Transformers UK: Issue #157

Story: Trial By Fire (Part 1)
Back-up strip: Action Force
Cover date: 19th March, 1988
Price: 35p
Script: Bob Budiansky
Artwork: Jose Delbo (story) Lee Sullivan (cover)
Rating: Art / Story

First appearance: Cerebros, Spike Witwicky


Synopsis:

By Omega Steve


Galen is dead but Fortress Maximus will fight on with help from Spike!

In a cave within Mount St Hillary, Spike Witwicky pleads with the Autobot Headmasters to rescue his brother (Buster is now a captive of the Decepticons as seen last issue). Hardhead feels an obligation but Fortress Maximus insists that the mission must come first. He is all too aware that Scorponok and his crew will be arriving shortly and the help of the Autobots of Earth will be needed to defeat them. Spike thinks his first impression of 'a bunch of cold hearted machines' was correct - and Fortress Maximus detaches his head, which transforms via Cerebros into Galen. The Nebulan leader assures Spike that they are more alike than he believed - but he will still not help him while they have Autobots to find. With that the Headmasters depart leaving Spike very much alone.

Thousands of miles away a second craft emerges from hyperspace and enters Earth's orbit. Lord Zarak and his crew waste no time in admiring the view from space and prepare to track down their enemies. Back at Mount St Hillary dawn is breaking and Spike gets up to resume his search. He sees the Decepticons entering the cave and takes cover - the look of them is enough to tell him they are not friendly! Mindwipe identifies the machinery as the origin of the interstellar signal that brought them to Earth - but it would seem that the Autobots who were stationed here have long since left. They spread out to search the caverns and Spike takes the opportunity to reactivate Goldbug's distress call and hopefully alert the Autobots. Nearby, Chromedome picks up the message and they quickly double back to Mount St Hillary.

By the time they arrive Spike has been discovered and is in mortal danger, but the sight of the Autobots is enough to make the Decepticons forget about this human. Both sides clash and it is soon evident that Fortress Maximus is a lot stronger than he used to be. Scorponok realises that the tide could turn against him and decides to go back into the cave and capture Spike. Perhaps the boy can be used to gain an advantage?

Spike flees into the caverns leading to the molten core of the volcano as Scorponok pursues. Above ground Fortress Maximus notices his archenemy's disappearance and follows. But the Decepticon and the human disappear into a tunnel that Max is too large to enter - and he detaches Cerebros to go in his place. The smaller Autobot attacks Scorponok and his head transforms into Galen who takes on Zarak. The pair fight on a rock bridge just metres above a molten lava river. Zarak is pinned down and radio commands Scorponok to blast the rock ceiling above Spike. Galen sees the danger and pushes Spike out of the way - taking the impact of the falling rocks himself. He is mortally wounded and Scorponok gleefully returns to the surface knowing the Autobots are doomed without their leader. Galen thanks Spike for helping him see his responsibilities to the victims of war again - and he asks Spike to take the control helmet so he will not die in vain. Spike dutifully accepts and returns to the surface with Fortress Maximus.

The Autobot emerges from the volcano (with Spike as his new controller) and quickly puts the Decepticons to flight. The battle would seem to have awakened Mount St Hillary from its slumber and Fortress Maximus orders the Autobots to get clear. From a safe distance the five transformers and Spike witness the spectacular explosion; a fitting tribute to their lost leader Galen. Hardhead suggests it may also be a fitting welcome to their new one. Spike is overwhelmed.

******

Comments:

I'm sorry to see Galen killed off at this stage because I still felt he had a lot more developing to do. I would have liked to have seen him settle on Earth and resolve his fued with Zarak, perhaps even return to his love Llyra some day. Galen endured a lot of injustice on Nebulos with Zarak ruining his good name, turning his girlfriend against him, and branding him a traitor. He took it all on the chin with a certain nobility, then came to Earth and died, and now its like Zarak has won. The last page where Max shows up and routes the Decepticons seems rushed, as though Bob ran out of space and had to wrap things up quick. So we don't get any sense of how the other Autobots react to the death of their leader, or the newcomer Spike taking his place. Those who are aware of the relationship between the comics and Hasbro will understand why Galen had to be killed off. Basically Spike, as head of Cerebros and Fortress Maximus, is part of the toy range, and ultimately the comics are a vehicle to push the toys. Once you consider this you realise that Galen never stood a chance, poor guy. Even so it does seem to me that he was elbowed out with obscene haste - on his first jaunt on Earth! I'm not keen on the cover for this issue, as Scorponok's head and torso are way too big for his legs and the whole thing looks poor. I'm not a big Lee Sullivan fan generally, but this is bad even for him.

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