Transformers Spotlight: Arcee
IDW Publishing (February, 2008)
WRITER: Simon Furman
ARTIST: Alex Milne
COLORISTS: Josh Perez & Kris Carter
LETTERER: Chris Mowry
EDITOR: Andrew Steven Harris (he approved this story; he’s just as guilty–the art team was just doing their job)
So what’s the big crisis on Garrus-9 that drew Optimus and the Autobots away from Earth when they were most needed? Jetfire and his team are here working to help reform the Monstructor Decepticons (since Pretenders as created don’t exist here). However, Doubledealer has learned about the prototype Combiners and informed Banzaitron, who wants to add them to his secret service. Also in this prison is Arcee, brought in by Ultra Magnus because her obsession with destroying the Decepticon scientist Jhiaxus and his experiments (which includes Monstructor) made her dangerous for all sides. However, current prison warden Fortress Maximus has no choice but to use her to attempt to stop the Decepticons, and when they make their escape with the Monstructor team to hunt them down.
What they got right: As much as I hate to give credit given what’s revealed in this story I do have to be fair in these reviews. The art is fairly decent and the Doubledealer and Combiner plots are shown to not be ignored (unlike a few Spotlight ideas like Wheelie and the Quintessons evidence he finds). And given how the Combiners were built up at this time it does make sense that Optimus would pull his team away to deal with this crisis.
What they got wrong:
Allow me to copy/paste from the last time I looked at this comic:
I’m not going to get into the rape conversation, but I do need to bring up that in comics lately, rape is a plot device that happens to women. The sad thing is that it’s used to “toughen” a woman or show her vulnerable side or both. Rape, whether it involves sex, control, or some combination of the two, is a violation of the victim, usually women but in the real world it also happens to men outside of the prison walls.
However, even TV crime dramas, which features vile things happening to every gender and age group the FCC will let them use, has never done forced sex change. I don’t pretend to understand transgender behavior other than at least some (and I have no actual figures to claim any majorities) can be medically proven to have been born the wrong gender–and I don’t know how that works either. I do at least accept the possibility. And I’m sure any transgendered person would find this insulting if someone wrote a story about forcing a sex change on another person unless it was magic for the point of hijinks.
That, as you recall, was my biggest problem with the “Decepticon Justice Division” in the More Than Meets The Eye comic. Their actions were grotesque and if they had been humans it would have been sick and repulsive. Yes, robots were used in kid-friendly science fiction shows (be it all-ages or actual kids shows) as someone who could be shot or smashed in a serious show and not freak the kiddies out, but there comes a point where, since the Transformers are living machines and characters we’re supposed to care about as if they’re humans, you can still go too far. Forget kids shows, if you wouldn’t do it to a human in a story you shouldn’t do it to a Transformer or a Droid from Star Wars, although a Transformers or droid has the better chance of surviving it. I think the line is drawn at “shoving someone through the fan blade in your chest so they can die in horrible agony” or “forced sex change just because you’re bored”!
It also doesn’t help that Arcee is now a berserker psycho out to torture Jhiaxus at every possible turn and later happily serve as Prowl’s hit mech and slaughter as many Decepticons as she can. Arcee used to be such a nice girl. Furman likes giving her a bad attitude even in the UK G1 comic.
Since I wrote that one of my reviewer friends came out as transgender and as of this writing is undergoing hormone treatments preparing for a sex change operation, but she isn’t being forced into it like Arcee and I doubt she’ll be turning into a berserker psycho. I’m sure she wouldn’t be happy with this story simply because Simon Furman has a problem with female Autobots. Was there a big call to have her here? He couldn’t just ignore her since she didn’t have a toy? Mairghread Scott did much better when she PROPERLY introduced gender to Cybertronians. As if that wasn’t bad enough we have the Technobots getting blasted (again) by the Combaticons. Furman really likes shooting up the Technobots. And all these years past Generation Two Jhiaxus is still a terrible Transformer name, and I remind you a Furman creation.
Recommendation: I have this comic only to be able to showcase just how bad this actually is, and this one addition ruins what could have been a fairly decent set-up for future stories. (There’s also a reference to another Jhiaxus project, something called a “mega-core” which I’m sure will come into place.) Despite the potential importance to Furman’s further plans I can’t in good faith recommend this comic to anyone except as a bad example.