Transformers UK: Issue #66

Story: The Smelting Pool (Part 1)
Back-up strip: Rocket Racoon
Cover date: June 21st, 1986
Price: 30p
Script: Bob Budiansky
Artwork: Don Perlin (story) Herb Trimpe (cover)
Rating: Art / Story

First appearance: Blaster, Perceptor, Warpath, Cosmos, Seaspray, Beachcomber, Powerglide, Scrounge, Ramjet, Dirge, Thrust, Kickback, Bombshell, Shrapnell, Lord Straxus


Synopsis:

By Adam Hogg

Cybertron is in the grip of the merciless Decepticon dictator Lord Straxus, but pockets of Autobot resistance still exist.

This story is definitely one of Budiansky's finest moments, and significantly for me the first issue I ever got. The return to Cybertron saga gives a fresh break from the current storylines, focusing completely on a new bunch of characters and even managing to make some new favourites. The comic Cybertron also bears little resemblance to the cartoon version, appearing dark and bleak, and almost reminiscent of the apocalyptic future in the Terminator.

With no star to orbit, Cybertron spins through the endless reaches of space. It is a pot-marked mechanical wasteland, a misery ridden monument to millions of years of war and oppression - and for the last 4 million years it has been under Decepticon rule. In the province of Polyhex, the Decepticon rulers consider each Transformer who is not one of them to be an unnecessary burden on the planet's dwindling fuel supply, and therefore only good for one thing - a source of raw materials! As three such Transformers run through the desolate ruins, they are pursued by three airborne Decepticons. A surprise ambush throws one clear of his pursuers, but his two friends are not so lucky - a Decepticon harvester unit is already scooping up their bodies. Nearby, the Autobot warrior Blaster is getting impatient, his friend and fellow Autobot Scrounge has not shown up at the meeting point, but this is typical of him. With his attention drawn to the commotion ahead, Blaster sees the final robot running for his life, and although he has little love for empties (the name given to these derelict Transformers), his feelings towards Decepticons are infinitely less. A shot from his Electro Scrambler gun sends the Decepticon spiralling through the air, but just as he avoids crashing, Blaster catches and throws him into a derelict structure that collapses over him. The small transformer thanks his saviour, but Blaster insists he has better things to do than save his rusty hide!!

Elsewhere outside Darkmount, the stronghold from which the Decepticons rule Polyhex, Scrounge has been side-tracked after learning information on the missing scientist Spanner. As he silently roll's towards the giant structure in his transformed wheel-like mode, he hopes to prove his worth to the more powerful Autobots. Removing a duct cover in the darkness, he guides two of his fingers through the long winding shaft, expertly avoiding all the advanced monitoring equipment. One finger contains an audio receiver, the other capturing video - and which soon reach the main laboratory duct. Inside, two Decepticon technicians and the fearful warrior Shrapnel are trying to decipher a signal of unknown origin (see issue 36). Apparently this transmission is the most profound revelation in almost 50,000 Vorns, and behind Lord Straxus' decision to have Spanner abducted. Scrounge has visions of how well he will be treated after obtaining something this big, but in his joyous state one of his fingers knocks the wall on the way back, secretly setting off the alarm! Rolling away he contacts Blaster, confirming Spanner's whereabouts and mentioning the important message he has recorded. They agree to meet at the rendezvous point, and as the small Autobot rolls off at speed, he passes through the Dead End - home of the empties! These half wrecked, and barley functioning Transformers beg for fuel and components as he passes, when suddenly a painful hand grabs him from above, it is Shrapnel - and unable to break free Scrounge is carried back to Darkmount.

A while later, Blaster makes his way back to Autobase, he is very concerned that Scrounge did not shown up. As he enters the secret hideout, he is greeted by his fellow resistance members, Perceptor, Warpath, Beachcomber, Seaspray, Cosmos, and Powerglide. The request of an immediate search party is refused by unit commander Perceptor - Scrounge is either wasting everybody's time again, or has been captured and already been thrown into the smelting pool! Blaster is not convinced, he will prove Scrounge was telling the truth, and is prepared to go it alone if necessary. The other Autobots agree with his stance, changing Perceptor's mind briefly - but it will only be one attempt.

In the shadows of Darkmount lies the smelting pool, where blood-red molten metal boils with the devastated bodies of Transformers disgorged into it by Decepticon Harvester units. Its perimeter is lined with heavily armed Decepticon guards who make sure that none who go in ever come out. The intense heat painfully melts them into their component metals, while giant pipes pump the molten remains to the surface. There, they are cooled into solid ingots for future use as raw materials. Landing atop Darkmount, Shrapnel drags Scrounge into the Decepticon court room - Straxus will be interested to hear of his spying activities. Inside, five Decepticon warriors (Ramjet, Thrust, Dirge, Bombshell, and Kickback) watch as two Transformers cower at Straxus' feet begging for mercy. But mercy is not dispensed here, only death, and with a swing of his energy axe the two robots lie in half at Straxus' feet. While Bombshell and Kickback drag the remains to be thrown into the smelting pool, Scrounge is brought before him. Scrounge refuses to talk even though his special arm is wrenched off and crushed before him. As Straxus turns his attention to more important tasks, Scrounge is dragged off to meet his fate. The information he possesses for his soon to be obsolete friends matters not, he wont live long enough to tell them anyway...

******

Comments:

I find it strange that the Cybertronian Autobots have statues of the Autobots missing on Earth. Optimus Prime perhaps, but Wheeljack and Bumblebee seem a step far!
There is no preview page for the next weeks issue, I have no idea why, there just isn't! This issue is also Blaster's first appearance, the same robot who usually seems to be able to take on the entire Decepticon army and win, but unfortunately the simple task of getting his toy available in the UK was beyond him! He went on to become one of the most popular comic characters, especially in England, even taking up the prestigious letters page for a while. The most noticeable point however was his strange "Duel personality", the tall giant powerhouse version with the cool visors, on par with the greatest ever Autobots was seen in the US stories, while UK stories portrayed him like the mostly forgettable cartoon character, who we associate with having no visors, seemed half the size, and was mostly ineffective. It's not hard to work out who was the more popular of the two.
In this issue we begin to learn some Transformers terminology. Page four tells us that one "Breem" is the equivalent of eight point three Earth minutes, while page seven tells us that one "Vorns" is about 83 Earth years approximately (who decides on this stuff?).

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