Transformers UK: Issue #310
Story 1: The Price of Life (Part 2)
Back-up strip: Machine Man
Cover date: 16th March, 1991
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: Stewart Johnson and Robin Boutrell (cover), Andrew Wildman
Rating: Art / Story
Synopsis:By Omega Steve
Can Prime bring himself to destroy his old friend Ratchet?
The Ark is just six minutes away from Earth orbit and a monster is loose on board. Optimus Prime, flanked by Highbrow, Getaway and Siren, finds security chief Kup crouching over an injured Sureshot. Prime asks what happened and Kup lets rip, accusing him of endangering everyone by refusing to destroy the Megatron-Ratchet hybrid creature (see last issue). Sureshot got in its way and paid the price, and if it succeeds in tearing up the engine room they could slam into the Earth when they arrive! All of the Autobots could die! Not only that, says Kup, there are a lot of Autobots who are deeply unhappy about Prime's decision to offer the Decepticons their surrender when they arrive on Earth. One more 'weak move' and Kup will be forced to invoke the 'crisis act' and relieve Optimus of command!
The look on his followers' face plates confirms everything Kup says, and accepts a weapon offered to him goes into the engine room to finish the creature. The Micromaster medic, Fixit, tends to Sureshot's wounds, while the injured Autobot questions whether they should have forced Prime to kill it. After all Ratchet is a comrade and he sacrificed himself to save them (see issue UK#251). Kup agrees but points out that the creature has to be stopped before it causes a catastrophe and to do otherwise would make Ratchet's sacrifice meaningless. Aside from that, who would want to live as part of the most evil Decepticon ever created?
Inside the chamber, Megatron-Ratchet throws machinery at Prime which he easily bats aside. He blasts its fusion cannon to bits and reigns down blow after blow - telling himself to be strong, resolute... and merciless? Prime has his finger on the trigger, and the creature begs to be put out of its misery too, but there must be another option.
On the planet known as Hydrus Four, Grimlock is also learning about the price of life after tangling with Nucleon-mutated creatures. He journeys across a pink sea (with his fallen Dinobot comrades on a raft) in search of the unstable energy source that could revive them. Grimlock is mindful of all the warnings of Nucleon side effects and starts to entertain doubt for the first time. He doesn't have long to mull though, as he is attacked by robotic fish and forced to destroy them. At last he makes it ashore and is greeted by cherubic robot who is another 'victim' of Nucleon and now warns others about it. He was once terminally ill from a wasting disease until his friends exposed him to Nucleon. The sweet release of death was denied to him and now he is eaten away a circuit at a time. But the Dinobot leader has not come this far to turn back. He tests the Nucleon liquid on himself... and it feels great!
Back on the Ark, Megatron-Ratchet has been incapacitated and moved to Fixit's repair bay. The medic informs Prime that a separation is possible, but their circuits are now so intrinsically linked that Ratchet might not survive unless Megatron is repaired too! Prime has another unpopular decision to make, but his friend is more important than his position and he gives the command, 'do it'. Kup and the others look stern.
It's another excellent instalment from Mr Furman. The Ark is in danger (nothing new there) but the nature of the threat is very different from the norm. It makes a nice change to the usual Autobot/Decepticon dynamic and I actually prefer stories that deal with internal tensions in either camp. They tell you the most about the characters and individual motivations, because it is not a case of everyone pulling together to defeat a third party. For a prime example (pardon the pun) see Crisis of Command part 1 (UK #42) which deals with the Decepticons' reactions to being leaderless and Autobot doubts about Optimus Prime's fitness to command. It is a situation that seems strangely familiar you might say.
The most interesting aspect for me is how this threat highlights Prime's personal qualities of mercy, compassion and duty. These have served him well in the past and are the reason why he is so respected. But times have changed and ironically it is these qualities that now threaten to bring him down. A tougher commander might have ordered the destruction of Megatron-Ratchet because lives were in danger, and they have a chance to rid themselves of Megatron once and for all. They face unprecedented danger from space and a tougher commander would be preparing to fight, not surrender to their mortal enemies, the Decepticons.
It is Prime's sense of duty, both to his old friend Ratchet, Cybertron and the wider good, that has led him to make these tough decisions. He is gambling that a peace gesture can reunite Autobot and Decepticon factions and create a unified force to battle Unicron. Perhaps the problem is that he has not communicated his strategy effectively enough to his followers. Blind faith in the chain of command is being eroded by these exceptional decisions and Prime's position looks precarious.
I don't see why Fixit has to rebuild Megatron good-as-new, with fusion cannon in tact, for Ratchet to survive! This was simply a useful plot device by Furman to crank up the pressure on Prime and achieve the objective of returning Megatron, active, to the storyline. Another way of doing it would be to have his resurrection a condition of the deal with Scorponok, after all they could use a warrior of his calibre against Unicron.
The only part aspect of this issue I found a bit boring were the scenes with Grimlock on Hydrus Four. In a weaker story they would be okay, but here they just distract the reader from the far more interesting events going on aboard the Ark.