Tarn's Identity Revealed MASSIVE MTMTE #55 SPOILER

Discussion in 'Transformers Comics Discussion' started by shadow panther, Jul 26, 2016.

  1. Nathanoraptor

    Nathanoraptor Well-Known Member

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    This. Sometimes a mask is just a mask. Who Tarn was isn't as important as who Tarn is. When I started reading MTMTE, I just knew him as Tarn; the scary-ass leader of the DJD who could literally kill people with his voice. That's all who he was to me; I didn't wonder who he was before. It was only later I found out that people had competing theories about who he was.

    Tarn was the one who ran the single worst Decepticon outpost in the war and melted people alive in order to make new Decepticons. Tarn was the one who fanatically carried the Decepticon cause and tortured anyone who deviated from it. And Tarn was the one who was feared by Cybertronians on both sides for millions of years; Tarn is Tarn is Tarn. Not every villain has to have a tragic backstory; sometimes who they are now is more important than who they were in the past. And sometimes, villains are more important by what they represent thematically than what they are to the heroes.

    A common theme in Megatron's arc in MTMTE is that he ends up creating (or becoming) what he hated; what he wanted to oppose. Remember in Titans Return, where Brainstorm comments that Sentinel Prime was like Megatron in a lot of ways; they were both ruthlessly ideological, manipulative commanders, who had an army of willing followers to obey their orders and destroyed anyone who opposed them.

    In a similar vein, there are many similarities between the DJD and the Functionist Council, so many that they are too glaring to ignore; they are both dogmatic groups who torture/mutilate/lobotomise people for not fitting with their ideals, no matter how innocuous this "defiance" may seem. The DJD torture and kill Decepticons for crimes such as "sought comfort in the personal belief of God"; Blip didn't know why they were punishing him. Not so different from the Functionists mutilating Whirl all because he chose to change his career, is it? The whole DJD, in hindsight, is carried around this idea; Vos' "removable face" invokes images of empurata, whilst their treatment of Dominus when they found out about him is similar to the shadowplaying of Shockwave (using a technique which the Functionists invented). Tarn being Glitch is a supreme irony. Someone who was once mutilated by a governing body who tortured/lobotomized/mutilated ANYONE who didn't conform to their ideals (no matter how innocuous it may seem) does pretty much the exact same thing in the present. The irony is palpable.

    It's no accident that the Functionist Council played such a prominent role in the arc immediately before the issue in which the DJD became main antagonists; the two are more similar than you would expect; they are both dogmatic groups who torture/mutilate/lobotomise people for not fitting with their ideals, no matter how innocuous it may seem. The DJD were always more important because what they represented, thematically. Like the Functionists, they are obstacles to the further progress of the Cybertronian race; for the good of the Cybertronian race, they have to be destroyed in order to move on. They are symbols of a past that needs to be buried; and must never be allowed to return.

    At risk of being pretentious, this quote from Animal Farm says it all;

    The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.
    ~ Animal Farm
     
  2. Focksbot

    Focksbot Skeleton Detective

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    No one is suggesting that this is about making things 'easy' for the reader. SMOG is replying here to a point you made which seemed to suggest that Tarn = Roller was a wholly fan-invented conceit and that therefore Roberts has no obligation to provide a superior resolution. But the fact is that Tarn = Roller is the idea Roberts wanted to plant in our heads, so the actual resolution needed to be a strong and convincing substitute for that.

    That is simply not true at all. In fact, it verges on the insulting! Rather than repeat everything I and others have said, I urge you to go through some of the past pages of this thread and absorb the actual reasoning offered, then come back and address *that*, rather than what amounts to an easily biffable strawman.

    I, for one, did not 'want' it to be Roller. I did not 'want' Tarn to be anyone specifically. I just wanted it to be a satisfying/exciting/compelling resolution.

    Firstly, you really can't say that with absolute certainty - especially if it's based on a thoroughly wrong idea you have of the nature of the criticism being levelled (which your previous paragraph strongly suggests is the case).

    Secondly, if it were the case, that's still on Roberts, not the reader. It's perfectly possible to write yourself into a corner where the only narratively coherent outcome is also the one that has been far too obviously signposted. It looks like Roberts did that by prioritising the "surprise reveal" device over narrative coherence.

    I'll say what others have said: if Tarn isn't meant to be interesting, he shouldn't have been in it so much. We should not have spent time with his thoughts. There should have been no teasing 'mask off but face unseen' scenes.

    If, to you, Tarn is not interesting in the first place, then by your own logic Roberts has also stumbled, because he's devoted page time to a character you say is nothing more than a thin sketch of a brute.

    I'm with SMOG on this point: the Tarn reveal should have been much sooner, at the very latest three issues ago. That would have made it less of an over-amped 'dramatic' moment and given Roberts time to explore the import of the identity reveal before the character is out of the picture.

    I know people are saying there's still time left for flashbacks revealing more of Glitch/Tarn, and I hope this does happen. The problem is that in another sense, I really feel the story should be moving on now and making a clean break with this subplot. Essentially, it's a massive loose thread that could easily have been tied off.

    Sure. In a way, I feel the same. The problem is that a resolution to a story shouldn't be piquing your curiosity and setting up a new area of the plot that needs exploring. This should have been done much earlier so that by the close of the season our curiosity about Glitch/Tarn has been sated.
     
  3. MelficeCyrum

    MelficeCyrum Well-Known Member

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    But Tarn=Roller WAS a theory the fans came up with. In fact, long before Elegant Chaos vaguely suggested that Roller (or Glitch, because they appeared at the same time) could be Tarn, the fandom had several guesses as to who Tarn was. The most popular choices were Roller and Dominus. At that point the fandom had, in their minds, already decided that Tarn HAD to be one of these handful of individuals, so even when Elegant Chaos came out and handwaved in the direction of Roller and Glitch, people fixated on Roller because confirmation bias.

    That JRo made it out to be someone else doesn't make it bad writing when the fandom failed to take into account any other possibilities. Glitch was, in hindsight, a legitimate candidate. I mean, really? The guy who can stop non-sentient machines at a distance with his mind is LESS convincing of an option than a dude who's only 'special' quality is he's super strong?

    Also? In the grand scheme of the narrative? Tarn's identity wasn't important. To the readers and the fandom? Sure, it was important. Absolutely. But in the story itself, Tarn's identity held literally no value. No-one cared who Tarn was, or who he'd been. I honestly think that's why his death was so anti-climactic. The answer to the question: "Who is Tarn?" was only ever relevant to the readers. It didn't serve the narrative. Even Megatron talking about 'if someone like you could be turned' was only in passing, before that entire line of thought was dropped. It was clear that the 'truth' was something only valued by the invisible third party (the readers). And as far as an investment goes, who generated that investment? Because it sure wasn't me. If the fandom chooses to invest in a character, the writer isn't obligated to feed or support that investment.

    I do honestly think #55 is an example of the fandom hyping up expectations, and then when the material (predictably) fails to meet it, people are upset. But again, the writer isn't the one who generated or fueled the hype.
     
  4. rattimus prime

    rattimus prime Scout Class Prime

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    Everyone wanting there to be a reason why Glitch became Tarn, honestly there was enough time between elegant chaos and Megatron Origins, that by then he could have become a decepticon after taking in megatrons writing, which in hindsight Tarns eloquent speaking doesn't really scream Roller.
    remember Megatron was a revolutionary and Glitch would obviously want to take down the oppressive government for how it treated him, there was no sudden turn it was probably a slow one, but at the same time Optimus knew Glitch, fought with him a couple times probably and to find out he joined the decepticons. Now when he jumped off the deep end is another thing, but sometimes rhetoric can bring out the worst in people.
     
  5. Urluck

    Urluck unimportant

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    Why does it need to be a substitute for it all? And its not an idea he planted in anyone's head, it has been rattling around in the fanbase for two years prior.


    I do not mean to insult anyone, and certainly not single out anybody in particular. I am however pointing out that I find the complaints to follow a common thread, and I've not found an alternative to that convinces me.


    Yes, you are correct, I can't say that people now would be complaining about about Glitch would be complaining about Roller instead with absolute certainty. I apologise for using hyperbole to demonstrate a point. That said, this thread has run to 72 pages and counting. If it had been Roller, someone would be complaining about it, if only through statistical fluke. I can also make the reasonable assertion that people prone to making criticisms of the comic may make them again.



    There's a difference between disliking a character personally, and what purpose they serve in the narrative. Tarn isn't interesting. Being interesting is not the singular merit of a character. But he is a good antagonist, and possibly the only one whom could credibly look worse standing next to Megatron. Even Overlord looks sympathetic next to Megatron.


    The reveal is not what's important about the character, nor his place in story. Complaints about it, well-argued and reasoned as they are, may have more to do with reader expectation than creative failings.
     
  6. Starscream Gaga

    Starscream Gaga Protoformed This Way

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    OK. No. After his first appearance many people began speculating that Tarn was something more than what he appeared and this was strengthened when we got confirmation that the name "Tarn" was simply an alias. At this point there was a ton of rampant speculation on who he was, with the most popular choices being the seemingly important character with a similar body-type seen only in flashbacks and the mysterious character that another character has made their mission to find. It was what it was and if that was ALL it was then what you're saying would be true.

    The difference is that Roberts himself clearly got into the notion that Tarn was Roller. He didn't just "vaguely suggest" like you wrote, from Elegant Chaos on-wards any appearance of either Roller or Tarn would always be specifically accompanied by something clearly intentionally linking the two. The way you talk about Elegant Chaos is as if the Glitch "hint" (stressing the lack of plural because there was only one thing that could be mistaken for any foreshadowing) were in any way noticeable let alone on the same level as Roller. For reference, the issue included Roller mirroring a scene of Tarn while asking if anyone felt any deja vu, Roller abusing a substance to increase his strengths and showing he had an addictive personality, Orion suggesting that Roller read Megatron's works, Roller receiving scarring to the same side of his face that Tarn does and Roller being abandoned after his friends forget that he's missing. Glitch was... in the background of the panel where Orion suggests that Roller read Megatron's work without any lines of dialogue and without actually being involved in the conversation.

    It's not "confirmation bias", it was a ridiculous and obnoxious amount of red herrings. It's perfectly reasonable for people to be displeased that all the hints for the years leading up to this reveal were ultimately nothing but a waste of time.

    How on Earth do you interpret Megatron saying that whoever Tarn used to be was chosen to be turned over to his side for the direct purpose of hurting Optimus as "whoever Tarn was before was only important to the readers and not the characters"? That is, like, the exact opposite thing that that scene suggested.

    That's just flat-out, 100%, undeniably wrong.
     
  7. Focksbot

    Focksbot Skeleton Detective

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    There were lots of theories about Tarn 'rattling around'. Roller was the one that Roberts chose to point the narrative toward.

    And there has to be a substitute, in the broad sense of the term, because when you take something away from a resolution that was previously signposted (the narrative cohesion of Tarn = Roller), if you don't replace it with something equally or more compelling, then you've just deflated your own story. I don't really know how else to explain it - it's a basic tenet of storytelling. You build anticipation, then you either give the reader what you promised, or you give them a surprising and satisfying twist on it.

    Imagine Return of the Jedi ending with Vader and Luke missing their confrontation - Vader dies tripping over an extension cord and Luke gets lost on the Deathstar and dies when it explodes. Narrative deflated.

    Raiders of the Lost Ark - they open the covenant, there's nothing inside, everyone goes home and Indy finds out he has a son. (I know this last bit happens in the fourth movie, but it happens near the start, as part of the premise, so that the narrative has time to deal with the repercussions - it would have been terrible coming at the end of Raiders.)

    Convinces you as to what though? You don't have to be convinced I or anyone else is 'right', but I'm staggered that you can read the various dissections we've posted on this thread and still conclude that the problem with this resolution is that we didn't get the reveal we 'wanted', when it's plain as day that the complaint is that the twist is deeply underwhelming, and one which leaves loose ends and question marks all over the shop.

    None of which really justifies spending so much time with Tarn, if indeed you find him singularly uninteresting. That function is easily fulfilled by cutting his scenes in half, just sticking to the severity of his actions. There's a whole issue that gets under his skin that I can only presume you found completely pointless, except in the sense that it established how he was planning to deal with Megatron.

    Those two things can't really be separated. Reader expectation and subsequent disappointment are the result of a creative failing (the general subjectivity argument aside).

    If you genuinely never found Tarn of any interest at all except as a boogie man, then I can well understand why you're not disappointed, but on the other hand, significant chunks of the narrative were obviously wasted on you. So it doesn't work either way.
     
  8. GWolfv2

    GWolfv2 Deathsaurus - A name you can trust for peace

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    Tarn the person, while somewhat 2 dimensional, was extremely interesting to me and I fully engaged. Loved issue 39s POV, the contradiction between his thoughts and actions, his obsession etc. I simply don't think who Tarn was matters much to him beyond the concept that stripping him of Tarn strips him of himself. It wasn't a scene that was really about a "reveal" but imo the denegration of an individual. Which I'm far more interested in.
     
  9. Focksbot

    Focksbot Skeleton Detective

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    That's a very interesting perspective, and I think I'd be able to get on board with that if it weren't for the fact that my curiosity is now seriously piqued as to how Glitch came to drift away from Optimus and all his friends. If this were the intended effect, it would have been more effective, to my mind, if Tarn's real name was completely unknown to us, and even then, I'd still like it addressed in flashback that the character was a genuine nobody, not a former daring freedom fighter.
     
  10. justiceg

    justiceg Well-Known Member

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    For me, The biggest shock of this issue has become that it's actually possible for one to read 72 pages of this thread and come to the conclusion that the people in this thread didn't like it because "their" twist didn't happen vs. not liking the quality of the writing that brought them the twist (whether subjective or not).
     
  11. justiceg

    justiceg Well-Known Member

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    Serious question: how do you define the difference here? To wit: what would be an example of a criticism levelled that you would consider to be a valid critique of creative failure, vs unsatisfied reader expectation?
     
  12. SMOG

    SMOG Vocab-champion ArgueTitan

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    Not easy. Good. A writer is "obligated" to write compelling, interesting stories that come to satisfying fruition. That's sort of literally their only job. When they don't quite manage that, their readers are certainly within their rights to complain or criticize.

    Let's just get that out of the way, so any further discourse can focus on the actual debating and weighing of the merits of the story and reveal, rather than diffusing discussion onto nonsense questions like whether we're legitimately "allowed" to be critical of Roberts, and what his "rights" are as a writer. :) 

    Untrue, and I think Hardlurk and Focksbot addressed this point already.

    Again, others have answered this question. But YES... it should be interesting, for the incredibly simple reason that there are thousands of other things out there vying for our attention... why should we waste time on things that aren't interesting?

    Any author who seeks to make the argument "why should my stories be interesting" has fallen far too deep into the hole of self-reflexive introspection and intellectual onanism.

    Was Tarn interesting in the first place? Well, Roberts certainly thought he was, since he propped him up in the wings of this series for almost 50 issues. Interesting enough to fuel wild speculation about his identity.

    I don't think a Tarn miniseries would sustain itself, but as an antagonist, as a spike in the shared history of the characters, as a walking commentary on Megatron's ideals, and as a portrait of a self-styled aesthete and gentleman pushed to extremes by ideology... sure, he was interesting. Hateful and pathetic as well? Absolutely. Characters don't need to be sympathetic in order to serve a worthy narrative function.

    I for one would welcome an outcome that was "a little obvious" over one that feels arbitrary and capricious.

    Mysteries which take such pains to misdirect, without developing the "real" answer sufficiently enough to be dramatically satisfying, are a big pet peeve of mine. Part of the pleasure derived from a good mystery (especially one dragged on so long) is picking up on the clues and the streams of narrative causality, and seeing them all coalesce into a coherent and natural conclusion... or at least one that feels pertinent. If you want to have red herrings, have enough of them that your real culprit can sit comfortably among them as a legitimate contender (if a dark horse), rather than a virtual nobody.

    In fairness, another, far-more-minor mystery in the series was "who is Glitch?"... it always seemed conspicuous to have such a (literally) faceless nobody feature semi-prominently in the flashback stories along with all the "name" characters. There was always a sense that something more was planned for him. More to the point, it always seemed like Glitch needed more development, more justification for his presence. He clearly needed to be 'groomed' a bit further before we could see him as a worthy contender for the Tarn question.

    (of course, I also have similar questions about Riptide, and why he spent so much time clogging up panels in Season 2... seems almost weird not to have him coattail-riding in this big finale. But I digress)

    And honestly, I think Roberts might have been able to sustain the idea of Tarn being just about anybody as long as he actually ran with it, and developed that idea. Part of the problem with this reveal is that it carries no weight forward. Glitch-Tarn was born and died on the same page, leaving no mark. Suddenly we are left with the impression that his mystery was truly his only raison-d'etre.

    So, more than just simply being an issue of the reveal itself, I think that the way this story was handled and played out is also a big factor in how it was received. In being hurried... almost cursory... in his handling of this conclusion, I think Roberts short-changed himself and his audience tremendously.

    No.

    Things were not simply "handwaved in the direction of Roller and Glitch." That's a hilarious assertion.

    In this series, there were a small number of 'important' characters who had gone missing, whose "where are they now?" status hung heavy over the proceedings. In some cases, they were literally missing, like Dominus. In others, they were just conspicuously unmentioned, like Roller. It was never quite clear if Roller's fate was something known to all the characters, but occluded from the audience. People talked about Roller, but never about what happened to him. Much like the Senator Shockwave reveal, it might have been wholly a mystery on the reader level.

    So when we are presented with an ostentatiously enigmatic masked character like Tarn, audience speculation reasonably turned towards those other 'missing' figures (indeed, Dominus turned out to be the mysterious Agent 113, as many guessed). On top of this, we also had notable similarities between Tarn and Roller in terms of stature and design. So all of that writing was already there on the wall... and I would expect that Roberts was well aware of having put it there.

    But, more importantly, Roberts then doubled down on this later, by adding more cryptic comments about Roller, and especially with his appearance in Elegant Chaos. At that time, everyone was like, okay - he's being super-obvious about it, so it could still be a red herring... but it sure looks like Roller becomes Tarn.

    Again, Roberts built up Roller, developed his backstory, littered the field with clues, invested him with some pathos... and meanwhile left Glitch as a cardboard cutout.

    So yes, Roberts did make this bed. It wasn't simply the fans operating in a vacuum.

    :lol  Obligated? Maybe not technically, but if a serial writer generates audience investment in a character, it would be pretty stupid not to take that into account!

    As justiceg has so mordantly queried above, is there ANY circumstance where you can accept the possibility of writer-failure? Or are all decisions undertaken by the writer artistically sacrosanct, and only subject to failure upon the point of reception?

    And by "writer failure" I don't mean No-Prize worthy flubs, but actual narrative and tonal missteps...

    Roberts is operating in a medium here where he has both the curse and the benefit of almost real-time responses from his readers. Even if he captures peoples' imaginations purely by accident, he should try to respond to that (and he does, all the time). And in this case, I think it would be extremely disingenuous to suggest that the Roller theory was something that emerged completely by accident. :inquisiti 

    In that respect... I think that feeding the Roller theory and leaving the field barren of other apparent or developed contenders was a cheap tactic, one fuelled by a desperate need to put one over on the audience that he had himself nurtured and cultivated. One always wishes to surprise and delight their audience with novelty. It's a game... but you still need to play fair, and you win when your audience feels rewarded. I think Roberts misplayed this hand. :/

    I mean, in terms of "logic".... Tarn could have been anybody. He could have been someone we've never heard of. There are thousands of Cybertronians, PoPs... outliers... faction idealists... addicts... sociopaths... who perished or disappeared in the war, who never got a toy or a mention on the page. Looking at it that way, the likelihood of it being anybody we've ever seen before is actually a stretch. To be truly realistic, Tarn really should have been a complete "nobody".

    But we don't read comics (especially not these comics apparently) for "realism." We read them for plot, and drama, and narrative craft. So sure, you can make the argument that Glitch was always there, and always a possibility, and I can say so what? There are millions of nobodies that Tarn could have been. But the structure of the story tells us that it should be someone we know and have some investment in (or else someone we can invest in going forward).

    Dead Glitch is not one of those people.

    zmog
     
  13. SMOG

    SMOG Vocab-champion ArgueTitan

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    Hmmm... if that's where you're coming from, one could almost make the case that Roberts succeeded, because now you're actually interested in Glitch.

    Meanwhile, it didn't work that way for me. I really have no interest in tracing that arc with Dead Glitch. Tarn is now an obsolete plot device, and essentially has been cast away like a used candy wrapper after the candy has been consumed (stale and sugarless though it might have been in this case).

    I think that in order to care about Glitch's transition to Tarn, we would have had to care about who Glitch was in the first place... and unfortunately Roberts never really made him a character. He was just a blank face and an outlier power. The value of excavating a lost period of the past is usually found in its bearing on the present and the future. It's hard to get excited about that when that future was just obliterated with antimatter. :) 

    zmog
     
  14. Noideaforaname

    Noideaforaname Pico, let's go up to Zuma

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    The red herrings got pushed so hard Roller's kind of an uninteresting character now. Everything stood out because we figured it had to be a dark link to Tarn. We thought he'd be an "Autobot" that genuinely decided the Decepticons were the better side ... but that's obviously not the case now. We thought he'd have this big issue over abandonment ... except he got rescued immediately and hasn't had time to feel left behind. What does Roller even bring now?
     
  15. MatrixOfWumbo

    MatrixOfWumbo I see you

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    Why does the burden of proof fall to us for liking it instead of you for not liking it? Why does there need to be a persuasive essay attached to a subjective opinion in the first place?
     
  16. GoLion

    GoLion Where are the stick figure's legs?

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    I don't have a problem with Tarn being Glitch. Honestly, I don't care either way. I just wish we got a few more breadcrumbs leading to the identity. To me, what makes the reveal unsatisfying wasn't that there wasn't any clues. It was that there was only like two. It would've been nice to see a few more hints before the reveal. As it is, it's so out of left field that it's not interesting in the slightest.

    Season two was a big pile of mediocre. If season 2 had been all I had known about Roberts, I wouldn't buy another of his books ever again.

    I've gone back and done a reread of all the issues, the personality ticks, while still somewhat poorly executed, isn't as bad as I thought it was on my initial read-through. On the other hand, Swearth is a big steaming pile of horse shit. No way around that one. It's wonderfully drawn, though. So points there.

    Playing the Devil's advocate: The onus is on everyone to substantiate the claims they make. I'm not going to make a claim about you one way or the other, I don't know you, but everyone has to back up their reasons if they're going to make claims about a subject.

    And at the end of the day, what we like vs. what we don't like is so subjective that it doesn't really matter anyway.
     
  17. Focksbot

    Focksbot Skeleton Detective

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    Don't really know what you mean by this. I'm not putting the burden of proof on anyone. I was responding to the accusation that my reason for criticising the resolution was simply that I wanted Tarn to be Roller. I and others have outlined our reasons thoroughly - that doesn't mean you have to agree with them, but it does mean you should probably read and absorb that reasoning before you (or anyone) accuse us of pettiness.

    I probably worded that badly because I was trying to reach common ground / be diplomatic. :) 

    My curiosity about Glitch *is* piqued, but at the same time, I feel like the moment has passed and returning to him now would be backtracking, because it's essentially filling in the gaps on Tarn, who has now become irrelevant.

    It's just as you say:

     
  18. Splendic

    Splendic bleep blorp

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    Agree.

    I said earlier, Roberts killed two characters when he let Tarn exit the story as Glitch.

    So who is Roller now? Just another addition to the plethora of is-he-or-isn't-he-a-main-character-character.

    Pardon my cynicism... but he'll likely get the usual JRo 5 to 10 issues as a prominent sideline character, with his dialogue and the attention of the other characters slowly waning, as the author loses interest in him. But not before Roberts gives us just enough character building work that we don't immediately write him off.

    But he's greater fodder for flashback, gap filling.

    And wouldn't it be fun if just as Megatron becomes a true Autobot, Roller returns and decides to actually go Con???
     
  19. GoLion

    GoLion Where are the stick figure's legs?

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    I wouldn't mind a very light walk through of the journey from Glitch to Tarn. A One-shot about Glitch and his eventual flip would be interesting. Anymore than that, and yea, treading water we shouldn't.
     
  20. Focksbot

    Focksbot Skeleton Detective

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    Yeah, sure, a one-shot outside the main series. A kind of MTMTE: Coda. :) 

    We could have shorts about what the heck Riptide is all about, what's taking First Aid so long, and who is *really* in on the conspiracy at the same time.