Review: More Than Meets The Eye #20 [Spoilers]

TF_MTMTE_20_cvrAJames Roberts. The man giveth with one hand, and then taketh away with the other.

Over the course of its run, More than Meets The Eye has offered us plenty of mysteries and tantalizing hints, some of which were answered early on and others that have remained, to tease and tickle our imaginations.  As some mysteries got their explanation, new ones were planted for future story lines. In this issue we are offered the resolution to one of the mysteries that has been around since the very beginning of this comic’s run:

What’s the deal with Skids and his memories?

After he dropped in on the rest of the Lost Light, waving a gun he knew nothing of and being tracked by monstrous robots that he did not remember, we’ve been left wondering what exactly happened to him. When Skids asked Chromedone to unlock his lost memories all he was offered by the mnemosurgeon was what he perceived to be was a kind of instinct: “Get away”. In the last issue we discovered that this was not in fact an instinct, but a name of another Transformer: Getaway.

In this issue, it is the newly introduced Getaway that informs us of Skids’ most recent past before dropping in on the crew, in full and at length. And over the course of just a few panels this new arrival to the cast proves to have so much personality – he has this quirk where he “bomps” Skids whenever he says something funny or clever or cute – that he makes himself utterly unforgettable. We find out that Getaway and Skids were partners, part of a secret Autobot special ops and unlike the Wreckers they acted with subtlety and guile.  Their mission? It appears Tyrest’s suspicious behavior after the Aequitas trials had been noticed and together they were sent out to put a stop to his activities. Not with violence though, but with but a word.

And thus we also discover the secret of Skids’s binary gun. With the first of its two shots it fires a powerful suggestion into someone’s mind and in Tyrest’s case the word was “Resign”. Only, the gun did not work as intended on a mind as fractured as Tyrest’s; a Primus-seeing-hole apparently damages a brain module enough that a brain bullet doesn’t work. All it did was make Tyrest angry.

So, Tyrest figures out where his attackers were hiding. Getaway is captured and Skids makes a run for it, in that ship we first saw him arrive in, the one that was essentially Legislators in alternate modes. Getaway assumes that Skids activated his homing device to escape, which is supposed to take him to his nearest handler. Remember those poor Duobots from the early days on the Lost Light? Yeah, those were Skids’ nearest handlers, explaining why he’d arrived near the Lost Light in the first place. And this is the point where he turns the binary gun on himself, using its second and last shot, a blank.

This shot essentially wipes his mind clean of any kind of incriminating evidence in any way related to the botched mission, including their boss (Prowl, big surprise there), Getaway and the gun itself. Yeah, that was why he had no idea why he was even holding it in the first place or why he kept forgetting it was in his hand. The blank shot even prevented new memories relating to anything about his past life and the mission from forming, a bit like an elderly person with dementia. Fortunately, that remaining snippet of “Getaway” prevents Skids from forgetting his old partner when he looks away from him, or else the story would be a bit more awkward and depressing than it already is.

Did I mention depressing? It’s fairly well-known that Roberts has a way of playing with your feelings, teasing you in some ways and dumping devastating reveals on your head like a bucket of icy water when you least expect it. This issue was a predator, lurking in the shadows waiting for the right time to spring into action with fang and claw. Since last issue that predator was named “The Killswitch”, something that will kill everyone who was “constructed cold” (as a cute nod Tyrest refers to these Transformers as “Knockoffs”), another fact that Getaway tells the gang about when he is dumped in their cell. And Rodimus noticeably perks up when he hears that Tyrest believes that the activation of this switch will open a portal to the fabled Cyberutopia and the Knights of Cybertron that the Lost Light has been looking for all this time and believes they might somehow use this portal for their own gain (Swerve’s comment to this is “Rodimus: Delusional”).

When we are not with Rodimus and the others in their jail cell, listening to Getaway, we visit the med-bay, where a frantic Ratchet works on Ambulon’s bisected body while First Aid hovers above him – the opening page is laid out beautifully in that First Aid’s dialogue bubbles are played over other scenes that they might fit – and we also get glimpses of the battle with Cyclonus, Whirl and the survivors of the Circle of Light. Before Dai Atlas falls in battle before the traitorous ex-member and current lapdog of Tyrest, Star Saber (who, by the way, was the one to let Tyrest and the Legislators into their city so Tyrest could use the Circle of Light members as guinea pigs for the Killswitch), he has time to compliment Cyclonus on his knack for swordsmanship. As Tumblr might put it, his “feels” are so mighty that they make his magical Great Sword shoot lightning.

As it turns out, the death of Dai Atlas and the sad confirmation of Ambulon’s demise from Ratchet (“Because he died half an hour ago” as a response to why First Aid can’t help him) is only the opening act to Roberts’ devastating reveals this issue. When Getaway, the robot equivalent of McGyver when it comes to escaping a tight spot (as long as he has the right company with him), helps the gang escape their cell and they finally confront Tyrest, together with our medbay survivors (who used poor Ambulon’s remains to blast themselves free from their captors) they find themselves outmatched by the crazed Chief Justice. Turns out that even if you are “stark raving mad” it doesn’t mean you can’t pull a good scheme out of your perforated head, like turning the mind-bullet against his would-be attackers and implant the suggestion that they can’t move.

Then he flips the switch. And as he puts it: “Once this switch is flicked, it’s flicked forever”.

For the last three and a half devastating pages we are treated to the gruesome effects of the switch, as Getaway and Chromedome immediately begin to writhe on the ground in the robotic equivalent of a serious and very fatal brain seizure. Then, as Tyrest reminds us that the signal of the switch is transmitted over the subspace network and thus affects anyone in the entire universe, we are shown scenes from other places where everyone constructed cold falls to the ground in pain and agony. And no one is spared.

From other crew members still on the Lost Light, like Blaster and Red Alert in his coma-storage, to Transformers left on Cybertron and other places: We get a shot of an unusually emotive Soundwave clutching the collapsed form of Ravage to his chest, begging for help, we see Starscream falling to the ground as Rattrap skitters away, Prowl collapsing in his office, a suffering Hardhead and even one of the DJD hit by the effects of the Switch. We’re also dropped into the middle of a rescue operation with the Decepticon Scavengers, where a frustrated Fulcrum tries to escort a misbehaving Misfire to the pickup point. But only we can see why Fulcrum’s desperate attempts to radio the others go unanswered: A shot of the inside of the Scavenger’s ship, where only the child-like Grimlock remains alive and well, playing with some building blocks while the rest lay on the ground in spasms.

And it is there that the issue ends, as the final panel shows Tyrest activating and then escaping through the portal, following what he believes is the call of Primus. We are left speechless, echoing Rodimus anger and frustration, shouted at Tyrest’s escaping back.

It’s a textbook cliffhanger, really. On some level we refuse to believe Roberts would even be allowed to kill off so many well-known named characters, especially important ones from other titles, but we are still left with enough doubt to pine for next issue’s release date.

I feel certain that Roberts will continue like this, to offer us answers and reassurance on the one hand, while dumping another devastating new revelation on our heads with the other. We will try to steel ourselves for the continued wild ride that is his storytelling, but we will keep on reading, because even if it is devastating at times, Transformers canon hasn’t been this good in a really, really long time.