Stakes are raised as Megatron pushes forward
The war between the Autobots and Decepticons is about to pick up on Earth, and at the same time both parties have blown their cover to the point where the government knows about them. Meanwhile, another confrontation is brewing on Cybertron with an enemy from the past returning to wreak havoc. -summary
IDW's second collection packs about as much content as the previous book, as it covers plenty more ground in the Transformers Universe introducing new characters, and it continues to push the main story towards something huge. While the first book felt like it could appeal to anyone, this one doesn't completely feel that way as it seems heavily oriented towards fans. Simon Furman pens a majority of the stories here; this book contains the two main story lines Stormbringer and Escalation, along with Spotlights: Sixshot, Ramjet, Ultra Magnus, Kup, Mirage, and Optimus Prime.
Stormbringer is the first story in the book and it isn't exactly the follow up to Infiltration. In fact, it takes place side by side dealing with Optimus Prime and Jetfire taking care of issues on Cybertron. The story begins with Jetfire's unit picking up some type of energy surge from the dead planet which had been ravaged by their war. It seems as if Cybertron is attempting to fix itself. Along with the Technobots, Jetfire runs into another Decepticon set with their own agenda. Furman reintroduces some of his favorite characters from the original G1 series such as Scorponok and Thunderwing, and for the most part he gives them their due.
One can tell that Furman is a huge fan that has put a lot of thought into this. He has made no secret in the past that many of the ideas concerning Transformer technology had been very silly, with the concept of Pretenders being one of them. The idea behind Pretenders were robots using outer shells made from humans or animals for the purpose of sneak attacks. The problems with this concept story-wise is that no one would fall for the same trick twice, plus some of the Pretenders forms just didn't make any sense. Rarely was it used at all in the original series, in fact Bludgeon was the only one to truly benefit from it and this only concerned action. Furman reintroduces it with a very interesting twist that plays out really well in regards to Thunderwing and Bludgeon. In the case of the former, the technology drove him to the point of insanity while increasing his power to a near god-like level, thus he was able to battle both Autobot and Decepticon armies simultaneously and nearly kill them all at one point. Bludgeon resurrects him with intentions on cleansing the universe.
The story is action packed and the threat of Thunderwing is understood. The only problems I can think of is that this story can't be swiftly read. If you rush through this then you're going to miss crucial details in the Transformers tech, to include shifts between past and present events may not feel so fluid. Also, Furman squeezes in loads of characters such as the Wreckers, Technobots, and Predacons, and the only ones who will get into this are long time fans who followed the books. In fact fans are the only ones who will know the names of these respected sub-groups because two of them aren't even named. To include, they aren't developed at all and they merely serve as plot devices. New and casual fans will not come away liking any of these characters, and in the case of Thunderwing, all they're going to witness is a very powerful and destructive robot looking cool tearing through everyone. However, fans are going to get into this out of nostalgia alone since it's going to remind them of Matrix Quest.
Escalation is the true sequel to Infiltration as it picks up on Earth events with the arrival of Optimus Prime. Megatron already put his plan in motion in the last book by getting his house in order. The first thing he did was destroy rebellious troops, and then continue Starscream's testing of a super-powered Energon source called Ore-13. At the same time, he's attempting to plunge the US in a war with another country by using facsimile's, which are phony humans they created in labs. Despite the human presence, this story is very interesting and fun to read as we get some really cool battles, with a one on one confrontation between Prime and Megatron, plus characters are better developed here.
I really like that IDW tried to figure out some type of reading order with these Spotlight stories. People who read the main stories in original form, but skipped the Spotlights can tell you how disjointed some of the future stories felt. They just didn't know where all of these characters and plot threads originated from. No matter how uninteresting it can feel, Spotlight: Sixshot is one of the most important books here because it introduces him and the Reapers, which is very important for the next main story Devastation. Spotlight: Optimus Prime is also necessary reading. Spotlight: Ultra Magnus introduces Scorponok which is just as important. The other spotlights are decent at best and play smaller rolls. Spotlight: Ramjet is fun filler that only manages to enforce that Megatron doesn't play around, but this story is completely out of order though and it should be after that horrible crossover New Avengers/Transformers which is in the third book.
Despite how sloppy some of the character development may be. Furman nails it with others though. I remember in an interview where he once stated the character of Skywarp had the coolest ability of all the Transformers being able to teleport at will, yet he was so underused. This is very true, and he fixes that here by portraying him as one of the more powerful Decepticons, as he pours pressure on the Autobots. Megatron and Prime are awesome as well and feel rightfully overpowered. In addition, Furman definitely knows how to carry suspense through these stories. He works very well building up towards some type of huge pay off, and I remember being very curious to where this stuff was going.
The artwork has its moments of greatness with Stormbringer being a highlight. Almost the entire story takes place on Cybertron and the world looks nice, but it's the character designs that stands out most. The robots have some nice details and that shiny armor reeks of pure awesome. I still love Bludgeon's new half destroyed looking form. His character seems to reflect his eerie appearance. The action is still brutal with the Ramjet story coming to mind. Although the artwork can feel inconsistent with some bland models across these books; it's still very pretty to look at. The updated and re-imagined designs will likely appeal to older fans a great deal. None of these characters ever looked cooler.
This second volume does a pretty good job developing newer plot threads while addressing previous ones as well. Unfortunately the shaky character development for some stories is hard to ignore. This is an easy recommendation for fans. To others it's kind of hard for me to recommend. Here's my advice, if you can read some of these stories free to see if it's for you then do so. If not, pick this up only if you really enjoyed the first one.
Pros: Artwork and continued story development
Cons: Appeals a lot more to fans