Transformers UK: Issue #156
Story: Trial By Fire (Part 1)
Back-up strip: Action Force
Cover date: March 12th, 1988
Script: Bob Budiansky
Artwork: Jose Delbo (story) Dougie Braithwaite (cover)
Rating: Art / Story
First appearance: Cerebros, Spike Witwicky
Synopsis:By Omega Steve
The Headmasters arrive on Earth and track down the stricken Goldbug.
Fortress Maximus lays on an operating table aboard Steelhaven while the Autobot Headmasters operate on his body. The powerful transformer is being doubled in size to maximise his fighting potential once the ship arrives at Earth. Highbrow is uneasy about the prospect of more warfare but Nebulan leader Galen is uncharacteristically resolved to it. He points out that nobody invited the Transformers to Nebulos but they came anyway and the war with the Decepticons followed. Galen and his men had allied themselves with the Autobots and Lord Zarak and his people with the Decepticons. Finally both men realised that the only way to save their planet from destruction was to take their conflict elsewhere. Galen has decided that if war is their fate they must accept it and do all they can to win.
As Fortress Maximus gets to his feet it looks as though they could have a major advantage in that battle. The giant Autobot transforms into his battle station mode as his head detaches and becomes a mechanoid that Galen hasn't seen before. He is told that this new Autobot is Cerebros - and Galen will transform into his head and through him control Fortress Maximus. Galen transforms an attaches to Cerebros. He remarks how he can sense the awesome new power of Fortress Maximus - power enough to defeat the Decepticons once they reach their destination.
Meanwhile on Earth: A squadron of RAAT troops stand guard at the now demolished Witwicky auto garage and household, while the emergency services comb the debris. Spike Witwicky arrives at the scene and runs past the police blockade in a panic. Luckily his father Sparkplug is okay and quickly fills his son in about his encounter with the Decepticons. Sparkplug mentions that Spike's younger brother, Buster, had gone to Mount St Hillary to find the Autobots and that Ratbat had been looking for him. Spike is concerned and decides to head to the mountain himself to look for Buster. After a couple of hours he reaches the cave that until recently was home to the Ark. He finds a lot of complex machinery and a broken toy car - perhaps Buster took it there he thinks?
Several thousand miles above, Steelhaven arrives in Earth's orbit. The binary bonded Nebulans gather in front of the view screen and see images of the cities below. Clearly the planet is teaming with intelligent life, much like Nebulos, and these beings could be harmed should they fight the Decepticons there. Galen maintains that the distress call they're responding to is their concern and not the welfare of these beings. With that the Nebulans transform into the heads of the Autobots and descend to Earth.
Spike is still searching among the machinery in the cave when the five Transformers arrive. He takes cover and watches as Chromedome collects the battered toy car that houses Goldbug's brain and interfaces with it. He projects images from Goldbug's memory of Ratbat attacking and carrying off Buster. Brainstorm feels they should mount a rescue for the boy but Fortress Maximus says to forget him; he's more concerned with finding the Autobots who used to live in the cave and enlisting them in the fight against Zarak. Spike emerges from his hiding place to protest.
It's great to see the Headmasters on Earth and in the main strip especially as the regular Autobots won't be back for another five months. They seem to have arrived pretty quick to say that as Goldbug only sent his distress call last issue (surely Earth and Nebulos can't be that close). I'm not sure what's going on with Galen as he seems to have lost all compassion in his fixation with the mission. The Galen of old would never have shirked his ethical responsibilities in this way. Oddly Fortress Maximus speaks only once in this issue which goes to show that Galen really does do all the talking for him these days.
Spike Witwicky makes his debut this issue providing an example of the surpremacy of the toymaker Hasbro over storylines if ever one was needed. Not that I'm sorry to see Spike, but his arrival flies in the face of all we've been told so far, that Sparkplug has one son called Buster and Spike is a figment of the cartoon series' imagination. Now suddenly here he is and the readers might wonder why. The answer is surely that Spike is now part of the Hasbro toy range, as he's listed as the guy who transforms into the head of Cerebros and Fortress Maximus. Ultimately the comic exists to push Transformer toys as much as anything and it's interesting to chart the development of characters and stories alongside the toy range. It's a topic to discuss in detail another time I think, but if you want an example just look at Bumblebee who was transformed into Goldbug when the Goldbug toy came out, and back again to Bumblebee when the character was reissued as a Pretender.