Last month’s More Than Meets The Eye ended on one hell of a cliffhanger. Questions abound. Brainstorm, implicitly fingered as a Decepticon mole by a marking underneath the faceplate of his alternate-universe corpse (though still, confusingly, slaughtered in the DJD’s rampage), enters Swerve’s, opens his briefcase, and announces that he can do “whatever the hell I want” amongst the limp bodies of the bar’s patrons. It was shocking. So many questions unanswered. I had to know what happens after the shocking end to MTMTE #33.
After reading More Than Meets The Eye #34… I still want to know what happens after the shocking end to MTMTE #33, because MTMTE #34 sure doesn’t seem to care.
Instead of the follow-up to one of the most intense cliffhangers I can remember, we get… well, it could’ve been good. On paper, it sounds solid—two intercut stories, one where a Lost Light away team (Chief Medical Officer First Aid, Bluestreak, Mainframe, and the newly-sober Security Chief Trailcutter) tending to a Cybertronian critically wounded in the collateral damage of a battle raging above Ofsted XVII, and the other showing flashbacks of Megatron’s relationship with Terminus down in the Nucleon Mines of Messatine.
The thread linking the two plots is Towards Peace, Megatron’s opus, which Trailbreaker (who has Megatron’s percussive maintenance on his fuel intake regulator to thank for his newfound sobriety) is reading, and regarding which Terminus is advising Megatron (and smuggling out the new installments to be read by working-class Cybertronians) as he writes further chapters.
Trailcutter, likely inspired by the rhetoric in Towards Peace, helps First Aid save the life of a critically-injured Cybertronian, even as Bluestreak and Mainframe back out due to the risks once they find out it’s a decepticon, and Trailcutter even continues after First Aid realizes it’s a member of the D.J.D. and backs out himself. As thanks for his noble intentions, Trailcutter is choked by a newly-revived Vos, and then (after separating himself and a suspiciously-chair-shaped pile of junk from Vos with an emergency forcefield) torn limb-from-limb and brain-from-body by Kaon. The D.J.D. now know Megatron declared the war over, thanks to Trailcutter’s datapad, whose edition of Toward Piece includes video footage of Megatron declaring the war over and denouncing the Decepticon cause.
Meanwhile, in the past, Megatron is pushed toward embracing leadership and action on top of rhetoric by Terminus’ advice, before being incapacitated by corrupt Co-Chief Psychopathologist Froid (who diagnosed him as needing One Flew Over the Cuccoo’s Nest-grade Personality Adjustment using only his dossier, and more likely the threat his ideology posed to the status quo on Cybertron, as justification) and sent him in for PA under the care of the unsubtly-named Trepan. Megatron is saved by Co-Chief Psychopathologist Rung arriving in person to inform Froid that, thanks to a new amendment passed by Senator Shockwave, PA requires the sign-off of TWO Psychopathologists, rather than just one—and Froid doesn’t even bother to try to convince Rung of the procedure’s necessity.
And then all the Nucleon goes critical and they evacuate the mining facility, but Fort Max won’t let Megatron go back in to try to rescue Terminus. You can tell Megatron feels guilty because “I’M SORRY” fills the background in the same font as his writing earlier in the issue. Subtle.
The political angles are interesting—the questions raised about the ethics of saving lives regardless of the identity of the life being saved are always difficult to grapple with, the parallels between functionism and the widening income inequality in the US and Europe are difficult to ignore, and I’d actually like to read more of the rhetoric they’re creating for Megatron during the whole “Autobot Megatron” story arc. They’re easily the high points of the issue, and I wish they’d had more room to breathe, as part of an annual rather than a single issue.
I’m sad we didn’t get to see more of Trailcutter between Megatron sobering him up and him being fed to the D.J.D. to move the last few pieces into position for Days of Deception. That seemed like a character dynamic worth exploring… although given how Roberts seems to delight in just how graphically Cybertronians can be mutilated and still come back good-as-new, I’m not entirely ruling out still seeing it at some point—and hopefully, showing better technical bona fides than this.
The low points? The art. The roster page starts with muddy, dark portraits of this issue’s small Autobot cast with the highlights cast in a yellow tinge, setting the stage for the rest of the book’s art (largely because the artwork is cropped version of later panels). The first page shows the characters in sunset (or maybe sunrise?), aping the look of Golden Hour, but with harsh shadows that would make it difficult to interpret details even if the yellow cast over everything WASN’T washing out the colors on a group of characters largely identified by their color scheme. When they move indoors, for the rest of the issue, the shadows and yellow tinge come with them.
The artwork makes other mistakes, too—the issues of the entire issue seemingly being rendered in black-and-yellow turn literal as Trailcutter’s forcefields show up, calling attention to another issue—inconsistency and poor panel layout choices. When a scene is built around a wall made from yellow light, breaking the 180° rule—flip-flopping between showing them rendered entirely in yellow and showing them in their normal (but still yellow-tinged) color scheme—only serves to render the climactic sequence of the issue a confusing mess. Points for ambition, I suppose, but they’d have earned more points with me for knowing their limitations and telling the story effectively rather than reaching for a striking appearance that was ultimately beyond their grasp.
However, there was light at the end of the tunnel—the final page, virtually unrelated to the rest of the book, shows Brainstorm teleporting into… somewhere… and wondering “where to start?” as we get a tease for Days of Deception, coming up next—and, fortunately, with Milne penciling again.