Zeta Prime was always a great standout from this continuity. Going by chronological order meant he was the first evil Prime I encountered in IDW. Sentinel wasn't really evil in Megatron: Origin, just a morally grey antagonist. The only other malevolent Prime I knew was The Fallen from the ROTF film, who was a rather lackluster villain. The whole concept of an "evil Prime" was still fresh to me at this point, so Zeta's full debut in this issue was captivating, especially thanks to Livio Ramondelli's amazing design for him. It's one of my favorites.
However, I do agree that there's a lot of clumsy exposition here, which somewhat undermines Zeta's portrayal as a genuine threat. His dialogue veers way too much into cliché cartoon villain territory for me personally. Also, while he only has a handful of lines in this issue, every single sentence spoken by Optimus/Orion was so cringe-inducing that it almost took me out of the story. The last page where Soundwave escapes especially gave both characters some embarrassing dialogue. Optimus saying he'd bring back Soundwave "dead or alive" in bold felt so forced.
And yes, the inconsistency with prior continuity in regards to Starscream somehow not being recognized as the Decepticon who literally killed the entire senate before is hard to overlook. The author would later clarify this in an interview explaining that no one couldn't have known about this since he left no survivors. Fair enough. But then there's Swindle's apparent demise, which tbh I actually laughed at that one. Poor Swindle never catches a break.
Overall this issue is just such a mess compared to when I first read it, the art is the only part I still like. I mentioned Zeta being a great standout, but there's a law of diminishing returns effect here once Barber goes overboard with the evil Prime concept (oh boy, can't wait to talk about THAT one). I know this was just a lot of complaining again, it's just so hard to point out anything I used to enjoy about this story after knowing all that comes next.
The "Starscream killed the whole Senate" retcon is something that probably should have been left as it originally read. In Megatron Origin, it's clear that he only killed a portion of Kaon's localized officials (he even comments how many "empty seats" are there at his hearing.) But now we're expected to believe that Starscream killed the entire governing body of the PLANET in that scene?
I forgot why that retcon was even necessary.
As I said last time, I first read Autocracy as a whole in one sitting, and as such Zeta Prime’s frankly ridiculous introduction just passed me by as being something of an odd chapter. As it’s own issue, as it is here, the… weaknesses …certainly become a lot more apparent.
Zeta is certainly a very cartoony character, and very clearly a bad guy. Unfortunately I can’t ask the question of how he ended up being put in a position of power and responsibility when he was clearly a bad guy and not fit for the role, because if the last 15 or so years have shown us this is actually probably the most realistic part of the story. Would someone wearing a pound shop Darth Vader costume promising to drain the “less valuable” members of the population to power weapons of war actually be the kind of person that not only the Tories or the Republicans would put up for nomination, but who would actually win the vote? Unfortunately we all know the answer to that. So I’m not going to comment on Zeta’s ridiculousness any further.
On first reading I was also dimly aware that something wasn’t right on the whole Senate front, but not having knowledge of TFWiki, or the willpower to go and dig out Megatron Origins, I just put this down to yet another instance of IDW editorial’s complete lack of attention. Which again isn’t a thing in this comic’s favour.
The thing that really saves this issue, as ever, is the art, with Ramondelli once again providing some very nice, moody artwork which fits the story really well.
So as before, not a terrible issue this, but certainly one that works better when read as part of the whole.
Stuart Webb. Who knows everything about nothing and not a lot about that.
Action Force/G.I. Joe