Transformers UK: Issue #168
Story: Meltdown (Part 1)
Back-up strip: Action Force
Cover date: June 4th, 1988
Script: Simon Furman
Artwork: Robin Smith (story) Jerry Paris (cover)
Rating: Art / Story
Synopsis:By Omega Steve
Triple changer Broadside is about to become a tasty meal for this hungry zombie!
The countdown to nuclear disaster has begun! In just four point six breems (roughly 35 minutes) Flame's unstable reactor will go online destroying all of Kalis and perhaps Cybertron itself. The Autobot scientist doesn't see this though, his simulations all point to one thing, that the engines will fire as anticipated and Cybertron will be transformed from planet to spacecraft. Flame's place in history will be assured and those who doubted him will see the folly of their words.
As the clock ticks he studies the progress of his enemies via the view screen. Springer has escaped (see UK#167) and made contact with Ultra Magnus and the Sparkabots. The quintet now makes their way back to Flame's complex, while the Decepticon Flywheels goes for reinforcements. Another screen shows the Wreckers free of their cell (how?) and pitched in battle with Flame's zombies (they've even lost their transform inhibitors). Emirate Xarron meanwhile, is being allowed to proceed to the central control room. When the engines fire, Flame wants his chief critic to be present.
As Springer leads the way along the secret tunnel to Flame's base he fills the others in on the danger. Flame is a 'batty as a bug bot' and his out of date reactor will blow the planet up before it ever propels it in space. Magnus again has to fend off harsh words from Sizzle who is still unhappy they let Flywheels go. Springer feels sorry for him because he knows a thing or too about the pressure of leadership and having to make tough decisions.
Below ground the Wreckers are starting to get overwhelmed by zombies - if only they could get to the armoury their troubles would be over! Luckily help is at hand from Impactor, who decapitates a zombie with his harpoon, and helps to turn the tide. A remaining vestige of his persona has reasserted itself and he sets off in pursuit of the one responsible for this living death, Flame! Elsewhere in the reactor room Xarron confronts his old colleague. He repeats his warning that the reactor is dangerous but Flame just thinks Xarron is worried about himself once the Council of Elders find out they discredited the wrong person. Xarron realises just how mad Flame has become - after all the Council is long gone and the fall from grace is ancient history. He tries to turn the reactor off but Flame springs into action, transforming into his fire tank mode and attacking. Xarron is almost melted by the first blast and needs to fight back - in his vehicle combat mode he might stand a chance - but he hasn't transformed for centuries and the shock might kill him if he did it now! Xarron has a difficult choice, to attempt transformation or not too, either way his chances are slim.
Meanwhile the Wreckers have got hold of some weapons and dispatched the remaining zombies with their usual efficiency. Magnus and the others now join them as they head for the control room, under the watchful cameras of Flames computer. Sensing the growing threat it activates defensive measures and seals the reactor room with some heavy-duty blast doors. It is clear to the Autobots that they will not get through these in the time they have left. Springer remembers that there is some equipment in Autobase that might do the job and he and Broadside make tracks. Seconds later the pair are nearing the surface when a second set of doors are battered open. Blocking the path is none other than the monstrous Decepticon known as Trypticon!
Robin Smith's artwork wobbles between the good and bad but overall I quite like his interpretation of Flame. The scene where he's shaking his fists above his head like a mad fool really sums him up. He's starting to remind me of a classic James Bond villain by this point. Not only does he have the lavish underground base and the hordes of helpers, but he also has an insane scheme to destroy the world. Like all good (?) Bond baddies he sees himself as a genius with a foresight others lack, and he's so convinced of this that he is blind to the dangers of his scheme. He's also daft enough to invite his enemies into the base to see what he's up to, rather than destroying them while he has the chance.
My criticism of most of the made up characters (ie non toyline) is that we never see them Transform - think Xarron, Impactor etc. So it's good that Flame has been given a vehicle mode. I also like the pace of this issue and how everything is happening as the clock counts down to disaster. I thought that Flame's base was deep underground but it takes Springer and Broadside only seconds to get near the surface until they run into Trypticon. With only 20 or so minutes left it seems a bit unlikely they can get back to Autobase, pick up the heavy artillery and get back, even without bumping into Trypticon. And even then they'd still need to get through the blast doors, so the situation looks bleak. It's a pity for them that they didn't have Blurr on hand to run the errand!
One last point - it's great to see Trypticon back! Unless my memory deceives me he only appeared in one US story (King of the Hill), despite being one of the most popular characters. So UK readers are on to a good thing here (once again).