture that is the final straw for a battle-mad Optimus, who immediately thrusts himself at the Decepticon to save his human friend. Of course, the most shocking moment of the whole book is about to come, as a seemingly defenceless Prime takes extreme measures and *rips his own arm off to beat Skywarp with it*. Again, I’ve seen plenty of body horror beats featuring Optimus in previous Transformers fiction. Still, I don’t think any of it hits in the same way as the close-ups on his face to showcase just how agonising this process is. It all makes the action splash page itself land with much more weight, as even though there’s something quite inherently daft about it all, you cannot help but feel every ounce of Optimus’ pain. Something tells me we’ll be talking about this sequence for years to come!

#1: Prime to the rescue

With Skywarp dispatched, Optimus attends to Spike, who is in noticeably bad shape. We’re given a flashback to that all-important deer scene from the start of #2, and even if this moment runs the risk of being slightly heavy-handed, it lands with a distinct gut punch all the same. Prime picks up and cradles Spike in a similar fashion to what we saw with the deer, all clueing us into the gamut of emotions he is no doubt feeling, as Sparkplug runs up and desperately pleads for the safety of his son, still mistakenly believing the Autobot leader to be a threat. Optimus transforms to his truck mode (in a way that slightly defies logic, given his missing arm, but no matter) and asks Sparkplug to go with him as he will save Spike. Meanwhile, we’re left with minds and pulses racing in the knowledge that there’s another month to go before we get more of this amazing comic. Top drawer stuff.

So that’s our list! Did you enjoy #3?

TTFN

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About Sixo

Transformers collector from the UK, collecting vintage G1/G2, CR/RID, UT & Masterpiece/3P. Find me at twitter.com/SixoTF or on YouTube at youtube.com/SixoTF

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