Phase One collects the first three arcs of IDW’s Transformers continuity, Infiltration, Escalation, and Devastation, written by longtime TF scribe Simon Furman, with art by E.J. Su, Nick Roche, and Robby Musso.
Starting with “Infiltration” – there was no ancient starship crash, nor robots awakening from a four million-year slumber; the Autobots and Decepticons have arrived on Earth fairly recently and on purpose, operating undercover for at least four years. The story is told through the eyes of four main characters: Verity Carlo, a young drifter; Hunter O’Nion, a conspiracy theorist; Jimmy Pink, mechanic and Verity’s net-friend; and Ratchet, a medic who puts his conscience over his mission.
The series quickly and consistently establishes a strong Cold War, cloak-and-dagger theme, where secrecy and rules of espionage are as important as, or perhaps even more than, vanquishing the enemy. Thundercracker and the Battlechargers attack the humans and Ratchet to retrieve data on a palmtop PC that might reveal their existence; Ratchet is arrested by Prowl for breaking cover to rescue the humans; both Autobot and Decepticon operations are small cells instead of full-fledged armies. Also, a third faction is at work: a secret human organization known only as the Machination which appears to be aware of the Transformers’ presence on Earth and has its own plans, as yet unknown, for the robots. Finally, it becomes evident to the Autobots that the Decepticon operation is up to something unusual, and their new human allies may have a part in unraveling the mystery.
The series has taken an interesting and rather unique approach to the standard Transformers story: introducing only a few new characters with each issue. This enables each issue to focus on a small selection of leads (Ratchet, the humans and later Bumblebee) without overwhelming them and gives each issue space to explore their characters.
“Infiltration” culminates in a battle between Starscream, who leads the Decepticons on Earth, and the recently arrived Megatron attempting to put his house in order…