Transformers UK: Issue #5
Story: Prisoner of War (Part 1)
Back-up strip: Machine Man
Cover date: 17th Nov, 1984
Script: Jim Salicrup
Artwork: Frank Springer
Rating: Art / Story
New characters: Nick Fury, Joe Robertson, Peter Parker (Spider-man)
Synopsis:By Omega Steve
Sparkplug soon learns that Megatron is not to be trifiled with. If he wants to live he'll have to start making fuel - and fast.
Three jets soar above the Oregon plains but there is something unusual here - this trio is alive! Aboard the lead jet, Starscream, Sparkplug Witwicky is a helpless captive and none too happy about it. He protests he wants to be let out but the Decepticon suggests this would be most unwise considering their altitude! They soon arrive at the newly-constructed Fortress Sinister where all of the Decepticons disembark and Transform, growing in size many times over before the amazed eyes of their 'guest'. Megatron praises Starscream for snatching Sparkplug from the Autobots, but is well aware of his lieutenant's ambitions and resolves to keep an optical sensor on him. The elder Witwicky is placed on a drum and ordered by Megatron to make fuel for the Decepticon cause. He reverts to prisoner of war mode (just like his Korean days) and states his rank and serial number. Megatron is not amused and dangles the human upside down, ordering him to 'co-operate or cease to exist'!
Back at the Witwicky garage, the Autobots are recovering from their exertions and transform to begin their long journey home. Prime carries some of the weakest in his trailer to conserve their fuel, and Buster also hops aboard. A motorcycle traffic cop briefly interferes with the convoy but is startled when Gears speaks to him and careers off the road! Ratchet welcomes the warriors home and says he has discovered something in the Ark's memory banks. But the revelation will have to wait as the injured need urgent attention. Buster is amazed at the size of the Ark, and at the Decepticon base his father is really feeling the heat courtesy of Laserbeak! He caves in and agrees to convert Earth fuels for Megatron, and with that several Decepticons get to work constructing a lab and acquiring the raw materials for the task.
Meanwhile word of the Transformers' arrival on Earth has reached Washington, Moscow, and the Daily Bugle offices in New York. Editor Joe Robertson decides to send Peter Parker (aka Spider-man) to Oregon to take pictures of the US miltary forces gathering outside the Decepticon castle. A big story is clearly brewing. Once at the scene Peter becomes Spidey and web slings off to see what he can do to help. High above an aerial assault by US jets is being routed by Starscream and co with help from Buzzsaw.
This is one of my favourite two-parters from the early issues. It has humour, much improved art, a good story and most of all Spider-man! I have to admit I was sceptical at first because Transformers is distinct from the rest of the Marvel superhero world and I liked it that way. Presumably the writers agreed because they would never again feature established heros or villains in the lead strip (apart from custom made ones like Circuit Breaker), but presumably Spider-man was deployed at this stage to attract his legion of fans to Transformers. There is amusing dialog between Sparkplug and the Decepticons which tends to take the seriousness off his situation. The army massing outside the Decepticon castle is exactly the response you would expect if alien robots showed up on Earth, so it is a little strange how things calm down in subsequent issues. There is a Megatron fact file this issue, and a feature on Sieve Head, a robot who some of you oldies might remember from BBC1s Saturday Superstore which was on at the time. A reader from Stoke-on-Trent writes in to demand a Transformers annual and is told that one is in the pipeline for 1985. It seems that even at this early stage Marvel UK had realised it had a long-term success on its hands.