Rogue’s Review: Thunderwing

September 23rd, 2011

Awright troops, Illogical Volume here, with a bit of fine
imported basterdry for ye!

Like another recent guest post, this one started with a tweet from Bostwana Beast.

I’m not sure that aka the Original Eyeball intended to start a fight here, but he should’ve known no tae challenge a proper weegie baistart like my pal Scott McAllister, aka Mr Attack, aka The Boy Fae the Heed, because a man like Scott disnae back down fae fuck aww.

Well, at least not when there are Transformers involved. Anyway, that’s enough of my pish. Here’s what the lad Scott had to say about Thunderwing:

It’s another day at the office in Marvel UK in the late 1980’s. Creative license tells me that at this point in history, it would be dark all the time, and it would be raining. A package has been couriered over from Hasbro, and contains the latest information on new products that must be featured in future issues of Transformers. By this point, the engineering has gotten less interesting, and the toys can be changed in about two or three moves. Quite often these days, they are accompanied by a humanoid shell to contain them in, like a a sarcophagus with arms that can only rotate at the shoulders. A quick glance of the villains line-up reveals it looking more and more like the cover to an Iron Maiden single.

On top of that, with Budiansky departing the American book, it seems the personalities of the toys have fallen into the doldrums, with each character little amounting to endless variations of “he is so bad, so very, very bad”, “he is soooooo good it hurts”, “he is evil because he is mental and robots don’t do meds” or “he’s sort of a good guy, but if we’re honest he’s a bit of a wank”.

Now, if you’re one of the cartoon writers, you stare into the mirror, remind yourself you’re too good for this shit and that you’re only in it for the money, so you recycle the plot of some other show you wrote, and have the new villain you’ve been requested to début elect to secretly build some giant weather-controlling device, or hypnosis booth or some shite, and have him turn up at the end as the mastermind of it all, to get his ass kicked.

But, you’re not one of those guys. You are Simon Furman. Simon Furman only has one question in his head EVER. “How can I make this guy interesting so that he’ll be remembered long after I kill him to bits?”.

Simple beginnings in this case. Like an earlier bastard on this list, Thunderwing wants to be the leader of the Decepticons. Or he wanted to, had his ass not been set on fire and dumped into the ocean.

That would have been enough for some writers. As much as a b-villain would deserve, and another paycheque into the bank. What most wouldn’t do, is bring this guy back and actually make him the new leader of the Decepticons and central to the second movement of your next big saga. And by central, we don’t just mean “took the important McGuffin to the right place at the right time”. He was much more than just that, and to prove it, we need to get a little deeper into the myth-cycle that runs though this whole cosmic affair.

If you’re reading this, chances are you know the basics: there was a cosmic being called Primus who was set forth to battle another called Unicron, who’s only desire was for everything to be one with the void. They battled across various dimensions of spacetime, and Primus was losing. As a ploy, he lured Unicron into the material realm, where instead of their cosmic forms, the emerged as debis. In turn they shaped these lifeless bodies into new forms. Unicron into a machine for eating planets, Primus into home of the Transformers, with the robots born of his metal flesh. In time, there would be a reckoning.

Let’s get something straight here: although he is sometimes regarded as the Transformer equivalent of Satan, Unicron is by no stretch of the imagination The Robot Devil. Remember, Unicron is self determined. He did not come forth from Primus, the Transformer God, he existed before him. They represent diametrically opposite forces; Entropy and Energy made manifest in a cosmic war. The Devil, if one takes the whole Miltonian saga as a starting point, is The Fallen One, a being who is, in effect, jealousy, temptation and arrogance made manifest by God. He was created by God, and is a force that can be subjected to God’s will. We can know nothing of good if we know not of evil to contrast it with, and a Godly being, with the ability to manifest life, is surely charged with the ability to know both within itself, and thus transcend them, and furthermore, to create beings to embody them.

So, Primus, the Godhead, has just been used as a punching bag across the myriad dimensions that make up all of existence, and has cheated his way to victory by imprisoning himself and his opponent, the Chaos-Bringer into the material realm. Stripped of so much of their cosmic majesty, and doomed to inhabit this corner of spacetime as junk, this is not so much a final decisive blow as a cosmic half-time while they adapt to their new situation to think about how best to proceed with the next round. Unicron, the devourer, doesn’t see anything past his hunger. He is the void made manifest, and his only need is to consume. End result, a new material body that can do just that.

His opponent, however, seems less sure of himself, and turns himself into a microcosm, where he manifests himself in the form of a race in his image. It’s as if he decided he couldn’t win this struggle without really knowing himself. What better way for a cosmic being to rid itself of the attributes it doesn’t like about itself than to make them manifest, and have his good side incarnate slap the shit out of them? On the surface, the function of the Prime is to be part military governor and robo-Pope to the flock that is effectively the Godhead doing a bloody good impression of a civilisation. What if it goes deeper? What if the bearer of this role is to be the very best of Primus, tested by his worse side? The distillation of four million years of effort into one single being, devoid of avarice, rage and childishness, who stands ready for the return match with the Chaos-Bringer?

Well then, you better make sure that you test him to the fucking limit, and for that, you’ll need an Honest-To-God Devil

The parade of villains that graced these pages were not always quite epic enough to achieve this. Megatron? Avarice incarnate. A tinpot fascist, caught in an eternal loop of desiring war so that he may use it to gain power so that he may use that power to go to war and so on and so on… Shockwave? Driven by order, he hears nothing but the perfect ticking of a Swiss Watch, and if he can’t hear that ticking then he gets a bit mental. Ratbat? An accountant who is only interested in having arguments with other people that he thinks are not accountant-y enough. We’ll bypass Scorponok for the moment, because his story is tainted by a non-Transformer source in the form of his fleshy partner, Lord Zarak. Your only other major candidate for serious biblical presence is Galvatron, the herald of Unicron. Of course, but this point in the tale of the Transformers, he’s already been told off by spacetime itself and put to bed without any supper. Or face.

Call it what you will, as it’s got a few names, but most villains in the Transformers universe have tried to have shot at nabbing The Matrix. It’s God in pocket sized form. His portable vessel. A battery of unlimited cosmic power to be harnessed. The universe’s most attractive Christmas tree ornament. Villains, we are given to understand, are like magpies and are drawn to the shiny. They are usually rebuked and made to look silly. Starscream held the Matrix once for about half an hour before it dragged him scowling and whining over to the side of good. It’s just that potent. If the damn thing wanted to experience evil, it would have to create such a vessel, rather than cherry-picking it’s way through whatever was at hand.

Enter Thunderwing. Freshly appointed as the new boss of the Decpticons, he quickly realised the crisis the Autobots currently had regarding their religious bauble. They didn’t bother to pull it out of the dead guy who’d been it’s designated carrier in life, and threw what was left of him into space in a process regarded as a funeral rites by themselves, but as galactic littering by anyone sane. Needless to say, when the dead guy stopped being dead and discovered that they had pawned all his vinyl and threw his sacred charge into the void, he was not impressed. But, for Thunderwing, this held more significance than just the chance to steal the Godhead and wear it as cosmic bling, unlike some villains we know.

Cast by God to be his dark vessel. There was never any choice, no process of exploration nor moment of great personal tragedy. There was the knowledge that one had a role to play (even if the actual shape and intention of that role could not be understood from Thunderwing’s mortal perspective).

“Yesss! Come to me, come to your rightful owner!” – Thunderwing

“We obey” – The Matrix

“We know pleasure, purity – goodness. But we would know… more” – The Matrix

And if Thunderwing stood at one extreme, the supreme instrument of God’s inner evil, then it doesn’t take more than about two guesses to think which subject this is all for the benefit for. God’s own perfect templar – Optimus Prime (“first and the greatest”):

What happened to “lead us not into temptation”? Or what about “light our darkest hour”? Instead the darkest shadow of God stands before us, urging the very worst of both sides. Just how far can one go into darkness and still be good? Fortunately, unlike the stab-happy version that just took our wallet for about ten quid who felt that shooting downed prisoners is fine, as long as you have a snappy punchline to voice while you commit murder, this is still the version that got his metal arse blown up, rather than live with letting video game NPC’s die.

“It truly grieves me to do this Thunderwing. Though evil, you are a victim here – a pawn of the twisted Matrix Entity! I must free you, thwart The Matrix – even if it means killing you! No. That is not the Autobot way! We save, not destroy! There has to be another way–” – Optimus Prime

The victory against Thunderwing is less a physical one, more a spiritual test set for Prime. A heresy he would have to conquer, in his role as God’s conscience.

One step closer to perfection. One step closer towards being the light that will be needed in the dark days ahead. As awful as this was, there was worse to come when God’s foe turned up, and he had to stop role-playing with his toys…

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