Transformers UK: Issue #265

Story 1: Blood on the Tracks (Part 1)
Story 2: Once Upon a Time
Back-up strip: GI Joe The Action Force
Cover date: April 14, 1990
Price: 45p
Writer: Michael Higgins, Simon Furman
Artwork: Herbe Trimpe, Andrew Wildman, Gary Gilbert (cover)
Rating: Art / Story


Synopsis:

By Omega Steve


The Autobots have need of Bumblebee's covert skills but he thinks the mission sucks.



While Grimlock defaces a picture of Prime as he retells the story of the Transformers.

The world's first mobile solar/nuclear power station has been created and is being temporarily housed at a military base in Seattle, Washington state. Members of GI Joe are standing guard, and their leader General 'Hawk' Abernathy is escorting an influential senator to the base. Their limo has to run the gauntlet of anti-nuke protestors at the gates, including some mean-looking biker types.

Power Station Alpha resembles a much-wider, compact looking space shuttle, and the oil tycoon and Autobot ally GB Blackrock has invested some of his vast fortune in it. Hawk thinks the plaudits should definitely go to the senator - Barbara Larkin, whose tenacity in driving the project onwards has resulted in a facility which could power the country way into the 21st century. She puts forward a modest front, as politicians often try to do, and some of the guys in suits raise concerns about security. Scarlett, Storm Shadow and company have the situation in hand no matter how rowdy the protests are outside.

Over at the Ark, Optimus Prime has been monitoring the TV coverage about the power plant and fears the Decepticons will try and claim it. He dispatches a reluctant Bumblebee to travel to the base and report back at the first sign of trouble. Prime worries that the threat of Megatron is becoming acute, while Bumblebee just wishes he could have been an Aerialbot and got to go on more exciting missions. Back at the Fort Lewis a boy called Anthony is asked by his mother to hand out protest leaflets, and like Bumblebee he isn't too thrilled by his task either (more from him later). Meanwhile the Dreadnoks are bored with stoking up trouble and decide to cut through the fence and go after the technology themselves.

Moments later Senator Garcia is warning the other suits of the potential for disaster if the technology were to fall into the wrong hands. And sure enough the Dreadnoks come roaring up on their bikes.

******

For reasons unknown Grimlock is telling his Earthforce troops a story. Once upon a time there was a metal planet called Cybertron, where a race of mechanical beings lived. They were the Transformers and they could change their forms into their likenesses of vehicles, weapons and machinery. A mighty civil war broke out between the evil Decepticons and heroic Autobots with Cybertron itself as the prize (Cue a picture of several 'bots getting blown apart).

Leading the Decepticon uprising was Megatron - a cruel, merciless scumbucket, and the story book shows him blasting an opponent to death courtesy of his fusion canon! But the Autobots were saved from defeat by their Optimus Prime who successfully galvanised them into a fighting force. So great was the battle that Cybertron was shaken loose from its orbit and cast into space where it faced destruction at the hands of an asteroid belt. Prime and the Autobots ventured into space aboard the Ark and blasted a safe path for Cybertron, but their efforts left them weakened and it was then that Megatron and his Decepticons attacked. Prime decided to crash the ship into the nearest planet (Earth), thereby taking out his mortal enemies.

Four million years later everyone was reactivated by the ship's computer and the war began anew. At this point the story descends into a series of pictures drawn by a small child depicting Grimlock and Megatron making friends and ending the war. It is very bizarre! Then it is back to reality, inside the ship that serves as Autobot: Earthforce's base in northern Canada. Grimlock his followers if they buy this happy ending and sure enough, no-one looks impressed. So he throws the book out the window and they go out with swords and blasters at the ready, to take the fight to Megatron. Behind them the Autobot Code lays trampled in the snow.

******

Comments:

The comic had been going steadily downhill for several months by this point, but this issue represented a new low. The first and most obvious criticism is that the Matrix Quest has been dropped for a frustrating 16 weeks and replaced with a poor quality Transformers/GI Joe tale.

The reason given on page two is that the UK book (which reprints stories from its American counterpart) has caught up rather quicker than expected and an interlude is necessary. We've had this sort of thing before (see UK #9-21) but it is no less annoying. The main problem with this crossover (other than the plot) is that it doesn't fit the UK continuity. It has got Bumblebee getting blown up by the Joes and being remade into Goldbug - when the UK comic already explained this away by having him destroyed by Death's Head and rebuilt by Wreck-gar. I suppose I'll have to put this one down to an alternative reality, and maybe readers should be thankful that they got a never-before-seen story and not four months of reprints. But it is nevertheless a below-par tale that will drag on far too long, and I wouldn't be too surprised if a few wavering readers dropped off by this point.

Some observations about the story. It occurs around UK #90 after the Aerialbots make their debut and before they are captured by Circuit Breaker and RAAT (Rapid Anti-robot Assault Team) in #UK 92. Prime's death in the video game (see UK #106) is referred to during the crossover and his funeral features. No doubt this is thrown in to entice Joe readers to go out and buy Transformers and find out what happened.

Herbe Trimpe's pencilling is a bit basic and the Michael Higgins dialogue is rather hackneyed. For example you get Prime on page six referring to the enemy as the "evil Decepticons" - as if Bumblebee doesn't know they are evil by now, and the new additions are described as the "mighty Aerialbots" - another unnecessary superlative. This has been done to explain the world of Transformers to any GI Joe fans who are unfamiliar with it, but stands out as a little obvious to TF readers. There are a couple of things that reflect 1980's themes. We've got protesters objecting to nuclear power and senators arguing the pros and cons of the technology. The boy Anthony appears to be there because the writers thought readers would identify with a male child. He doesn't serve much other purpose at this point

So that's TF/GI Joe, but what about the UK Transformers strip? What indeed. To call this story sh*t would be an insult to excrement, which at least has some uses. The story is just utterly pointless and easily the worst I have ever read in a TF comic. When I think of past greats like Target 2006, Dinobot Hunt, Wanted Galvatron etc, it makes me shake my head in dismay. Simon Furman is capable of much better than this, but it's like he's busy writing the US book now so the UK strip can make do with any old crap.

I mean, what actually happens in this story? Grimlock gives us a rehash of events we already know (drawn in Wildman's rubbery cartoon-style) and then it descends into a series of images which look intentionally like they have been drawn by a five-year-old. Is there an idea behind this story? If so could somebody explain it? I'm guessing it is something to do with the Autobot code being soft Grimlock's tougher stance being grown up by comparision but I don't think the metaphor works. After the troops are finished listening to this nonsense, they are told that Wheeljack and Prowl are in big trouble and its time to go. So you have to wonder why they are wasting time with this pathetic distraction. Then off they all trot leaving the Autobot code in the snow, and I noticed that it had 'naff' scribbled on it. Kinda sums up this whole story really.

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