Transformers UK: Issue #163
Story: Pretender to the Throne (Part 2)
Back-up strip: Action Force
Cover date: 30th April, 1988
Script: Simon Furman
Artwork: Jose Delbo (story) Lee Sullivan (cover)
Rating: Art / Story
First appearance: Landmine, Cloudburst, Waverider, Groundbreaker, Sky High, Splashdown
Synopsis:By Adam Hogg (aka Crespo'99)
Scorponok has created the Decepticon Pretenders, and thanks to Video Optimus, the Autobots can create their own!
After successfully infiltrating the Decepticon's computer and learning of their latest plan, Optimus Prime has quickly detailed a counter offensive. Aboard the starship Steelhaven still orbiting the Earth, six Autobot volunteers are ready to undergo the same process that six Decepticons have already completed. The Autobot scientist Brainstorm is ready to begin, and immediately back on Earth, Goldbug links up Optimus Prime to the transmitter, who begins sending the data. Suddenly an amazing chemical reaction begins inside the chambers, as the six volunteers - Landmine, Cloudburst, Waverider, Groundbreaker, Skyhigh, and Splashdown, are covered with synthesised protoplasm!
Highbrow radios Goldbug that the procedure is nearing completion, and with the trap almost set, Optimus Prime decides it is time to bait it. Ethan Zachary must open a path back into the Decepticon computer, where Prime shall deliberately be discovered to lead them here. Goldbug is not to sure, the last time Ethan hacked in, Prime was almost terminated by a protection program. Ethan argues that Prime is showing incredible courage, and if they want any chance of him realising that he is more than just a computer character, then they must go along with it his way.
In no time, Optimus is once again crossing Cyberspace and is curious at the concern Ethan and Goldbug are showing for a mere computer generated character! He soon reaches the Decepticon computer and wastes no time in tripping a security system and setting off the intruder light on Vorath's display. The hacker is back, and Scorponok immediately suspects that something strange is going on, but this time he shall deal with it personally! He will eradicate this bug while the Pretenders test their new powers by destroying the culprits. Moments later, the human army stationed around the genetics lab are stunned as six giant monsters exit the building and begin tearing through the military vehicles. Meanwhile back inside, Scorponok hooks up to the computer terminal and transfers himself into Cyberspace in search of this unwelcome guest. He spots Prime just as he appears to be leaving, and secretly pursues him back to Ethan's computer, where Vorath tracks his location and alerts the Pretenders.
Soon the six Decepticon Pretenders are soaring through the air towards the location, a building which strangely seems to be guarded by six giant humans! Bomb Burst's concern is ridiculed by Scorponok over the radio - bigger humans simply means they are bigger cowards (!), they are to destroy them along with the building!! The Decepticons don't argue, but as they prepare to attack, the Autobot Pretenders appear to flee in terror - just as Prime orders! Retreating is exactly how real humans would react, and so their cover remains intact (aren't the Decepticons even suspicious in the slightest?). The Decepticons ignore them, convinced of their cowardice, when suddenly the Autobot Pretenders split open to reveal the Autobots inside, who promptly ambush the unsuspecting Decepticons. It was supposed to be their trick, but the Decepticon Pretenders also split, revealing their true robot forms - and the epic (!) battle begins.
Strangely though, the Decepticons are still being picked off easily, almost as if the Autobots are prepared for their every move? Goldbug watches the battle from a safe distance, while his optics are being relayed to Optimus Prime, who is now commanding the Autobot Pretenders in battle. The plan is working perfectly thinks Goldbug - and Optimus Prime will surely rediscover himself! Suddenly it all goes dark as Goldbug's optics malfunction (it would seem there are a few glitches with his new body which was only rebuilt last issue).
In cyberspace, Prime finds himself surrounded in static and is unable to contact his warriors. Scorponok sees him and can only wonder what on Earth the legendary 'Optimus Prime' doing here? In the real world the Autobot Pretenders, now without their commander, are starting to lose the battle. Scorponok is pleased to learn that the Autobots are in disarray, and with that he will finish off Prime personally. He unleashes a barrage of fire, but Prime seems unaffected and turns to face his assailant! Scorponok realises that Prime is shielded by a protection program, and that all along he was expecting to have been followed. Suddenly Goldbug's optics come back online, before Prime hits Scorponok with a huge data surge which begins to overload his physical body. Scorponok reels in pain before Vorath pulls him back into the real world. With Scorponok defeated it is time for the Autobot Pretenders to unleash the final offensive and soon the Decepticons are retreating.
Later as the Autobot Pretenders gather around Ethan's computer, Goldbug thanks Optimus Prime for his brilliant strategy. The Autobot Pretenders deserve credit too adds Prime, with their faith in him and courage shown on the battlefield. Prime also admits that recent events have helped him realise his true purpose, and he is now thinking a lot clearer. Goldbug and Ethan are sure that the battle has sparked a change, and Prime admits that he has now discovered what it is like to be a warrior and a leader. But then he turns to Ethan and asks - when is the next game!!?
Well, after all the promise of last issue's build up, things go decidedly pear shaped in this weeks conclusion. Budiansky does what he does best and shoots himself in the foot after all the great ideas of bringing back a computer generated Optimus Prime, and the Autobots creating their Pretenders to counter attack their Decepticon counterparts, and it all goes a bit silly. Budiansky was probably just relieved to finally get the Pretenders toy range out of the way (if only to get that suited Hasbro executive off his back).
As with the Decepticons last issue, we have 6 Autobots who have apparently always been with Fortress Maximus' party, but only now decide to show up. Also the concept of 40 feet high humans seems like the most pitiful disguise since ... the Decepticon Pretenders. Thankfully the Decepticons are complete idiots and don't even notice until its to late, but then we have the Autobot Pretenders completely unable to fight without Prime's intervention. Also it would have been nicer to have seen a big showdown between Scorponok and Prime, but even that never really happens in the end. Also this is Ethan Zachary's final appearance in the comic, and it would seem that his job is done and he hands over the disk of Optimus Prime's mind to Goldbug (how come the Autobot's don't put him on their own computer so he can help them in future battles too?).
It's probably not the worst thing to happen that we have absolutely zero character development in any of the Pretenders (for a number of them this is their only real appearance too), as even as a main part of the 1988 toy range they were never the most popular of toys. Unlike the Headmaster which almost seem to have made the comic their own, the Pretenders are quickly forgotten about for the moment, but unfortunately the Pretenders concept is definitely here to stay.