20 things to celebrate about Target: 2006By Steve Bax
IMPOSSIBLE as it seems it is 20 years since Target 2006 exploded onto the comic scene with the force of a nuclear bomb [Editor's note: this article was first published in 2006].
Sure we'd had some good stories before then but even they couldn't prepare us for what was to unfold over 11 weeks in Autumn 1986. It began with 'shocking' disappearance of Optimus Prime, and led to the total defeat of the Earth-bound Autobots, and tragedy for the resistance on Cybertron.
What was really special about this series was that it marked the coming of age of the Transformers UK comic and plotted a course for the next 200 or so issues. Up until this point the editorial team had been content to reprint stories from its larger US parent and then fill in the gaps with their own tales. But here was a story which demonstrated how the UK book, with its superior weekly format, had grown in confidence and was ready to carve out its own niche on the comic landscape.
I can still remember walking home the newsagent's in early September 1986, clutching a copy of issue #78 in my eager adolescent hands, and wondering what the hell was going on as Prime, Prowl and Ratchet 'disintegrated' before my disbelieving eyes. It was clear that a TF story was unfolding that was unlike any that had gone before it -spanning not only two worlds, but the present day and the future.
Back then 2006 really did seem a long way off and the future could be as big as the imagination would allow. Perhaps we would have weather control as Galvatron suggested, or maybe even interplanetary travel? The irony is that 2006 has come and will soon be gone and we're still no closer to making the rain go away. But Transformers comics are still going strong and Target: 2006 is still a classic. Twenty years on its seems right that we revisit the story so get ready for OneShallStand's 20 best moments.
20: Prime loses his rag
Optimus Prime in a rare display of anger.
There are a few things we know about Optimus Prime; he's noble, wise, calm, collected, slow to anger, protective and passionate about his responsibility to Earth and its inhabitants. He would never vent his frustration by battering down trees in a wooded area, right? Wrong! The opening scene shows us a different side to the Autobot leader, showing that he's as fallible as the rest of us, especially when it comes to his 'sore point' the Dinobots.
Grimlock's men had fought a major battle with Megatron and exposed a human news crew to great danger in the process. Prime demanded answers and found the Dinobots less than cooperative.
Optimus is used the unwavering respect and obedience of his troops, perhaps too used to it, and this blatant insubordination really fires him up. It is a measure of how seriously he regards the Autobot mission to safeguard mankind from the Decepticons, and feels the Dinobots should be pulling their weight instead of creating problems. The scene is the trigger for the Dinobots' self-imposed exile which ends when Grimlock returns to claim the Autobot leadership following Prime's death in issue 106.
19. Exit Prime, Prowl and Ratchet
Just as the loss of their leader had brought about the Autobots' darkest hour during the Creation Matrix crisis (when Prime's head was held captive by Shockwave) so would it be in Target: 2006. Prime and his lieutenants are giving their fellow Autobots a pep talk in the Ark, when they are inexplicably engulfed by anti-matter and disappear in a burst of blinding light. The Autobots are suddenly leaderless and in need of answers.
The manner of Prime's departure injects a new, more sci-fi, element into Transformers because entropy and time travel were not elements of any stories to date. I remember discussing with my circle of friends at the time and our consensus was that Prime and company were not dead -surely Hasbro wouldn't allow that and neither would the fans- but was alive and well in 2006 having 'traded places' with Galvatron, Cyclonus and Scourge. We were half right. But the incident immediately established an undercurrent of mystery and there was no way you wouldn't pick up the next issues to find out what on Earth (or Cybertron) was going on.
18: Shrapnel 'lied'
Shrapnel's word is not as good as his bond.
Sometimes you can't beat a good one-dimensional baddie and as Shrapnel proves in the prologue he's about as low down and dirty as they make 'em. There are no grey areas for this Insecticon, he's a thug and a bully, looking out number one first-middle-and-last, and more fool you if you trust him. Shrapnel embodies what being a Decepticon enforcer is all about, and we see him (right) preying on a weaker Transformer.
You know from the get-go that the guy he's chasing is doomed - so much so that writer Simon Furman doesn't even bother to name him. This cannon fodder Autobot cops a nasty burst of electricity in his back, and tries to bargain with Shrapnel to escape his impending doom, offering information about Autobot resistance chiefs meeting secretly in Iacon in a few day's time. All the while, Roadbuster is watching from the sidelines, having purposely fed the information to his traitorous colleague knowing it would fall into Decepticon hands.
Shrapnel's response makes for a classic T:2006 moment: after agreeing to spare his victim he gets what he needs and fries him anyway, uttering the phrase "I lied" with considerable relish. Fair play to Jeff Anderson here: his art is a bit ordinary in places but he makes a decent job of presenting the emotions at work in this scene, from the desperation of the victim, to Shrapnel's sadistic enjoyment and Roadbuster's remourse as he realises he's condemned a fellow Autobot- albeit a traitorous one- to an unenviable death.
17: 'Appearances may be deceiving'
The scene with Galvatron meeting his former self Megatron is clever on several levels and is a key moment in the story, setting up as it does, the eventual alliance between the Megatron and the Autobots. It opens with Megs also briefing the Constructicons (is this all leaders do when they are not in battle?) and illustrates how depleted the Decepticon ranks are at this point in time. They recently lost the core of their army in a battle with Omega Supreme (who strangely never appears in Target: 2006) and now the normaly scarcely-seen Constructicons are filling the breach.
Galvatron drops his bombshell: he is Decepticon leader in 2006
Galvatron's ability to evade Soundwave's mind reading abilities confounds Megatron and heightens his suspicions. It also adds to aura of invincibility surrounding the future Decepticons in the reader's mind. This is just one of many improvements made by a being called Unicron, says Galvatron (name dropping a character who today is all-to familiar to Transfomers fans). It's the first of several subtle and not-so subtle plugs for the upcoming Transformers animated movie and there's even a mention of that other much-loved despot Lord Straxus.
Galvatron asks a big favour of Megatron despite offering very little in the way of convincing argument as to why he can be trusted, and Megs reacts in typical fashion by letting his fusion cannon do the talking.
The scene ably illustrates why Megatron has stayed in power for as long as he has: he trusts no-one and puts his own interests above all other considerations. And after all why should he help someone who claims to have taken his throne in 2006?
It should be noted that at this point none of the readership has seen the Movie and is clueless that Galvatron and Megatron are the same being. Furman sets them up as rivals to throw us off the scent and then spoils the ruse by throwing out some pretty major clues. There's Galvatron's reaction to the suggestion that Megatron should die; he asks his trigger-happy but brainless henchmen: "Have you all lost your minds?" Then there are his remarks to Laserbeak that "appearances may be deceiving to some but not to you" suggesting he should be familiar to Laserbeak for some reason and we can speculate on the reasons.
16. Magnus arrives on Earth
Just when Cyclonus was enjoying himself along comes Magnus.
Prime's departure so early into Target: 2006 left a gaping hole for a leader of considerable standing and personal qualities - enter Ultra Magnus.
I was never sure at what point Magnus had been created but there may be a clue in Xaaron's words to Impactor when he assures that "Magnus will be ready". This could simply mean his readiness for Operation Volcano or it could mean Magnus is undergoing construction and being given life by the Matrix Flame. It is open to speculation whether he was a pre-existing Autobot or purpose built on for his role in Volcano on the orders of Xaaron.
Magnus strikes a heroic, almost cheesy pose as he declares he's off to Earth to find Prime, just at the moment when he's needed on Cybertron. Why is it Magnus who goes? We may never know but it's possible his close physiology to Optimus Prime may allow him a certain expertise and insight others lack.
We next see him toppling out of an unstable intergalactic portal in considerable pain - and curiously with a digital clock built into his arm (what's wrong with an internal timepiece?). It emphasises the race against time Magnus faces to complete his mission and return in time for Volcano.
But there's time for heroics too as he rescues Hound from the clutches of Cyclonus. The Decepticon indicates that Magnus is a significant player in 2006, initially fearing he's followed them back. While Cyclonus may be a tough cookie we can infer from this scene that Magnus is more than a match for him, and possibly Galvatron's equal too. He's also a passionate defender of his fellow Autobots in the same mould as Optimus Prime. The rescue prompts some serious hero worship from Hound.
15. Jetfire and Magnus
Magnus gets Jetfire's back up when he refuses to join in the rescue mission.
Magnus may be just what the Autobots need but it doesn't mean he's welcomed - certainly not at the start. Jetfire thinks his arrival is part of the weirdness that's been going on, and his suspicions appear confirmed when Magnus refuses to join the mission to attack Galvatron.
By insisting on staying behind to complete his mission, Magnus makes an enemy of Jetfire and alienates himself from the other Autobots. Jetfire takes command and appears to be guided by his emotions throughout the saga, blunders into Galvatron's 'obvious' trap and battling guilt over the fates of comrades such as Jazz. His anipathy towards Magnus is most likely not mutual, but we know Magnus is stunned at Jetfire's later decision to ally the Autobots with Megatron and believes it's a mistake.
The dynamic between Jetfire and Magnus is one of many undercurrents rather than a full-blown plot thread, and its to the benefit of the story that there's so much going on. Later when Magnus realises tackling Galvatron is compatible with his mission (in fact it's essential) he takes an active role in the fight and convinces Jetfire that he's alright after all. In fact Jetfire is so impressed at Magnus' dogged determination to keep taking the fight to Galvatron, that he declares him the "stuff leaders are made of".
However the u-turn doesn't feel forced or unnatural, it's simply the result of Jetfire seeing Magnus' true colours and realising he had him pegged all wrong. The redemption of Magnus is complete and when finally he leaves for Cybertron it is with fervent wish of the Autobots that he one day fight at the side with Optimus Prime.
14. Starscream's pact with the devil
Starscream joins the enemy camp.
Starscream wakes up in an Ark stasis pod, evidently having been revived by his enemies the Autobots to join their's and Megatron's alliance against Galvatron. Except Starscream, being Starscream, has other ideas and promptly switches sides.
He thinks Galvatron is his ticket to the ultimate power he always dreamed of, but in fact the joke is on him because Galvatron knows first hand what an opportunist Starscream is and will not trust him for an instant. It won't stop him manipulating his new recruit to further his own ends, though as we see in most memorable moment number 14.
The player gets played and it's all very over-the-top and insincere in the opening scenes of issue 85 when Galvatron is has his arm around Starscream and is welcoming him into the fold. Starscream feels a touch nervous and its not just because of Cyclonus (who beat some information out of him previously). But his lust for power is so great that he puts those concerns aside and does Galvatron's bidding- ironicly with some loyalty- culminating in his highly effective surprise attack on Megatron and Soundwave.
Starscream is one of Simon Furman's favourite characters and his conniving was the subject of the writer's first ever TF story. I'm really pleased that with everything going on there's still time for some good old fashioned Starscream plotting. I'm even more pleased that instead of overpowering the story it compliments the proceedings brilliantly.
13. Unicron's influence
Unicron sends Hot Rod, Kup and Blurr into the past to stop Galvatron.
He may have been 20 years and a virtual galaxy away from the events on Earth but Unicron influence is palpable. Furman's lines at the end of issue 84's story 'Trios' (incidentally my runaway favourite issue in the whole saga) about the 'subconscious, malevolent laugh' deep in the subconscious of Hot Rod, Kup and Blurr, illustrates his presence in the proceedings.
It is an uneasy feeling felt by the protagonists on Cybertron and Earth, and not least, Galvatron himself. We're told on a subsequent letters page that at some point in the Movie, Unicron snares the minds of the trio of 'future Autobots' and teleports them to Cybertron, where they utilise Galvatron's time jump equipment and follow the Decepticon trio back. They have been subliminally primed by Unicron with the knowledge of how to defeat Galvatron, and they will later be returned to 2006 and their minds erased of their involvement.
I always wondered how it was that Unicron came to unleash his assault on Cybertron in 1991, thereby consigning the events of the Movie to a parallel universe, and the key to this may be in his link with Hot Rod, Kup and Blurr. This is just my theory but maybe that these 'agents' could have completed their mission, and then transmitted coordinates to the Unicron of the present day, allowing him to alter course and be in the neighbourhood when Primus' scream alerts him to Cybertron's location. This would allow him to arrive considerably sooner than 2006.
But once Galvatron's plans are in ruins we're treated to no less than a narration by Unicron himself, revelling in his triumph over Galvatron and looking forward to his end game of destroying Cybertron and his hated nemesis Primus. It's a great plug for the Movie too. We also discover that Unicron is sentimental to a degree, as he shows his reluctance to sever the link to the past that he's gleaned, and even goes as far as to implant a thought in Smokescreen's mind, that the site of Galvatron's weapon would make a good place to build the first Autobot City on Earth. So you have to wonder if the City would always have been built there or if Smokescreen's suggestion played a part in its location. We may never know.
12. Megatron calling!
A furious Megatron summons reinforcements
There are some phone calls you cannot ignore, and if you're a Decepticon -even a member of the Mayhem Attack Squad- you listen when Megatron is on the line.
With the exception of giving Scourge a pasting, Megs hasn't acquitted himself particularly well in this saga. He's made to look distinctly amateur when Scourge shoulder-charges him, and has to be rescued by the Autobots when he's buried under tonnes of rubble. Then to add insult to injury he's taken out by a surprise shot from Starscream. But as soon as Galvatron is off the scene, we see Megatron re-establishing himself as the number one bad guy again, telling Laserbeak he "thirsts for revenge", and then getting on the blower to the Mayhems.
What I love about the communicube scene is that it encapsulates the relationship between Megatron and his troops and how they see him. There's no doubting that he's loathed by one and all, but they are held in line by their mutual terror of what he might do if they disobey him. So, even when presented with a golden opportunity to capture Xaaron and inflict some serious damage on the resistance, Dirge, the Insecticons, Triple Changers, and company, throw in the towel and head back to base. They've been ordered back to Earth and it all cleverly ties in with upcoming US stories with these characters arriving via the space bridge to supplement Megatron's Earth-based forces.
11. Macaddam's Old Oil House
Music critics can be deadly.
This is the light-hearted moment in Target: 2006 as we take a breather from the main event on Earth and catch up with the Wreckers' preparations for Operation Volcano.
I have to admit that I found it a little frustrating at the time because we'd been left on a cliff-hanger and suddenly we're whisked off to Cybertron. But the scene in the oil house has a certain charm, not least because you wouldn't expect Transformers to indulge in a social life.
We discover that there is a bar where Autobots, Decepticons and neutrals can go to refuel and unwind, and where allegiances are left at the door. The saga has spawned a fair number of 'invented' characters (ie non-toy range) in Impactor, Xaaron, Rack-and-Ruin, Macabre, Skater, and the guy who gets fried by Shrapnel in the opening act. Now we've got the double act of Fang (about as nasty a Decepticon bully as you're likely to find) and the 'entertainer' robot whose alt-mode is a piano-cum-jukebox. This transforming-piano is a fantastic concept butpoorly equipped when it comes to defending himself. If Fang is the classic bully he's the classic victim, and I laughed out loud when he nearly got suctioned to death by Fang's plunger arm. Who would have thought they were useful for anything other than unblocking the sink?
However there's a serious note in that we can all empathise with the injustice of the strong picking on the weak, and I'm sure there will have been a few cheers from the readership when Twin Twist punches the legs off the bully. Personally though I would have preferred to see Fang put up a bit more of a fight given his size, but that's the nature of being an 'extra' I suppose. All in all a memorable and enjoyable scene, and one that has a serious side in that it prompts some soul searching from the Wreckers and causes them to rethink their recent decision to quit Volcano.
10. 'Wreck and Rule'
Impactor leads the Wreckers into battle
It became an instant catchphrase and enduring motto for the Wreckers. We've previously seen Impactor and (briefly) Roadbuster, but in part four we get to meet the rest of the team - and what an entrance it is.
Almost immediately Impactor harpoons Shrapnel and I remember thinking 'whoa he can't do that' as the unwritten rule that members of the toy-range don't get killed off, is seemingly violated. Then Octane is destroyed (on his debut no less), Thrust gets pummelled and the other cons get incinerated. As the orgy of destruction goes on it becomes apparent that things are not what they seem: and we're introduced to another recurring element of Transformers - the facsimilie construct. These are real Transformers, merely decoys, programmed to act like the real thing.
The scene is significant, not just as a showcase for the Wreckers, but to feed us with more information about how Volcano is to play out and the vital role Magnus is to play. And undoubtedly, in my view, Impactor is the star of the show, having possibly the coolest weaponry in his harpoon arm.
9. Scourge is scrapped!
Geoff Senior has always been one of my all time favourite Transformers artists and while a couple of his renditions are a bit suspect in part 5 (the knee-squatting Starscream on page 2 and ridiculously massive Magnus head in the scene with Hound) his overall work on the issue is class. A scene which I particularly enjoyed from an art and writing perspective is Scourge hunted down like the rat he is at the iron and steel foundry.
Scourge gets his comeuppence.
He's been ordered to pick-up some raw materials and isn't best pleased that his talents are being wasted in this way, and idly wishes for the chance to get into a "decent fight". It's a case of be careful what you wish for as he finds himself cornered by teams of heavily armed Autobots and the pay-off when he meets the business end of Megatron's fusion cannon. It's a nice contrast to later stories where Cyclonus and Scourge are portrayed as a pair of bungling idiots, as this time he's at his deadly best, able to inflict maximum damage with whatever materials are to hand.
His 'sophisticated sensors' detect Brawn, Trailbreaker and Skids concealed behind a wall, and Scourge's acid ray gives Trailbreaker a nasty case of circuit burn. That's one down in a matter of a split second. Moments later his gun gets zapped but he proves very adept and taking out Grapple with a sheet of metal thrown with deadly accuracy. The sense of Scourge running as though a trapped animal is palpable, and the reader can almost feel the impact of the metal sheet as it strikes Grapple in the chest and throws him backward. All the while Scourge's radio is being jammed, undoubtedly by Soundwave, until Megatron shows himself at the end.
It is a world of difference to the Autobots' recent clumsy and ill-prepared assault on Galvatron, and demonstrates Megatron's ability to turn even a rabble bunch into an organised and effective fighting force.
Defeat is a word that leaves an ugly taste in the mouth.
Speaking of the clumsy debacle that is the Autobots disastrous attack on Galvatron it brings us to number eight in the countdown of top moments. It's brilliantly told in flashback form, with a killer ending which in itself if a top moment (see four), as Ironhide reviews where it all went wrong. Jetfire has mobilised the Autobots for an all out assault on Galvatron to repay him for torturing Jazz, knowing full well that they are walking into a trap.
It's clear they have all underestimated the sheer power of their foe. As a reader I could genuinely feel the anguish of Ultra Magnus as he's forced to refuse a plea for him to join the rescue, thereby earning the contempt of his comrades - and the passion of Jetfire to make the Decepticons pay.
Part 3 is also a reintroduction of sorts for many middle-ranking Autobots like Mirage, Gears, and Trailbreaker, who haven't featured in a while, even if it's only to get the crap beaten out of them by Cyclonus and Scourge. We are told by Galvatron that "not even a hundred Autobots" could best his henchmen, and here we see them at their deadly best, before they go on to become distinctly average, beaten by Hot Rod, Kup and Blurr, Death's Head, and the Menasor in future issues. This time Scourge shows himself able to duck and weave in mid air, avoiding a barrage of fire, and tough enough to sustain a heavy beating of eight against one. But I always thought it was daft how only four Autobots go for "the boss", given their unconvincing showing against the less powerful Cyclonus and Scourge.
As we know Galvatron simply absorbs all the concentrated fire his enemies throw at him, then pummels them into unconsciousness. He shows himself in this scene to be one tough customer, cementing his menace for ever, and perhaps surprisingly allows the Autobots to walk away licking their wounds. He could have finished them off but he doesn't, and I would theorise that he considers it unwise to tinker with the timeline too much. It may be that these Autobots have roles to play in shaping the 2006 he knows, and he deems it better to have them limp off and stay out of his way.
7. Starscream's 'death'
A moment of rage is all it takes to undo Galvatron's best laid plans.
While the 'revelation' that Galvatron and Megatron are the same being could be seen coming, the manner of how he would be forced back to 2006 was not. All we knew was that Kup and his sidekicks had something up their sleeves, and in Part 9 we find out what. They rig explosives to Galvatron's solar weapon and wheel-out the remote-controlled Skywarp, sprayed red and blue to set-up Starscream, and wheel him out as the architect of Galvatron's downfall.
There were two elements that intrigued me about this scene, firstly how Unicron's Autobot agents were able to use their knowledge of the future against Galvatron. They are aware of Starscream's 2006 betrayal of Megatron, and know that Galvatron is all too aware of it too, so they present him with the one being capable of causing him to lose his cool (Magnus excepted). The second aspect is the time paradox; Galvatron blows 'Starscream' to bits in a wave of uncontrollable emotion and fury, and then realises the enormity of his actions - for he has undone his own creation. Yet he hasn't faded out of existence, so he now believes he has become an anomaly of time, a being who exists without the circumstances that led to his creation and simply returns to his own time. I'm not sure why he doesn't make his peace with that and rebuild his weapon anyway, as his hated master Unicron will still exist in 2006. He could even choose to stay in the past at this point, as he later does anyway. Instead he goes back and faces his punishment.
It's a great scene, and while the finer points of time travel and parallel worlds may have been new and confusing to some readers, it is explained in a straightforward way and introduces new and never-before-seen elements to the comic.
6. Galvatron's Autobot zombie
Brawn is helpless when Jazz attacks!
You have to hand it to Galvatron, he's one conniving devil, and clearly a more cunning adversary than his previous incarnation. Just when you think Jetfire and the Autobots can't be humiliated any further he finds a way - by using Jazz as a weapon against his comrades. I always thought Galvatron was taking a risk in revealing his origin to Jazz, thereby arming an enemy with future knowledge that could be used against him. But it may be he intended on doing away with his captive once he ceased to amuse, before settling on a plan B once Scourge was captured and a prisoner exchange proposed.
Never one to be without the upper hand, Galvatron turns Jazz against Jetfire, Tracks, Smokescreen and Brawn, operating him by remote control to take his comrades down. Artist Will Simpson does an excellent job of making the zombie Jazz look genuinely menacing and again the Autobots' compassion for their captive friend is their downfall.
5. Impactor versus the Triple Changers
I first got excited about this little encounter reading the 'next week' box at the back of Transformers 83. It was immediately apparent that the introduction of new characters was to continue apace - this time with the debut of Sandstorm, Springer and Broadside.
But I was shocked to say the least to see this well known Autobot trio pictured wearing Decepticon badges. What could it all mean? I initally suspected they were Decepticons who would eventually switch sides (much as Jetfire had done) but the explanation is simpler than that: they are to stand in for Magnus in Operation Volcano and having them rough-up Impactor was the most effective way of convincing him that they are up to the task.
Impactor is exposed and in danger!
When I picked up issue 84 I would have gladly taken my hat off to it (had I been wearing one) because Trios is a fantastic story with a staggering amount packed into its 11 pages. Present day comic producers should take note.
Impactor is attacked by three strangers who clamp an inhibitor claw on his back blocking him from transforming. This was a cop out as it deprived readers from ever seeing his vehicle mode. The three Triples look suitably menacing bathed in a redish/pink silhouette and it is another Geoff Senior artfest. Just as Impactor is beaten he's handed a 'communicube' and is told by Emirate Xaaron that it was all a set-up.
Reasons for ranking this moment at number five, is that it not only provides a memorable entrance for the Autobot Triple Changers but provides a twist the reader might not have expected (their Decepticon badges are a trick), and finally there's the dynamic between Impactor and Xaaron. The elder Autobot is wily and cunning, and Impactor has the utmost respect for him as a leader and resistance mastermind, yet he always ends up getting played by Xaaron and could tear his head off at times.
4. 'Digging my own grave'
There are few endings so shocking in the Target: 2006 saga than the sight of Ironhide digging Megatron and Soundwave out from their rocky tomb. It goes against every fibre of his being to help this most sworn of all enemies but is a sign of how desperate the Autobots have become. Hours earlier they were subjected to their worst ever defeat since the Last Stand, getting thrashed to within an inch of their lives by Galvatron.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
They were hopelessly out classed in both physical and strategic terms - and they know it. They need someone to lead them and organise them, and with Prime missing and Magnus unwilling to help, they make the extraordinary decision to turn to Megatron. Yet there is a logic in it as in Galvatron they face a mutual enemy and both have reasons to despise him.
It's a fantastic twist having these two antagonist forces thrown together and a nervous energy about what will happen, and when the eventual betrayal will come. Having Ironhide make the overture is symbolic, if not intentional on the part of the Autobots, because he is one of the oldest, most hardened 'cold warriors'. You just know, seeing the frames with Ironhide slumped to his knees that this is something he never thought he would ever do. It's a sign how all the normal rules are out of the window in this story and the readers genuinely don't know what's coming next.
3. The awesome origin of Galvatron!
Galvatron's awesome secret is revealed - he's really Megatron!
Twenty years on from Transformers the Movie, and with most of us having seen the film about as many times since, it hardly seems remarkable that Megatron and Galvatron are the same being. However, put yourself in the place of somebody in 1986 reading this saga for the first time and you'll see it's possible for them to be left in something like a state of amazement.
Granted there have been ample hints, and probably the more astute of us will have seen it coming, but there's something about the Geoff Senior-drawn head of Galvatron with his crazed look, declaring "I am Megatron" that stirs the blood. It throws up all sorts of questions like how and why, and presents us with the irony that Megatron is actually fighting his future self. Magnus was right when he said they are both "insidiously evil" as each other.
After the shocking revelation comes the explanation, as Galvatron gives Jazz an account of the events that brought about his transformation. We are treated to a glimpse of a battle-to-end-all-battles between Prime and Megatron, a final confrontation that would change everything, and then we see Unicron - wow, they weren't kidding when they said he was a giant robot. We only see him in planet form of course so the surprise about his robot mode is preserved for the Movie, and let's face it, if anyone was in any doubt about whether they wanted to see this movie these are now out the window!
For the first time in this ongoing saga we have a kind of roadmap in place, an understanding of where things are going and what the situation is in 2006. Of course we don't learn at this point that Prime dies, again safeguarding the Movie's secrets, although there is a hint of this when Hot Rod alludes to Magnus being a Matrix bearer in the following issue. Now we know why Galvatron has returned to 1986 and what his intentions are. The pieces are all falling into place.
2. The death of ImpactorNo sooner has Galvatron returned to the future allowing life in 1986 to return to something near normal, when the pace quickens again as we switch to Cybertron. Operation Volcano is about to begin and Xaaron is place, the Decepticons are on their way, and the Wreckers stand ready. But the epic battle we are expecting fails to materialise as Megatron summons the Mayhems to Earth, and a lone killer (Macabre) presses ahead anyway and strikes when the Autobots are least expecting it.
Impactor takes the blast intended for Xaaron!
They think Volcano has been a failure and lower their guard just as a concealed Macabre fires his assassin's shot. Then the ever-twisting plot shifts a final time, as Impactor-not Xaaron- takes the fatal shot - and what a blast it is, blowing half his head and torso away.
Being a 'made for the story' character (ie not part of the established Hasbro range) it was always on the cards that Impactor could die, but having made it to the last issue and built up a fan base, it seemed for a while he would live. Instead he dies in the most touching and heroic fashion, taking the 'bullet' for Xaaron - the ultimate respect he could pay his leader and constant antagonist. Xaaron's affection for his fallen friend is also apparent, as he cradles Impactor's body in disbelief, knowing his worst fears about the outcome of Volcano have been realised. Consider Impactor's actions against the idiotic sacrifice of Prime in Afterdeath and the contrast is apparent. Impactor dies in poignant and worthy fashion and his place in Transformers fandom is secured.
1. Magnus versus Galvatron
We've finally arrived at number one - the most memorable moment of Target: 2006, and how could it be anything other than the epic clash between Ultra Magnus and Galvatron? From the start it was the meeting fans were demanding to see and we were kept waiting all the way to Part 8. A battle so momentous and pivotal demanded an entire issue and Geoff Senior and that's what it got. There could only be one victor but who would it be?
Magnus versus Galvatron was the fight everyone wanted to see.
If there is one iconic scene which screams Target: 2006 then it is the image of an enraged Galvatron clinging to Ultra Magnus as they tear up the highway. Now Geoff has done some fine work on Transformers over the years (not least with that other iconic image - Unicron feasting on Cybertron) but this is up there with his best.
Furman, also, copes effortlessly with the weight of expectation on his shoulders and never allows the 11 pages to become a series of blows and counter blows, which could quickly have become boring. Instead the pace is quickened or lessened by an extended flashback, showing the hand-to-hand (and feet) combat between the leaders, which culminates in Magnus drawing Galvatron away from his solar weapon so Kup, Hot Rod and Blurr can get to work. This flashback style also allows the reader to dive straight into the action on the highway and ride the rollercoaster from the outset before questions are answered.
There is a sense that despite them being roughly evenly-matched Galvatron is slightly stronger, and it may be due to Unicron's improvements or just that has the greater ego and edge of madness. Magnus could beat him but only on a good day as we would see later. On this occasion he's handicapped in how far he can push it because he needs Galvatron alive and able to go back to 2006 (thereby restoring Prime to his proper time and place). He throws Galvatron off an overpass at speed but mostly spends the encounter avoiding Galvatron's assault.
Finally, ultimately, the fight comes down to an unbelievably large explosion followed by an inferno. In true dramatic style a victor emerges... and it is Galvatron! I was hoping Magnus could give him a thrashing but I've got to admit it is a better plot the other way around. Galvatron is on top and at his full menacing best, just as it is throughout Target: 2006.
Looking back on Target: 2006 the readers never knew what hit them. The coming attractions slot in Transformers 77 had been unceremoniously ditched in favour of a page advert, and all fans had to clue them in was the briefest of teasers shoehorned onto the Grim Grams page. It is an irony given that the comic was launching its grandest epic to date.
The reason why I think this story is a classic and will remain so is not only because it is so well written, and not just because it has a great cast and villain. It's a story of heroes battling impossible odds and characters learning their limits and personal depths.
It is also a comic coming of age, for Transformers UK had up-until-this-point largely relied on its US counterpart to provide the main continuity and was content to weave its tales around the edges. Now Marvel UK was establishing a territory of its own, linking itself to 2006 and beyond where it could do as it plesaed without generating troublesome conflicts with the American comic. In the years to come such classics as Wanted Galvatron, Legacy of Unicron and Time Wars would follow.
British fan often felt like Hasbro's poor relation as toys including Blaster, Swoop, the Constructicons, Predacons, Shockwave (to name a few) were never released here. But there was one arena where we got a much better deal and that was on the comics front, thanks to the weekly format which guaranteed UK readers twice as many stories.
The dictionary definition of a masterpiece is "a work of art such as a painting, film or book, made with great skill, and is often a person's greatest work", so could it be that in Transformers terms at least, Target: 2006 is Furman's masterpiece. That is for individuals to decide, but one thing I am certain of and that is that Target: 2006 will continue to be a classic even for another 20 years. Target: 2026 anyone?