Transformers UK: Issue #332
Story: End of the Road (Part 2)
Back-up strip: The Greatest Gift of Them All
Cover date: 18th January, 1992
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: Andy Wildman (story and cover)
Rating: Art / Story
Synopsis:By Omega Steve
Certain defeat turns to victory when a newly restored Optimus Prime arrives to destroy the Decepticons.
When we last joined the Transformers, Bludgeon's Decepticons looked set to cement a stunning double triumph. They had taken just a few hours to invade and conquer the peaceful planet, Klo, and then set a trap for the Autobots which worked a charm. The heroic forces, commanded by Grimlock, were on the brink of defeat when reinforcements arrived in the shape of the Neo Knights and The Last Autobot - whom we now see hovering 50 feet above ground in his plane mode. The cockpit opens and a shadowy, yet familiar, figure leaps out and lands in front of the Decepticons - sparking gasps of disbelief. For it is Optimus Prime - back from the dead.
Nearby, Grimlock punches a hole through Fangry's chest, finally getting the last word on a feud that has been brewing between them in recent days. Then the action promptly skips back to Prime, who helpfully informs Bludgeon that he has been restored to life thanks to The Last Autobot (aka the Ultimate Warrior and Soul of Cybertron). The Last Autobot, even more helpfully, informs the gathered factions of his origin and purpose. He was created by the Transformers' god, Primus, to take care of Cybertron and its inhabitants in the event of Primus' death. It was decreed that he would slumber below the surface until a 'chosen one' arrived and reactivated him. It turned out that the chosen one was none other than Hi-Q, the former Nebulan companion of Optimus Prime. The Last Autobot understood at once that Hi-Q was more than flesh and blood wrapped in machinery - within him lay a second, noble soul - Optimus himself, whose essence had been absorbed by his Powermaster companion during the years they spent binary bonded. The Last Autobot unleashed beams from his eyes that caused masses of metal and circuitry to envelope Hi-Q. The humanoid became the core of Optimus Prime's new body and in effect they became one being - completing a metamorphosis that had been developing slowly for some time.
Bludgeon listens to the story and becomes enraged. His understanding of the legend of the ultimate warrior is somewhat different. According to the teaching of the forbidden martial art of Metallikato (of which Bludgeon is a master) this being is a ravager and destroyer of worlds. His flying kick is deflected by Optimus, and he is more than able to break free when the other Decepticons bundle on top of him. The tide of battle is turning, and The Last Autobot turns the screw on the Decepticons even more by reviving the fallen Autobots, including Wheeljack and Blaster, to provide reinforcements. Then Grimlock arrives, dispatching Weirdwolf with a trident spear he swiped from the defeated Octopunch. One by one the Decepticons fall, and one by one the Autobots rise. It is clear to Bludgeon that his troops are defeated and the retreat is sounded. The Decepticon leader acknowledges his shame, for this defeat he and his warriors must go into exile. He tells Stranglehold to round everyone up - muttering under his breath (if Transformers have such a thing) that they will live to fight another day.
At last the war appears to be over, at least for now, but the future is anything but clear. Cybertron has most likely exploded leaving them with nowhere to call home, says Prowl. Prime tells his faithful lieutenant that he is in error: the planet was not destroying itself, merely regenerating as a result of being bathed in Matrix energy following the destruction of Unicron. Guided by The Last Autobot that process is now complete - they will help the Klozians to rebuild and then, finally, the Autobots can go home.
That's it - it's all over... for now. After rollercoaster ride of seven years, four months, this is the last issue Transformers from Marvel UK. The end had been on the cards for some time but when it came it will have been a surprise to the loyal readership. True, some will have been aware that Transformers had packed-up in the States, and since the UK comic was by this point merely reprinting US stories rather than generating its own material, the writing will have been on the wall. But there had been hints that the production team was hoping to continue over here. From the looks of things the decision to pull the plug was sudden, in fact it comes out of the blue on the Transformations welcome page. In large font, the message reads "Contrary to popular belief issue 333 will not materialise. This is just as devastating to us as it is for you - our loyal readers", before going on present a silver lining in the shape of the 1992 Transformers Annual which will contain a text story picking up where this issue leaves off. As the annual mostly contains reprinted UK stories (albeit some in colour for the first time) it probably wasn't much of a consolation. So now readers are able to draw a line under their childhood obsession and look to a Transformer-free future... or so it seemed.
Barely a year after the comic folded, a new monthly Transformers Generation 2 comic would be launched in the UK. This would run for 12 months before going the way of its predecessor, leaving fans to keep the flame alive through Internet sites and fan fiction forums. Ten years later, in 2002, a little known Canadian company called Dreamwave, which was headed by an ambitious artist called Pat Lee, would acquire a license from trademark holders Hasbro to produce fresh Transformers comics. Their first issue, while lacking somewhat in script, set the comic market on fire, rocketing to the number spot for sales. It seemed the thirst for the adventures of Optimus Prime and the Autobots had not diminished through the nineties and if anything had grown, with a younger generation now joining their 20 and 30-something counterparts. As we now know, Dreamwave's triumph was short lived, and the company collapsed into liquidation in 2004 leaving creative teams unpaid and collectors frustrated at being left high and dry in mid story. But for all the criticism of Pat Lee and Dreamwave, I am personally very grateful to them for taking a chance on the franchise and putting back on comic store shelves, thereby laying the ground work for successive publishers to take up the reins. As I write this (on August 24, 2005) IDW is working on a new comic which will be released in October.
Going back to the Marvel comic, it is fair to say that few could have predicted that it would last as long as it did. A lot of new titles don't make it past their first couple of issues, yet this one lasted over seven years - which is not bad going for a comic based on a toy 'fad'. The reason it did, in my opinion, is because of strong writing from the likes of Simon Furman and Bob Budiansky. In Bob's case he gets a lot of flak from fandom about some of his sillier stories, like the infamous Car Wash of Doom and Interplanetary Wrestling, Mechannibals etc, but people shouldn't forget that he was responsible for some truly amazing works as well, stories like Warrior School, the Matrix Saga (where Prime's head was a captive of the Decepticons), the Blaster v Grimlock saga. Not only did he name many of the original Transformers like Prime and Megatron and write their bios, but he also elevated many into cult status - like Shockwave, Blaster and Ratchet. Both Budiansky and Furman pitched their scripts towards an older market, thereby winning fans from teenage and older age groups, while not alienating younger readers. I was 11 when I bought my first issue in 1985 and this was something I always appreciated. I never found Transformers 'babyish' or agreed with others (usually ignorant non-comic readers) who said it was for kids.
I can remember having mixed feelings when the Marvel comic ended. I was just short of 18 and going to the newsagent on Friday before school had been a ritual throughout my teenage years. While I mourned its passing I felt it was for the best because it was time I 'grew up' and started concentrating on cars, girls and A level exams. But at the grand old age of 28 I was more than happy to welcome Transformers back into my life having experienced a certain nostalgia for many of the things I enjoyed in childhood. Now I really couldn't care less if others think it is not the done thing for an adult to enjoy comics, and I was gratified to discover that many of the people who bought Dreamwave comics through this site were also in their twenties. I stopped buying the Marvel UK book at #275, having finally had my fill of reprints and lacklustre black and white stories, and I switched to the monthly Transformers US instead (having found a local shop that stocked it). Since then I've been scouring eBay buying up the issues I missed in order to complete my collection. This issue, 332, cost a whopping �65! I have seen issue #1 go for around �20 less than that, which indicates that the later issues are rarer. That makes sense as the readership was declining and less copies will have been produced.
Some thoughts on this issue: Wildman does a solid job on the artwork, particularly the scenes where Optimus Prime makes his triumphant return. What would the last issue be without Optimus being in it? It is just a shame we could have a final battle between Prime and Megatron for old time's sake. The Last Autobot's alt mode is well thought out and you could easily imagine it being based on a tangible Hasbro toy. I also rather liked the scenes where Hi-Q and Prime are merged into one being - although does this mean Prime now has a flesh and blood core? If so what happens when Hi-Q dies and starts smelling a bit?? Time to call in Ratchet for some surgery I imagine. It is great to see a happy ending rather than having Shockwave turn up and blast the victorious Autobots into unconsciousness (like at the end of the original mini series). But I still think it feels slightly rushed. Rather than have to rely on their wits or Prime's superior leadership the outcome of the battle is determined by the Last Autobot's mystical powers, as he revives waves of reinforcements from the dead to overwhelm Bludgeon's troops. Then the Decepticons retreat, pledging to do the honourable thing and go into exile. Considering the conflict was once a whole planet at war it seems strange to think that it ends with a single battle fought by a relatively few Transformers. I doubt readers would have truly believed the war was over, and Furman holds out the prospect with Bludgeon's 'live to fight another day' remark whispered under his breath. It also turns out that Cybertron was not tearing itself apart, merely regenerating, and thanks to the Last Autobot (again!) the process is complete and they can go home! Hip hip horay! The back up strip is a good choice to end on, as it shows the burdens of leadership and compassion of Optimus Prime, even if it was originally a Christmas story, but this issues Darn N Blast is a half-arsed affair, both in the letters selected and the replies. So long Transformers, it has been a heck of a journey.