Transformers UK: Issue #181

Story: The Big Broadcast of 2006 (Part 2)
Back-up strip: Action Force
Cover date: September 3rd, 1988
Price: 35p
Script: Ralph Macchio
Artwork: Allan Kupperberg (story) Lee Sullivan (cover)
UK bits: Simon Furman/Lee Sullivan
Rating: Art / Story


Synopsis:

By Adam Hogg

Dodgy dialog, poor characterisation and a crap plot feature heavily in the Big Broadcast.

As Starscream famously said in Transformers: The Movie: "Oh how it pains me to do this." That's what I was thinking as I sat down to review this because it's one of the worst issues of the entire series. Starscream was of course talking about throwing a battered Megatron out of the airlock, but believe me if you've read this story you'd see why it wants throwing into space too! The story has been adapted from one of the episodes of the cartoon which normally I'm a fan of. But this particular one is one of the worst. It's not THE worst, that accolade I reserve for the entitled 'Carnage in C-Minor' but I digress.

The background to this story is that the people behind the US comic (having taken leave of their senses) decided to take a break from their normally high standard stories and make things easy on themselves. Rather than coming up with an original story they decided to cannibalise one from the cartoons, and by choosing a post Movie episode they were able to feature the likes of Rodimus Prime, Galvatron and Ultra Magnus in the comic for the first time. Some US fans might have been pleased about that but those who watched the cartoons AND bought the comics probably felt a tad ripped off.

Over in the UK the production team obviously faced a dilemma. They had always slavishly reprinted the US stories and built their own continuity around it. But unlike America the UK comic regularly featured the future Autobots and Decepticons and this instalment did not fit with any of the other stories. The simple answer would have been to skip this one, but for whatever reason (contractual or otherwise) they chose to print it anyway and explain it away as a story being told by Wreck-Gar to trick his Quintesson-employed torturer. There have been cartoon adaptations in the past including Decepticon Dambusters and the Movie adaptation but this is the worst. Anyway here's what happens...

Picking up from last issue, we see Superion falling towards the Planet of Junk after being repulsed by the Quintessons (and this script!). Skylynx swoops down to retrieve him and sets off back to Cybertron. Meanwhile Wreck-Gar and his Queen (!) are watching TV and absorbing the subliminal messages given off by the Quintessons' canister. Rather than becoming violent as they were supposed to, they adopt a share and care attitude and decide to broadcast the messages to the wider galaxy. It's clear that the canister must have malfunctioned in the Junkion case but not for the numerous world who receive the programmes and start to attack one another. A planet of cat people attacks its K9 neighbours (daft) and the Earth embassy on Cygnus Seven is swamped by an alien lynch mob (the writers obviously thought there'd be humans living on other worlds by 2006). Galvatron also picks up the message via his bubbling pool and sets off for Junk to be closer to the signal.

Before long Junk is under attack from ships of every conceivable configuration and the Junkions are forced to defend themselves. The Quintessons hadn't expected the unfolding chaos but think they can use it as a cover to retrieve their canister. Meanwhile Omega Supreme has detected the melee and starts to destroy the attacking ships. Rodimus arrives on Junk and battles Galvatron, and a stray blast blows the canister out of the Quintesson tractor beam and off into space.

Blaster and Ultra Magnus come up with a plan to counteract the hypnotic messages and call Omega Supreme for assistance. Blaster rather cringingly says "Hey dude I need altitude", which no doubt horrified his army of comic fans. Omega soars over the battlefield holding the cassette deck Blaster and playing music. The spell is broken and Galvatron destroys the antenna before scarpering with Cyclonus and Scourge in tow. The Quintessons are left to scour the galaxy for their missing canister before anyone else finds it.

Back in the real world the torturer is satisfied he's extracted another confession, while Wreck-Gar (still harnessed to the wall with his moustache on fire) looks on. A Quintesson enters the chamber and tells the torturer he's just fallen for a story that's full of absurdities and contradictions (I second that) and sentences him to death (are you listening Ralph Macchio?)!

******

Comments:

What more can I say about this bucket of bolts that I haven't already? Probably a lot actually! The first thing is how woefully out of place the story is. Just look at the rest of the material from '88 (or any other year for that matter) and you'll see ample evidence of intelligent writing, well thought-out plots and a fair stab at characterisation. The characters in this two parter are flat as cardboard with the exception of Wreck-Gar and the torturer (and they are in the add-on bit rather than the main story!).

The second is that it throws up so many nitpicks. Wreck-Gar and his girlfriend sitting on their thrones watching excersize videos is naff. The dialogue is terrible, notably between Blaster and Omega Supreme, and the Rodimus-Galvatron battle is flat compared to the gritty showdown in UK#120. We have flying Autobots, cat and dog people, and Galvatron being hypnotised by a pool of water! The part about Earth having an embassy on Cygnus 7 (wherever that is) is an unlikely development for only 18 years in the future, and I could also mention Cyclonus and Scourge following their leader around and getting scared when he leaves without them. That is the stuff of the playground. A final point: I thought the Planet of Junk was a collection of rubbish in space, but here it is a spherical world? The UK editors must have feared a deluge of letters regarding this issue's story, because they took the unusual step of running a blurb on p2 asking everyone to read p14 before writing in!

The artwork is poor apart from the two pages of UK story drawn by Lee Sullivan. Now I've complained about Sullivan's style in the past, but alongside this it looks way superior.

The scenes with Wreck-Gar and the torturer are the best bits and it would have made more sense to run a couple of pages of this and go straight into Space Pirates, bypassing Big Broadcast altogether. Certainly, the way the two-parter is dismissed as a figment of imagination, leaves you wondering what the point was.

Interesting this story was not written by Bob Budiansky, but instead by Ralph Macchio who we haven't seen since the start of the series. It may be that Bob was away and the editors thought it would be easier to adapt a TV episode rather than ask someone else to pick up Bob's storylines. Whatever the reason I'm glad this was a one off. After four years of the comic, including some great stories, fans had come to expect a lot better than this.

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