Transformers UK: Issue #320
Story: On the Edge of Extinction (Part 2)
Back-up strip: Machine Man 2020
Cover date: 3rd August, 1991
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: Stewart Johnson (cover) Geoff Senior (story)
Rating: Art / Story
Synopsis:By Omega Steve
Prime and Scorponok recoil in shock as Emirate Xaaron is destroyed! Does this mean Primus is dead too?
Unicron, the planet killer extraordinaire, has arrived on Cybertron, intent on destroying the metal planet and its inhabitants, thereby eradicating the last taint of his ageless enemy Primus. So far the fight back has gone disastrously, with the Autobot and Decepticon armies in disarray, and Brainstorm speared on the tip of Unicron's claws. Now it falls to Primus to take matters into his own hands.
Using the body of Emirate Xaaron, whom he possessed some issues previously, the God of Light unleashes a painful attack of 'good' energy against his evil counterpart. Unicron curls up in pain, and believes himself to be under attack by Primus' life essence the Creation Matrix. Primus/Xaaron then hovers into view encapsulated in a brilliant ball of glowing light. He binds Unicron with energy bonds and questions his over confidence. For a moment the Chaos Bringer is fooled.
Unicron had assumed that the Matrix was destroyed with Thunderwing, meaning that the vast bulk of Primus' power was extinguished. All that remains should be a few remnants of his being left within Cybertron. Then it dawns on him that this IS all that is left of Primus, and the attack is merely a ruse. He breaks free of his bonds and unleashes powerful beams from his eyes that blow Primus/Xaaron to bits. On the surface, Optimus Prime and Scorponok watch in horror.
Close by, Galvatron laments the failure of the Autobots and Decepticons to hurt Unicron and make him pay. The only way is for someone to set an example. So Galvatron siphons power from Cybertron's core and then blasts off, unleashing a volley of weapons fire as he flies. Unicron bats his creation aside like a worm and Galvatron goes crashing to the surface and smashes through a building. But his attack has served its purpose as Prime orders his warriors to begin firing huge cannons at the planet destroyer. Scorponok transforms and begins shooting, while Darkwing and Dreadwind take to the skies.
There is mild comedy as an over eager Siren bashes into Jazz on his sky sled, and Hot Rod jumps Nightbeat, much to the older Autobot's annoyance. 'Blasted youth element' he says. Meanwhile Highbrow is being consumed by choking fear as he flies toward Unicron as part of the airborne attack. He tries to get a grip but only succeeds in throwing Cloudburst off course, and into Unicron's firey breath, causing him to be blown to pieces. Highbrow, overcome with guilt, then goes on a suicide run and ends up squished like an insect between Unicron's palms.
On the surface the casualties continue to mount up. Decepticon Pretender Finback is enjoying himself operating one of the cannons, firing at Unicron. But the thing overheats and blows up taking Finback with it, and possibly Misfire too. Bomb Burst and Hardhead push another launcher into position, only for a giant shadow made by Unicron's foot, to fall over them. They look up in terror - their lives flashing before their eyes.
The battle has really stepped up a gear this issue with the Transformers bringing out the big guns and a spectrum of roles and reactions on display. Some, like Hot Rod and Finback seem to relish the battle, while Highbrow is fighting his own fears just as much as he is Unicron. Darkwing and Dreadwind are there usual pessimistic selves but surprisingly level headed in battle, opening fire and then retreating to safety for another run. Highbrow's all consuming guilt at the death of his heroic colleague Cloudburst ultimately leads him to his own demise. It makes me think of soldiers in World War One or Two, charging at the enemy enraged at the death of a comrade, and getting cut down in a hail of bullets.
The really shocking aspect of the story is how previously untouchable characters, like Cloudburst and Highbrow are wiped out. I know Transformers can usually be brought back in some inventive way, but it is hard to see how anything salvaged from these two. Certainly, Highbrow's Nebulan component Gort, will have perished even if the robot part somehow survived. Finback's keenness and Death's Head-style dialogue provided some mild amusement (he seems to be taking great pleasure in Unicron's discomfort) but pushes it too far and gets blown up. I found myself thinking that he had hardly been in the comic at all before his death. At least Cloudburst got a decent run in the Mecannibals saga. I found him quite likeable (one of the few good things about that tale) so it's a shame he has bitten the dust.
But of course the highest profile death this issue is Emirate Xaaron. Though not part of the toy range, he has nevertheless been an ever present member of the supporting cast since 1986. It really goes to show that the gloves are off this issue. My only concern is that we aren't seeing any of the Cybertron Autobots - characters like Magnus, the Wreckers, Mayhems and Sparklers, who should all be doing their bit.
There's a little mistake on page 3, where the reference is made to Thunderwing and the Matrix being destroyed in Transformers 66. That is the correct issue for the US comic (where this story first appeared) but for the UK this should have been changed to issue 297. Not a major deal. The last thing to say is how good the art has been this issue, obviously I am a big fan of Geoff's work, but the hand painted cover by Stewart Johnson is very striking too.