Journal Entry: Sat Nov 14, 2015, 12:41 AM
Some people get worked up about their favorite television shows. Some people lose sleep over sports games. I get worked up about a sci-fi comic book delivered serially each month. As I await the drop of MTMTE #47, aka "Cyclonus vs Getaway re: Tailgate," my stomach's started cramping, and I spend hours alternately stewing over what might happen, and muttering the prayer/mantra of all MTMTE-readers: "Please don't hurt me, James! Please don't hurt me, James! Please don't hurt me, James!" This is the most worked-up I've been since we knew Overlord was coming. I spent most of my workday mentally composing an essay about "Why Cygate is Life!" (If it were possible to transfer thoughts to the internet y'all'd be inundated daily; trust me.) Poor "Grapple" of Art Night fame graciously listened to me go off about the deep meaning of comic book robots for about half an hour. (And to her everlasting credit -- and to James's -- in the end she understood why some of this is so darn important to me.) Yeah. I gotta express some o' this stuff, or I will explode into an ulcerated mess. So sit back, relax, get popcorn, and settle in for a good long read.
I think it all begins with disappointment in Tailgate. (Yes, Tailgate, the precious cinnamon roll too good for the world, too pure.) I realize now that to expect him to grow out of all his foibles was unrealistic. But it's still been hard. Sure, he stopped trying to get attention by lying about how awesome he was... but now he's become something of the ship's clueless spoiled brat. He also stopped being the Audience Surrogate, which had a HUGE impact on me. In fact, I felt kicked out of the comic. For so long, through Tailgate, I was PARTICIPATING in events. Now Megatron is the Audience Surrogate character. And while Primus knows I love Megatron like he's a real person, and absolutely treasure this version of him, he is just plain TOO BIG to be "us" in a comic. It almost works. But never quite as immersively as it did with Tailgate.
MTMTE Season 2 has felt like a bit of a bait-and-switch to me. It seemed like at the end of #21 that both Tailgate and Cyclonus had finally settled into a good place of mutual, equal care. But due to their continual communication problems, all that has been disintegrating. And it's darn well giving me fits! Because although there are plenty of MTMTE storylines to invest in, this one is utterly central to me. There's nothing else I care about as much. And trust me, I realize how silly that might sound. I've spent my entire time in this fandom doing everything I could to NOT be "one of THOSE fangirls." Because it's so darn easy to dismiss anyone blubbering about how they "just want [X] and [Y] to get together!!!" Or at least it is to jerks like me. Till James wrote two disparate robots whose budding friendship has come to symbolize all there is to hope for in humanity. If these two deeply flawed characters can form a friendship that improves them and becomes something greater than the sum of its two parts, than maybe we poor human sops can also sometimes create goodness, even in our weak and broken states. (I don't know why comic book robots should have any effect on real life stuff, but when they show me what is possible, they do certainly encourage me!)
Here's the genius of the way James writes relationships: they're so gosh-darn understated! Chromedome and Rewind have been robot-married for how many millions of years? And yet, when Chromedome takes Rewind's hand, it's a HUGE DEAL. It actually reads like something new, something they either haven't ever done, or haven't done in quite a while. That single gesture is the culmination of a whole long journey they have both been on. It has WEIGHT, far, far more than even full banging would in human terms. In this PTSD-laden group of nigh-immortal lifelong soldiers, forming a bond that publicly proclaims the supreme importance of a single person to you is a huge, brave, fragile thing. Most people don't dare form such close attachments, because it's been war, and people die!
So yeah. I grok Cyclonus's reluctance to acknowledge that he cares about Tailgate at all. There are so many valid reasons. Tailgate is naive, clueless, spoiled, and above all, YOUNG. From the moment Getaway stepped into the picture, I could see Cyclonus backing off, because he believes Tailgate deserves not only a chance to form other friendships (to stop depending so much on Cyclonus), but to choose a different bestie if he finds someone he likes better. Leaving him in the bar with Getaway is a supremely selfless act for Cyclonus.
If only I could trust Getaway with ANYTHING. Primus, I've come to hate that mech!
I won't say much. But people who manipulate others by undermining them and undermining their trust in their friends should die in a fire. Slowly. What is Getaway's game? What does he hope to achieve by 'claiming' Tailgate of all people? I don't know, but I worry. I'd assume this issue might end happily with a Cygate consummation, but for the fact that this is the build-up to the big Issue 50. Getaway's so different now from how he was at first that I've even wondered about some kind of possession. The end.
And Cyclonus has no idea that the reason Tailgate's been hanging out so much with Getaway is that Getaway's been feeding him lies about how Cyclonus wishes he would leave!
Because Cyclonus is failtacular at communication.
If pressed, he can talk enough to coordinate a fight. He can recount history and religion. He can sing. But he can't talk about his feelings to save his or anybody else's life. He's monumentally walled-off from everyone around him. And it's gonna gosh-darn wreck the only OTP I've ever had, if he doesn't snap out of it, and that right soon.
He shows stuff now and then. He's changed, probably more than anybody else on the whole ship. He actually apologized to Tailgate for kicking him. I'll bet Cyclonus ain't never apologized to anyone for anything, because he's a guy who tends to act only when he's convinced an action is right and honorable. But he's begun to question himself. Remember how he swore to kill Whirl, then let him off? Remember Hardhead hinting he was scared to go into the Dead Universe (HECK YEAH, that's an appropriate response, yo!) and Whirl was all, "He just called you a coward! At the very least you should threaten to kill him when he least expects it!" Remember how he holds his temper in, unless somebody actually hits him? (Not just Tailgate in #4 -- more recently with the Sparkeater dude, as well.) Well there was a bit in Dark Cybertron where Swerve victory-bomped him, and Cyclonus did nothing. (Primus, even "Bomping" has been tainted by that goshdarn creeper Getaway!) I don't know, of course, but I think a big element of his connection to Tailgate stems from the fact that Tailgate was never afraid to touch him. Never hesitant to intrude on his self-imposed isolation. It took a while for Cyclonus to realize he appreciated having that bubble broken into... but anyway.
I wonder if Cyclonus has been even more disappointed with Tailgate than I have? Has he been angry with Tailgate for apparently dropping his friendship after Cyclonus literally gave years off his life to save him? There's a lot of potential pain there. And it all could be solved with some GOSH DARNED COMMUNICATION. Please, James don't make everything fall to pieces for lack of a few honest words!
I'd been holding myself together by believing that maybe this issue would be Cyclonus finally talking to Tailgate, and admitting how much he cares for the little guy. It'd be a complicated bond -- Tailgate is, despite the whole alien robot thing, still only really two years old. Not technically a child as we'd put it, but in comparison to Cyclonus, enough of one to give me pause. I don't know if I could accept a full conjunx endura bond between the two of them, despite how on the surface awesome it would be. I love that James has made this type of bond not a sex thing, but an "elective kinship" thing. It allows the relationships to be so much more interesting and multifaceted. Anyway, I was really hoping for a happy ending. Until recently, when doubt started to creep in. What if Tailgate chooses Getaway?? What if it all goes wrong and this issue is the start of some big spiraling even?? What if Getaway's manipulation comes to a head here, and we find out he has some nefarious plan? If any of those things happen, it will really do me in. I've been trying to avoid the preview, but a few images have slipped in past my defenses. Dang it, James! Please don't hurt me!!!
And now, on to related thoughts about some other comics...
James started the whole "Let's admit that robots love each other too" thing. Since then, it has exploded. Everybodty's putting it into their comics. But nobody else has handled it with the same level of finesse James has. A lot of times, it feels shoehorned in to placate a certain portion of the fandom. Mairghread Scott, who is one of my favorite humans on the planet, is particularly bad at this, bless her. There was a recent issue -- I think it was Combiner Hunters -- where two gal robots hinted they'd been given an unpopular chore because they could not keep their hands off one another. That rubbed me completely the wrong way. It undermines the delicate restraint I love so much in James's version of TF relationships, where hand-holding is a huge deal. It devalues meaningful contact. And yeah, it felt thrown in to grant requests for a F/F couple to mirror the canon M/M couple. It seems like lately, everywhere you turn, there is romance. It's not that I don't want robots dating. I mean, it makes sense that in a postwar society people might get brave enough to start forming attachments. But it's become so ubiquitous. I worry that it will lose power if everyone keeps throwing it in without acknowledging its weight.
Not even James can always pull it off. I mean, in MTMTE #44 there's some extremely poignant stuff between Chromedome and Rewind. But there's something clunky about the line, "Rewind, my love." It's like James had to get the L-Word in there to make sure a new reader would know exactly what this was. Like so many of the instances of romance that bug me, it felt forced and unnatural. And the art there was suuuuuper cherry-blossom anime.
But sometimes, someone gets it dead-on right. John Barber did something new in TF #44 that blew my mind, and I think it deserves some special recognition. John wrote "conjunx endura" being used as a mean tease, a demeaning epithet for a friend who has more influence than you would like. He showed that not all "love" relationships are 'consummated' in the legal sense of conjunx endura. And he followed that up with an excellent expansion of possible TF relationships by contrasting birth family with elected kinship. Behold:
--Tracks: "Not everything is about changing the world. Just because your conjunx endura is all about class whatever and quoting that miner..."
--Needlenose: "He's not my-- Megatron's not just -- ARRGH!"
See? Subtle, killer-good stuff. And also, later:
--Tracks: "You had your chance. When Bumblebee was in charge, he tried to get everybody together—he did his best."
--Needlenose: "Bumblebee executed Horri-Bull in front of me! You think I'd stand with an Autobot who killed the one 'bot I've ever loved?"
--Tracks: [MASSIVE UPPER-CUT PUNCH] "FAMILY COMES FIRST!"
--Needlenose: "Only family you cared about was the one in the mirror. You never asked what I thought. Just squeezed until you got what you wanted."
There's also great stuff about Arcee and her inability to care whether anybody lives or dies. She recognizes her hardness, her detachment. And she doesn't want everyone else to become as hard and unfeeling as she is. Check this out:
--Arcee: "I never had anybody to lose. No family. No one to love. People are passing distractions until they die or betray me. One time I spent five years on a planet with this guy named Hardhead. Then he went off into space. It made sense. He had a thing to do. He died a while back, but everything just kept on going. I didn't "lose" anything. I mean, there wasn't a thing that was there, then wasn't. Except Hardhead. So I don't really know what other people go through. But this stupid, awful world. And those new faces, full of hope. I wonder if Hardhead ever looked like that. Or if I did. And then I think about the ones who have each other to lose. I don't want them turning into us."
DAAANG. That's brutal.
I cannot say enough good things about this issue of not-RiD. I've never been as able to dive deep into the characters and storyline of RiD as I do with MTMTE. I can't seem to keep in in my head -- it trickles out for the most part, despite the fact that it is also a good story and John does really good, brave, far-reaching things. But this is one of those issues that I can tell you where I was when I first read it. Where the experience of reading it was imprinted on my psyche. Those are few. It's got character stuff I can really sink my teeth into. It's got the previously-mentioned really good relationship stuff. It's blinking got Starscream talking to an imaginary Bumblebee. (I LOVE this slightly-crazy-with-aloneness Starscream who talks to dead people!!) It FINALLY starts dealing with the MESSED-UP, NOT OK way the decepticons have been ghettoized on Cybertron. And the last page is Needlenose rallying the 'Cons in the same pose and layout of the page of Roddy's Lost Light rally speech in MTMTE #1. SO GOOD. Go read it. Huzzah, John.
I think that'll do it for this round of spewing. Thanks to everyone/anyone who read this entire thing. Please share your thoughts -- I'd value hearing them.
I love you all. Let us all hold hands and huddle in the universal waiting-for-MTMTE-to-drop bunker.
And let's hope our poor hearts survive the fallout!!!
Come on, Cyclonus. Open your blasted mouth!
--That's all, folks. Prime out.