Chapter by Chapter features me reading one chapter of the selected book at the time and reviewing it as if I were a reviewing an episode of a TV show or an issue of a comic. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read to the point I have, and if you’ve read further I ask that you don’t spoil anything further into the book. Think of it as read-along book club.
Wednesday is “International Literacy Day“, created to showcase the problems of illiteracy in this country. My parents always encouraged my love of reading, and it’s been to my benefit. Bloggers Unite is having a group posting (where various bloggers write on the same subject on the same day) about the problem of illiteracy, but I must admit that it’s not something I’ve paid attention to.
Still, in honor of the Day, I felt like picking up my book and doing another Chapter by Chapter, although as reported in a recent article, comics can do their part to encourage reading. I hope you have your copy of Transformers: Exodus handy. Remember, since the chapters are so short, I’ll be reviewing them a few at a time rather than the “one at a time” method I had planned for this feature.
When we last left this book, a data clerk named Orion Pax had reported to his superior (and secretly one of the original Transformers) Alpha Trion about a rabble-rousing gladiator calling himself “Megatronus”. Meanwhile, Megatronus decided to follow his lazy fans and shorten his name to Megatron, thus making the “Megatronus” name rather pointless. So let’s start with Chapter 4 and see where it goes from here.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first–more name dropping. Don’t worry, non TransFans, I’m breaking out the Transformers Wiki links for the rest of you. The fanboy in me is pleased that Irvine took the time to do his geographic homework, and I know enough about the game to realize that “Trypticon Station” is going to be a plot point, at least in the Autobot campaign. On the other hand, why he felt the need to mention the Manganese Mountains, and what I assume to be the Well of All-Sparks I’m not sure. He’s also moved both locations closer to Iacon. I feel like noting here that “Iacon” started as the Autobot base of operations in the cartoon and the “greatest of city-states” where Optimus Prime came from in the first ever comic book, but somewhere along the line of fiction prior to the novel, it became the capital city of the Autobots. So I can’t blame this one on Irvine.
And while he used the “Six Lasers over Cybertron” amusement park well enough, I kind of question if it should be there. In the era of Beast Wars, I can understand why Cybertron has such a place, since this is after being influenced by Earth humans. However, this is a pre-Earth visit story and although it is used to show the flaw in the caste systems as developed on Cybertron, it also feels like it’s there to please fanboys.
The big problem I have with it is that non-fans aren’t going to get these references and there’s going to be a point where I’m worried it may annoy a casual reader who picked this up either because of the game or because the movies brought back a childhood memory they’ve decided to revisit. Otherwise, Irvine does a good job going over the caste system Sentinel Prime helped put together, why it is structured the way it is (and possibly how the upper castes corrupted it) and why it stifles freedom. This makes Megatron’s words all the more interesting to Orion Pax and sets up what’s to follow.
Also we have Alpha Trion spying on them and looking to steer the course of what’s to come. I’m not sure if that makes him a jerk or not, but I’m really hating Irvine’s vision of Cybertron, regardless of how well he brings it to us. And don’t get me wrong, he does a good job of it.
Finally, we have the introduction of another classic Autobot, Jazz…and another name drop. Jazz’s caste position makes sense considering how G1 Jazz is depicted and it would make sense that he doesn’t become a “special ops” officer until the war. Irvine makes this Jazz likable enough, but we don’t get enough time to really get to know him. I’m not sure we could at only four chapters in, so I’m hoping for more as the book goes on. And time to go on it is.
And here we have a chapter where I have no complaints. Irvine does a great job setting up not only the relationship between Megatron and Orion, but the differences in their philosophies. Megatron’s words are, as the narrator puts it, lighting a fire in Pax’s spark and making him question the caste system, but only the system as it exists and not the very concept, something Megatron is determined to break once and for all. It is also here that we see the origins of Optimus Prime, much more so than in Furman’s “The War Within” story, which was pretty much “Matrix chose you, here you go, your Prime now”.
Here we get to see Orion becoming a “Megatron” of his own, coming up with ideals and finding people who share those beliefs, much as Megatron has. But while Megatron’s ideals were formed in the “bloody” (for lack of a better term–“oily”?) gladiator pits, Orion’s ideals come from observing the world from the outside, seeing what isn’t working but also what is and trying to reconcile the two. He still bears a loyalty to his caste, but doesn’t like that he was pretty much forced into it from the day he was first brought online.
In a way, I think Jazz has something to do with this. As Megatron voices one part of what Orion has been thinking, Jazz tempers it with common sense and perhaps a sense of duty. One wonders what Orion would be doing if Jazz wasn’t there to keep him grounded, a sort of point/counterpoint. I like it.
And I think that’s a long enough article for today. Next time we’ll pick up with Chapter Six, as Orion Pax, data clerk, and Megatron, gladiator, meet for the first time. I’m thinking a lot of philosophizing is going to go down, so prepare yourselves.