Transformers UK: Issue #311
Story: Surrender (Part 1)
Back-up strip: Machine Man
Cover date: 30th March, 1991
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: Robin Boutrell (cover) Andrew Wildman (cover and story)
Rating: Art / Story
Synopsis:By Omega Steve
Scorponok basks in the glory as Optimus Prime and the Autobots surrender!
On Cybertron four million plus years ago the Autobots are in the trenches and under heavy Decepticon fire. A soldier tells Optimus Prime that the battle to save Iacon from the invaders is lost, and surrender is their only option. Prime asks that the white flag be brought out. Then he commands the soldier to bind his wounds with it, before ordering everyone over the top into a charge and shouting 'no surrender'.
A jump forward to the present day (1991 actually) sees an Autobot shuttle land in the New Jersey swamps and Optimus Prime step out into the rain. He descends on one knee and surrenders his Autobot badge to Decepticon leader Scorponok. For the Autobots the war is over and neither Scorponok, nor his amazed followers, can believe their luck!
The Decepticons delight in unburdening the Autobots of their weapons and Pretender shells before leading them to cells in the underground base. There is a brief incident where Kup lashes out at the gloating Apeface, but Prime steps in to implore his security chief not to resist. If they are to meet the threat of Unicron they must unite as a race and that means making this difficult first step. Even so, Prime is worried that Scorponok might renege on the deal and reminds him of the impending danger. Scorpy is well aware of events, having been briefed by his new Pretender recruits, Bludgeon, Octopunch, and Stranglehold (who played a part in waking Primus and alerting Unicron to his location).
As Prime is marched away at gunpoint, Scorponok can barely conceal his satisfaction. His grip on power has weakened in recent months, to the point where Mindwipe and Triggerhappy openly defied him by defecting recently. The Autobots' surrender has replaced rebellious thoughts with smiles and congratulations. His head module detaches and transforms into Lord Zarak, a conniving being to be sure, who wonders if he should betray Prime. After all where is the proof that Unicron exists anyway?
Three thousand miles away off the coast of Blackpool, a leadership coup is being plotted. Shockwave has constructed a new base on the seabed and recruited Starscream, Ravage, the Battlechargers, plus Mindwipe and Triggerhappy. Word has reached him of the Autobots' surrender and clearly the time to attack is now, before Scorponok's authority recovers. Mindwipe thinks it is lunacy for the seven of them to take on an entire army and he wants no part of it. Starscream raises a fist (and gun attachment) and points out that they have been privy to much sensitive information: if they want out that's fine, but they go 'feet first'! This helps to dispel doubts and the plot is hatched.
Back at the Decepticon base Prime is pacing the floor of his cell and wondering if he has made a colossal error in trusting Scorponok. He asks his guard, Soundwave, how much longer before talks can begin and is told the Decepticon leader is busy. Prime starts to panic, because for all he knows Unicron could already have reached Cybertron. Perhaps Armageddon has begun.
Simon Furman is really taking the comic into new territory with this story. We are used to seeing skirmishes and all out battles between the sides, but the idea that one could end the war by surrendering to the other has never been explored. It is a massive gamble because the last time the Autobots were totally at the mercy of their enemy was UK#22, when Shockwave defeated them, and used them as spare parts.
I am fascinated to know what would have happened if Unicron had not been a factor and one side had simply run out of resources and had to quit. Would the Decepticons have executed their captives rather than wasting time and energy jailing them? Or the other way around, would the Autobots put the Decepticons on trial for war crimes? Wouldn't that leave them open to charges of criminality as well? For that matter could either side exist without an enemy to give their lives purpose?
One shocking aspect of the surrender is the very public way that Optimus Prime is humiliated. He has to get down on one near and cower to Scorponok while the Decepticon leader raises his pinchers in triumph. Lesser beings would have rather died than injured this treatment, and is really is a testament to the selflessness and overriding sense of duty, of Optimus Prime. It is also very reckless, because Scorponok could shoot all of them and then abandon Cybertron to its fate, after all he is Lord Zarak (an alien) in addition to being a Decepticon. This probably why Prime warns of Unicron hunting down the 'children of Primus' as his secondary objective, behind destroying Cybertron.
Other points of note: the rainy weather really helps to illustrate the bleak situation the Autobots are in. The 'human' temptation of Lord Zarak to betray Prime and bask in his newly won popularity is repugnant but understandable. Shockwave and company holed up off the coast of Blackpool, England (a tacky seaside spot for non UK readers) - bizarre but kind of funny! Shocks' return is alluded to in this issue - remember he was last seen by American audiences getting caught in Earth's gravitational pull and being sucked down, allowing Ratbat to take charge. In the expanded UK continuity he showed up almost immediately and established an alternative Decepticon faction on Earth. So having him turn up on the English coast looking like he has dropped from the sky is confusing. It needs a mini story to marry the continuities together. Perhaps I'll write one.