When you wage a war that lasts millions of years, regardless of whose side you're on, you're unlikely to come out the other side totally clean. This has been the guiding philosophy behind IDW's many Transformers series. For both the Autobots and the Decepticons, the line between right and wrong has become incredibly blurred over the years. Megatron's soldiers were fighting for freedom from an oppressive system before the unscrupulous nature of their ranks overtook their good intentions. Optimus Prime's forces started from said oppressive system, and have continued to make mistakes along the way. Yet, at the end of the day, they're the ones fighting tyranny wherever it appears, instead of the Decepticons.
Few know the difficulties of balancing morality better than Soundwave, Megatron's loyal communications officer. This soldier has proven himself wholly devoted to the original Decepticon cause, freedom from oppression, often to the point of extreme personal sacrifice. Depending on how you look at it, he's either the purest Decepticon, due to his intense beliefs, or the least because of his strong morals. Still, that doesn't mean he's never failed the cause, or done something against his code of honor. So without further ado, here are the 15 dark secrets Soundwave wouldn't want his comrades knowing about.
15 HE WAS THE FIRST (LOYAL) DECEPTICON TO GO TO EARTH
When Megatron's chief science officer Shockwave took an unauthorized leave of absence to pursue a mysterious side project, the leader of the Decepticons was quick to dispatch a small group to pursue him. Megatron, ever paranoid, also sent Soundwave to spy on the away team. The Deception commander's caution was proven worthwhile when Soundwave uncovered that the fanatical leader of the group, Bludgeon, had his own diabolical plans for what they'd discovered in Shockwave's lab.
With Shockwave caring only about science, and Bludgeon (as well as his followers) being certifiably insane, Soundwave was the first Decepticon actually loyal to the cause who visited Earth. Although this might not be the darkest revelation about the character, considering the role our planet played in the overall war, it's shocking Soundwave didn't make a bigger deal about everything he'd discovered. Maybe not his most shameful action, but nothing to be proud of either.
14 HE WAS STUCK AS A CASSETTE PLAYER FOR 23 YEARS
On the other hand, maybe the reason Soundwave never expanded upon his first visit to Earth was simply due to embarrassment. During his fight with Bludgeon, Soundwave was struck by an experimental cannon, which locked him in his alt-mode of a cassette player. Soundwave spent over a decade trapped under a pile of rubble before he was discovered and donated to a goodwill.
For 23 years, his tape-playing form changed from one hand to another, until he was purchased in 2007 by a child named Jimmy. Fortunately, Soundwave was rescued by his Minicons before he could suffer any more of that indignity. Although more of an embarrassing secret, it takes on a considerably darker turn when you consider what could've happened. If Soundwave recovered his ability to transform earlier, Jimmy likely wouldn't have walked away from the situation unscathed when his cassette player turned into a 30-foot robot.
13 HE WAS THE FIRST DECEPTICON TO FIGHT G.I. JOE
Just to be clear, the title is referring to the man also known as G.I. Joe, Joe Colton, not the military organization of the same name. Prior to discovering Bludgeon's location on Earth, Soundwave became sidetracked by reports of robotic humanoids in Egypt. While investigating, Soundwave's alt-mode came into the possession of Joe Colton's Adventure Team, who were also fighting the mysterious IRON Troopers.
During one of the battles, Soundwave transformed back into robot mode and ended up fighting both the IRON Troopers and Colton's team. Since Soundwave failed to murder G.I. Joe, who later founded a team that caused both Autobots and Decepticons a great deal of trouble, many of his comrade's deaths are indirectly on his hands. Plus, considering his character, the fact that Soundwave got sidetracked from his mission in the first place probably isn't something he's too proud of either.
12 HE'S TECHNICALLY A ZOMBIE
During the climactic final battle of the Cybertronian War on Earth, Megatron had concocted a plan to turn humanity against the Autobots. The leader of the Decepticons constructed mind controlling guns that would allow him to subconsciously influence those who wielded them. Once Optimus realized what was going on, he devised a means of distracting Megatron long enough to free those he'd enthralled.
Said plan pretty much entirely consisted of shooting Megatron's most loyal soldier, Soundwave, in the head while the despot watched. Entering a dormant state between life and death, Soundwave only recovered because Shockwave saw to his revival. Although Transformers recover from both near-fatal and actually fatal injuries all the time, since Shockwave never fully finished repairing Soundwave it's legitimately unclear exactly what state of life the communications officer currently functions in.
11 HE RECRUITED STARSCREAM
Back when the Decepticons were still an idea in Megaton's mind, the wannabe freedom fighter knew his forces were in need of some serious bolstering. So the leader of the Decepticons dispatched Soundwave to seek out a warrior with flight capabilities. His most trusted ally apparently decided to exceed expectations, as he returned home with three: Skywarp, Thundercracker, and Starscream.
Although the quantity of his recruitment drive was definitely impressive, the overall quality certainly suffered for it. Considering that Skywarp has essentially been drafted into G.I. Joe, Thundercracker has gone AWOL to pursue screenwriting on Earth, and Starscream has treachery flowing through his veins; Soundwave's efforts not only didn't benefit the Decepticon cause in the long run, they actively harmed it.
10 HE TRIED TO HAVE BLASTER ASSASSINATED
It's a common trope in fiction that heroes create their worst enemies. In the case of the Autobot Blaster, the opposite is true. During the early days of the war, Soundwave was attempting to shut down a pirated news broadcaster, who was spewing anti-Decepticon propaganda. When Soundwave discovered Blaster's location, he sent a pair of Decepticons to assassinate him. This first attempt resulted in Blaster meeting Optimus Prime and being officially recruited into the Autobot cause.
As the war raged on, Soundwave made another attempt on Blaster's life, this time using a brainwashed Autobot. The second attempt was also a failure, and Blaster decided to swear revenge against the Decepticon communications officer. Although the two haven't actually encountered each other since then, there's a certain twisted humor to Soundwave unintentionally turning a wannabe DJ into his archenemy.
9 HE TOOK PART IN MASSACRING NEUTRALS
Although Soundwave is usually, as far as Decepticons go, a pretty ethically upstanding person, he's still done some questionable things in the past. When Megatron was first defeated by Optimus Prime, a new megalomaniac rose to take control of the Decepticons. Under Scorponok's leadership, Soundwave took part in the destruction of a spaceport where neutrals were trying to flee from the war.
Soundwave looked on as his fellow Decepticons laid waste to every innocent Cybertronian, deeming the whole affair a waste of resources. Granted, Soundwave never actually killed anyone before their slaughter was stopped by Grimlock. Still, the fact that he did nothing to stop this doesn't look good, especially since the communications officer is usually such an advocate for the value of Cybertronian life.
8 HE'S MURDERED DECEPTICONS FOR SECRECY
Not long after the war had finally ended, the Autobots and Decepticons had established an uneasy truce on a revitalized Cybertron. In order to prevent their former enemies from rising back up, the Autobots installed chips in each Decepticon. Said chips prevent them from transforming, and could be remotely detonated. Unbeknownst to the Autobots, Soundwave had found a means of deactivating these embedded leashes.
When Bumblebee tried to detonate the chip of a Decepticon, Horri-Bull, who was assaulting a neutral, Soundwave remotely reactivated it in order to keep his secret. By this point in his life, Soundwave had already crossed the line so many times, but this is the first time he directly murdered one of his own. That he killed Horri-Bull in front of the bot who loved him, Needlenose, makes it hard to look past how heinous this was.
7 HE'S A TELEPATH
Despite being one of the premier members of Megatron's inner circle, Soundwave wasn't always a revered figure. Readers were first introduced to Soundwave living on the streets, barely coherent and on the brink of insanity. As an "outlier," a Transformer with power unrelated to their alt-mode, Soundwave was burdened with telepathy that caused him to pick up the thoughts of every living being around him.
Soundwave was saved from madness by one of his future Minicons, Ravage, who taught him how to focus and control his powers. Although this is really more of a neat bit of trivia about this fan-favorite character, the darker aspect of it comes from what Soundwave has done with this power, and what he hasn't been able to do.
6 HE CAN'T READ SHOCKWAVE'S MIND
Whether against one another or working together, many of the Autobots and the Decepticons problems trace back to one bot: Shockwave. When he first met the one-eyed scientist, Soundwave immediately didn't trust him. As Shockwave had been subject to a cruel process that neutered his emotions, Soundwave was unable to read his thoughts. Though impressed by the engine of pure logic wearing a Decepticon sigil, Soundwave was certain he'd have to kill Shockwave someday.
Considering that he had no way to get a read on Shockwave and found dangerous materials in the scientist's Earth lab, it's astonishing that Soundwave still spent most of his time working with the one-eyed scientist rather than opposing him. Shockwave was responsible for one of the greatest near-apocalyptic events in Cybertronian history, and a lot of tragedy could've been avoided had Soundwave done something about him right away.
5 HE TRIED TO BRAINWASH BUMBLEBEE
While Soundwave's telepathy is useful for reading minds, it's typically never applied for anything greater than that. There was one time, however, where Shockwave invented a device that amplified Soundwave's abilities, allowing him to project nightmares into the minds of others. The goal was to use these horrifying images to coerce an innocent bot into committing acts of terror, and their ideal candidate happened to be a young Cybertronian named Bumblebee.
Although Soundwave successfully tricked Bumblebee into bombing a factory, their scheme was broken up when Bumblebee went to the police. Joining the fight with officer Orion Pax, Bumblebee cried out to Soundwave, saying that Decepticons were supposed to fight for the people. Along with unintentionally introducing Bumblebee to the future Prime, Soundwave was so deeply affected by the young bot's words that he swore he'd never use such a heinous method for recruitment ever again.
4 HIS MINICONS ARE SAPIENT
Prior to its overthrow by Megatron, the Cybertronian government ran on a "functionalist" principle. What you could transform into determined what you could do for work, and that in turn determined your place in society. Cybertronians that looked like animals, for instance, were treated as second-class citizens, despite the fact that they were sapient beings just like any other bot.
Due to his telepathic abilities, Soundwave was able to immediately understand the intelligence behind the likes of Ravage, Laserbeak, or Buzzsaw. Although many who knew Soundwave believed the Minicons were his servants, Soundwave always insisted they were his equals. While this might not be as surprising for bots like Frenzy or Rumble, plenty of fans would have never realized his beast-like companions were actually people if they had never read the comics.
3 HE DIDN'T THINK HUMANS WERE SAPIENT
Although Soundwave has generally been an advocate for equality, that initially only extended to Cybertronians. Like most Decepticons, Soundwave didn't see the humans as anything more than insect-like nuisances, never considering them as thinking and feeling beings. This attitude is why Soundwave didn't hesitate to trample a human reporter during the war's final battle on Earth, along with assisting Megatron in murdering plenty more.
Returning to our planet after the war, holding an uneasy alliance with Optimus, Soundwave became involved in a scuffle with Earth's defense forces. Although Prime didn't want any humans harmed, Soundwave initially didn't listen. Once Optimus goaded him into trying to read their minds, Soundwave realized humans were just as sapient as Cybertronians. Although a great character moment, it's odd that Soundwave didn't consider creatures smaller than him his equals, considering his relationship with his Minicons.
2 HE HAS A FORMER SENATOR IN HIS CHEST
After his Minicons helped Soundwave control his abilities, the future Decepticon ended up in the employ of a functionalist senator, Ratbat. Once Megatron's coup went into full swing, Soundwave turned on Ratbat and shot him point-blank. However, rather than let Ratbat die, Soundwave removed his spark and brain module before implanting them in a cassette body.
Out of all the twisted things Soundwave has done, this is undoubtedly the most gruesome. Granted this is a sort of dark irony, considering Ratbat took part in a government that regularly mutilated other Cybertronians to suit their needs. Still, it's hard not to see this as somewhat hypocritical, especially since Soundwave acknowledged that, although he views his Minicons as equals, Ratbat actually will serve him because he's "less equal" than the others.
1 HE'S NOT REALLY LOYAL TO MEGATRON
If there's one trait even casual fans know about Soundwave, it's that he's Megatron's most loyal soldier. However, while most would assume said loyalty is directed towards Megatron himself, the actual truth of the matter is a little more complex. Soundwave is ultimately only loyal to his idealization of the Decepticon cause, typically viewing Megatron as the greatest champion of it.
However, whenever he believed Megatron had failed the cause, Soundwave was quick to find a new master. Soundwave has followed the Decepticons under Scorponok's leadership, joined with the mad Galvatron when he learned Megatron switched sides, and now happily works alongside Optimus Prime. When loyalty is the element most strongly associated with a character like this, it can be shocking to learn that Soundwave treats Megatron only as an instrument of his ideal future.