Transformers UK: Issue #249
Story 1: Skin Deep (Part 1)
Story 2: Whose Lifeforce is it Anyway?
Back-up strip: GI Joe The Action Force
Cover date: December 23, 1989
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: Jose Delbo/Staz (story) Mario Capaldi (cover)
Rating: Art / Story
First appearance: Longtooth, Doubleheader, Pincher
Synopsis:By Omega Steve
Grimlock is back and wastes no time laying into Megatron...
And Longtooth fears that his dark secret will be revealed.
Inert, deactivated - call it what you like. As far Grimlock is concerned he was dead and the thought of his own mortality scares him. He reacts with savage fury by attacking Megatron and slamming him against the roof of his Cybertron fortress. But just like past battles, Megatron is too strong and sends the Dinobot flying with a series of blows. Ratchet may have resurrected three Autobots using the prototype pretender shells (last issue), but it won't be enough to stop Megatron! Luckily he has also thrown a spanner in the works where the fourth shell, containing Starscream, is concerned, but we will learn about that later.
Bumblebee steps out of his new shell, realises he is no longer Goldbug, and then fires two slugs into Megatron's chest. Ratchet says he always preferred the Bumblebee design and that is the reason for the switch, meantime Jazz is learning that his pretender shell can respond to his mental commands, and uses it to help him fight the Sports Car Patrol. But millions of miles away on Earth Starscream is beginning his assault on Optimus Prime and Scorponok.
Still more Cybertron action in the black and white strip! The story opens with the Autobot Pretender, Longtooth, charging the entrance to a Decepticon prison camp with guns blazing. His team mates Doubleheader and Pincher despair at their friend's recklessness but admire his guts all the same. Longtooth's robot component ejects from the shell, transforms into his armoured vehicle mode and destroys a wall-mounted cannon. This allows the trio to break in and rescue their imprisoned comrades.
Some time later, at Autobase, Longtooth takes fright when told by his companions that Emirate Xaaron has a mission for them and it has to do with the Creation Matrix. The others are puzzled but little do they know Longtooth's secret, and the source of his great shame. Many centuries ago he had been in the thick of a furious battle when a close friend took a hit. Longtooth worked frantically to repair him, partly out of compassion, but also out of his own selfish fear of being alone. Suddenly Optimus Prime had appeared and commended this example of the 'Autobot spirit' that refuses to give up even in the face of overwhelming odds. At considerable effort and pain, Prime had extracted a fragment of the Matrix and gave it to Longtooth as a gift, the chance to grant life! To his undying shame he used it to cure his cowardice rather than to save his fallen comrade. The wounded Autobot survived but no thanks to Longtooth.
Back to the present day, and Longtooth is fearful that he has been found out. Luckily Xaaron's mission for them is of a different nature: they are to join a search effort to find the missing Creation Matrix! Lost in thought, Longtooth stumbles up a group of Autobots gathered around the dead body of a fallen comrade and paying tribute to him - a hero who sacrificed himself for them all. The shame is too much and Longtooth decides he must give the Matrix fragment up, even if it makes him afraid again. He puts it in a pod and blasts it off to the Ark, hoping Prime can use it to revive one of his fallen warriors. Longtooth can never undo what has been done, but this is a start and now he can rejoin the struggle reborn!
It is great to see Grimlock, Jazz and Bumblebee back in action after an absence of many months. Lately we've had an onslaught of new characters from Pretenders to Micromasters, Headmasters, and any other kind of master you can think of! So it is a relief that the toy makers Hasbro and the comic writers are starting to travel circle and get back to the grand old characters, which to many fans are the backbone of Transformers. Grimlock get stuck into Megatron with the usual outcome, but you've got to commend him on his bravery and not giving up. My only beef is that Grimlock dwarfs Megs in the drawings and this contradicts most previous encounters. Bumblebee is able to blast a couple of holes in their opponent which doesn't seem that likely to me - Pretender or not he is supposed to be one of the weakest Autobots. It is a shame we don't see any more of Starscream battling Scorponok's crew and Optimus on Earth, but the comic runs out of space. This is one of the weaknesses of the three story format, that it can take ages to progress a story significantly. Not always, but often enough.
Nice to see a return of the Transformers AtoZ feature (on page 8). I always liked these but Red Alert, who is one of the subjects this time, is listed as making his first appearance in issue #200. He actually featured a long while before that in issue 15 during Simon Furman's debut story, The Enemy Within. As discussed before I think his inclusion in that story was a mistake because he was never part of the original Earth crew and didn't feature in any of the stories before or after, until issue 200 anyway, and that was set in the future.
Some might say we have enough Pretenders already, especially with the classics now as well, but three more debut this issue - Longtooth, Double Header and Pincher. They are the Autobot counterparts to Stranglehold, Octopunch and Bludgeon, who have been around a while. It is a nice little tale, focusing on one of the new characters and allowing us to get to know him and see a bit of his history. Longtooth is capable of great courage to the point of recklessness, as we see at the start, but he is harbouring a guilty secret. Prime gave him a piece of the Matrix to use to cure his fallen comrade but Longtooth kept it for himself and it banished his fears. The irony is that his bravery is probably nothing to do with the Matrix, and having the fragment only unlocked what was always there. Longtooth's secret has been cutting him up for over four million years, a long time in anyone's book, so it is a wonder he hasn't dealt with it before now. Interestingly, he is already a Pretender when he encounters Prime aeons ago, meaning the technology has been around much longer than we realised. I always thought Scorponok had invented it recently. The story ties in nice with the upcoming Matrix Quest story.