Transformers Annual 1985

Story 1: Plague of Insecticons
Story 2: And There Shall Come a Leader
Text stories: Hunted / Missing in Action
Script: Simon Furman
Artwork: Mike Collins, Jeff Anderson, John Stokes, John Ridgway (cover)
Rating: Art / Story


Synopsis:

By Omega Steve


Ravage pounces on a human slave who escapes from the Decepticon's jungle mining operation.


Megatron and Optimus Prime have an early encounter on Cybertron during the battle for Iacon.


Prime visits the US president at the White House but peace talks are scuppered by the Insecticons!

Night falls over Washington DC as US troops nervously await the arrival of the Transformers. Optimus Prime, Prowl and Warpath are escorted on to the White House lawn where they meet President Ronald Reagan. Optimus echoes the president's wishes for peaceful relations but the ground suddenly shakes and three Insecticons burst out and start firing at the humans.

Kickback, Bombshell and Shrapnel claim to be acting in the 'name of the Autobots' and throw the talks into disarray. When the Autobots return fire, Bombshell withdraws the group to the city leaving the Autobots under attack from the human military. Prime sends Prowl and Warpath on to the streets to tackle the Insecticons while he tries to find out who is remote controlling the trio of saboteurs.

Prowl takes out Kickback with a missile but succumbs to one of Shrapnel's splinter grenades. Warpath is outnumbered but Prime dispatches Roller from his trailer to shoot down Shrapnel. While mentally-controlling the small buggy, Optimus also corners Ravage, who has been operating the Insecticons. The Decepticon tries to save himself by commanding Bombshell to inject Optimus with a mind-controlling cerebro shell. But at the crucial moment Kickback blows up Roller and causes the Autobot leader to lurch forward in pain. Bombshell completely misses him and injects Ravage instead. Prime, Prowl and Warpath return to the Ark lamenting a lost opportunity to convince mankind of their good intentions.

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Archaeologist John Butler stumbles through the South American jungle pursued by Ravage in the text story Hunted. He has led the Decepticon panther on a merry chase but now his running is over. Somehow he survives the encounter and is shown on TV being airlifted to safety. Prowl monitors the broadcast and goes to the scene along with Bumblebee, Topspin and Twintwist. They battle Dirge, Thrust and Starscream and put a stop to Megatron's slave-powered mining operation. Bumblebee gets the action he craves by rescuing Dr Butler's expedition team from an exploding fortress.

In Missing in Action Tracks is knocked out by Rumble and gets taken to New York by a pair of criminals. Prime sends Inferno, Grapple and Hoist to find him and they have to prevent a fire in a bank and save everyone.

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Millions of years before the Transformers awoke to their exile on Earth, a fierce battle was fought for control of Cybertron's capital city Iacon. Inside the celestial temple, the council of Autobot contemplates total defeat and Emirate Xaaron pleads with them to cede control of the Autobot army to a single gifted leader - Optimus Prime.

On the battlefield Optimus does his best to organise the rag-tag Autobot troops into a effective fighting force but is conscious that his room for manoeuvre is restricted. Time is running out for Emirate Xaaron to get back to him with the council's decision.

Elsewhere Bluestreak and Fusion are racing towards the Autobot lines with a cache of incendiary bombs. They have a trio of Decepticon seeker jets on their trail. Bluestreak clears a missing section of bridge and skids to a halt in time to witness his comrade getting blown up by the enemy. He has no option but to swallow his grief and head for home at full speed as the others are relying on him. Bluestreak makes it back just as Prime receives word from Xaaron that the war effort is in his hands now.

Megatron are marching into Iacon via a bridge when their way is barred by Optimus and his forces. A fierce battle ensues in which there are casualties on all sides. Finally the Decepticons triumph by virtue of superior numbers and Prime finds Megatron standing over him preparing to savour his victory. At that moment Gears uses the bombs to detonate a bridge support and the Decepticons fall to the ground and are buried under tonnes of debris. Prime is pulled to safety thanks to Windcharger's magnetic abilities. But Megatron is tougher than the Autobots believed and emerges from the rubble, vowing to have his revenge.

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Comments:

Some okay stories here but the majority of them are in conflict with what's going on in the comics. The problem seems to arise from Marvel UK's desire to publicise the 1985 toy range through this annual, regardless of whether the characters they are showcasing are anywhere near Earth at the time. So we get Inferno showing up long before his issue 188 debut, and the Jump Starters as part of the Ark's crew, when they are members of the Wreckers on Cybertron.

The Insecticon story is the biggest muddle of all. Kickback, Shrapnell and Bombshell are not due to join the Earth Decepticons until UK #89 in late 1986. By this time Ravage has disappeared down a mineshaft so they could not appear together. If the Insecticons in the story are clones it might create a certain leeway and explain the remote controlling, but even then Warpath should not be here as he doesn't join the Earth Autobots until 1987 when Ravage is gone and the real Insecticons are on Earth.

That said Mike Collins and Jeff Anderson have done a good job with their humans and capturing Reagan's likeness. I didn't like the way Warpath was drawn according to his toy design and had his feet stuck together in robot mode! If that is not a serious weakness in battle I don't know what is. I suppose there was no way the writer could allow a major development like the Autobots joining forces with the US government to stick. It would give them a military advantage over the Decepticons and contradict what Marvel US was doing in its book. Even so it is still a little frustrating that Prime just accepted the smear on the Autobots' name and didn't try to explain that it was a set up. Nice to see Roller used in a story, even if we never find out how Ravage recovers from the cerebro shell infection.

'There Shall Come a Leader' is the real gem of the annual. It continues the unwritten rule that characters who weren't part of the toy line were destined to meet a grusome end, as Fusion discovers. This adds an element of realism, after all in a protracted conflict such as this there are bound to be casualties. I found his vehicle mode reminiscent of the cannon that Prime transformed into in issue #1 but we never get to see Fusion's robot mode. Bluestreak looked more futuristic and alien, and this early piece is in many ways a precursor to the War Within series which Furman wrote for Dreamwave in 2002.