Oh, hey, look: Super Reads is back to chronicle the end of IDW's Hasbro-verse!
Before you dive any deeper, let's make something absolutely clear:
There are SPOILERS ahead.
Yes. Spoilers to a Free Comic Book Day comic that originally came out months ago. Let's get going!
WAY back in the day, I did a write up on Unicron's many, many iterations throughout all of the different Transformers series. That article has long since been eaten up by the Internet Ghost Monsters but it would also be seriously out of date. To sum up: Unicron is a giant-sized planet eating planet whose path inevitably leads to Cybertron and whose major weakness is various Matrixes (examples: the Autobot Matrix of Leadership and the Creation Matrix).
What we know specifically about THIS version of Unicron is that it's a giant planet eating planet that was summoned to Cybertron at the end of the last Hasbro-verse mega-event, Transformers/ G.I. Joe: First Strike. In that series, a bunch of humans invaded Cybertron, led by G.I. Joe's namesake, General Joe Colton, and they were surprisingly not immediately murdered by a robotic race that has been waging war for several million years.
Not to bog you down with any more specifics, but the end of that event resulted in the magical city of New Prysmos being relocated to Cybertron and a message being beamed out into the cosmos:
With that, the monster planet eating planet, Unicron, set its sights on Cybertron. But not without taking some detours first.
The other thing we know about Unicron is that it was created with only one Cron. This shortsight is probably what has led to its general bad attitude and serious eating disorder. Unicron should be in therapy.
And that weakness to a Cybertronian Matrix of some type? Well... Optimus Prime's Matrix of Leadership was split in two a long while ago. Half of that Matrix has been shattered. Only the other half remains, empty and usually lifeless.
And this is the robotic race that has been waging war for several million years. The Transformers. Cybertronians. A rich kid's Go-Bots.
Don't worry about that pesky war, though. It is officially over. It's taken a couple breaks over the years but, trust me, it's really REALLY done now. That has led to some interesting situations as a society that has defined itself by a never-ending conflict comes to terms with that conflict... ending. Everything is totally weird.
But in a good way! Long time enemies find themselves working together! The founder of the Decepticon faction (mostly bad guys), Megatron, actually JOINED the Autobot faction (mostly good guys)! Stalwart Decepticon, Soundwave, has become a dedicated ally of Autobot leader Optimus Prime! Starscream, the guy you should probably never trust, was the leader of Cybertron! Lost colonies have been found and people who have never experienced this war have found themselves drawn to a wartorn home planet that they have never known. It has been interesting times.
I'm going to be speaking about the Transformers with more familiarity than anything else. Since this is a thirty year old franchise with a successful movie series, I'm going on the assumption that you, the reader, have a passing understanding of the characters even if they look and act differently than you're used to. I'll still do my best to (over) explain things. After all, that's my job.
But just like I assume you know who Spider-Man is, I assume you know who Optimus Prime is. Even if THIS particular Optimus Prime is... well... he's not the best version of the character. It's very hard to see how this guy could have inspired his soldiers through a war that spanned millions of years.
The Transformers franchise was the first Hasbro property to receive a comic book adaptation from IDW, meaning that it's written history is the longest. Every other Hasbro property has latched onto the Transformers history but not without some careful continuity massaging here and there to make all the puzzle pieces kinda-sorta fit together.
Then there's this guy.
ROM stands for Read-Only Memory but that's not important right now. As a Hasbro franchise, Rom is a Spaceknight of the Solstar Order fighting the monstrous and magical Dire Wraiths. His original adventures were mixed into Marvel Comics continuity and that made things a little problematic when Marvel lost the license to create Rom comics. As such, Marvel still has Spaceknights, Dire Wraiths (the look if not the name), and... pretty much everything Rom related besides... Rom.
IDW was still able to use their own Spaceknights and the Dire Wraiths (the name but with a whole new look) however Rom's home planet has been changed and you're not likely to recognize any of his Spaceknight comrades. But that's OK for me because I never read the original Rom series and mostly encountered the Dire Wraiths in X-Men comics and Spaceknights in Annihilation: Conquest.
Replacing Marvel's version of Rom's home planet and capital of the Solstar Empire is Elonia, a planet that has avoided conflict on its surface for two centuries thanks to a laser shield that surrounds it. This is helpful because a special alloy is mined on the planet that is used to create the Spaceknights' armor, which keeps them safe from the Dire Wraiths' possession capability. So it's important to keep that special resource safe in order to keep the rest of the Solstar Empire and the universe entire from falling into the clutches of the Dire Wraiths.
While most of the Hasbro franchises that make up IDW's Hasbro-verse have specific ties to the Transformers, Rom's connection to the Robots in Disguise has thus far only been hinted at.
Now, at the end, it stands to be fully revealed.
Transformers: Unicron #0
Writer: John Barber
Artist: Alex Milne
Colors: Sebastian Cheng
Letterer: Tom B. Long
Editor: David Mariotte
This issue in a nutshell: The nightmare planet, Unicron, devours the planet Elonia as Optimus Prime and his allies struggle to save Elonia's inhabitants as it's status as one of Cybertron's lost colonies is revealed.
• Elonia, capital planet of the Solstar Empire, is being eaten by "the anomoly," a giant planet eating planet.
• We also know "the anomoly" as Unicron but our cast DOESN'T yet.
• Autobot Wheeljack has a plan to space bridge the inhabitants of Elonia off-world before they, too, are devoured.
• Rom and the Knights of the Solstar Order attack Unicron, noting that it's surface contains the chewed up remains of it's previous meals.
• Unicron attacks, devastating the Spaceknights.
• Wheeljack's plan is enacted but his space bridge fails to work because something on the planet is interfering with his signal.
• Optimus Prime and Arcee teleport to the surface, joining up with Rom to discover the source of interference: a Cybertronian Titan!
• The Titan, named Emissary, is indeed causing Wheeljack's space bridge system to fail but since there's no time to convince the Titan to stop, Arcee ends up throwing her swords in Emissary's brain, killing him.
• Wheeljack's planet-wide space bridge works again but an energy spike means that he'll have to stay behind for it to work, sacrificing himself to save millions.
• With two-thirds of the planet's populace teleported away, Unicron begins feeding in earnest.
• Prime, Arcee, and Rom teleport back to their ship, Ark- Zero.
• Once it's fed on Elonia, Unicron teleports away in a flash of light, leaving the surrounding stars to flicker and die around the teleport signature.
• Aboard Ark-Zero, our cast of characters discusses Unicron's current path of destruction with the leader of Cybertron, Windblade, joining the conversation via holographic communication.
• To sum up: Unicron is eating Cybertron's colony worlds and adding the bulk to it's body.
• That means Earth is going to be in it's path with presumably a final destination of Cybertron!
This ain't a happy little tale, people. So let's get it started!
Our story begins on Elonia. If you read up above, you'll know that it's the capital of the Solstar Empire, home planet of Rom, and protected from interstellar attack by a laser shield. Which is special.
We can't see what the threat is yet (but we can make an educated guess) so let's just focus on the terrified people and animals racing around the surface. Elonians are a light blue-skinned people and the pet of choice is a spikey, six-legged, snout nosed, lizard. As trees are ripped up and float towards the sky, a kid and one of those pets hug each other just in time for the end of the world.
And now, it's time to look up in the sky. Yep. That's Unicron, eating the planet. The laser shield is just about as ineffective as possible.
This event has not gone unnoticed. Optimus Prime and his allies have brought the Spaceknight, Rom, back home just in time to witness the end of his home planet. While Rom finds himself gripped in the hopelessness of the situation, Optimus Prime believes that the day can still be saved.
Let's talk about Prime's Cybertronian allies for a bit. On the bridge of his ship (which gets named-checked later in the issue as Ark- Zero) are Arcee, Bumblebee, Pyra Magna, Wheeljack, and Soundwave.
Arcee was the first female Transformer to appear in the IDW comics and is best known for her appearance in the 80's animated movie. In IDW continuity, she is an ancient barbarian who has only recently officially joined the Autobot cause.
If you've been paying attention to the IDW comics, you might remember that Bumblebee was killed off a couple years ago during the Dark Cybertron crossover. He's all better now. When Optimus Prime stepped down from leadership of the Autobots, Bee was elected to the position. In the IDW world, he's the greatest beacon of hope for the Autobot cause.
Pyra Magna, on the other hand... is a great big jerk. For all the issues I have with IDW Optimus Prime, Pyra Magna has more. She essentially serves as an Autobot equivalent to Starscream. She constantly undermines Prime's command and makes no secret that she wants to replace him as leader so she can get her hands on that sweet, sweet half Matrix he holds in his chest.
Wheeljack is the easy-going bot with all the crazy science you could ever wish for. Jackie is even more notable because when Starscream was leader of Cybertron, he made a vow to never lie to Wheeljack. I'd have to go back and check to see if Starscream KEPT that vow but the fact that he made it in the first place should show the respect that he had for the Autobot's resident mad scientist.
And, finally, we have Soundwave. Soundwave is the true believer in the Decepticon dream and even though he's one of Optimus Prime's greatest allies, that doesn't mean he's popping an Autobot symbol on his chest. In his mind, the Decepticon ideal was a world of true equality; a message that lost its purity the moment Megatron turned it into a violent civil war. Even so, Soundwave never lost faith in Megatron until Megatron started wearing his OWN Autobot symbol.
These might be the guys on the bridge but that doesn't mean they're the only Cybertronians here to help out. An Ark is a GIANT ship and we'll see a few other bots making cameo appearances throughout the issue.
Pyra Magna tries to goad Optimus into a frontal assault on "the anomoly." They still don't know what a Unicron is. Even so, the threat is monumental. Unicron is the size of a planet-- and not a SMALL planet, either. Transformers can get pretty big. Titans like Metroplex, for example, are the size of Cybertronian cities and fighting something THAT size is all kinds of trouble. Something the size of Unicron is EXPONENTIALLY more difficult to wage war against. This is something Arcee makes sure to point out.
Besides, they aren't here for an unwinnable fight. They're here to save as many people as they can. Which is why they brought along Wheeljack. He has a crazy plan to spacebridge the planet's population offworld all at once. They just need to place thirty devices all around the planet and then let Wheeljack work his magic.
Optimus Prime explains to Rom that this monster planet was summoned because of a call from Cybertron which is very open of him. He's not denying that Unicron is a Cybertronian problem but he's also not shying away from his responsibility. All of this, Rom appreciates. Our favorite Spaceknight is also over his earlier jitters. This might be an unwinnable conflict but Elonia is the capital of one of the three greatest known interstellar civilizations and they aren't going down without a fight.
The Spaceknights of the Solstar Order have arrived. Rom flies out to join them. Now, Transformers are NOT beloved throughout the universe. The Solstar Empire has mostly avoided contact with Cybertronians but they know the devastation that the Transformers' interplanetary war has caused. As Rom and his longtime companion, Livia, skim the surface of Unicron, they see that it is riddled with the bodies of Cybertronians. And also weird torn up bits of racetrack.
Prominent among the fallen Transformers is a familiar face: Cliffjumper. He's an old friend of Bumblebee and the former Autobot leader is noticeably saddened. Optimus recalls that Cliffjumper and "his team" were stationed on one of Cybertron's formerly lost colonies. Velocitron. It looks like Unicron paid a visit to that planet first, which explains the broken racetrack.
Even though Optimus Prime warns that a frontal assault on Unicron would be both meaningless and waste time that could be used to save lives on Elonia's surface, the Solstar Knights race into battle anyway. This was probably inevitable but their lack of trust in the leader of the Autobots clearly doesn't help.
Also not helping? Unicron's "mouth" releases a blast of energy at its attackers. Those directly in the line of fire are obliterated, just when they were learning the folly of their actions. Other Spaceknights, like Rom and Livia, are hit less directly and their fates aren't immediately made known to us.
But we don't have time to deal with that, now. Optimus's allies have lives to save. The team teleports down to Elonia's surface and starts putting up Wheeljack's space bridge beacons. Remember that kid and her pet I mentioned from the beginning of the issue? Bumblebee and Wheeljack have beamed to her location. Even though they don't speak the same language, Bee tries to offer what comfort he can, while ensuring the kid that her pet will also be saved.
With the beacons in place, Wheeljack activates his device and everyone is...
Not spacebridged to safety. At all.
Something is interfering with his signal. Something that can control spacebridges. I guess a spacebridge is a lot like the stargates from... well, Stargate SG-1. Only one can be active on any given planet. If there's another active spacebridge on Elonia, Wheeljack's spacebridge will fail to function.
There's not a lot of time to figure out what that is so Optimus Prime and Arcee beam down to the surface, tracking Rom's forced decent. So, yeah, Rom was shot out of the sky.
This is what you do when the world is ending.
They're hoping that Rom might help them solve this pressing mystery. Fortunately for everyone, Rom landed near the Thrail Mineral Mine. This is the place where Elonia mines the special mineral that makes the Spaceknight armor as amazing as it is. It's also off limits, listed as a "holy place."
But the real reason it's off limits probably has more to do with the Titan buried there.
That guy has eaten way more rocks than he should have.
This Titan is ancient and marks Elonia as one of Cybertron's thirteen lost colonies. That doesn't mean that the Elonians are secretly Transformers. Earth is ALSO a lost colony. What it means is that in addition to the Titan buried beneath the surface, a special Cybertronian Regenesis Ore will be located on the planet. Fortuitously, the two are located in the same place. The ore is what the Elonians have been mining for their Spaceknight armor. Arcee picks up a chunk and it almost immediately grows tendrils around her arm. She tosses it away as Optimus surmises that it is Ore-12.
Again, we're on a time crunch here, so the revelation that Elonia is a lost colony of Cybertron will have to keep. The more important thing is to get inside this buried Titan and make sure that his spacebridge is turned off. All the while, Prime internally wishes they would've had the time to plan this out better but Unicron is just moving too fast to plan a proper reaction.
Meanwhile, Wheeljack is frantically trying to make his spacebridge work but to no avail.
Nothing like posting a selfie when a planet is dying!
He tells Bumblebee that they should teleport back to Ark-Zero and make their escape. Bee isn't having any of that. He's just recently returned from the dead and it holds no fear for him. At the same time, he's not willing to just give up and watch a whole lot of other people die. Not if he can help. Inspired, Wheeljack agrees to stay to the bitter end, thankful that the universe has Bumblebee back in it.
Within the Titan, Optimus Prime is able to BARELY communicate with the big guy. That's right, the city-sized Transformer isn't dead yet. Unfortunately, Optimus is only able to get the Titan's name, Emmisary. Beyond that, he's unable to make Emmisary understand how important it is that the spacebridge is turned off.
With time running out, Arcee charges up her two energy swords and prepares to end the life of a Titan. Rom is surprised, believing that the Cybertronians view the Titans as gods. Maybe some of them do but Arcee claims not to be one of them. Besides, if they wait much longer, it won't just be Emmisary dying.
Her swords strike true, embedding deep into the Titan's brain module. Emmisary dies, screaming. Prime is filled with regret.
With the Titan's death, Wheeljack's crazy spacebridge invention is active but he notices an energy spike that makes him speechless for brief moment. When Bumblebee asks him if there's a problem, Wheeljack gives him a sad smile but assures his friend that everything is fine. Before activating the spacebridge, Wheeljack starts to ask Bee to deliver a message to his friend Ironhide but thinks better of it and hits the activation button.
Everyone around Wheeljack teleports out. Except Wheeljack, of course. Someone had to stay behind. As the ground around him is pulled from the surface, Wheeljack has no regrets. He saved a lot of lives.
Unicron devours Elonia.
CHEW WITH YOUR MOUTH CLOSED
The remaining Solstar Knights gather their dead and wounded. We see one Solstar Knight carrying a VERY injured Livia.
Optimus Prime, Arcee, and Rom teleport back to Ark- Zero. Prime immediately orders an update from Soundwave.
At an undisclosed location but near a Titan in city-mode, Bumblebee and the population of Elonia teleports in. We see some medical craft flying above. Bee looks around for Wheeljack but he's not gonna find him.
After feeding, Unicron bursts with light and is gone. A surprised Pyra Magna notes that a lot of the stars in the sky have gone out as well.
Rom ask how many Elonians were saved. Soundwave tells him that two-thirds of Elonia's population were successfully teleported away, making sure to note that wildlife was saved as well. When Soundwave remarks that they've gotta do a better job next time, Rom is stunned.
To sum this all up for Rom and the reader is the leader of Cybertron, Windblade, appearing on Ark-Zero through holographic communication. Windblade explains that this wasn't "the anomoly's" first snack and it won't be it's last. We learn that with every planet consumed, the monster planet is adding to its mass. Windblade mentions that first signal sent into space: "Welcome. Death." Then, she tells Rom that another message was sent after that (in the Visionaries vs. Transformers mini-series). This one was one word.
After that, she lists a number of planets the monster planet has already devoured and we start noticing a common denominator. Titans.
Each planet is a colony of Cybertron. Prime is concerned for Earth since it is ALSO one of Cybertron's colony worlds.
While they speak, we watch as Unicron devours yet another colony world. Eukaris. This colony is the home of many beast Transformers that you might recognize if you watched the nineties series, Transformers Beast Wars. Or maybe you remember the toys.
Whatever the case, the planet is eaten before the page is over.
Surrounded by so much death, Optimus Prime proclaims, "I don't like to admit this- but I'm AFRAID... afraid THIS is how it all ENDS."
And with Eukaris eaten, the monster planet, Unicron says some words of its own.
So the path is set. If Unicron is eating Colony worlds before making it's way to Cybertron, an Earth confrontation is gonna be hitting BEFORE a final battle on Cybertron.
Since issue one of the actual series is hitting the same day this is published, expect that to be up soon(ish). I hope this was an enjoyable and informative read. It's good to be back!