Transformers UK: Issue #123
Story: Crater Critters (part 1)
Back-up strip: Iron Man
Cover date: July 25th, 1987
Script: Bob Budiansky
Artwork: Perlin/Atkin/Garvey/Yomtov (story) Jeff Anderson (cover)
Rating: Art / Story
First appearance: Charlie Fong
Synopsis:By Adam Hogg
The Triple Changers' mission to Earth is about to lead to a nasty infection of Scraplets!
Somewhere in the American Southwest, a spacecraft hurtles towards the planets surface engulfed within a huge fireball, and explodes spectacularly on impact. As the dust settles over the huge crater resulting from the crash, what appears to be a barely fuctioning Transformer desperately reaches over the rim trying to pull himself out, before seemingly dragged back by forces unknown!!
The following evening in a wealthy section of Portland Oregon, Goldbug and Blaster watch as the Autobots human friend G.B. Blackrock leaves an exclusive night-spot with a female on his arm. Goldbug is unsure whether Blaster's plan is a good idea, but an unfairly snappy Blaster is going along with it whether Goldbug joins him or not. Goldbug reluctantly agrees, and as the small Gold Volkswagen pulls up behind Blackrock's stretch Limo, he cant help but get the oil tycoons attention. Recognising the Autobot by his former name Bumblebee, he walks over and explains that now is not the best of times - but Goldbug strongly insists they talk (driving onto his foot leaves him with little choice). Blackrock gives his driver the night off before telling his female friend that he wants to drive her home personally in this Beetle (the look on her face suggest she isn't impressed). Blaster provides the pair with some music while Blackrock makes some excuse about wanting to be romantic - his date just wants to get home though. After she has stormed off, Blackrock gets down to business with the Autobots, but first things first as Goldbug explains that he is no longer known as Bumblebee (Bumblebee was destroyed and then Rebuilt as Goldbug - see UK#114 and UK#118).
They pull up at a closed Blackrock petrol station to allow Goldbug to fill up, after which the human is shocked as the unintroduced Blaster jumps out and transforms into his formidable robot mode from apparently nowhere!! The pair reveal that they have left the Autobots due to differences with their commander, and are in effect deserters (pretty drastic when you consider Blaster was one of the main Autobots calling for Grimlock as leader - see UK#112). Either way the Autobots need his help, but Blackrock is reluctant - he hates the Decepticons but doesn't recognise Goldbug, and has never met Blaster before, so why should he trust them? The still strangely acting Blaster jumps in accusing Blackrock of calling him soft(!), back on Cybertron he and his good friend Scrounge fought relentlessly against the Decepticons - and which ultimately cost Scrounge his life. Goldbug is shocked to hear that Blaster had to choose between Scrounge's life or defeating the Decepticons, and although Blaster had little choice the decision still haunts him (see UK#67 for these events). Blaster though warns Goldbug that if he ever believes he will abandon him too then he is welcome to go back to Grimlock.
Blackrock has to remind the pair that he is a busy man, and Goldbug explains that all they are after is information on the Decepticons. Blackrock admits that he keeps tabs on their suspected activity, mentioning that many oil tankers have gone missing in the Caribbean - and more recently a huge meteor crashed in Northern Arizona. Blaster wonders how this could be connected, but Blackrock reveals that this meteor is different - it appears to be emitting strong radio signals, possibly to Cybertron? Blaster and Goldbug agree that it is worth checking out, and as the pair speed off, Blackrock is left without a lift home!
Several Dozen light-years away on the planet Cybertron, within the offices of Decepticon fuel auditor Ratbat. The triple-changers - Blitzwing, Octane, and Astrotrain, have been summoned for a mission of grave importance. As they are well aware of, the operation on Earth has been incredibly fuel expensive, and so Ratbat recently sent an important package via low energy cost space freighter - the first phase of his fuel economy plan. It would appear though that something has gone wrong as the freighter pilot has failed to contact Ratbat upon arrival, this despite radio signals suggesting it has reached Earth. This package is so vital that Ratbat is compelled to reactivate the spacebridge and send the triple-changers to Earth to first find out what has happened, and promptly bring the secret cargo online. The three Decepticon's mission involves enlisting a certain wealthy and high profile human, but before they can mention his name (as if we hadn't guessed) Ratbat insists they get moving immediately - for time is fuel!!
Back on Earth at the Arizona impact site, a team of scientists from the federal government approach the deep crater. Entry is prohibited until tests suggest it is safe, although a scientist named Charlie Fong is aching to get down there and discover what it really is! Suddenly a bright light appears nearby - the Decepticon's space bridge on which three figures materialise! They are the triple-changers, who send an ominous warning unless the humans leave, before converting into their aircraft modes and soaring into the crater. Inside, the Decepticons approach what appears to be the remains of the pilot - but despite appearing in a bad way he still functions, and the Decepticons expect answers. Blitzwing ignores his desperate warning not to approach, but realises he has made a serious mistake as various bolts attach themselves to his foot!!
A few hours later above the crater, the national guard have sealed off the area, and it seems that Charlie Fong will have to wait even longer to begin his research. His senior colleague admits that it will be days before the main forces arrive to secure the area, but as Charlie walks off in frustration he hears a voice!! Goldbug can help him, and while Charlie looks all around the car to see who is speaking, Goldbug and Blaster transform to his great surprise. They soon convince him that they mean no harm, and simply need his help to get past the army blockade. Charlie asks why he should trust them, and Goldbug's only answer is that they could obviously force him - but Autobots are not like that. Charlie accepts the argument, and soon drives Goldbug up to the Army checkpoint.
The soldier is unable to let anyone past, but as Charlie holds up Blaster he explains that he has adapted this seismometer to detect robots movements inside the crater, and only needs to place in next to rim. The soldier looks suspiciously at the cassette deck and ponders his strict orders while Charlie argues that lives may be at stake!! The soldier could pretend not to see him pass, and as Charlie disappears towards the crater, the solder respects the scientists decision to think of everyone else's safety over his own! Shortly, Charlie and the Autobots arrive at the craters edge...
I am not sure what it is, but despite some strange characterisation (Blaster really is a rogue figure these days), this story seems to have that special touch which has been missing from some of Budiansky's recent work. The carefully introduced Scraplets really are a unique and original idea, and quite a fearsome prospect for any unsuspecting Transformer (read stupid Decepticons). So place the dubious conclusion in "The Cure" aside, and you have what I rate as one of the best US stories overall, and certainly my favourite since "The Smelting Pool".
Ratbat appears to have taken control of the Cybertron Decepticons since the events of UK#104, with this issue our first hint of his quite strange elevation to commander status.