The Elegant Chaos arc reaches its end here. Five million years in the past Brainstorm stands before a half-finished Megatron, finger on the trigger, as Rodimus and the others rush to save reality as they know it by saving one of the universe’s greatest tyrants. In the present Megatron, Ultra Magnus, and Perceptor can only stand by and watch as the fate of their entire timeline plays out in the past.
Just what is Brainstorm thinking? Can Rodimus’s team stop him? And is Megatron even worth saving?
In the present, Megatron is understandably horrified to learn that he’s a trigger-pull from ever existing. He demands to be transported back to stop Brainstorm himself, but with Ultra Magnus’s help Perceptor tells him to stand down. Which is one of the fascinating things about IDW’s Perceptor: He’s a huge nerd, and by the end of the issue he’s grinning over science stuff, but he’s still someone forceful enough to tell Megatron himself to back the fuck off – and when he does, Megatron listens. But not before delivering some great barbs about his co-captain.
Brainstorm has been treated like a proper villain in the story so far, with Rodimus even going so far as to order his team to shoot to kill in the previous issue (until Tailgate talked him out of it). But once they actually catch up with him, it turns out that secretly being a Decepticon double agent doesn’t mean the Brainstorm we’ve come to know is just some construct. He’s still our Brainstorm, and he’s still, at his core, a coward with no real grasp on the true impact of his actions. Killing Megatron at the point of his creation was something he only decided on when changing the course of his radicalism failed, and when it came time to pull the trigger he just couldn’t.
But Brainstorm isn’t the only one with a gun and a desire to end the war. As Brainstorm explains himself to his crewmates, Rewind’s archives update to show him the Fuctionist dystopia that we all saw back in issue #35’s prologue – which leaves the rest of the universe untouched by the Decepticons’ violently expansionist ambitions. And so, feeling that the horror of a Functionist Cybertron is worth sparing billions of non-Cybertronian lives, Rewind pulls the trigger.
You can’t help but feel sorry for Megatron through all this – something that’s helped by Alex Milne’s expressive Sad Megatron panels. All he can do is stand by and listen as Rewind – little Rewind of all people, who he kind of even bonded with all the way back in issue #33 – explains why he would rather the entire universe as they know it be overwritten than allow everything that Megatron did to happen. The Autobots of the Lost Light may have allowed him to join them, but it’s clear they’re not about to let him forget who he was. It’s an ongoing penance.
In the aftermath of that is a Rewind/Chromedome moment, and I love me some Rewind/Chromedome moments.
But there’s one Autobot there who hates the Functionists even more than he hates the Decepticons. Whirl absconds into a locked room with Megatron’s body and the Point One Percenter spark Brainstorm’s been holding on to and proceeds to use it to save Megatron. It was obvious from the title page – the page where Rewind shot Megatron, where we learned that the subtitle of this issue is “Predestination: An Expert’s Guide” – that this was turning into the Predestination model of time travel, where whatever you do was meant to happen all along. And where Megatron’s spark was blue before, now Whirl is giving him the Point One Percenter green spark we know he’s supposed to have.
Tailgate convinces Rodimus to send a message to themselves just before the Lost Light takes off — a familiar message, the message from issue #1. But Cyclonus angrily reminds them that all the bad things that have happened ultimately had a positive outcome: opening the coffin that led to the encounter with their quantum duplicates and the return of Rewind, Skids’s presence getting them tied up with Tyrest and Luna 1, a handful of Autobots joining the crew (and Ratchet getting new hands) from Delphi, and…well, nothing good really came of looking in the basement. And as Tailgate notes, it’s a failed experiment from the start, because if the message had gotten through none of it would have happened.
As Rodimus and Cyclonus head for a secret research base to find a quantum generator to charge the briefcase so they can return home, Brainstorm tells Rewind the real reason he invented a time machine and ultimately tried to stop the war. He did it all for love.
And to me, that brought him back to the Brainstorm we knew even more than him being unable to pull the trigger. Even if he’s always too busy being a mad scientist to show much empathy for anyone else, he’s shown that the few he cares about — the very, very few — mean everything to him. He started the time machine project to save the life of an unrequited love. (And I expect Tumblr to explode with mushy Brainstorm/Quark art any moment now, completely abandoning the prior Nightbeat/Quark ship that came about because they were on a couple pages together. I love you, Tumblr.) He expanded his plan after he saw Chromedome, his self-admitted “only friend”, devastated by losing Rewind. Brainstorm gets these ideas and they just tumble out of control until he’s in the past standing in front of Megatron ready to sacrifice the entire timeline because of a broken heart. Secret Decepticon or not, that’s our Brainstorm.
But the crew isn’t done bringing about the present as we know it. In the secret facility, Cyclonus tussles with an oddly familiar-looking guard leading some hungry turbo-foxes. Armed with one of Brainstorm’s experimental guns, he shoots the guard and locks him in a room. With the guard surrounded by and vomiting up some kind of horrible black energy, we see what Brainstorm’s labeled the weapon: “Sparkeater Gun”. Perceptor walks Rodimus through modifying an experimental quantum engine to recharge the briefcase, but at the last moment the entire secret base disappears, leaving them on a launch pad. And with Rewind’s footage of the surface above the secret base showing some familiar spines…
Does this mean the Cybertronians who found the Lost Light, the ones from whom Drift bought it, found it wherever it had time-jumped to at that moment? That it’s this secret research facility from five million years ago?
We end with the return of Movie Night and the crew appropriately enough watching Back to the Future II as Brainstorm sulks in a cell, Chromedome and Rewind are back together, and Megatron ponders the Rodimus Star that he was given for abandoning his evil ways. (Gods damn you Milne my FEELS.) And Perceptor explains to Rung that an unintended side-effect of the whole ordeal seems to have been the creation of a reality in which alternate universes are possible.
Maybe if we’re all lucky that means we can join the MLP fandom in having a canon high school AU someday.
And then, with that established, a postscript: In the Functionist Universe, they’ve figured out what Rung turns into – and it’s the last thing they want! Dun dun DUN!
Elegant Chaos has hearkened back to a lot of pre-Dark Cybertron — aka Season 1 — MTMTE, returning the focus from newer cast members back to some of the original favorites. Whirl has had some great moments through this whole arc, and watching Rewind and Chromedome figure out where things stand now has been heartbreaking. And Rodimus has been delightfully Rodimus. i’m looking forward to more Nautica and Nightbeat and the other new characters, but it’s been nice to return to the past a little as we, well, returned to the past.