Transformers UK: Issue #286

Story 1: Matrix Quest: Deadly Obsession (Part 1)
Story 2: The Lesser Evil
Back-up strip: GI Joe The Action Force
Cover date: 8th September, 1990
Price: 45p
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: Jose Delbo, John Marshall, Andy Wildman (cover)
Rating: Art / Story

First appearance: The Klud


Synopsis:

By Omega Steve


Longtooth flips and develops a deadly obsession with whale hunting!

The ocean world of Pequod is the setting for the third instalment of the Matrix Quest. Our scene opens in dramatic fashion as a sea vessel carrying the Pretender Longtooth bears down a huge whale with murderous intent. This normally amiable Autobot lost a leg to the beast and became delerious and obsessed with hunting down and destroying the creature!

As his fellow Autobots, Pincher and Doubleheader, race to the scene in a shuttle, we see Longtooth hobble to the edge of a gangplank on his prosthetic and prepare to spear the creature with a harpoon! The story rewinds by a few minutes, and we see Pincher imploring Doubleheader to step on the gas and get them there faster. The two-headed Autobot is for once in agreement with himself and warns that their sensors are bouncing off the ocean. They are litterally flying blind and could crash if they attempt more speed. Pincher thinks it is a risk worth taking to save Longtooth from committing a terrible crime he'll always regret, and destroying the first decent clue they've had to the whereabouts of the Matrix.

Another flashback - this time to their departure from the Ark a fortnight ago, sees the trio in better spirits speaking to Emirate Xarron on the view-screen. The Autobot resistence chief reiterates the threat to the Transformers' homeworld posed by Unicron, and tells them that only the Matrix can stop this planet eater! The team scoured their designated sector for for days until they reached Pequod and the floating city of Gottlieb.

******

The Brit strip begins with Grimlock and his Earthforce troops getting pulverised by Megatron and Shockwave! These two had joined forces to overthrow Starscream and Soundwave for leadership of the Earthbound Decepticons and the Autobots got in the way! Fighting them is a horrible enough prospect for Grimlock, but to risk the lives of his troops to save a sworn enemy like Starscream is something else! Unfortunately the Decepticon jet is the only one who can save Snarl from rusting to death by donating the parts he needs - so he has to be spared. Sludge and Swoop go to him and Soundwave fend off Bludgeon, Octopunch and Stranglehold, while the other Earthforcers fight for their lives in the swamps outside.

Grimlock taunts Megatron and distracts him long enough for Slag to charge and unleash a volley of fire. Shockwave tries to avenge the move and receives Grimlock's energo sword in his chest for good measure. With Sludge and Swoop helping, Soundwave and Starscream are also able to win their battle and soon the enemies are retreating. Starscream agrees to help Snarl on the understanding that the Autobots will help him stay in power should Megatron and Shockwave come back. Grimlock isn't happy with the arrangement but at least the lesser evil is in charge, he thinks. Starscream, naturally, doesn't quite see it that way and is determined to be worse than what came before!

******

Comments:

Fun fact: The inking on this issue's US strip is by Brit-regular Dan Reed. Andy Wildman took a break from pencilling an upcoming US issue to do the cover.

Anyone reading the synopsis for 'Deadly Obsession' and thinking it sounds familiar would be right. Furman has basically lifted the plot of Herman Melville's classic 'Moby Dick' and transplanted it into the comic. The sailor Captain Ahab, who lost a leg in a whale attack, then obsessed with killing the creature, has been replaced with the Pretender Longtooth. But whereas Ahab's grievance is understandable (after all losing a limb is no small potatoes) it is hard to see why a Transformer would get so upset - especially when they can be repaired easily. And Longtooth's behaviour becomes all the more puzzling when you consider that he is prepared to violate sacred Autobot principles, such as killing an innocent creature who attacked out of instinct. The most obvious explanation is that the attack damaged Longtooth's programming in some way and caused him to react uncharacteristically.

Moby Dick as literary students will know, is a timeless tale of a man's quest for revenge, which ultimately ends up costing him his life and those of his crew aboard the sailing ship The Pequod. Longtooth's potential tragedy is that he could wind up committing a heinous crime and destroy a clue to the whereabouts of the Matrix. In Furman's parody, Pequod is now a planet, Moby Dick is The Klud, and the immortal opening line "Call me Ismail" becomes "Call me Longtooth" - which arguably doesn't have the same ring to it! The name Gottlieb sounds like it could be significant and the narration sounds very 19th century, complimented with a scroll effect in place of the usual text boxes.

Is it a bad thing for a Transformers story to copy an established text to this extent? It is debatable but in my view not a major deal. The other instalments of Matrix Quest are littered with references to popular culture - such as the Maltese Falcon film and Raymond Chandler novels, the Wild West and even the movie Aliens. Furman may have thought that a lot of TF fans wouldn't have read Moby Dick anyway, and at the end of the day the worst that can happen is that a new audience is introduced to the novel.

I like the futuristic design of Longtooth's boat, and the Autobot shuttle which resembles Jetfire on skis (what are the skis for I wonder?), and overall the art is pretty good. It looks slightly different to previous Delbo work and might be due to a different inker. Meanwhile the character of Doubleheader - whose split personalities argue with each other, has a lot of comedic potential, so it's a shame we don't see more of him after this four parter.

I am not so keen on the artwork in the Brit strip as some of the action sequences look confusing. There are large chunks of white space to denote blows or explosions, which I don't care for - but the inking is good and in certain frames Megatron, Grimlock and Slag have been drawn quite well. My beef with it is that the Dinobots seem suddenly capable of defeating Megatron and Shockwave. Both Decepticons have beaten the team single-handed in previous encounters and this time they are fighting together. Not to mention the fact that Bludgeon and his Mayhems are backing them up. Incidentally the storyline about Snarl dying from Corrodia Gravis is also dealt with in 1990's Transformers Annual.

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