Transformers UK: Issue #322
Story: On the Edge of Extinction (Part 4)
Back-up strip: Machine Man 2020
Cover date: 31st August, 1991
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: Stewart Johnson (cover) Geoff Senior (story)
Rating: Art / Story
Synopsis:By Omega Steve
So near yet so far: Unicron is on the brink of victory when the Matrix does its job and blows him to bits.
The Transformers have been biting the dust by the bucket load as they try to defend their home world from Unicron. Already, Scorponok, Brainstorm, Highbrow, Cloudburst, Hardhead, Finback, Emirate Xaaron and more have fallen, and just when it looks like things cannot get any worse - they do!
Suddenly the Creation Matrix arrives, dragging a comatose Thunderwing along with it, and projecting the aura of a massive horn-headed creature. The Matrix has become tainted by evil and now craves new experiences - it knows that Unicron is its mortal enemy so it will destroy him. The Chaos Bringer is shocked by the assault because he had sensed the demise of the Matrix's purity and sincerely believed it destroyed. Optimus Prime knows better, he knows that the sacred life force has turned to darkness, and once it is finished with Unicron it will surely turn on them.
As the battle rages Unicron realises that the thing he feared, the unfettered goodness within the Matrix, has been smothered. All that remains is evil and in that realm he has no equal - a claim he now proves by tearing the Matrix creature apart and generating massive shockwaves. They hit the surface of Cybertron destroying building and blowing apart more Autobots and Decepticons, among them Thunderwing himself. Prime hangs on to a post for dear life and sees the Matrix sailing past - if he can reach it perhaps he can turn it back to goodness and use it to destroy Unicron. First he releases Hi-Q, just as planet eater transforms and moves in for the final feasting.
He shovels great sections of the planet surface into his jaws, but then reacts in pain as his circuits burn from within! Amazingly the being who has inflicted such pain is the human Circuit Breaker, who is being goaded to fight by GB Blackrock at the probable cost of her sanity. Her intervention buys Optimus valuable seconds and allows him to soar upwards and seize the Matrix. It tries to reject him, then to possess him, but Optimus' mind is free of all doubt and he succeeds in restoring the Matrix to the pure force for good that it was for countless millennia. As Circuit Breaker collapses exhausted, and Unicron smarts from the burning sensation, he sees Prime flying towards him with the Matrix spewing terrible, cleansing white light. He flies into Unicrons maw and seconds later the planet eater erupts in a final terrible ball of flame - a long last his age old conflict with Primus is concluded.
Flakes of ash descend on the planet landing on Kup, Grimlock, Nightbeat and the other survivors. The battle is done, the story told, but life will go on. Sure enough days later Battletrap and Runabout are on patrol and see an impossibly deep crater, which has been created by Unicron's assault. They think they see something, then go to investigate and are seized by ancient, spindly hands that drag them underground. Close by, a confused Hi-Q watches in horror.
And so it ends.... rather in the same way that Transformers the Movie did, with the Matrix saving the day and destroying Unicron. Except in this story it is Optimus and not Rodimus who does it, and there is a sizable stumbling block in the sense that the Matrix is evil and unwilling. This is a good twist and is what makes this story more than just a retelling of the Movie story.
Prime is ultimately galvanised by the sacrifice and nobility he has seen on this day, enough to expel all doubts and allow him to redeem the Matrix. He also realises that his fears about Primus are unfounded. He did not create the Transformers to fight his war for him, but rather to carry on after him, after his life force is essentially emptied out on to Unicron and dissipated. Prime's fate is not revealed in the main text, but a peak at the next week box reveals that he is in rather bad shape next issue, and not for the first time either. This story has the air of a series finale about it and it is hard to see what is left to happen. However we do get a clue that there are more enemies to fight, on the last page where the monsters from Cybertron's core are putting in a reappearance. Far more interesting for me are the comments from Runabout that he feels frustrated and wants to hit something. With sentiments like these it surely won't be long before the civil war is back on.
Some more great artwork from Mr Senior, especially the sequences where Unicron rips the Matrix Monster apart and sends the shockwaves on to Cybertron. The effect is really made by the bathing of yellow light and the pieces of buildings and beings flying past Optimus, and he clings on for dear life. I'm not quite so keen on the picture of Unicron, mid-transformation, which is not convincing and the close-up of Circuit Breaker's face is not great. But Geoff proves he can draw people when he wants by doing a good 'shocked' Hi-Q at the end, although admittedly I wasn't sure if it was Hi-Q or an Autobot Pretender until I picked up the next issue.
It is worth noting that this story appeared in the US in its entirity in the milestone issue 75, and had fans raving. Amazingly, given the fact it was riding so high, the book was cancelled five months later. It was blamed on readers growing up and not enough young blood buying the comic, but I wonder if it might have been a little to do with this story being so good, and so conclusive, that everything afterwards seemed a little anticlimactic.