Transformers Annual 1986
Story 1: To a Power Unknown
Story 2: Victory!
Text stories: The Beginning, The Return of the Transformers, State Games, The Mission
Script: Simon Furman, James Hill
Artwork: Will Simpson, Geoff Senior
Rating: Art / Story
First appearance: Overlord, Nightstalker, Adam Reynolds, Professor Purnell, Zeke Heilmann
By Omega Steve
Starscream is sent spinning by one of Jazz's heat seekers.
In the old days Megatron was still beating the crap out of Autobots.
Grimlock dreams of victory and slicing Megatron into foil.
In To a Power Unknown the Autobots are in Pinewoodsville, USA, as honoured guests of the town when a bizarre malfunction makes turns them violent. They begin to attack the humans, and each other, and all the goodwill they have built up is wasted. Once the madness passes, Optimus Prime orders Prowl, Jazz, Mirage and Sideswipe, to accompany him to Britain to track down the cause of the temporary behaviour change.
Meanwhile the Decepticons have also been affected, but in their case the mysterious signal turned them friendly and docile; and they started apologising to humans for trashing their town! Once it wore off, Megatron was furious, and ordered the Decepticons to destroy the 'Autobot' device that must be behind this.
The reason for it all is revealed to be a top-secret prototype machine called PARD -the Purnel Auto-Reverse Defence system. It has been invented by the brilliant scientist, Professor Purnel, and is capable of reversing the programming of incoming missiles and turning them against the country who launched it. In testing his device he has unwittingly caused some strange behaviour in the Transformers. Unaware that the Autobots and Decepticons are now looking for him, Purnel has another problem in the shape of his assistant Zeke Heilmann; a spy who plans to steal the technology.
Prime is injured when he is hit by a missile fired by Starscream and then has to contend with an attack from his fellow Autobots after their personalities are altered again. When the effects wear off Starscream tries to press the advantage against the wounded Prime but his circuits are still scrambled. He starts picking up errant broadcasts, including Coronation Street (!!) and interrupts a Red Arrows display.
Jazz arrives at Purnel's headquarters to see flames spewing out. Heilmann has clobbered the professor, torched the lab and stolen the computer core. He hops into Jazz, believing the Porsche to be a getaway vehicle supplied by his masters, and is captured by Starscream moments later. Jazz can't allow the technology to fall in enemy hands so he fires a rocket at the Decepticon. Starscream transforms in mid-air, narrowly avoiding the heat seeker, and Heilmann is blown up along with the computer chip.
Teenager Adam Reynolds tries to hack into Portland National Bank to win a bet but he ends up connected to the Decepticon's mainframe in the text story In the Beginning. Adam cannot believe it as he retrieves a plotted history of the Transformers war on Earth to date. But he unwittingly triggers a security protocol which sends one million volts coursing through his home PC and blowing it to bits. The youngster is lucky to escape with his life, but he cannot forget what has has seen. Perhaps the Autobots have a computer, he wonders.
The Return of the Transformers concerns Danny Philips, the boy rescued from an exploding bank by Inferno a year ago. He has been taken on a coastal vacation by his mum to get over his obsession with the Transformers. Instead he finds himself embroiled in their war once again, as he stumbles into a power plant which the Decepticons have captured. The Aerialbot Fireflight rescues him and flies him to safety, but the boy is bouncing all over the cockpit, and barely escapes injury. Then Superion demolishes his hotel trying to get to Starscream. The experience makes Danny realise that the Transformers are not the perfect beings he thought they were, and he throws his scrapbook about them into the sea.
In State Games Sunstreaker is pitched against Megatron in the arena and is massively outclassed. The good citizens Tarn call out their champion's name: "Megatron, Megatron, Megatron!" Sunstreaker is beaten in the arena and only saved from serious damage by the intervention of another gladiator, Optimus Prime. Cybertron's state games are supposed to be about athletic ability, but Sunstreaker had sensed something more sinister in the way Megatron had conducted his attack. It is millions of years ago on the Transformers home-world and city states are on the brink of war, due to the planet's rising population and dwindled fuels sources. The games were supposed to distract from the tensions but if anything they are making the rivalry worse.
Then an act of sabotage by the gladiatorial team from Vos, intended to trigger a war between rival cities Iacon and Tarn, spectacularly backfires. Their scheming is exposed and Vos is attacked by Tarn and both ultimately destroy each other. Before the final outcome Optimus Prime tries to get the aging Autobot, Overlord, who once ruled Cybertron, through the battle zone to safety in Iacon. Overlord's cat-like bodyguards, Ravage and Nightstalker, go along to protect him and so does Megatron. However Megs has other plans, and when Optimus is forced to leave everyone to go for medical help, they purposely deny Overlord the energy he needs to survive and he dies. Nightstalker, meanwhile, is forced to self-destruct when he comes under attack by combatants from Vos and Tarn.
Overlord's last sight as he goes offline is seeing his trusted Ravage betraying him, and joining Megatron, having become convinced that a new order is dawning. Sure enough Megatron rallies the survivors of Vos and Tarn and convinces them that their tragic civil war was instigated by Iacon. They readily join him, changing their name to Decepticons, and hailing their champion Megatron just as they had done in the arena.
An Earth city is decimated an Autobot bodies, including that of Optimus Prime lay strewn among the debris. Megatron has won... or has he? Grimlock steps into his path, energo-sword charged and raised, and slices the Decepticon straight down the middle! The Dinobot leader screams in triumph at Megatron's stunned troops, before transforming and taking full advantage of the disarray. But Starscream, the only delighted by Megatron's death, straps his former leader's fusion cannon to his own arm, and fakes being hurt. Grimlock decides to make Starscream's death swift and merciful, but he has misjudged the Decepticon's cunning. At close range Starscream whips out the fusion cannon and blows a massive hole in Grimlock's chest, bringing about darkness and voices...
Victory continues with another dream sequence, this time from Swoop, who is soaring above his fellow Autobots with Soundwave in his talons. Prime orders him to release the prisoner but Swoop won't listen. His mistake is fatal, as Soundwave self-destructs to end his humiliation, taking Swoop with him.
In Sludge's dream he encounters Joy Meadows the 'beautiful golden human' he befriended while he had been reduced to a primal state by corrosion. Joy hugs Sludge, and then violently tears off her face to reveal a horrific robotic skeleton! She shoots the Dinobot with beams from her eyes, and Megatron steps out of the shadows holding a remote control. This Joy Meadows android is his creation and the trap worked perfectly.
Snarl meanwhile is reliving the battle the Dinobots had with Guardian. The Autobots have fallen and only he can save the day. He beheads Guardian with a mighty whip of his spiked tail and savours the victory. But he underestimated his opponent. Though headless, Guardian gets up and pounds Snarl into unconsciousness.
Finally Slag dreams about a conflict with Shockwave over four million years ago. In this version he runs the Decepticon, off a cliff, but in doing so Slag lands in the swamp that swallowed him up for all those millennia.
Back in the present, Prime and Ratchet survey the deactivated Dinobots in the Ark's repair bay. The chief medical officer has repaired the damage to his patients' minds but they remain comatose. He tells Prime that will need to take the final step themselves, and in their dreams the Dinobots go to war once more.
I received this book as a Christmas present back in 1986 and was blown away by the stories, particularly Victory. Twenty years on and the strip is still as good as ever. In my opinion it ranks among Furman's best, not least because it features the Dinobots, but also because it is exploding with action and uses the device of dreams to create stories where there are no limits. Who could fail to be blown away by the shocking sight of Grimlock slicing Megatron in two, or Starscream exploding the Dinobot's chest at close range. There's no doubt in my mind that Grimlock's sequence is the most attention grabbing, but the other Dinos meet their end in a series of imaginative sequences. One of the most striking being Sludge. That Joy Meadows robot is genuinely scary and the way she tears off her face sent shivers down my spine. What really elevates this, apart from a solid piece of writing from Furman, is the brilliant art from Geoff Senior, arguably the finest Transformers artist of his day.
Will Simpson is another Marvel artist whose style I personally like, but his efforts on To A Power Unknown are a little up and down. Some of the early panels are crammed and confused. I'm thinking of the panel with the Autobots fighting in Pinewoodsville, where Prowl appears in two places and you can make out Mirage's back wheel but not what he's doing. Mind you, Simpson has the ability to make his humans look facially different, which is not something all comic illustrators can do. He can also draw a mean Bet Lynch and Ken Barlow - lol! I thought Richard Branson was a odd cameo until I saw these two on Starscream's screen. It's an intriguing premise though, having the Autobots turn bad, and the Decepticons turn good. And it has been realistically explained by way of a computer that infiltrates and reprograms enemy hardware. The goody-goody Decepticons are hilarious, especially Megatron and Shockwave fawning compliments on each other and each insisting the other one should be leader. It's a classic moment.
State Games is also a good read and fills in some of the back history to the Transformers civil war. What I like best about this, is that portrays Megatron as more than just a power-hungry bully. He is measured, calculating and has the popular touch. This makes him all the more terrifying because he is able to sway the hearts and minds of his fellow Transformers and convince them to follow him down a dark path.