Transformers UK: Issue #282
Story 1: Matrix Quest: Kings of the Wild Frontier (Part 1)
Story 2: Shut Up
Back-up strip: GI Joe The Action Force
Cover date: 11th August, 1990
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: Jose Delbo, Staz
Rating: Art / Story
Synopsis:By Omega Steve
The Triggerbots have a run-in with some bad mannered riders.
Stranglehold decides he's had enough of Autobot captivity.
From the untamed wilderness of the planet Cheyne they came. Three Autobot warriors with a purpose and concussion blasters at their side. Backstreet, Override and Dogfight have journeyed to this inhospitable world to scout for the missing Creation Matrix - possibly the only thing that can save Cybertron from the choas bringer Unicron! So far though all they have found is sand and it is starting to invade their optical sensors and hydraulics.
Suddenly the trio are nearly run down by a pack of mean outlaw-like aliens on reptilian horses. They throw a cloud of dust in the Autobots' face and when it clears it becomes apparent that the gang is pursuing a small peasant boy! The child trips on a root and his father comes rushing out of the family farm and to his aid. The pair are obviously in a bad situation and Dogfight orders everyone into battle!
The gangmembers seem uneasy about their ringleader's call to execute the child, but it soon becomes immaterial when Dogfight swoops down in plane mode and deafens them! Backstreet and Override zoom up and sandblast the others before knocking some heads together. Pretty soon the posse are routed and leave warning the Autobots that they are fools and will be dead within days!
Inside the Autobots' base on Earth, Inferno is keeping watch over three sinister Decepticon prisoners. Bludgeon, Stranglehold and Octopunch have been locked away since their capture in issue 274 and haven't said a word in all that time. Inferno finds this unnatural, and unnerving - why don't they shout at their captors or at least talk among themselves? Octopunch grins like he's heard a sick joke and Inferno can't help wondering if its on him. Stranglehold looks a picture of pent up fury and power ready to explode. But it is Bludgeon who disturbs his jailers the most. The rumour is that he is a master of the forbidden martial art Metallikato. Luckily their weapons are securely locked away in the vault.
Inferno shouldn't have spoken so soon because inside the weapons room Bludgeon's sword suddenly comes alive and begins moving, as though it were being mentally controlled by its master. It slices a hole in the door and silently disappears underground. Moments later Stranglehold begins tearing up the floor, and causing Inferno to think he has finally cracked under the pressure. The Autobot deactivates the energy barrier doorway and blasts Stranglehold with the pacify gun. But the grin on Octopunch's face is enough to make Inferno realise that he has played into the prisoners' hands. Sure enough he is immediately speared by Bludgeon's sword. He cries out in pain and staggers over to hit the alarm before passing out. The Decepticons walk away cool as cucumbers. Later commander Grimlock gets the low down from Prowl. Inferno will recover but how the Decepticons escaped is a mystery - according to their victim they did it by being quiet!
After an excruciating 18-week delay the Matrix Quest resumes and the setting for this instalment is a version of the Wild West run by aliens. If the first part, Bird of Prey, was a send-up of the Bogart American detective genre this one does the business on the classic western. The way the three Autobots arrive from the unrelenting desert with a blazing sun behind them is very evocative. Especially coupled with the dialogue and use of repetition - 'they came with a purpose, they came on a mission'. The part about dual phase concussion blasters instead of pistols reminds us that this is still a Transformers story - and gave me a giggle. Triggerbots would make good cowboys I reckon because they are so quick off the draw. In warfare the strong survive and the weak perish, and life is a constant struggle against hardships and enemies. Probably a lot like life on a lawless desert frontier I guess.
Fortunately the story doesn't take itself too seriously and the brave warriors are soon complaining about getting sand in their mechanisms! This serves as a good counter balance to the bravado of the introductory text. The posse of riders fit the mould we have come to expect from bad guys in a western. And their actions in chasing down a defenceless child clearly mark them out as so. But there are hints that all may not be as it seems. To the Autobots this is a clear cut case of right and wrong and the don't hesitate to go into battle on the side of the family. When you read the story as a whole (ie with parts 2-4) you realise that this has some very adult messages. It has to do with good and evil and how it is not always easy to tell which is which, and that even the heroes can be manipulated.
The black and white strip is a little gem of a tale. The three Decepticons don't even need to speak to appear scary. Their appearance obviously helps, but I can't work out why the Autobots let them keep their pretender shells instead of confiscating this 'armour' with their weapons. It is probably for the readers' benefit because most of us wouldn't recognise these characters without their shells. They are almost never seen in robot mode. There is no doubt in my mind that Bludgeon is the mastermind behind their tactics and his psychological warfare is highly effective against Inferno. By not speaking or giving any outward clues as to his thoughts, Inferno's imagination and paranoia runs rampant. He ends up convinced that they are not three helpless Decepticons but are in fact in control and about to do something nasty. As it turns out he was right to think that. I am intrigued by Bludgeon's ability to telekinetically control his sword. I wonder if this is some kind of electronics (remote control) or supernatural, perhaps part of his Metallikato abilities. Why was that banned I wonder?