Transformers UK: Issue #253
Story 1: Yesterday's Heroes (Part 2)
Story 2: Shadow of Evil
Back-up strip: GI Joe The Action Force
Cover date: January 20, 1990
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: Jose Delbo, Cam Smith, Stephen Baskerville (cover)
Rating: Art / Story
Synopsis:By Omega Steve
Optimus Prime walks out leaving the Autobots to face a crisis alone.
The future Autobots face leader problems of their own, after Rodimus gets possessed by Unicron!
After the death of their friend Ratchet, Optimus Prime and the Autobot forces on Earth are badly demoralised. It's up to Jazz, Bumblebee and Grimlock to give them new heart! As the story opens the three Pretender Classics are discussing their latest triumph and the forthcoming trip to Earth. Grimlock would rather stay on Cybertron, where there are more Decepticons to bash, but Jazz knows the 'good vibes' they have been generating are most needed elsewhere. If the Decepticons were to conquer Earth and all of its resources it would be a severe blow to Autobot hopes of ever retaking the Transformers homeworld. Moments later Stakeout pulls up and transforms, saying his Rescue Patrol are pleased with their new earthen modes, and looking forward to the trip.
Elsewhere, within the royal palace where Lord Thunderwing holds court, the Decepticon leader is most displeased by the turnaround in the Autobot resistance's fortunes. He summons Bludgeon, Stranglehold and Octopunch to assassinate the upstarts who have given fresh hope to the beleaguered Cybertron Autobots.
Meanwhile the Ark comes to land on the Moon and Optimus storms out, telling his warriors that he has had enough and is off! From now on they'll have to get used to being without him. Everyone is shocked and dismayed, but Hot Rod has a plan to bring Prime back. He introduces Kup to his latest invention: a Mark V Guardian unit. The plan is to make it look like the unit has run amok and the Autobot leader will come to the rescue. All the time Hot Rod will be controlling it remotely. Kup is aghast, pointing out that Mark V Guardians are notoriously unstable, and sure enough the machine comes to life and knocks Kup sideways. Not responding to Hot Rod's commands, it chain guns Highbrow and Cloudburst, and batters Brainstorm. As Prime walks away he starts to hear the thud of Autobot after Autobot being dispatched out of the Ark door! The Guardian identifies Hot Rod's remote control as a threat and eliminates it - slicing off the Autobot's hand in the process! It is about to decaptitate him, when Optimus appears, ordering the Guardian to stop NOW!
Earth, New Year's Day 2009 - possibly the last day the Autobots will ever see! The sky is deathly black and the smouldering bodies of wounded Transformers lay all around. Their would-be executioner is non-other than the Autobot leader Rodiumus Prime! By now it is clear to Kup and the others still standing, that Prime has been possessed by some kind of evil, but they keep their weapons on stun to avoid killing him. It is a potentially fatal mistake as Double-Header and Siren discover to their cost. The Autobots are dropping like flies and Kup can only hope that wherever Prime's mind is, it is fighting back!
The answer to that is that Rodimus is within the dark corner of the Matrix that Unicron inhabits, and is on the run with the chaos bringing stalking him like a dark shadow! Rodimus stumbles and Unicron starts to overwhelm him! In the real world the situation has got so bad that Kup has to give the order he has dreaded from the start - the Autobots must shoot to kill!
The UK strip has a new artist - Cam Smith, who puts shading to good use to give the strip an appropriately apocalyptic feel. The frames featuring the smouldering Getaway and Quickmix are reminiscent of a medieval battlefield, and I also like Kup's dramatic pose at the end (pictured above). But these are the plus points - on the minuses side the proportions are disastrously wrong. Just look at the Rodimus and Siren on the second page for an example. Both of their heads are way too big for their bodies, and Siren looks likes he's just stepped out of a car crusher with those tiny arms and legs! A bit of colour might have masked some of these problems, but in black and you focus more and tend to notice this sort of thing.
That said it is good to have Unicron back in a story, and not threatening to consume Cybertron for once. This attack is on a mental level, and in some ways more disturbing for the Autobot leader. He can't just unleash the Matrix and blow Unicron up. This time he's the enemy within, always fighting to gain control of Rodimus Prime's mind, and continuously having to be kept in check. This must be a considerable strain on Rodimus and explains why he is so knackered in the future story Aspects of Evil.
The Guardian sequence in the main strip gave me a chuckle. It was no doubt supposed to be serious but the sight of one Autobot after another dropping out of the hatch looked slapstick. Hats off to Delbo for his design of the Guardian Mark V. He looked really cool, especially with the scissors and hook hands, you just knew there was going to be trouble. A little known aspect of Hot Rod's character is his engineering abilities. Obviously quite considerable going off this issue. But in the past we have seen him build an eavesdropping device for listening in on Cybertron communications from Nebulos, and famously fixing up Kup in the Transformers Movie. So he is capable of impressive feats when he knuckles down, but these accomplishments tend to get overshadowed by his reputation for impulsiveness. Quite clearly this was one Guardian that required some prior testing!
Looking through the comic I spotted a blunder on page 22. The AtoZ on Scrapper gives his debut appearance as issue 84, when in fact it was much earlier than that, in issue 33. The cover even said 'Creating the Constructions' which should have been a big enough hint. For the record issue 84 contains part 6 of Target 2006 where Sandstorm and Springer first appear. Maybe this confused the 'stubbies'?