Transformers UK: Issue #170
Story: Deadly Games (Part 1)
Back-up strip: Action Force
Cover date: June 18th, 1988
Script: Simon Furman
Artwork: Dan Reed (story) Jeff Anderson (cover)
Rating: Art / Story
First appearance: Hooligan, Chameleon, Zabra
Synopsis:By Omega Steve
If there are worse places to be than in the arena with a 50 ton bruiser called Hooligan, its unlikely that Chameleon can think of one!
The State Games were once a popular fixture on Cybertron in the days before the war. Back then noble gladiators used to compete in huge amphitheatres for honour and glory. Recently the Jekka Amphitheatre has started to draw huge crowds once again but now it is the setting for some decidedly deadly games!
Our scene opens in the middle of the latest battle between a massive four-armed bruiser named Hooligan and an unfortunate Autobot named Chameleon. A capacity crowd of blood sport lovers from across the quadrant, have gathered to watch the unfolding carnage and bet on the outcome. Chameleon, a member of Emirate Xaaron's resistance unit, is a reluctant combatant who was recently captured and cast into the arena by persons unknown. The Autobot is currently in the fight of his life and hopelessly outclassed.
Rolling to avoid the impact of Hooligans energo-axe, Chameleon makes a dash for the weapon and reels from a sucker punch. He must rely on all the tricks in his arsenal and vanishes before Hooligan's eyes, just as he is about to inflict a killer blow. Hooligan at first thinks the Autobot has teleported but realises his opponent is not called Chameleon for nothing, he has obviously blended into the background making himself practically invisible. Switching to infrared, he quickly picks up his quarry and severs the Autobot's right arm. Chameleon tries to transform but it is too painful with a limb missing and he collapses at Hooligan's feet. The crowd bays for blood (or should that be oil?) as Hooligan glances in the direction of his sponsor, the alien Zabra, organiser of the games, to make the final call on whether the Autobot lives or dies. The answer is never in doubt, and as Zabra delivers the thumbs down, Hooligan administers the killer blow. Tonight's show is over!
The next day sees Ultra Magnus and his sidekicks the Sparkabots poking around Tyrest in search of clues to their missing comrade's fate. Chameleon's battered corpse was found by an Autobot patrol and evidence suggests that he met his end somewhere close to here. Back at Autobase the Wreckers are preparing to go to Earth via their dimensional portal in a do-or-die attempt to neutralise Galvatron. Magnus is vital to the mission and if Xaaron found out he had gone missing, he would be in a lot of trouble! Nevertheless Magnus feels he owes something to his fallen comrade, as do the Sparklers. They decide to check out the Jekka Amphitheatre before heading back although the Autobots think that the place has been deserted for centuries.
Once inside the arena a pile of corpses and strewn limbs in an adjacent tunnel tells a different story - clearly this place has been the scene of a lot of killing - and most of it recent. Fizzle finds Chameleon's arm among the debris and this confirms their worst fears. Suddenly a platoon of Decepticons headed by the Firecons - Flamefeather, Sparkstalker and Cindersaur - arrives and blocks their exit. The Sparklers weigh in and Magnus goes to help them - but before he gets anywhere he is caught off-guard as a giant reptile-like tail lashes him, followed by a succession of punches. It is Zabra, the alien controller of the deadly games, and the unconscious Magnus and Sparkabots look set to be the next to go into the arena!
Gladiatorial combat is hardly an original theme, but it works well as a Transformers story (incidently the 1985 Transformers annual has a story about Megatron being a champion of the original pre-war State Games). Hooligan looks the part and Chameleon is another of those interesting extras that pop-ups from time to time, and for not very long! It's refreshing to see a new villain rather than the usual Decepticons but I can't be sure whether Zabra is organic or robotic. His surprise attack is enough to defeat Ultra Magnus though, so perhaps he is some kind of cyborg.
This issue sees the price of the comic rising 3p to 35p. The introductory blurb has a grovelling apology about this blaming it on rising production costs. Perhaps a few readers might have been unhappy about this back in 1988, but 35p seems like incredibly small change today. There's also a bonus one page 'story' by Simon Furman and Lee Sullivan, which features Magnus battling various Deceps. It is actually more of an introductory guide to the comic which seems a little unnecessary, but it was featured in other Marvel titles at the time to bring new readers in. The scene-setting finishes with a teaser picture of Powermaster Optimus Prime - getting the hype machine into gear for 1988s big event!