Transformers UK: Issue #139
Story: Used Autobots (part 1)
Back-up strip: Headmasters: Love and Steel (Part 2)
Cover date: November 14th, 1987
Script: Bob Budiansky
Artwork: Don Perlin/Frank Springer (story) Robin Smith (cover)
Rating: Art / Story
First appearance: Big Steve, Clifford, Monzo
By Omega Steve
The Throttlebots are sitting ducks for Vortex on the open highway!
On a busy freeway in California the Throttlebots are discovering that the mid-afternoon traffic is the least of their worries. Swooping from the sky, the Decepticon Vortex seizes his opportunity to fire on the Autobots while they are effectively sitting ducks. Zooming through the traffic the group are acutely aware that to engage in combat would risk human lives, but how can they get this Decepticon off their tail otherwise? Blaster, who is sitting on Goldbug's dashboard in radio mode, soon tires of the chase and ejects clear, transforming into robot mode and landing on the roofs of two Throttlebots. Blaster tells them to drive steady so that he can get a clear shot at their pursuer, but a near collision with a motorist forces Rollbar to swerve, and Blaster looses his footing tumbling over the side of a bridge. Vortex is greatly amused but Blaster is not finished yet. Hanging from the underside of the bridge he zaps the Combaticon with his Electro Scrambler gun and sees him spiralling out of control.
Some time later the Throttlebots approach a Blackrock gas station hoping to refuel. As they pull in, the station manager whispers to unknown persons who appear to be hiding at the back. As the Autobots pull up a RAAT ambush squad bursts out of their hiding place and attack. Blaster transforms and fires his gun, only to find it is out of energy. No matter he doesn't need a weapon to fight, and uproots a pole carrying the Blackrock logo, which he uses to turn the RAAT tank on its side. Fuel erupts like a geyser from an exposed petrol pump just as a small human attack plane opens fire. Blaster quickly frees the RAAT trooper trapped in the overturned tank and shields him as the petrol ignites. The explosion sends the RAAT plane crashing to the ground - but not before it is able to inflict a nasty wound on Rollbar. Having expended more fuel, and with a trail of destruction behind them, the Throttlebots leave the area. Unbeknown to them Vortex is still observing.
Several hundred miles away in a cave at the base of Mount St Hillary, the Autobots under Grimlock have succeeded in solving their fuel problem. Wheeljack has created a geothermal generator which taps heat from the volcano core and converts it to energon. His commander is pleased that they will no longer be dependent on humans for fuel, but then again Grimlock's way has always been to take what he needs. He regards humans are weak and unimportant and has no problem saying so. Wheeljack has to metaphorically bite his tongue (I doubt he actually has one) and his dissatisfaction with Grimlock's leadership only grows. Slag tells the commander that he has picked up radio reports about Autobot sightings - possibly Blaster and Goldbug - and it sounded like they might be in trouble. Grimlock orders Hotspot to gather his Protectobots and bring them in.
Meanwhile the Throttlebots realise that RAAT must have figured out their connection to GB Blackrock and may be lying in wait at all of the filling stations in the area. They decide that they need to get off the road and make plans, and Goldbug leads them to Big Steve's used car lot where they park up and blend in with the rest of the stock. As morning comes the slippery salesman opens up for business and receives a visit from the cops telling him to keep an eye out for the Throttlebots. He quickly gets rid of them and turns on the charm for his latest unsuspecting buyers. Meanwhile his assistant Clifford goes to work on an old car, knocking 100,000 miles off the clock, and marking it up by a thousand dollars. Big Steve sells the car to an unsuspecting family for $1500 before retiring to his office to light up a cigar. Clifford comes in and mentions that there are six new vehicles in the yard, and he found a great looking stereo cassette deck in one of them. Big Steve takes a look and decides if someone wants to donate five new cars and a truck, then that is okay with him. But the jeep appears to be damaged and is making the other stock look bad. He tells Clifford to tow it to the junkyard immediately!
Scorponok's prisoners learn not to provoke him when he's in a bad mood!
At the Decepticon base an overweight Nebulan specimen prepares to submit to Mindwipe's latest invention. Having been hypnotised to feel no fear Monzo seems happy to give the Decepticons a little cheek. But he soon gets a taster of who he is dealing with when Mindwipe's machine deposits a giant bubble around him and he begins to drift in the general direction of the Nebulan sky. However the bubble is stable and bursts after only 100 feet or so, and Mindwipe is ordered to transform and collect him before he hits the ground - no sense wasting a good laboritory animal. Zarak wants to know what the Decepticons are planning for them, and Scorponok is happy to tell. The machine is essentially a trash disposal system for dumping Nebulan dissidents into the oblivion of outer space!
The roar of engines interrupts Scorponok and he breaks-off his exchange with Zarak to address Apeface and Snapdragon, who have returned prematurely from their mission. The hapless pair reveal that they were beaten by two Autobot Headmasters, who have really improved their fighting skills since bonding with Nebulans. The news enrages Scorponok, and when Zarak taunts him, the Decepticon smashes the small prison and siezes Zarak in his pinchers. The condemned Nebulan stares death in the face but surprisingly shows no fear. Zarak tells Scorponok that has no meaning anyway if his world is to be conquered by Decepticons or Galen's allies. But he suggests that if Nebulans and Decepticons team-up, they could make the planet safe again and destroy the Autobots in the process. Scorponok agrees it is in his interests to share power, but he has a word of warning for Zarak. Once possessed of the savage strength of Scorponok all other considerations pale into insignificance - perhaps even Zarak's beloved daughter.
Elsewhere, at the Headmaster's temporary headquarters, Galen and his men are about to receive guests. Peer Soriza and a council delegation arrive to observe their work and investigate suspicions that they are abusing their new power. Galen is told that council observers are to go along on future missions - something that Duros is particularly unhappy with. He points out that the battlefield is no place for 'headline hunting politicians', but ultimately it is decided that they will accept the council's wishes. The group then gets another visitor. It is Zarak's daughter and Galen's former love - Llyra.
RAAT returns after an absence of some 40+ issues and finally Blaster has a chance to get even. It's easy to see that Blaster is one of Budiansky's favourites because he is a major player in every story over this period of the US comic. Grimlock's characterisation grates on me though, just the way that he is portrayed as an ignorant buffoon who can't string a proper sentence together. Budiansky seems to have taken his cue from the cartoon which likes to portray the Dinobots as sub-intelligent, but this character is at odds with the one we have seen in the UK comic for close to 100 issues. The idea that the Autobots would have elected someone who calls themselves 'Me Grimlock' is dumb. Not to mention his attitude to protecting humans (ie not bothering) which is totally contradictory to most Autobot thinking. The first panel on page six looks like it's been altered for the UK audience. Goldbug mentions that Vortex may have been following them since they left Mount Verona, a clear reference to the UK only story Ladies Night (UK#137-138). And as a final point I really don't like how Blaster has been drawn on the cover of this issue.
Headmasters seems to be moving on nicely with the Decepticons about to undergo binary bonding. But to say Decepticons usually detest humans, Scorponok seems to be won over to the idea of actually bonding with one, a little too quickly. There's another of the many mistakes on page 21, this time with Gort being coloured red and silver (Stylor's colours) and Stylor being made to look like Gort - blond hair and all. The pair are talking to each other and using each other's names, which just looks glaringly bad to the fans who have become familiar with these characters by now.