Transformers UK: Issue #154
Story: Toy Soldiers (Part 1)
Back-up strip: Action Force
Cover date: February 27th, 1988
Script: Bob Budiansky
Artwork: Jose Delbo (story) Bryan Hitch (cover)
Rating: Art / Story
Synopsis:By Omega Steve
The government executes the Throttlebots on live TV to prove they are winning the war against the Transformers!
With Grimlock's Autobots off world the Decepticons have a free reign on the planet Earth: an opportunity too good to miss. A chemical storage facility in Alabama now becomes the latest target as five ferocious Predacons attack. The human guards are easily repelled and the Decepticons escape with a quantity of liquid nitrogen canisters (what they need it for we don't know). In Atlanta, the Constructicons minus Mixmaster, are busy tearing up a building site for supplies. When Longhaul has been loaded up with girders Blitzwing flies in and collects him for the trip back to the Decepticons' Florida base.
The increase in attacks has not escaped the attention of the Triple I - the government agency assigned to deal with the Transformers (see #UK55). At a meeting of their top brass it is clear from the video footage that the situation is getting out of hand. Triple I's boss, Mr Forsythe, is concerned that the agency is being made to look incompetent by these robots, and orders Walter Barnett to get some answers from the Throttlebots (who they captured in UK#140). Barnett goes to the workshop where two scientists are busy probing the captives' circuitry. One of the men gawps at Searchlight's brain module and cannot believe it is the size of a pea! Barnett already knows about this characteristic of Transformers from the time when Circuit Breaker dissected Skids (UK#94). After dismissing the scientists, he picks up a remote control and triggers the Throttlebots' transformations to robot mode. Goldbug complains that they have been held captive, drained of fuel, taken apart and rebuilt, and wonders what Triple I wants this time. Barnett says he has come to discuss the increase in robot attacks and the Throttlebots again deny any knowledge. Goldbug thinks it's strange that the Autobots are not able to contain Decepticon activity to the usual degree. But Barnett repeats the agency dogma that the idea that Transformers are divided into two warring camps, good and bad, is unacceptable to them. Goldbug tells him it is the truth and if mankind ignores this fact it is they who will ultimately suffer.
Barnett is called away to see his wife and young son who have come looking for him. It is Sunday and they are supposed to be going on a family outing. On the way out security examine the remote-controlled toy cars which Barnett's son Stevie has brought to the HQ. Later that night the family are watching TV when Forsythe appears on the news to announce that his organisation has captured six Transformers and these will be executed if there is another robot attack! Barnett is horrified because he knows if Goldbug was telling the truth, the Decepticons will not waste any time in setting their enemies up.Sure enough when he arrives for work the next day the latest Decepticon attack story is all over the newspapers. Forsythe is not prepared to lose face despite his deputy's protests and announces that the execution is to proceed as planned. That night Barnett is having trouble sleeping and decides he has to do something to rescue the captured Autobots. But how? He'd never be able to smuggle them through security, he thinks, if only they were as small as his son's toy cars! An idea strikes him and Barnett packs the six toy cars into his briefcase and heads for the office.
At 6pm the next day the Throttlebots are lined up alongside an industry sized car crusher and crane. Forsythe delivers a defiant speech to the watching media before ordering the termination to begin. One by one each car is dropped into the mechanism and brutally crushed - exiting as a small compact cube. As the final Autobot, Goldbug, is dropped Barnett excuses himself and heads for his car. On the way home he opens the briefcase on his passenger seat to reveal the six toy cars. He asks the Throttlebots how they are feeling and "cramped" is the reply! Barnett explains that he finally realised they were telling the truth, and while they were offline he transplanted their brain modules into these toy cars. Each brain has been connected to the car's battery allowing the Autobots to move and speak. When Goldbug hears that their bodies have been destroyed he realises the only hope is to get back to Ark (and presumably to throw themselves at Grimlock's mercy). Barnett doesn't know the way but Goldbug knows a man who does - his old friend Buster Witwicky!
Later that evening at the Witwicky repair shop in Portland, Oregon, Sparkplug tells his son some good news. He has just received a letter from Buster's older brother, Spike, to say that he is due home in a couple of days. The news does little to raise Buster's spirits as he thinks the last Autobot they crushed on TV might have been Bumblebee.
Spike Witwicky is mentioned for the first time this issue in what appears to be a reference to the Transformers cartoon series. In it Sparkplug Witwicky has only one son, whose name is "Spike", and it was widely acknowledged that Buster was the comic equivalent of this character. The reason why Marvel has had to back track and introduce its own Spike is very likely due to commercial pressures from the toy makers Hasbro. You see Spike is listed as the head of the Fortress Maximus toy. The explanation for his notable absence from the 150+ issues so far is that he has been at college for the past three years. The fact that his father and brother never told him that they had got involved with giant robots fighting on Earth, seems too ludicrous to be believed.
Although the idea of transferring the Throttlebot's brains to toy cars has been attacked as silly by many Transformer fans (see comments for next issue), I am prepared to overlook this because overall I like this issue's story. The public execution by car crusher is quite cool (my opinion anyway) and I'm pleased to see Walter Barnett finally breaking from agency policy and acting on what he has always known, that the Autobots are the good guys. There's another rare appearance from the Constructicons but I'm not sure why they featured only five of them and missed out Mixmaster (perhaps he is injured).