IDW Transformers Optimus Prime #8 Review

Optimus Prime receives a warning from the President of the United States; distance himself and his cause from Jazz before it’s too late.

Thoughts and Synopsis

We begin with Jazz meeting the Mexican news team that’s going to interview him. Chief among them? Our good friend Hector Ramirez from G1!
Jazz begins his interview by going over his life from before the Great War. He came from a space port and ship building town. None of which held much interest for Jazz. His interest was music. That didn’t pay the bills though. So he joined the security services that would later become known as the Autobots to make ends meet. This is dovetailed into Jazz’s arrival on Earth as part of the war, and the question of John Powell quickly comes up.
Jazz killed Powell way back in the pre-Death of Optimus Prime ongoing. Jazz was defending himself when he killed Powell, but Ramirez tells him that Powell was a decorated officer trying to defend himself from “threatening” Cybertronians. This leads to a question about Jazz stepping between a white police officer and a black youth. An event that took place immediately following Optimus Prime’s unilateral annexation of Earth. Jazz storms off after getting an anonymous tip, feeling betrayed.
Who was behind the tip is up for interpretation. The issue points to Optimus Prime himself. Prime had earlier spoken to the American President, who had warned him that his cause stood to loose a lot of face if it was seen as being aligned with a cop killer. Optimus has other problems, as Pyra Magna begins to recruit colonists who have become disillusioned with Optimus’ leadership following the peace with the Junkions. Optimus contacts Pyra and asks her to meet him on Cybertron. Neutral ground to discuss things. This leads us into the 2017 annual.
I had ignored the flashback scene entirely in my last Optimus Prime review. Simply put? It just didn’t seem to matter. Jetfire is hired as a forensics lab tech, faces functionist discrimination. Nothing that we haven’t seen out of pre-war Cybertron before. Technically speaking? Nothing new is added this time. Still? there’s a bit more meat on the bones. Jetfire and the then-Orion Pax have a heated exchange. Jetfire finally lays it out. Those who are put down by Functionism just want to be themselves. If the powers that be won’t let that happen? Well he’s happy to support a Decepticon movement that will.
There are two main thrusts to the issue. The social commentary at play and the Pyra Magna v Optimus Prime political manoeuvring.

Final Thoughts

I said it before. I think John Barber’s attempt at tale about the dangerous of police brutality was lacking at best and problematic at worst. Equating Decepticon gun runners with groups like Black Lives Matter simply cannot work. Regardless of how well Barber intended it to come off. The unintended implications are downright dangerous.
I am happy to say that Barber has righted the good ship SS Social Commentary with the previous issue and this one. Maybe he just needed to be a bit more focused in his metaphors? Regardless, the points he makes here are worth considering.
We first deal with Jazz. As I said last week. Jazz is a Cybertronian character who has traditionally been coded as African-American. That he’s accused of being a cop killer is no coincidence. And the defence that Ramirez musters for the police officer- that he merely felt “threatened,” should cause us all to stop and think. It’s uncomfortable, but as I said last week. It should be.
We then move to pre-war Jetfire. Jetfire here represents marginalized groups who want to coexist peacefully with society as a whole. Jetfire’s monologue reveals that he doesn’t actually want to topple the government. Not really. He just wants to be what he is. A scientist and a flyer. If the Autobot security services and the Primes and Senate will just let him be who he was born as without hassle then he wouldn’t feel the need to strike against the system. The system does try to force him to be someone he isn’t though. Lacking options? The change promised by the Decepticons is inciting.
I’ve said before that the post-Death of Optimus Prime IDWverse led by Barber and Roberts has had the overarching theme of anti-extremism. It’s not anti-religion or anti-socialist or anything like that. The message is that extremism, be it revolutionary, religious, or the like is dangerous. Empathy, moderation, and the willingness to listen is what leads to the best possible outcome. Jetfire’s message is clear. If society wishes its marginalized groups to exist peacefully within the system? It must afford them basic dignities and respect to be themselves.
We then end with the hook for the 2017 annual. It’s an odd choice. The issue begins with Pyra building her anti-Optimus coalition. Regardless, it ends with her going off with Optimus to have the conciliatory talk she had with him in the annual. Where this leads is anyone’s guess.
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