Transformers UK: Issue #109
Story: Funeral for a Friend! (Part 1)
Back-up strip: The Inhumanoids
Cover date: April 18th, 1987
Script: Bob Budiansky
Artwork: Don Perlin (story) Herb Trimpe (cover)
Rating: Art / Story
First appearance: Nestor Forbes (The Mechanic), Juan
By Omega Steve
Ratchet concedes defeat as he fails to repair the fallen Optimus Prime.
He has dedicated his entire life on Earth and Cybertron to saving the lives of others. For the last 238 hours he has welded metal plates, reconnected circuits, fused wires, repaired fuel lines and re-etched microchips, all for one patient. Now Ratchet, Chief Medical Officer of the Autobots, is about to find out if all of his efforts were worth it... As the amassed ranks of the Autobots watch from the sidelines, Ratchet throws a switch and administers a 2,000,000 volt charge into the body of Optimus Prime. He waits for a sign... even the faintest spark will do... but there is nothing! Ratchet turns to his comrades and tells them the terrible news - their leader Optimus Prime is beyond repair.
Some hours later Omega Supreme demonstrates an array of new defences which he built into the mountainside surrounding the Ark. They can be activated by a radio signal or by use of a switch within the Ark itself. Perceptor is pleased, these defences should ensure that the Ark doesn't fall into enemy hands while the Autobots are attending the funeral of Optimus Prime. Ratchet is haunted by his failure and thinks he cannot in good conscience attend Prime's funeral. He tells Perceptor this and cannot be moved from his decision, despite a reality check from his medical colleague First Aid. The Protectobot advises him that he shouldn't allow Prime to haunt him once the Autobots have sent to his final resting place, it is far better that he channels his efforts into helping the living.
As the convoy departs with the body of their fallen leader, Ratchet is left in the Ark, alone with his thoughts. He knows that First Aid speaks true, but Optimus Prime was so much more than another gun toting conscript, and Ratchet has lost count of the amount of friends he's seen cut down by Decepticon fire. He opens a life support capsule and stars at the unconscience body of Prowl - he cannot move or transform but at least he is still alive. Ratchet thinks back to what First Aid told him "where there's life there's hope" and decides to go out and find some parts to fix Prowl and the others. He journeys to a scrap yard, which looks decidedly eery under the cover of darkness, and starts to collect useful components.
Nearby Ratchet over hears human voices and decides it's best for him to lay low by transforming into his ambulance mode. The voices belong to a car thief named Juan and another man who's interested in buying stolen vehicles. The buyer insists he won't deal with middlemen and Juan's boss, The Mechanic, steps out of the shaddows. Perhaps now the customer will do business properly? Suddenly the mystery buyer produces a badge and announces himself as representing the Portland Police Department. As a fleet of sqaud cars approach the Mechanic and Juan make a run for it - the normally fearless criminal is left a quivering wreck by the prospect of the authorities catching him. Luckily Juan spots an ambulance parked closeby and both jump aboard. It is of course Ratchet and this is the last thing he needs, but he cannot risk exposing himself to the humans so must play along for now.
As Juan speeds away in Ratchet, the Mechanic cowers in the back in fear of the pursuing cops. It appears they may be gaining so Ratchet is forced to take steps to ensure they get away. He hopes the Mechanic won't be paying attention and maneuvres his cryogenic sprayer into position. The tool is usually used for medical purposes but in this case is perfect for icing up the road and causing the police to skid. With the pursuit over the Mechanic recovers his senses and quickly gets to work detaching Ratchet's surgical weapons. The Autobot is aware of what is happening but still reluctant to transform while out in the open. As the stolen ambulance enters the Mechanic's garage Ratchet reverts to robot mode - he has been more than cooperative so far, but now he will take his weapons back and be going! Elsewhere, on a distant cliff lit up by the light of thousands of stars, Omega Supreme places the body of Optimus Prime in his funeral barge. The vesel is fueled and programmed and slowly begins to blast off.
Writer Bob Budiansky is really hitting his stride at the moment and seems to be enjoying the freedom to make radical changes to the storyline. First we had the death of Prime, then Megatron, and what next? Grimlock as leader, surely not? The Autobots and the readers alike feel the loss of Prime, but he and Ratchet go back a long way and it is only realistic that the medic should feel his death more profoundly.
Time to introduce a new human villain, and generally, Transformers fans either like or detest these characters. Previous creations have included Circuit Breaker and Professor Morris to name two. I actually quite like the Mechanic but its a little annoying that he's never seen again after issue 122. Bob clearly leaves the door open for him to return but for some reason never gets around to it, so we never find out whether he gets arrested or if the Autobots ever see their stolen weapons again.
I'm not sure when exactly Prowl got injured. He certainly looked fine in the Christmas issue (UK#93) and US-continuity wise appeared before that in The Plight of the Bumblebee. This may have been an oversight though and it could be that in the US story, Prowl is still incapacitated from the injuries he sustained in Prime Time (the last time US readers saw him in battle). Note that the only parts that Ratchet collects for Prowl are a new set of lights. Surely there's more wrong with him that just that!!