COUNTDOWN: 10 noteworthy moments from Skybound’s Transformers #4

Another month has flown by, and it feels like we’ve been living on nothing but a sizeable dose of Skybound Transformers hype; such is the anticipation for this issue!

And who can blame us? After all, the previous chapter was a non-stop barrage of giddy highs and crushing blows (quite literally), dialling up the action beyond anything even this series has delivered previously. It all built to a shocking fever pitch at the end of #3, the effects of which are felt in spades in this follow-up. There’s a lot to talk about, so today, purely and simply, here are 10 noteworthy moments from Transformers #4!

WARNING! MAJOR SPOILERS ahead for Transformers so far, including #4!


#10: “Get his ass”

Cliffjumper is long overdue his time to shine in Transformers media, having all too often been shoved to the side in favour of other Autobots or sacrificed to advance the plot (although not as frequently as some might claim). Thus, it’s a real highlight to see him given proper focus in Skybound’s story, and his budding friendship with Carly is a significant component of that. They’ve had an initially awkward but budding repartee ever since their first meeting at the beginning of the second issue, and that was only compounded by him coming to her aid against Laserbeak last time. This early action beat from the latest adventure capitalises on that as the two work as a team to take Starscream down in a certified fist-pump triumph, which lost none of its impact despite having been glimpsed in early previews. The moment Carly clips in her seatbelt and calmly tells Cliffjumper to “Get his ass” is one that I doubt will leave the memory banks any time soon.

#9: “Optimus: inferior”

There have been plenty of nods to historical Transformers fare through the previous chapters, although we’ve avoided anything too on the nose, by and large! I’ve even commented before that it’s pretty refreshing not to have characters overtly quoting lines from key franchise moments such as the 1986 movie, and whilst I freely admit highlighting this panel is in total contradiction to that sentiment, I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t get a kick from seeing Soundwave uttering his most famous line whilst finally getting his big action moment. After several chapters of the fan-favourite Decepticon acting surprisingly subdued and even cowering a bit to a power-mad Starscream, it was great to see him coming in swinging and showing that he can most definitely hold his own in a scrap. Oh, and yeah, he said the thing, innit.

#8: The hospital

Things seem impossibly bleak as Optimus is held at gunpoint by Starscream and Soundwave until you suddenly realise they’re about to get so much worse. I had an immediate sense of dread as soon as Starscream paused and noticed the hospital, with a palpable chill descending over me as events unfolded and it became clear he was about to do something truly unspeakable. We’ve discussed in previous articles how this comic shows the Decepticons at their absolute ruthless worst, depicting them as little more than unruly bullies hell-bent on dishing out torment to those they consider defenceless or weak. Yet this moment exemplifies that awful attitude all over again as the heartless thug finds the whole concept of saving human life to be pathetic, showcasing his disdain as he tortures Optimus by opening fire on the building. It’s as cold-hearted an undertaking as you could imagine, firmly cementing this version of the character as one of the most unredeemable we’ve seen over the years. Yet, as Soundwave seems to realise, his reckless actions also prove a significant tactical folly, as the delay in dispatching Optimus gives the Autobots time to mount a counter-attack.

#7: Jazz!

Speaking of which, how could you not be cheering at the Autobots’ charge into battle? Jazz’s speeding entrance was about as delectable a moment as you could wish for, to the point where I quite audibly yelped his name when turning the page! Notably, this issue threw us off the scent by prominently featuring Wheeljack on the front cover, although it’s now clear what Ratchet was referring to earlier when he said he needed firepower; Jazz is evidently a seasoned and formidable warrior in this continuity! Seeing that iconic Porsche 935 Turbo vehicle mode swooping into view was exhilarating, especially as the way series creator Daniel Warren Johnson renders it is breathtaking. We’re then treated to a full double-page splash of the Autobot quickly flipping to robot mode before taking down Soundwave *hard* with a painful-looking bulldog move, shouting the numbers “two”, “five”, and “one” as he goes. This is a clever reference to a classic chord progression found in several musical genres, but one which is notably a key component of jazz. Quite how our hero learned all of this since being brought back online is unclear, but frankly, who cares when it’s so great to see him?

#6: The darkest hour

As soon as it was evident the hospital power was out and Spike would essentially be left dying without the necessary medical machines, I had a sneaking suspicion of where the story was about to go next. We’ve seen various hints of Optimus wanting to whip his Matrix out at any given opportunity, yet this beat was worth all that build-up. Scenes involving the Autobots’ most sacred plot device aren’t exactly anything new by now, but something about this effort felt all the more intimate and personal somehow, as the comparatively smaller scale worked wonders – Prime powering a hospital may be purposefully not as grandiose as obliterating a planet-sized transforming robot or curing a whole galaxy of an indestructible rage-inducing hate plague, yet in the context of this story, it capably demonstrated just how valuable human life is to him, and the lengths he is willing to go to in protecting it. Some exceptional artwork sells the moment, yet it also has the added benefit of removing the Matrix as an ever-present deus ex machina for the rest of the story, as Ratchet quite assertively points out later on; from now on, Optimus is no longer able to summon this ultimate power in a time of crisis, and it seems like the Autobot medic is just as aware as we are how this might prove a significant disadvantage further down the road.

#5: Skywarp is ripped apart for spare parts

Again, this series does an excellent job of vividly portraying the parallels (or lack thereof) between the Autobots and Decepticons. It’s a subtle thing, but surely there can be no more visceral communication of how different these two factions are than an injured Skywarp pleading for his “brothers” not to rip him limb from limb for spare parts just a few pages before Cliffjumper laments his heartbreak over Starscream having murdered his ‘clan’ (more on that below). It’s clear which group understands the concept and which tosses around familial words as hollow epithets despite no real bond or loyalty to one another outside of a desire for power and conquest. The rather vivid brutality aside, this also serves as another significant character death for the series thus far, as the Seeker is sacrificed to allow the Decepticon forces to rise. I almost – almost! – felt sorry for him. But not really.

#4: “Small. But still mighty.”

Further compounding my point, this next moment again showcases how high-value Optimus Prime considers the lives of all sentient beings (eh?), even those much smaller than he is. After sacrificing the Matrix to save his son, it seems as though Sparkplug is starting to see that the Autobots aren’t so bad after all, although he now seems to consider them all-powerful gods of some kind. Whilst that’s understandable given the awesome power play he’s been witness to, it’s telling here how Prime quite literally scoffs at the notion before explaining that he recognises something in his new allies which makes them equally mighty in their own way. There have been more than a few moments in Daniel Warren Johnson’s Transformers work where it feels like he’s captured Optimus’ spirit dead to rights, and this is certainly one of them.

#3: Cliffjumper & Carly’s heart to heart

Similarly, this heartfelt conversation between unlikely new best buddies Cliffjumper and Carly demonstrates how this series can deliver a knockout emotional punch as well as any physical brawl, as the Autobot consoles the human with tales of his own loss from before he came to Earth. The revelation that Starscream killed his entire ‘clan’, or family, adds an extra sense of menace to the proceedings and efficiently explains why the Autobots are sacrificing so much in their ongoing efforts against the Decepticons. However, it also adds a notable element to wider Transformers lore, as the notion of ‘clans’ is not a common one in the franchise’s fiction. We may delve into this further down the road, but even if we don’t, the picture such words paint is surely vivid enough to be understood without further explanation.

#2: Megatron’s arm

As the issue begins to wrap up, we’re treated to some exceptional dialogue as Ratchet brings Optimus to task for sacrificing the Matrix and thus losing one of their most potent defences against the Decepticons. It works because both characters have a worthwhile point – Prime is right for wanting to protect the humans, and Ratchet is also correct that the Autobots need to look after themselves because who will save humanity if they’re destroyed? Ultimately, it seems the medic has a potential solution in mind as he reveals something hidden inside Optimus’ trailer that may help turn the tide. It initially seemed as though we were going to have to wait for such a tease to pay off, although this made the reveal of the Autobot leader now kitted out wearing Megatron’s arm – complete with fusion cannon – all the more surprising! It immediately conjures up all kinds of possibilities and takes this series in a different direction than anything we’ve seen before. Where Autobot tactics are often quite defensive-based, even relying on a MacGuffin that heals rather than hurts, here it seems they’re going on the offensive instead, which promises to be a showdown worth tuning in for.

#1: Megatron!

And finally, as if the reveal of Megatron’s arm wasn’t quite enough, we quickly find out where the rest of him is currently stashed! This has been one of the series’ most pertinent mysteries ever since #1, as the Decepticon leader’s presence has only been flirted with at brief intervals thus far. It appears he’s badly damaged and lying dormant in a frozen wasteland of some sort, although what happened to him and how he got there is still anyone’s guess. Assuming this is on Earth and given the Autobots are in possession of his missing arm (pretty lucky it was the same one Optimus lost too, right?), we can deduce he must have come a cropper as the warring factions crash landed prior to the story’s inception. However, one suspects it won’t be long before answers are provided, and needless to say, it will be a blast finding out!

So that’s our list! Did you enjoy #4?

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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