Transformers UK: Issue #302

Story 1: In the National Interest (Part 1)
Story 2: The Human Factor (Part 1)
Back-up strip: GI Joe The Action Force
Cover date: 29th December, 1990
Price: 50p
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: Will Simpson, Dwayne Turner (stories), Stewart Johnson & John Burns (cover)
Rating: Art / Story

First appearance: Rapture, Thunderpunch and Dynamo


Synopsis:

By Omega Steve


Whisper reacts like an angry giant when the human Dynamo unleashes the elements against his team.

In a darkened room inside the corporate headquarters of Blackrock Industries in Washington DC a secret meeting takes place. The billionaire oil baron and longtime Autobot ally, GB Blackrock, briefs two younger guests about events captured in Louisiana the previous day. On screen is footage of a member of the Decepticon Air Strike Patrol being felled by a blast of energy unleashed by a glowing human. The background according to Blackrock, is that a TV news crew had been trailing the team of Decepticon Micromasters in the month following their attack on the MacDill air force base and recording their trail of destruction. This was how they happened to be in the right place to capture unique footage of a mysterious super-powered human giving the Transformers a thrashing.

The Air Strike Patrol had attacked a refinery in Louisiana, either to steal fuel or simply to trash the place, when 'Mister X' a worker there let rip. Somehow he was able to harness and channel the elements around him into a weapon. Stormcloud, seeking revenge for his fallen comrade, had opened fire and the terrified human responded by causing a torrent of lava to erupt from the ground and engulf his attacker. Moments later, with a third Decepticon down, group leader Whisper decided to fight dirty. He hoisted a fuel tanker above his head and threatened to drop it on the heads of the other workers. Blackrock's Mister X became enraged, and with his body glowing, he unleashed a thunder storm complete with lightning bolts which resulted in "Louisiana fried Decepticon".

That wasn't all. His actions caused the petrol tanker to explode and it was a miracle that no-one was killed. Mister X realised his mistake and the look of horror on his face spoke volumes. Blackrock freezes the image on screen. He turns to his listeners, Katrina Vesotzky (codenamed Rapture) and Lee Gruber (aka Thunderpunch), and tells them it is imperative that they track down this mystery man and persuade him to join them. Ever since GB convinced US intelligence that its Rapid Anti-robot Assault Team (RAAT) was achieving more harm than good - ie by attacking soft target Autobots and benefitting the Decepticons, it was disbanded and there have been coordinated human efforts to take the fight to the Transformers. Given Blackrock's history of involvement in the conflict, he has decided to form a team of super-powered mutants called the Neo Knights, and this time they are going to pick their targets more appropriately.

He reiterates to Lee and Katrina the difference between Autobot and Decepticon and tells them that Mister X, for want of his real name, is just like they were - a freak show, in an out of trouble and being eaten away by internal resentment. Blackrock has been there too, certainly on the self pitying stakes. He had his oil rig, aerospace platform and numerous other installations attacked by Decepticons over the years. Finally he tells his two recruits to suit up ready for action. "Why the costumes?" they ask. Blackrock replies "didn't you read comics as a kid" and adds "if you are going to be heroes you have to look the part".

******

Comments:

At first glance I really didn't think I was going to like this story. The inking is awful, it is dark to point of obscuring the pencils, and peppered with blocks of primary colours. Then there is the artwork which looks weird. It is by newcomer Dwayne Turner, who I guess is a stopgap between the outgoing Jose Delbo and British artist Andy Wildman who is joining the US book from its Marvel UK counterpart. But when you actually study it, there is actually much to recommend and I now find myself teetering at the point where I either hate it or love it for being different and original. Turner indulges in fair bit of shading which contributes to the feel of 'darkness', but there is also a healthy amount of expression in the faces. They are not identical as so many other illustrations in comics tend to be. Blackrock in his professorial role appears gaunt but also seasoned and wise for all his years in the game. His character appears to have undergone a painful learning curve and emerged out the other side. Whisper's facial expression accurately conveys the fury of an angry giant - sure he is a Micromaster and therefore a fifth the size of most Decepticons, but still a colossus in human terms and his power is well demonstrated when he hauls a rig above his head. The artist also manages to convey the disbelief and terror of Dynamo, aka Mister X/Hector Dialonzo, as he realises how close he came to having innocent blood on his hands.

Blackrock's character cuts a sharp contrast to his two recruits, who fail to grasp the magnitude of the situation and what it all has to do with them. At one point GB nearly loses his rag but has enough leadership qualities to stay calm. The self-referencing comment at the end, "didn't you read comics", seems a really bizarre thing to say in an actual comic book, but works as an in joke. Thunderpunch's reluctance is understandable because if you were to ask grown adults to put on a spandex costume and go out in public most would not be keen. At the end of the day it is a different kind of tale as this one is all about humans, as the title suggests.

Appearances by Transformers are restricted to TV footage, and while readers will want to see more of them, it does build anticipation for the next instalment. However I suspect that a lot of fans will have largely ignored the plot in their extreme reaction to the artwork and colours.

As a side point this issue also contains one of the most offbeat welcome page blurbs of the entire run. The traditional story teaser is given over to a Christmas Carol-style mini story about Dreadwind being visited by ghosts of the past, present and future (Grimlock, Blaster and a haggered Dreadwind) which persuades him to quit the letters page and hand it over to Blaster! It is as weird as it sounds but probably a fitting send off for a figure who the production team have always loved to send up.

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