Transformers UK: Issue #100
Story: Distant Thunder
Back-up strip: Action Force
Cover date: Feb 14th, 1987
Script: Simon Furman
Artwork: Will Simpson (story) Alan Davis (cover)
Rating: Art / Story
First appearance: Zenag
By Omega Steve
Prime and co ecounter the fierce cyber-apes that inhabit the strange dimension called Limbo!
In a desolate corner of Cybertron Optimus Prime cradles the dying Autobot Outback. Last issue the became fugitives after the Wreckers were fooled by Megatron, into thinking that Optimus was an Decepticon imposter designed to resemble the Autobots' greatest leader. Outback saved Prime from an execution squad only to be badly wounded by a pursuing Guardian unit, and now the pair are laying low in the Dead End with the sound of the hunting party on the horizon, like distant thunder!
To raise Outback's spirits Prime tells him about another time when hope seemed lost: when Galvatron's arrival cast the Autobot leader, plus Prowl and Ratchet into the strange realm known as Limbo. This nightmare reality was inhabited by savage monkey-like creatures who were part organic and part machine. They attack with tooth and claw and thus the Autobots refrain from fighting back with blasters. The trouble is that the Autobots are massively outnumbered and Prime feared that ultimately he may have to order his troops to kill. Little did he know the decision would be about to be taken out of his hands as the Decepticons, Shockwave, Thundercracker and Frenzy - materialised (they were transported to Limbo by Hotrod, Kup and Blurr time-jumping from 2006 UK#84). Shockwave decided that Prime may be able to tell them where they were and how they came to be here, so logically he should be saved from his attackers. The trio then proceeded to open fire with deadly force and slaughtered the creatures on mass. Prime was shell-shocked at their ferosity and lashed out at Frenzy, after the mini-Decepticon made a flippant comment!
Shockwave argued that they will need to work together to get out of Limbo and Prime reluctantly agreed. He told the Decepticons about a peace-loving race called the Cloran, who had implored the Autobots to save them from an army of invaders when they first arrived. The Autobots had done so and were then approached by the enemy leader Zenag, who offered a device that could transport them home if they would agree to join him. Predictably Shockwave and the Deceptcions set off in search of Zenag and quickly agree to his terms. They were ordered to destroy Prime, Prowl and Ratchet and launched a surprise assualt. The three Autobots collapsed on the ground, reeling from Frenzy's sonic attack and Thundercracker's aerial bombardment. But once the Decepticons were taken in the Autobots disengaged their audio filters and turned the tables on the attackers. Prime told Shockwave his theory that Limbo was merely an illusion feeding off violent emotion. To escape it they would need to stop fighting!
Soon after, Zenag arrived and having failed to persuade Shockwave to destroy Prime set about tearing strips off the Autobot leader himself. Still Prime did nothing until finally Zenag and his whole surroundings faded out of existence. Even so Optimus still had an open wound on his side proving how close they had come to Limbo becoming real. They then found themselves in an empty black void with green leech-like parasites attached to the heads to feed off emotions. Frenzy threatened to destroy his parasite but Shockwave ordered him not to, else it might trigger it all off again. 'A Decepticon advocating a policy of non-violence,' said Prime, clearly impressed.
He concludes his story telling Outback that they were all returned to Earth when the future Autobots and Decepticons left 1986. Suddenly a noise startles them and the Wreckers enter the clearing with blasters raised. Prime says he has no intention of pleading for his life, but he will beg for the heroic Outback to be spared! Emirate Xaaron then steps-up from the front of the crowd. He has heard enough and has only one thing to say "Optimus, welcome home my friend". He hugs Prime and welcomes him back to the fold.
Transformers reaches triple figures and celebrates with a wrap-around cover poster and 19 pages of story! It is an offbeat and unusual tale but for me it doesn't quite live up to the hype. It reminds me a little of Planet of the Apes (for obvious reasons) and the idea of characters being hooked into a shared illusion is very Matrix-esque, though of course this comic was out years before the film. We don't see much of original characters these days so in some ways we should be grateful to see the likes of Frenzy, Thundercracker, Ratchet and Prowl in action. Outback's wound just can't seem to decide which side it is on and constantly moves from left to right between this and last issue. Not sure why, but this is also Whirl's last appearance in the comic apart from the 1988 annual story 'Peace'.