Transformers UK: Issue #298
Story 1: Legacy of Unicron (Part 9)
Story 2: Rhythms of Darkness (Part 1)
Back-up strip: GI Joe The Action Force
Cover date: 1st December, 1990
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: Jeff Anderson, Jose Delbo, Stewart Johnson (cover)
Rating: Art / Story
First appearance: Pretender Monsters (Icepick, Bristleback, Scowl, Wildfly, Birdbrain & Slog)
Synopsis:By Omega Steve
Galvatron is feared and hated even by his own warriors, as the Decepticons tour the ruins of New York.
In the year 2009 Earth is a desolate place where once great cities lay in ruins and the Decepticons reign supreme. This is just one of many possible futures - an alternate reality where Unicron succeeded in consuming the Transformers' home planet of Cybertron and the survivors moved their war to Earth. The fight did not go well for the Autobots, especially after the death of Rodimus Prime a mere three years into his leadership, and now isolated pockets of resistance are all that remain.
Decepticon leader Galvatron surfaces outside Manhattan and makes his way on to the ravaged mainland. The scene of devastation, complete with fallen and partially-destroyed skyscrapers is his greatest triumph, his symphony of terror, and Galvatron wants his followers to know this. The Pretender Monsters - Icepick, Bristleback, Scowl, Wildfly, Birdbrain and Slog, trail nervously behind, unsure as to whether their commander has lost his control of his mind. Wildfly comments that the boss is a few diodes short of a circuit board, and puts the entire team at risk when Galvatron hears the whispering and confronts him. He warns the combiners to watch their step, for he could obliterate them without a second thought.
The others are not happy with their loose-tongued comrade and hop to it when ordered to fan out and locate any Autobots or human agitators that may still be lurking in the city. The Pretender Monsters watch Galvatron pulverise a couple of buildings as they slope off and become convinced he is as loony as they come - if only they had the might to challenge him.
It is all a bit Independence Day as we are treated to a nightmare future where the Decepticons have conquered Earth. Like all good disaster movies we get to see New York - the epitome of civilisation, laying in ruins. Furman and Delbo ensure that the message is driven home by devoting a double page spread to the ruined city. If you look closely you'll see the Twin Towers with Rodimus Prime's body suspended between them. This was an unnerving image at the time and no doubt has more significance post-September 2001.
It is interesting that the date of the story is 2009 because every other future epic has always taken place exactly 20 years on from whatever the publication year was. So future stories published in 1986 took place in 2006, then 2007 the next year and so on. This one should be 2010 or 2011 but for one important difference - this isn't a UK future epic it is a US one. It is Furman's first such story for the US audience in fact, and judging by the feedback which has appeared on various message boards and e-groups over the years, it is highly regarded and considered by many as a true classic. The story is ground-breaking in another way in that it is an alternate reality, something which we haven't had in Transformers until this point. This gives the writer a free reign to tear up the continuity book and do what he likes - so we've got a dead Rodimus, a decimated Earth, and Galvatron running rampant.
The presence of Galvatron is understandable - after all he has long been a big character in Furman's UK work and a by-name for epic in the past. He'll also play a significant role in the upcoming storyline so he has to feature, but the reason for the Pretender Monsters is less clear. Certainly any group of Decepticons would have adequately filled the supporting cast role, so you have to conclude that this was the usual Hasbro pressure to introduce new characters which had just come on to the toy market. In fact the same can be said for the newer Autobots who are shoehorned-in during the later instalments of Rhythms.
The Monsters have an interesting dynamic going on there though. The opinion they hold of their illustrious leader is rock-bottom, yet they respect and fear his raw power and to challenge him would be suicidal. At one point the loathing the group has for Galvatron boils to the surface with Wildfly uttering a flippany comment. His team mates quickly put him in check and make it clear that they won't defend him if his big mouth puts the group at risk. Their combining ability is not touched on in any way which is disappointing, especially as it is the Pretender Monster's one and only appearance in the comic.
Fans traditionally slate Delbo's artwork and it isn't the best in places. But save for some ropey panels it is adequate in this reviewer's opinion.