Transformers UK: Issue #283
Story 1: Matrix Quest: Kings of the Wild Frontier (Part 2)
Story 2: Manoeuvres
Back-up strip: GI Joe The Action Force
Cover date: 18th August, 1990
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: Jose Delbo, Pete Knifton, Robin Smith (cover)
Rating: Art / Story
Synopsis:By Omega Steve
Creatures that go bump in the night are starting to spook Dogfight.
Octane blunders into an army testing range and straight into trouble.
The Triggerbots Dogfight, Backstreet and Override journeyed to a frontier planet called Cheyne in search of the Creation Matrix but all they have found was trouble! First of all they were nearly run over by a posse of rough riders on reptilian horses and then they were forced to fight the gang to save the lives of a family of poor farmers. With the gang retreating, the head of the family expresses his gratitude and invites the Autobots to come in for a rest and a good wash. They try to politely decline but the farmer is unusually persuasive. As the Transformers enter the family fix each other with conspiratorial looks.
Elsewhere aboard a ship belonging to Decepticon Lord Thunderwing, three other Autobots are equally as welcome but not nearly so comfortable. The first search team - Nightbeat, Hosehead and Siren, had been captured by their enemies during their mission to Pz-Zazz and are now strapped to the mind leach. The device is designed to extract confessions and administer pain if the subject resists. Hosehead short circuits but Nightbeat begins to succumb, and Siren is trying to shutdown when Thunderwing slaps him around the face. Ruckus enters informing his leader that they have arrived at Cheyne and the pair have a short conversation about the missing Matrix. Ruckus thinks they are going to destroy it but his leader has far grander ambitions and wants to be the first Decepticon to possess it.
Back on the planet the Triggerbots have put their feet up and are listening to their hosts explaining how a change of government on their homeworld caused them to flee. When they arrived on Cheyne the locals wanted them out and started spreading stories that they were responsible for a series of mysterious disappearances. Dogfight starts telling them about the Matrix quest and is startled by a strange being which appears at the window. The family reassure him that it was probably a harmless desert creature. Once again the Autobots say they should be leaving but their hosts insist they have a good rest and leave tomorrow.
Work, work, work - it is all Octane seems to do. Every day he fulfils his fuel procurement duties by raiding gas stations and petrol tankers on the open highway. The terror he reaps on the human motorists is a reward in itself but the fact remains that his abilities put him in demand 24-7 and sometimes he gets tired and makes the odd mistake. Today is one of those occasions!
Octane rammed a car off the road and obliterated a barrier, not realising that he was driving straight into a US Army testing range. The next thing he knows, there are shells exploding all around him and he is a sitting duck with 10,000 gallons of fuel on board. One direct hit and he could go up like a fireworks factory! Octane calls in his fellow Decepticon Triple Changers Blitzwing and Astrotrain and pleads with them to save his bacon. Blitzwing outmanoeuvres a missile in his jet mode and transforms into his own tank form to return fire. He gets rammed by another tank and reverts to robot mode only to fall into the crosshairs of other military vehicles. Likewise Astrotrain is having trouble from Commanche attack helicopters and demands the truth from Octane of how he got in this mess.Their fuel-laden friend reveals how he had been playing cat and mouse with the Autobot Jazz and was tricked into following him on to the base. His comrades condemn this stupidity and take to the skies leaving Octane desperately ducking explosions as he makes for the exit. Watching from the safety of a nearby hill Jazz reflects that the Decepticon has got just what he deserved.
This issue's Matrix Quest plods along at a leisurely pace without much going on but leaves the reader sufficiently hopeful of next week's finale. The alien family may seem pleasant enough but already we are seeing signs that they are not what they seem, notably the sly looks they are giving each other behind the Autobot's backs. Add that to the information about them being blamed for local disappearances, and the Autobots starting to feel tired and confused, and it starts looking bad for our heroes. I don't see why evil should necessarily be larger than life or apparent like the Decepticons, and it is a positive thing that the threat in the story is less than obvious (well to the Autobots if not the reader). This lot appear to be patient and deceptive, posing as something they are not and luring their victims into a false sense of security. My only regret is the sly glances from the family, which to me gives the game away. Far better for them to maintain the charade of friendship to the reader as well and go for a twist in the tail when their intentions are finally revealed.
The scene with Thunderwing is significant because we learn of his intentions towards the Matrix and the direction the plot is likely to go. It is very like Simon Furman that having introduced the Unicron threat, the ultimate worst case scenario, he manages to up the tempo even more by having the Matrix turning evil and the Decepticons chasing after it. Truly the Autobots are entering their darkest hour. Looking at the Headmasters plugged up to those machines reminded me of Cliffjumper, Windcharger and Gears, when they were ambushed by Decepticons and captured during a different quest - the Dinobot Hunt. Perhaps that story was in Furman's mind when he came to flesh this one out?
The Octane story is an enjoyable distraction with my favourite bit being where he pulls alongside another fuel truck and attaches a set of tentacles to it! A few years ago Transformers used to have a problem converting fuel into a form they could ingest, but this seems to have gone out the window now. Then again it could be that Octane merely steals petrol and drops it off at the base to be refined, but if this is the case there must be more efficient ways to steal it in bulk. It is quite unusual for a story to be told from a Decepticon point of view (although we saw some of this from Octane in UK#103) so I appreciated this aspect. I felt the Triple Changers were defeated a little too easily by the army and I really can't see why they didn't fly Octane out of there. Sure they might be irritated but at the end of the day he is performing a vital service by collecting all that fuel and this should have necessitated his survival. A nice ending if a little annoying that the story is left in limbo with the reader left to ponder the outcome.