Transformers UK: Issue #285
Story 1: Matrix Quest: Kings of the Wild Frontier (Part 4)
Story 2: External Forces
Back-up strip: GI Joe The Action Force
Cover date: 1st September, 1990
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: Jose Delbo, Pete Knifton/Pete Venters
Rating: Art / Story
Synopsis:By Omega Steve
The Vrobians reveal their true selves... as psychic vampires!
Starscream thinks he has worked out who tried to have him killed.
It is high noon on the planet Cheyne and Thunderwing and his Decepticons arrive in town with business to settle with Dogfight. The Autobot seems not to recognise them, but that hardly matters as they bash him up anyway and demand he surrender the Matrix! Thunderwing soon realises that Dogfight is a few fuses short of a circuit box and clearly under a spell of some kind. In his confused state he has forgotten all about his mission, the Matrix, and his mortal enemies. The Decepticons decide to leave him to this cruel fate and depart in search of new leads.
Once the coast is clear the townsfolk, who only the other day were being routed by Dogfight, try to talk sense into him. They explain that the family of Vrobians who so generously offered to put the Autobots up is not what they seem. They are said to be responsible for dozens of disappearances and Dogfight's comrades Backstreet and Override are in serious danger back at the farm. With the head Vrobian having fled, Dogfight begins to recover his senses and wake up to what must be done.
Minutes later he kicks the door in at the farmhouse and sticks a gun at his host's head - demanding he tell the truth. The family metamorphose into their natural, mosquito like, forms and reveal themselves to be psychic vampires. They would normally feed on a victim's emotions and sensations, until a dry husk is all that is left, but on this occasion more violent tactics will be required! True to his word the head Vrobian snatches a gun and blasts Dogfight into the yard, just as the other Autobots and the family go for their guns. Vrobian dad taunts his prey to give up saying for all their toughness the Autobots' were passive food, easily lulled into a false sense of security by their desire for a quiet life. The Matrix energy that sustains their life would have made a succulent meal he says!
Dogfight ambushes his pursuer and twists the gun barrel, causing the weapon to explode and take the vampire's head off. In the main yard Backstreet and Override reveal have been similarly victorious but have had to slaughter the family in the process. Nobody feels good about it and reflect that if this was a victory they'd have hated to see a defeat.
Last issue Starscream survived a crude assassination attempt organised by the deposed Decepticon leaders Megatron and Shockwave. This convinced him that his co-commander Soundwave was responsible and we now see him blasting a hole in the roof of the Decepticon base ship and confronting his so-called partner. Soundwave typically denies any involvement but as he will shortly be too busy defending himself to explain he activates a recording he made earlier, and his face appears on view screens around the room, while the real Soundwave is busy dodging weapons fire!
Soundwave (recording) states that if Starscream is listening then he must have learned of the price on his head, and has no doubt deduced that his co-leader has ample reason to want him out of the way. But he should ask himself if Soundwave would have made such a sloppy job of it given what Starscream knows of his meticulous methods? The answer is no, so clearly they are being set up to destroy one another! Starscream pauses and accepts the argument, but if Soundwave didn't order his death then who did? The answer doesn't come - but Bludgeon, Stranglehold and Octopunch arrive instead and slice their way into the base to slaughter the leaders.
Nearby we see the Dinobots and Prowl watching events unfold. With any luck, says Grimlock, the Decepticons will destroy each other and do everyone a favour. So Prowl reminds that they need Starscream alive to serve as a donor for the critically ill (and fast rusting) Snarl! As much as they hate to do it they will have to save him from this fate! But suddenly Megatron and Shockwave promising to destroy the Autobots and their treacherous lieutenants to ensure they are once again the Decepticon leaders!
Given the amount of substandard rubbish lately this issue is a welcome relief. In fact it is pretty darn good. The Wild Frontier story is brought to a satisfying if bloody conclusion, which leaves the noble Autobots having to reflect on an unpleasant dilemma. To stay alive they were forced to slaughter a family of weaker beings, whose nature dictated that they had to feed off the emotions of others to survive. The Autobots are once again forced to kill to survive, just like every other day in their war with the Decepticons so it is no wonder they are sick of it, and maybe even sick of themselves. The oasis of calm provided by the Vrobians was a place where their troubles were forgotten, but ultimately it was false and would have led to death. Such is an Autobot's lot in life.
Still what I like best about this story is the way that evil comes in all shapes and sizes, and not just the open and obvious kind represented by the Decepticons. The family pretend to be something they are not and likewise the townsfolk appear evil at the start, then we find out their reasons for wanting the Vrobians out. No doubt the family's shape shifting ability is to make them appear as innocent as possible, but I'd like to think such outward appearances wouldn't have been so important to the Autobots. They would have been just as likely to protect the Vrobian child (see part one) if he was in his natural insect form as they would a humanoid, but there's no question that the transformation at the end into ghastly creatures is a great effect for the human readership!
If last issue's black and white story left fans confused and somewhat underwhelmed then this is just the tonic. Thank Primus there are no assassins on horseback or flying potatoes - just a good-old fashioned scrap between two classic cons and a story with enough twists and turns to fill a racetrack. Starscream thinks Soundwave has tried to have him killed, the Autobots need to keep him alive for the sake of Snarl, and Shockwave and Megatron have team up to plot everyone's destruction. Added to this are Bludgeon and co who are there to mop up the mess. Starscream has always been self-serving and not the greatest thinker so sets about attacking Soundwave in typical fashion: by shooting first and asking questions later. Soundwave is a shrewd thinker and no stranger to betrayal, and consequently has anticipated events enough to prepare (Blue Peter style) a tape for use later. This is vintage Starscream and Soundwave and good to see the two characters portrayed in the way fans have come to know and love.
I also enjoyed Prowl's thought bubble with a brick in it, when he's despairing at Grimlock's ignorance!