Transformers Lost Light #25: Sad Perfection

Transformers is a franchise that is renowned for being two lots of giant robots fighting each other for fairly superfluous reasons in a bid to sell a lot of toys. The 1980s Marvel Transformers series was burdened by Hasbro constantly insisting story-lines concentrated on whatever new Transformer figure was out, every cartoon has been about selling merchandise  – and all of them have never been able to raise Transformers above that level terribly well. Then came along IDW and James Roberts who, with More Than Meets The Eye and Lost Light, managed to create one of the finest comic book narratives in the history of the medium.

This column will be full of spoilers. Continue at your own risk.

Obviously this is an issue all about goodbyes and farewells, as made clear by the very first two panels which set the scene beautifully for everything that follows. Some of the farewells are incredibly sad, some painful, some full of hope while a handful remain ambiguous. It is a shared farewell as the readers see these wonderful characters for the last time but, as the final letter at the end of the issue makes clear, it is the author’s farewell too as he takes one last bow.

 

Ratchet

Ratchet as seen in Phase 1

Ratchet was the focus character at the start of the IDW Transformers comics so it is fitting that the start of #25 is Ratchet’s funeral; marking the ending of it all. Ratchet has always been a strictly scientific thinking character, seeing little worth in non-material things such as spirituality (indeed, the Autobot Chief Medic often derided Drift’s beliefs). He believed strongly in his position to the point where he was willing to die to stop Pharma’s corruption of the medics code and had great difficulty in relinquishing his role. Ratchet and Drift shared adventures that brought them close eventually, after the destruction of the Lost Light, leading them to become conjunx endura.

The change in Ratchet, due to his experience from the ship and what he learned from Drift, is summed up with the message on his headstone. At the start, it all the reader sees is “there is no meaning” but towards the end we see the full message; “without love there is no meaning.”

Without love … there is no meaning.

Ultra Magnus

He finally said ‘fun’ with no difficulty!

The Duly Appointed Enforcer of the Tyrest Accord was an emotionless being directed solely by the dictates of the law; there was no room for compromise no matter how trivial the law happened to be. The Magnus armour shielded Minimus Ambus from the world, gave him the idea of safety and strength without having to reveal himself to the world – the armour a walking metaphor for Minimus’ psychological state.

Magnus/Minimus had few loves in the world, apart from the law and his brother, and his speech in #25 makes it very clear what his motivations were in joining the Lost Light crew. And how horribly wrong he was to have those motivations at all. Instead he found something much greater and he grew so much more than he could have ever have expected. In a way Magnus represents the growth of the series itself, how it has changed from a two dimensional war centred focus to realising that there are far more important things.

It is worthy to note that Minimus moves from being an enforcer of the law to the shepherd of the new Luna 1 citizens, turning from an occupation spent hunting down criminals and committing violence in the name of the law to being more of a teacher. Ultra Magnus finally died, his role no longer needed and just an anchor back to the war, but Minimus Ambus fully came alive as himself.

I’ve been cutting up onions, alright?! Lots of onions!

Megatron

The creator of the Decepticon cause. The architect of the genocide of countless civilisations. Commander of ruthless giant robots. Oppressed worker. Thinker. Poet. A tyrant who realised that the four million years he spent waging war was completely and utterly wasted. A revolutionary who became exactly what he fought against and did not recognise it until it was far, far too late. Megatron sought redemption knowing that it was an impossible task, that there was no hope that he would come out of the whole affair cleansed of his sins. His guilt was an impossible weight and he clearly states that whatever fate awaits him, he deserves worse.

Megatron is placed on trial by the Galactic Council, a measure Prowl hopes will increase the chances of Cybertrons chances of joining, and it is inevitable that he is found guilty. The only choice they have left to make is execution or infinite imprisonment (no possibility of release, no visitors, no contact). Megatron walks to his fate knowing that he doomed himself, fully willing to take responsibility for everything he did. And so, thanks to the masterful scripting, you can not help but feel some pity for this fallen giant. The events of Lost Light showed us that he was desperate for forgiveness and achieved a great deal of positive change but does that in anyway make up for the atrocities done over four million years? Was Megatron’s sentence about rehabilitation or punishment?

Megatron’s fate is not spelt out but I think it likely he was executed, as he gives his Rodimus Star Medal back to Rodimus, when he could have easily kept it as a reminder of his better life during his eternal imprisonment.

Rodimus

Rodimus has been the glory seeking hotshot with the heart of gold throughout MTMTE/LL and even though he had frequent failings as a captain and often demonstrated zero maturity. the way he finally handled Getaway’s mutiny showed that he had great potential. But what happens to a (co)-captain who led his crew to challenge gods, defeat a planet sized foe, defied death and sent phase-sixers packing? What does the thrill seeker do when the exciting quests are done? Sadly Rodimus can not stop trying to relive the glory days of the Lost Light and becomes a drunk, running errands on Thunderclash’s ship. No longer a captain, he is like a retired soldier who can not see the future because he is no trapped in his own past.

Rodimus’ future really is sad. It is not full of glory and triumphs. He is brought down by the weight of life itself. He achieved something but his achievements are now behind him. He has forgotten how to dream and how to believe in the future. In a way the Rodimus we knew is dead as well, what walks in his shape is merely a shadow of the Lost Light captain.

Cyclonus & Tailgate

As made clear in my previous column on Transformers, Cyclonus and Tailgate did not get on at all well when they first met. Yet it is clear that by the time of this issue that Tailgate, a waste disposal nobody, has managed to change the fearsome, ruthless warrior Cyclonus into a much better person. Cyclonus has left behind the ways of war that he held as sacrosanct for so very long and found a much better path.

 

 

After the demolition of the ship, it seems that the two of them travelled together across the galaxy extensively which is about a happy an ending that you could hope for.

Cyclonus’ song choice sums up his change perfectly

Whirl

I love the t-shirt Whirl’s holo-avatar is wearing.

In many ways Whirl found himself facing the same difficulties that Rodimus did. Whirl, who was abused and tortured in a way that turned him from a peaceful clock maker into an incredibly damaged figure that used violence to lash out at the entire universe, was at a loose end. A warrior with no more battles to fight, no justifiable reasons to do what he was so good at any more. Like many veterans he was lost in a society with no combat to define everyday life and so he found himself committing crimes and repeatedly being incarcerated.

Yet even in the sorry state that he finds himself in, Whirl knows who he is. Ratchet had left Whirl his hands to serve as replacements for the craftsman hands stolen from him by the Senate so incredibly long ago. Yet Whirl refuses to accept it, even though he’s grateful for the gesture, stating that he is not broken and does not need fixing. This, to me at least, is great commentary on disability rights.

Whirl is not alone, despite what he may feel. Cyclonus, once his mortal enemy, offers to let Whirl come live with him and Tailgate. This offer Whirl accepts most readily.

Rung

Rung’s fate is perhaps the most tragic of all the characters in MTMTE/LL. The original Cybertronian, who became a legend and a god. Rung who sacrificed his own life to produces the Matrixs’ pivotal to the defeat of the Functionist Council and their fake Primus. He whose final message was “Don’t Forget Me” emblazoned on the side of a moon. Rung … who absolutely no one remembered.

The sparks on Luna 1, numbering just shy of a billion, grew into Cybertronians who resembled their progenitor yet even this constant evidence is nowhere near enough for the goggle wearing psychologist to be remembered at all. Indeed, the only Cybertronian who seems to have any recollection of him at all is Rewind – whose mind has been fractured to the point where he can no longer even transform.

Dammit, guys. Rung has only been gone for no more than a week… You were even the last people he spoke to!

Prowl

Prowl did not feature directly a great deal in MTMTE/LL, though his machinations and plots impacted the crew enormously. It was his plan to stow Overlord on-board, he planted agents amongst the crew and it was he that led to the destruction of the ship. Prowl has always been a character who had a very grey morality, who often acted as if the means justified the ends and this continues to show in Lost Light #25.

Despite being abducted and his hypocrisies laid bare in Sins of the Wreckers, despite being hunted by Optimus Prime and an eye blown out of his head it appears that Prowl has not grown one iota. He sees everything only in terms of practicality, leaving no room for the joys and wonders in life. He is a near-malevolent bureaucrat with his own agenda.  You could understand his insistence that Megatron be placed in restraints despite Rodimus’ protestations but to allow the demolishing of the Lost Light while the crew are still onboard having final drinks really serves to highlight just what Prowl is really like. That Prowl, in all the time he has had, has not had his missing eye repaired is symbolic of his outlook – he sees only what he wants to and is either unwilling or incapable of seeing any situation from anyone else’s perspective.

Sorry Rodimus, but Prowl is an arse and almost certainly will be as long as he lives.

And yet, as tragic and as … normal as the fates of the Lost Light crew were. As much as you could say they merely went on to experience life with its mix of wonder and tragedy there is still room for hope. It would have been easy for James Roberts to have left us with the idea that glory is fleeting, that heroes do not remain heroes forever. Instead we are gifted with the idea that somewhere, in some other universe, the Lost Light crew as captained by both Megatron and Rodimus are still out there. They are still flying. They are still dreaming. They are still seeking everything the infinite universes have to offer them.

The crew that did not give up, that did not settle down on New Cybertron, were the ones that gained the happiest possible ending; that there was no ending. The future is theirs to do with as they will.

Am I sad that More than Meets the Eye / Lost Light has now ended? Yes. I can not recall a title that I have so thoroughly enjoyed for a very long time indeed. The script has been truly masterful, especially in terms of the long form structure and method of dropping plot points that were seamlessly used later. This was the first Transformers series to give every notable character a fully fleshed out personality, the first to make them really human. So yes, I am sad it has ended. But I am also glad that I had eight years of the best Transformers stories ever created and it is that I will hold onto.

 

2 Comments

  1. Le Messor

    I would have thought Simon Furman raised The Transformers above ‘little more than a feature-length toy commercial’* before IDW had the book.

    (I just realised there was a spoiler warning that I completely skimmed over. Weird. I don’t care, but it’s a little weird.)

    Without love … there is no meaning.
    To put it another way… ‘If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.’

    I’ve been cutting up onions, alright?! Lots of onions!
    LoL!

    Rodimus has been the glory seeking hotshot
    That’s Hot Rod!

    * part of Maltin’s review of the original movie

    1. Matt

      Furman really did his best to make Transformers better, that much can’t be argued with. Heck, it was certainly miles above what came before him and I enjoyed the heck out of his stories.
      However, it was still fairly shallow in terms of characterisation and making each Transformer more than whatever special ability they had.

      A good way of comparing the two is matching Regeneration One against Lost Light. R1 was fun but Lost Light had so much more heart and soul in it.

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