Transformers UK: Issue #261

Story 1: Primal Scream (Part 3)
Story 2: Starting Over
Back-up strip: GI Joe The Action Force
Cover date: March 17, 1990
Price: 45p
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: Geoff Senior, Staz, Stephen Baskerville (cover)
Rating: Art / Story


Synopsis:

By Omega Steve


Bludgeon is left fuming by Bumblebee's hit and run tactics!



While Prowl is as surprised as the readers to see Megatron.

Deep below the surface of Cybertron, Jazz, Bumblebee and Grimlock, in their new Pretender modes, are fighting for their lives against the Mayhem Attack Squad. As if that wasn't bad enough they are in the presence of their dormant god, Primus, who must not be awoken at any cost.

Bumblebee's first thought when confronted with the Decepticons in this situation was that death was inevitable. But he snaps to his senses and organises a counter attack - first by ramming Bludgeon, and then handing over to Seawatch who fires a magnetic harpoon (while in speedboat mode) and drags the enemy away water-ski style. Octopunch sees this an is momentarily distracted - long enough for Grimlock to headbutt him in the face and for Red Hot and Stakeout to trip him up and send him plummeting over a verge. The last remaining Decepticon, Stranglehold, transforms to rhino mode and charges at Jazz, but the Autobot jumps out of the way at the last moment making a collision with the wall unavoidable.

The Autobots congratulate themselves on a job well done (especially as Primus has stayed asleep throughout) and don't see Octopunch emerge from his damaged shell and take aim. He fires a rocket at Grimlock which bounces off the Dinobot's armour plating and ricochets into the brow of Primus' nose! The gigantic face is shocked into waking and lets out a thunderous scream that causes the Transformers to fall to the ground holding their audio receptors!

At that moment the technicians back at Autobase complete repairs on the space bridge equipment and complete the sequence - instantaneously transporting everyone to Earth. Grimlock thinks they should waste no time in warning the other Autobots about the threat of Unicron - but Bumblebee is optimistic that no-one could have heard that scream apart from them. However light years away in space the chaos-bringer Unicron pauses - and turns in the direction of Cybertron! Having just consumed a world he is eager to feed again!

******

Prowl and Wheeljack have been sent to the Arizona desert to check out reports of Decepticon activity. As they approach they discuss how things have changed during their long deactivation. In the good old days an Autobot used to know what to expect from his enemy. But now they could run into Pretender opponents, Headmasters, Powermasters, Targetmasters and even Double Targetmasters! It is hard to keep up!

Soon the Autobots are wishing they had kept their mouths shut when they are ambushed by two Constructicons, Longhaul and Mixmaster! There is no time for a touching reunion between old foes, as the Decepticons quickly open fire on the spies. Wheeljack transforms into his sports car mode and runs down Longhaul before charging at Mixmaster. The Decepticon leaps to avoid the attack and collides with Prowl's fist! It is a fine example of teamwork! The next objective will be to scale a small mountain and spoil whatever dastardly scheme is being hatched up there. They climb up and are seized by Megatron who places them under armed Stunticon guard. They are just in time to witness the launch of a missile which will detonate in the atmosphere and trigger a devastating global warming effect. It will create environmental chaos for Earth's inhabitants but an inexhaustable supply of energon for the Decepticons!

Prowl and Wheeljack whisper to each other that they have to do something. They face impossible odds and certain death - but hey, isn't it just like the good old days? They grin and then attack their guards before launching themselves at Megatron!

******

Comments:

A reasonably good couple of stories here - with Primal Scream being the better one. But raising some major questions about continuity. Unlike the US series, the UK comics accepted Transformers Movie into its canon - and stories like Target 2006, Wanted Galvatron and the Legacy of Unicron were woven around it. So for the last 150 or so issues to make sense the Movie has to happen. But by having Unicron show up in 1991 (15 years ahead of the movie) scatters those stories to the wind. At the very least some inventive use of time travelling and alternate realities is needed to unravel the mess. Essentially for the Movie events to have happened Octopunch couldn't have woken Primus. The fact he does means that the timeline has somehow changed and has skewed in a different direction, where Unicron arrives early. How does this happen? Is it a consequence of Galvatron's time travelling or something to do with the fallout from Time Wars. I am curious to know - because it looks like the writer has put two fingers up to the movie, declared all bets off, and embarked on a radical new direction with no explanation.

What could be the reason for this? Well we did hear at the end of the comic's run that it had been dogged by the problem of readers growing up, and deciding they were too old to carry on collecting. I suspect that Furman and the editorial team decided a darker, maturer course was the best way to stem the rot. In fact it could even attract new readers and ensure everyone's jobs. During the time of Bob Budiansky (Simon's predecessor as writer) Transformers were the hottest new toy, backed up by a successful cartoon, and he had a lot of leeway. He could run self-contained 'nice' stories with Transformers interacting with humans (think Skids and Charlene) but times have changed and the comic is changing. At least there are signs of effort being made on the US strip, unlike the its poor relation on these shores by that point.

On the subject of the black and white strips... this week's offering is interesting enough, pacey with snappy dialogue, and showcasing older characters we haven't seen for a while. I can sympathise with the sentiments about all the gimmicky new Transformers voice by Prowl. I imagine the waves of new characters have been a headache for the editorial team too. But the story just reaches the most exciting part and it ends. We are to assume that Prowl and Wheeljack somehow defeat Megatron and destroy the rocket, before escaping alive. It would have been nice to see it though, and this again reflects the limitation of the five-page back-up story format. Another problem I have is that I cannot work out where this is supposed to fit in the overall continuity. How can Megatron be in it when he was last seen disappearing through an exploding portal with Ratchet? He will later show up fused with the medic and after that his movements are all accounted for in the US comic. So there's no opportunity for him to be on Earth at this point or in the near future hatching this scheme. Likewise Soundwave is supposed to be working for Scorponok now so what's he doing there? The UK stories have always paid attention to what the American strip was doing and tried to avoid conflicts. But it looks like the old dilligence has now gone out of the window.

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