Transformers UK: Issue #105
Story: Afterdeath! (Part 1)
Back-up strip: Inhumanoids
Cover date: March 21st, 1987
Script: Bob Budiansky
Artwork: Don Perlin
Rating: Art / Story
First appearance: Ethan Zachary
Synopsis:By Adam Hogg
Stalemate ensues as Prime and Defensor challenge Megatron and Bruticus!
A poorly judged move results in an ambush from the hordes of Hazzak Herd - it is all over for Ethan Zachary! As his character lays in pieces displayed on the huge wall-size monitor in front of him, the game over message appears, while Ethan is left to ponder where he went wrong. His watching work colleague Margaret can only wonder why he wastes so much time playing silly video games, although it is after work hours. She needs the system to run a simulation test of the Hydrothermocline anyway, and so as Ethan relinquishes control of the main terminal, she explains the importance of these tests. They will soon learn if the Hydrothermocline prototype can generate energy by drawing it from the different thermal layers of the ocean(!!), and in theory offering the world an almost inexhaustible fuel supply. Ethan is as excited about the project as she is, and admits that he only plays video games to chill out in the evenings. With the simulation soon finished, Margaret apologises for the interruption, although Ethan shows her how he saved his character onto a disk before he stopped, and can easily restore his character back to life. He also demonstrates a cheat he discovered inside the program, simply typing "Afterdeath" allows you to place your character at any point in the game, and rather than start from the beginning it gives you a second chance. As Ethan continues to explain, they are unaware that their every word this evening has been monitored by the Decepticon warrior Vortex - who hovers briefly above the plant before departing, satisfied that he has learnt enough! Alone again, Ethan carries on with his game, this time hoping to complete the difficult Cloud Steppers stage!
Elsewhere in Oregon, inside the Ark, Wheeljack has just discovered what Optimus Prime had suspected all along. A Cerebro shell from the Decepticon Bombshell had been planted within his brain module (UK#91), and which probably explains how the Decepticons have been anticipating their moves so well recently (although we haven't seen any evidence of this, but see Notes below). Wheeljack explains that with this device deactivated, they can possibly use it to eavesdrop back on the Decepticons. In no time the device has been hooked up to some machinery, and Megatron's voice can be heard addressing his warriors - they are to set course towards the Hydrothermocline plant immediately...
Later that evening, Onslaught, Brawl and Swindle approach the Hydrothermocline plant, with team commander Onslaught crashing through the perimeter fence surprisingly unhindered. There is none of the expected interference from fleshling guards, and Megatron in his shrunken gun mode is as puzzled as his comrades. Suddenly they realise that their plan has been rumbled - Optimus Prime and the Protectobots lay in wait (Streetwise used his Police Car disguise to convinced the guards that they where needed elsewhere). Alerted to this commotion outside, Ethan Zachary watches as Megatron jumps from Onslaught's cab and transforms, warning Prime that any attack will be met full force. Prime and the Protectobots seem to outnumber Megatron's team six to four as they all transform, but Megatron is soon joined by Vortex and Blastoff from the air. Prime will not be outdone, and as the Protectobots combine to form the formidable Defensor, Megatron's only answer is to show him that the Combaticons too can combine - Bruticus! Now that the "who has the biggest robot" war is over, the two leaders decide to talk for a change, with Prime warning that any battle would clearly destroy whatever it is that Megatron seeks, but Optimus Prime's death is seen as infinitely more rewarding. Ethan Zachary meanwhile decides that now would be a good time to leave, but seemingly running right past Bruticus (?), the tiny human is snatched by the fearsome but insanely stupid Decepticon. His request to crush the human is denied, with perhaps Optimus Prime's affection for these creatures stretching so far as to let them take the Hydrothermocline. Prime realises his dilemma, but manages to convince Megatron that what he really wants is a chance to destroy his greatest foe (this whole scene really is amazing, they just stand there and talk the whole time!!!). Suddenly, Ethan Zachary speaks up with a way to battle without destroying the Hydrothermocline in the process, and both leaders listen with interest.
In no time the six transformers from each side are plugged into the Multi-world console, with Ethan Zachary explaining the basic rules. Each Transformers' character will be identical to their form in the real world, with the overall aim to destroy the opposition's leader - should Megatron win he can take the Hydrothermocline, and if Optimus Prime wins then he can't... simple. Groove is not particularly pleased about playing against Decepticons, although Ethan assures him that there is no way to cheat. Megatron now decides that he will only play if the stakes are upped - so the overall loser in the game must forfeit his life in the real world. Prime considers this risk less harmful than should the battle commence in the real world, and so reluctantly agrees. With all the characters hooked in, Ethan Zachary now holds a joystick in each hand that will trigger a lethal explosion in either of the two leaders. The game map is also displayed on the screen, detailing four zones containing other game characters who are potential enemies and allies - and despite Megatron's desire to learn more, Optimus Prime tells him that they will both have to find out the hard way. The final trick is that as soon as the game starts, Each Transformers' optical sensors will be deactivated, with each only seeing their point of view from within the game - only Ethan Zachary will be able to view the contest on screen. The instructions over, both commanders are ready to begin...
Optimus Prime and the individual Protectobots stare across the strange computer generated landscape that makes up Multi-world, with Prime preparing to lead his troops to battle...
It is important to mention that the US G.I.Joe crossover series runs parallel to this and the next few issues - although initially excluded from the UK continuity, it was printed much later on as a space-filler in UK#265-281. The remaining two special teams finally appear for the first time in this issue (as real Transformers and not dreams), and although we neither see neither getting created we can assume that the Combaticons where given life by tapping the Matrix through the cerebro shell in Prime's body (similar to the Stunticons). Although this issue is the first half of an overall decent US issue (in my opinion), in UK format this first part really does borderline on the pathetic, with one totally unbelievable situation after another, and some truly shameful toy flogging in the process. It is a real shame because the actual showdown in the video game (next issue), I always felt was a great and original idea (apart from the conclusion that is). Perhaps if the lead up was more believable...