Transformers UK: Issue #174

Story: Totalled! (Part 1)
Back-up strip: Action Force
Cover date: July 16th, 1988
Price: 35p
Script: Bob Budiansky
Artwork: Jose Delbo (story) Jeff Anderson (cover)
Rating: Art / Story


Synopsis:

By Adam Hogg

Fortress Maximus' meeting with Grimlock goes badly, especially when he demands they hand over the deserter Goldbug!

High above Earth the crew of the starship Steelhaven watch in horror as Optimus Prime's latest potential body explodes. Goldbug is distraught over this latest set back and Fortress Maximus reluctantly concludes Prime may never live again. Unfortunately the Headmasters don't have the necessary materials to rebuild a body to specification, especially after expending so much of their resources creating the Pretenders (see UK#163). As Goldbug holds up the floppy disc containing what is left of Prime's mind, Brainstorm warns him that even if they could rebuild his body there is no guarantee that Prime will ever recover mentally. Hotrod interrupts with news that they have tracked down the Ark and it is cruising not to far from here. Fort Max orders an immediate intercept course, and is confident that a ship so large must contain facilities to rebuild Prime. He also suggests that Goldbug should be pleased of the chance to be reunited with his former comrades (though the look on Goldbug's face suggests otherwise!)!

Aboard the Ark things are pretty much as they were for the Earth dwelling Autobots (it's been quite a while since we last saw them, see UK#144). Still suffering under Grimlock's tyrannical reign, the job of protecting Earth from the evil Decepticons has taken a back seat, while the Autobot leader sees to more important tasks, like polishing his dino teeth! As the other Dinobots stand around casually, Chief Medical Officer Ratchet pleads for the Ark to be returned to Earth but Grimlock is unmoved. Snarl informs them of the approaching Steelhaven and that the Headmaster Autobots are requesting permission to board. Grimlock is visibly disturbed by this news, but agrees to the meeting and transforms to robot mode, but not before Snarl repositions his Crown perfectly on his head.

Soon, Fort Max and his senior warriors are aboard the Ark and introduced to their reluctant host by Swoop. Grimlock immediately states that the Autobots can have only one leader and Fort Max, assuming he is talking about Optimus Prime, holds up the disc containing his personality (striking a few cords in many of the original Autobots). But Grimlock has some news for 'Fruitloop Multipack' - Optimus Prime was peace loving coward, wasting time and resources protecting worthless humans. Realising that he is far from welcome, an offended Fortress Maximus decides to educate Grimlock. His head detaches and transforming into Cerebros, whose head in turn becomes Spike Witwicky - older brother of the Autobots' friend Buster - and apparently a worthless Human! Grimlock is stunned that fellow Autobots are being led by a human, and even more miffed at the news that Goldbug has since teamed up with Max's crew (Goldbug is a wanted fugitive, see UK#122). Grimlock demands he be turned over immediately and Goldbug agrees hoping that it will unite the two parties. With Goldbug taken into custody by the Dinobots, Grimlock decrees that there shall be no compromise - he and Max will fight for the ultimate right to lead the Autobots! This ancient Autobot tradition is considered barbaric by most and hardly ever cited, but Grimlock is unmoved and so Max returns to the Steelhaven to ponder this challenge.

Meanwhile Goldbug finds himself on his backside after being thrown into a prison cell, and kindly reunited with his old partner in crime Blaster, who is now clamped to the VVH (Variable Voltage Harness - see UK#141). Blaster is pleased to see his old friend and hears how Goldbug gave himself in the hopes of peacefully resolving the battle for the Autobot leadership. Unfortunately it didn't work and the worst thing is that Fortress Maximus has not entirely recovered from his recent injuries (see UK#159) and could lose! Blaster has long since given up on the Autobot cause since Grimlock took charge, and tells Goldbug how he too gave himself up to protect the spacehikers, it was caring for others that has got him into this mess! The other Autobots seem to have forgotten about him ever since, and no one has heard from the spacehikers either. Goldbug has some harsh words for his friend; self-pity is not his style and he should instead be thinking of it as an opportunity to free himself and unite the Autobots. Goldbug suggests that Blaster should challenge Grimlock in Max's place as he is one of the few Autobots who could possibly beat him. If he won't do it for the other Autobots then he should do it to get even with Grimlock.

Later aboard the Steelhaven, Grimlock listens over the monitor as Fortress Maximus reluctantly agrees to the challenge. But Grimlock reveals that there is no longer any need as Blaster has volunteered to fight in his place. Elsewhere, aboard the Decepticon's desert island spacecraft, Soundwave reports to commander Ratbat the interesting situation that is developing with the Autobots. Their guest of honour (ie prisoner) Buster Witwicky listens with a personal interest, while Ratbat sees this as the perfect opportunity to launch a most effective and fuel efficient strike.

Soon the two mighty Autobot spacecraft land touch down on the Moon beside a huge crater. At Grimlock's command every Autobot disembarks the Ark (including many who haven't been functional for a long, long time like Sunstreaker). Fort Max also brings his warriors along with him, just leaving Getaway, Joyrde, and Slapdash aboard Steelhaven to guard Optimus Prime's disc. In the centre of the ring stands Blaster and Grimlock, separated by Omega Supreme who holds up an Energon Cube and reads the rules of combat. They have gathered to witness the trial by combat as stated by Autobot Law. They shall fight until one combatant is no longer operative, and all must hail the victor as supreme ruler of the Autobots. Snarl safeguards an overconfident Grimlock's crown, while Goldbug hands Blaster his fully charged gun. The Energon cube is thrown into the air as the combat is ready to begin..

******

Comments:

Many readers had been asking what happened to all the original characters in recent years (those no longer in the toy range are conveniently side tracked), but this issue sees welcome returns for Brawn, Huffer, Bluestreak and Hound amongst others (although unfortunately they have all been reduced to background appearances).

It's another sorry show from the Autobots in this issue, even worse than before in standing up against Grimlock (what the hell do the rest of them do while Grimlock polishes his teeth?). With that in mind it does seem to suggest that the Autobots are an incredibly honourable race, with Grimlock citing an ancient law that they all reluctantly accept. Also the Autobots are obliged to follow whoever wins the leadership battle, which perhaps explains why Blaster and Goldbug's original desertion was so frowned upon. Not only is the battle uneven since Fortmax is twice the size of Grimlock (the toy is about 10 times larger), but we also have powerful characters like Omega Supreme (who once defeated eight Decepticons including Megatron single-handedly) standing by and taking orders from Grimlock the tyrant. Not the mention the presence of practically every single Autobot in existence also standing around looking helpless. It just seems very hard to believe that 40 to 50 Autobots would take his orders, and equally shocking that Grimlock is being portrayed in this way anyway.

[Steve says] Crespo makes a good point. It seems that all the Autobots are unhappy with Grimlock's leadership and yet not one of them is prepared to mutiny. Never mind the fact that Blaster is being tortured, the Earthlings have been left to the Decepticon's mercy, and they are all being walked over by the Dinobots (just what will it take for someone to do something?). The only way I can see for Grimlock to rule is if he has pacified at least some of the Autobots with ranks and positions so that many are happy to fall into line, but this does not seem to be the case. Why Fortress Maximus is prepared to risk his Autobots falling under Grimlock's rule is unclear either.

While it's nice to see so many original characters this issue there are some that shouldn't be here. Skids for one is still in the Limbo dimension (though not in the US continuity) and in Blaster's flashback, an Autobot that looks suspiciously like Override is included among the Ark crew. In fact this Technobot should be on Steelhaven. For some strange reason Soundwave has been drawn with a mouth instead of his regular face plate. Overall though the postives outweigh the negatives this issue, if only because it ties up loose ends left hanging for too long, and because so many Transformers are featured.

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