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THE TRANSFORMERS: COMICS, BOOKS AND MANGA

IDW Publishing
(2005-now)
Devil's Due
(2003-2007)
Dreamwave
(2002-2004)
Club/Con
(2001-now)
Titan Books
(2001-now)
Marvel Comics
(1984-1994)
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Other Books
and Titles

MARVEL TRANSFORMERS COMICS GUIDE

Marvel US nav: US Intro | Story List | US #1-10 | US #11-20 | US #21-30 | US #31-40 | US #41-50 | US #51-60
US #61-70 | US #71-80 | Comics Magazine | Transformers Universe | Transformers the Movie | Headmasters
G.I. Joe and the TFs | US G2 Intro | G.I. Joe #138-142 | G2 Special | US G2 #1-6 | US G2 #7-12 | Cover Images

US #31 - #40

| #31 | #32 | #33 | #34 | #35 | #36 | #37 | #38 | #39 | #40 |

#31 - "Buster Witwicky and the Car Wash of Doom"

[cover]
Cover: Bob Budiansky
Cover Date: August 1987

Script: Bob Budiansky
Pencils: Don Perlin
Inks: Jim Fern
Letters: Rick Parker
Colours: Nel Yomtov

Later Reprinted By: Transformers #128 -129 [UK], Titan Books: Treason [Worldwide], IDW Publishing: Generations #12 [Worldwide], IDW Publishing: Classic Transformers Volume 2 [Worldwide].

Synopsis: The Decepticons capture a tanker ship, but find it to be empty. Ratbat, visiting from Cybertron, blasts Shockwave for his inefficiency, and tells him of a plan he has which will be much more profitable. Meanwhile, at Sparkplug's garage, there's a boom in business thanks to a fuel crisis and a new Blackrock car wash. Buster and Jessie try the car wash one evening, but then she heads off, behaving oddly, and Buster follows. After following Jessie, Buster finds hypnotised humans using fuel siphons on the tanks of their cars, overseen by Laserbeak. He is able to rescue Jessie, and is about to escape when he notices Sparkplug going into the complex. It turns out the car washes have been made by Blackrock for the Decepticons, who are taking the fuel. Spike overcomes their conditioning, and Ratbat and Laserbeak run.

Notes: The car wash was the vital cargo from #29. The humans are controlled by Stroboscopic Opticon.

Errors: Anyone find it worrying that Jessie finds a car wash, even with lights and music, "wild"? Okay, so this is Ratbat's efficient plan? He has GB Blackrock, zillionaire oil tycoon under his mental control, and the best way he can think of is nicking fuel from motorists' tanks? Inefficient things about the plan - flying the cargo there in the first place instead of, say, transmitting details to Shockwave and commanding Bombshell to take over GB. Mounting the rescue mission with the Throttlebots for a car wash. Going to the effort of mass-producing the things [sure, GB covered that one, but why bother when he could send a fleet of tankers to the Island HQ?], hypnotising scores of humans, then getting them to drive to another location and siphoning their tanks. Against that, not bothering to check if a tanker's full is practically recycling. Why does Ratbat bother getting Blackrock to explain the plan to his mind-controlled petrol station owners? Even if they would care, they can't. Ego-masturbation? Sparkplug gets his own first name wrong - it's William, not Irving.

Transformers featured [in rough order of appearance]: Ramjet, Laserbeak, Thrust, Vortex, Shrapnel, Kickback, Bombshell, Shockwave, Ratbat, Bluestreak [flashback], Bumblebee [flashback], Astrotrain [flashback].

Notable Others: Buster, Sparkplug, Jessie, GB Blackrock.

Review: ... Well, erm, it's nice to have Buster back. Shame about the story, though the Decepticons not checking the fuel tanker is fairly believable - Ramjet's leading the mission. Aside from that, a bit strange and pointless really. While it's not the worst story out there, it does suffer from being totally missable - if you don't bother reading this, you won't miss out on plot points like you would in some inferior stories.

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#32 - "Used Autobots!"

[cover]
Cover: Frank Springer
Cover Date: September 1987

Script: Bob Budiansky
Pencil Breakdowns: Don Perlin
Inks: Ian Akin & Brian Garvey
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Colours: Nel Yomtov

Later Reprinted By: Transformers #139 -140 [UK], Titan Books: Treason [Worldwide], IDW Publishing: Classic Transformers Volume 2 [Worldwide].

Synopsis: Blaster, Goldbug and the Throttlebots are pursued across California by Vortex, who Blaster shoots down, and later by a RAAT team, who they escape from. Back at the Ark, news reaches Grimlock, and he sends the Protectobots to find out what's going on. The fugitives shelter in a used car dealership, where Blaster is taken by a human. The lot owner, Big Steve, plans to sell the cars, aside from Rollbar, who was damaged by Vortex. He plans to junk him, but is interrupted - the Autobots are forced to reveal themselves to the car dealer. He agrees to give them shelter, but then sabotages them and calls RAAT. Then both the Combaticons and Protectobots arrive. Blaster then intervenes, but RAAT take Goldbug and the Throttlebots. The Combaticons withdraw, and Hotspot reveals he's been sent to bring Blaster in.

Errors: On page 2, Goldbug's Autobot badge is uncoloured. Wideload's mad if he thinks the blast from Vortex "nearly nicked his fender"... Would Big Steve really miss a whacking great big dumper truck? On page 12, Goldbug has his "toy" blue head.

Transformers featured [in rough order of appearance]: Goldbug, Blaster, Chase, Rollbar, Searchlight, Freeway, Vortex, Wheeljack, Grimlock, Hotspot, Blades, Slag, Brawl, Onslaught, Swindle, Blast Off, First Aid, Groove, Hotspot, Streetwise, Blades.

Notable Others: Walter Barnett.

Review: Actually fairly enjoyable, depending on your appreciation of the "Throttlebot-skates" sequence. Blaster's mildly more likeable, and Grimlock's more bumbling than tyrannical. Big Steve, sadly, is a horrid cardboard stereotype - if it wasn't for him, this would actually be a middling action story. As it is, the third-rate comedy undermines a well-executed battle.

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#33 - "Man of Iron!" Chapters 1 & 2

[cover]
Cover: Charles Vess
Cover Date: October 1987

Writer: Steve Parkhouse
Art: John Ridgway
Letters: Richard Starkings [Uncredited]
Colours: Nel Yomtov

Originally Printed In: Transformers #9 -10 [UK].

Synopsis: Stansham Castle, in England, is bombed by Starscream, Skywarp and Thundercracker, but one of the bombs doesn't explode. The museum curator, Roy Harker, is called out to see to the damage. His son, Sammy, is playing in the woods and runs into Jazz, getting scared and running away. Jazz follows him home in his alternate mode, and observes. Sammy tells his father, who asks him whether it looks like a robot rumoured to be in the parts over 900 years ago. Sammy appears to be having a nightmare about Mirage, but when his father comes in to see what's wrong, Roy sees Mirage departing, and a drawing Sammy made of the Man of Iron gone. Back at the museum, the army tell Roy they have found a huge object under the castle, and plan an excavation. Sammy then finds Jazz parked outside his house, with his drawing on the seat. Jazz persuades Sammy to get in, and drives off.

Notes: Where exactly this story slots into US continuity is unclear - it possibly happens between #12 and #13. Jazz refers to his name as a codename, an idea which isn't explained, or used again after this story. The 'Man of Iron', who looks a bit like Jazz, has made three appearances over the past thousand years or so, but by the sounds of it, none recently. One visit was in 1017, and another in around 1070. Jazz has no mirrors in car mode, but does have a steering wheel. The last page reinforces Sammy's initial view with a warning - 'Remember: Never Accept Lifts from Strangers' - though as the comic goes on to feature his ill-advised lift landing him in an adventure full of robots, it's a bit of a mixed message...

Errors: How does Sammy dreams about Thundercracker when he's never seen a Decepticon? The F15 could just be a coincidence, or from stories about the raid, but the insignia on the wings isn't.

Yomtov gives Skywarp purple wings. He colours Thundercracker as Skywarp in Sammy's dream.

Transformers featured [in rough order of appearance]: Starscream, Skywarp, Thundercracker, Jazz.

Production Notes: This story, from Marvel UK's Transformers series, was printed as a stopgap, with delays caused by the preparation for the Headmasters limited series. The whole story was recoloured by Yomtov. There was no attempt to explain what it was doing here or were it fitted in, the blurb at the start of the strip simply claimed that due to overwhelming reader demand, here's a British Transformers strip. "Man of Iron" was likely chosen because it's self-contained, the right length, and is one of the few UK strips to actually be set in the UK.

Review: An interesting story, very, very different to the previous ones, and anything which would be seen after this. The pace is placid, to put it mildly, with little Transformers action. Jazz is shown to be very alien, and slightly sinister. Ridgway's art is superb on the whole, despite an awkward toy-style look for Jazz. Everything's moving slowly, but it's something of a gem so far. The Autobots are still acting strangely, though - Mirage freaks Sammy out big-time, as does Jazz, who actually kidnaps him after tempting him inside... But it reinforces the alien side of the Transformers, as if they aren't quite up to speed on their morals - it's possible that they don't yet understand the concept of children even. Nel Yomtov does a passable colouring job, though he's no comparison with Gina Hart.

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#34 - "Man of Iron!" Chapters 3 & 4

[cover]
Cover: Tom Morgan
Cover Date: November 1987

Writer: [Steve] Parkhouse
Art: [Mike] Collins
Letters: Richard Starkings [Uncredited]
Colours: Nel Yomtov

Originally Printed In: Transformers #11 -12 [UK].

Synopsis: Jazz takes Sammy to meet Mirage and Trailbreaker, and the team sets off. But they are jumped by Skywarp and Thundercracker. Skywarp takes out Trailbreaker before hitting a bridge, while Bluestreak arrives and takes care of Thundercracker. Jazz takes Sammy to the Autobot ship, where he meets Optimus Prime. Prime tells him they are there following a beacon from a Cybertronian vessel from under Stansham castle, and must reach it before the Decepticons. The army have uncovered the vessel, which is alien, carrying an Autobot insignia. However, they awaken the 'Man of Iron', who fires on them. Starscream arrives, and guns him down. The Autobot shuttle then arrives, and with Jazz on the ground, makes short work of the Decepticons. The Autobots are forced to destroy the vessel under the castle to avoid it falling into Decepticons, unaware that an Autobot sleeps within with information about the location of Cybertron, while Sammy returns to his family, to once again dream of men of iron.

Notes: Jazz says his real name is unpronounceable to humans... Dunno, machine code maybe? Jazz trying to act cool and alien, rather than like the robot equivalent of Chris Tucker? The 'Man of Iron' would appear to be a Transformer. Trailbreaker seems to get it pretty bad, and no-one goes back for him. Not that Skywarp or Thundercracker get off very lightly either... The Autobot vessel would seem to be a search mission for the Ark that also crashed. The unnamed first Autobot would appear to be guarding it. The second, sleeping one is possibly called Navigator, or it could just be a title [the Soundwaves letters page in UK #63 says it's his name, for what that's worth].

Transformers featured [in rough order of appearance]: Jazz, Mirage, Trailbreaker, Skywarp, Thundercracker, Optimus Prime, the unnamed Autobot co-pilot [destroyed by Starscream], Starscream, Bluestreak, Laserbeak, Buzzsaw, Optimus Prime, Navigator [see Notes; unwittingly destroyed by Jazz].

Production Notes: The whole story was recoloured by Yomtov.

Review: A bit more action-orientated than the last two, and it's slightly disappointing as it's almost trying to be a normal Transformers comic. Collins' art isn't anywhere near as powerful as Ridgway's, though on the colour pages Gina Hart is able to give it extra punch. The chase sequence is insanely violent, and fairly well done, though Bluestreak's ice-cool elimination of Thundercracker, complete with wry remark, steals the show. The Autobots are starting to act a bit more heroically, at least. There's another well-realised, surprisingly full-blooded battle, a reaffirmation of the Autobots' priority to protect humans even to their own detriment and some sound character-work for Jazz. While Collins still isn't quite as dramatic as Ridgway, his steady, consistent art gets the job done.

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#35 - "Child's Play"

[cover]
Cover: Frank Springer
Cover Date: December 1987

Script: Bob Budiansky
Pencils: Don Perlin
Inks: Ian Akin & Brian Garvey
Letters: Jack Morelli
Colours: Nel Yomtov

Later Reprinted By: Transformers #141 -142 [UK], Titan Books: Treason [Worldwide].

Synopsis: The Protectobots radio back to the Ark, currently being prepared to be launched into space, but are spotted by a group of children at a rail depot. They are attacked by the Combaticons, and leave Blaster, who is found by one of the children. Meanwhile, the Combaticons have formed Bruticus. The Protectobots form Defensor, and battle Bruticus. Meanwhile, an impatient Grimlock orders the Ark to be launched. Back at the train depot, the kids remove the transforming lock from Blaster. Bruticus defeats Defensor, but Blaster electrocutes the Decepticon. The Protectobots then let Blaster go, and he takes the kids into space in Blast Off, locked in his shuttle mode. However, once in space, they are attacked by the Ark.

Notes: The Ark goes into space in this issue for the first time since crashing on Earth in #1.

Errors: On page 7, there's too much grey on Blaster. On page 14, in the top frame Bruticus' speech bubble is pointing at Defensor.

Transformers featured [in rough order of appearance]: Streetwise, First Aid, Blades, Groove, Blaster, Wheeljack, Grimlock, Powerglide, Cosmos, Beachcomber, Hotspot, Brawl, Swindle, Vortex, Blast-Off, Onslaught, Bruticus, Defensor.

Notable Others: Allan, Jed, Sammy, Robin. No, no. It's bad enough I have to list these idiots, I'm not mentioning the bloody teddy bear.

Review: A decent fight scene, an amusingly OTT Grimlock, a surprisingly balanced Blaster, all spoiled by those bastard kids. Really, Blaster should have stamped Robin to paste after her sickening plea for Daisy's "life". Really the beginning of the end for Bob - sadly, the end would last another twenty stories...

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#36 - "Spacehikers!"

[cover]
Cover: Frank Springer
Cover Date: January 1988

Script: Bob Budiansky
Pencils: José Delbo
Inks: Ian Akin & Brian Garvey
Letters: Diana Albers
Colours: Nel Yomtov

Later Reprinted By: Transformers #143 -144 [UK], Titan Books: Treason [Worldwide].

Synopsis: Sky Lynx receives a call for help from Wheeljack, while Grimlock tries to capture Blaster. Sammy throws Blaster overboard just before the Ark captures Blast Off. The kids are captured, but Wheeljack gives them environment suits. However, they are summoned to Grimlock. Grimlock sentences the kids to death, much to the shock of many of the Autobots. Sky Lynx saves them, while Blaster boards the Ark. Sky Lynx shelters in an asteroid storm, but the Dinobots follow. The Autobots side with Blaster, but he's forced to surrender to allow the humans to be spared.

Notes: Sky Lynx had taken a nomadic life over civil war. Wheeljack saved his life several times. The Protectobots have returned to the Ark since #32. Blaster mentions the Polyhex smelting pools - see #17. Presumably Sky Lynx can dispatch one or the other of his modules to subspace when he's not using it.

Errors: Wildrider is shown in the flashback to Cybertron - but he was created on Earth, and has yet to leave. There's an absolute corker on page 7, when Sammy throws Blaster out of... Sky Lynx. In the top frame of page 14, Beachcomber, Seaspray, Slag, Hoist, Warpath and Tracks are all standing casually on bugger-all. On page 20, Omega Supreme's hardly taller than Prowl or Blaster, and the next page he's not to a much better scale. Would the Dinobots really be more agile in dinosaur modes? Swoop? Maybe. The other four? No.

Transformers featured [in rough order of appearance]: Sky Lynx [first appearance], Bombshell [flashback], Razorclaw [flashback], Wheeljack, Slag, Sludge, Snarl, Grimlock, Blast Off, Blaster, Grapple, Wheeljack, Cosmos, Tracks, Twin Twist [first appearance], Beachcomber, First Aid, Skydive, Hotspot, Fireflight, Seaspray, Smokescreen, Silverbolt, Hoist, Warpath, Tracks, Powerglide, Blades, Sandstorm [first appearance], Prowl, Omega Supreme, Perceptor, Ratchet, Swerve [first appearance - okay, it's almost certainly a miscoloured Gears, but it's bit of a coincidence, and I really like Swerve...], Sideswipe, Jetfire.

Notable Others: Allan, Jed, Sammy, Robin.

Review: At this stage Delbo's art isn't that bad - probably a tribute to just how good Akin and Garvey are. Sadly, the story's diabolical. The childish scripting and unnecessarily central role of these four sacks of excrement, added to the lengthy recap of the end of last issue, easily outweighs the fact that Sky Lynx is actually rather good. A horrid mess of coincidences, tackiness, unrealistic characters and plot elements [hopping around on asteroids, the sudden total animosity towards Grimlock and adoration of Blaster] and terrible dialogue. The only good bit is Grimlock condemning the kids to death. Read this before slagging "Buster Witwicky and the Carwash of Doom".

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#37 - "Toy Soldiers!"

[cover]
Cover: José Delbo
Cover Date: February 1988

Script: Bob Budiansky
Pencils: José Delbo
Inks: Ian Akin & Brian Garvey
Letters: Bill Oakley
Colours: Nel Yomtov

Later Reprinted By: Transformers #154 -155 [UK], Titan Books: Treason [Worldwide].

Synopsis: Walter Barnett interrogates the Goldbug and the Throttlebots, but can get little information from them. RAAT then decide to destroy them the next time there's a Transformer attack anywhere. Their bodies are then destroyed, but Barnett places their brain modules in radio-controlled cars, sparing their lives. They set off to get help from Buster. Ratbat and the Predacons storm RAAT's base, looking for the Autobots. They realise the brain modules are missing, and set off after their scent. Meanwhile, Walter meets up with Spike and Buster, and sets off to the Ark with Buster. The Predacons are close behind, and catch up with them at the mall. At Walter's behest, Buster takes Goldbug on to the Ark. Though it's missing, they find radio equipment, where Goldbug sends a distress call, but is then destroyed by Ratbat.

Notes: RAAT captured the Throttlebots and Goldbug in #32. Sparkplug and Buster first met the Transformers when they repaired Bumblebee back in #2. Goldbug's call was received by both Hot Rod and Vorath in Headmasters #3.

Errors: Placing a Transformer's brain in a radio-controlled car allows it to speak and control the car - eh? Goldbug and Freeway both have blue heads. How exactly can Ratbat smell the Autobot brain modules? There's no fuel in them.

Transformers featured [in rough order of appearance]: Divebomb, Rampage, Headstrong, Hook, Scrapper, Long Haul, Scavenger, Bonecrusher, Blitzwing, Goldbug, Searchlight, Rollbar, Freeway, Goldbug, Chase, Wideload, Razorclaw, Divebomb.

Notable Others: Walter Barnett, Buster, Sparkplug.

Review: Argh... pure stupidity. The plot's still absolutely ludicrous, with much of the issue wasted via the daft chase around the mall with the Predacons insisting on pouncing on radio controlled cars instead of using their armaments. Did anyone seriously think the radio-controlled car thing was a sensible idea? How is Barnett suddenly so resolute that the Autobots aren't lying? Why does my brain bleed when I read this?

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#38 - "Trial by Fire!"

[cover]
Cover: Frank Springer
Cover Date: March 1988

Script: Bob Budiansky
Pencils: José Delbo
Inks: Dave Hunt
Letters: Bill Oakley
Colours: Nel Yomtov

Later Reprinted By: Transformers #156 -157 [UK], Titan Books: Trial by Fire [Worldwide].

Synopsis: Fortress Maximus' Autobots are heading to Earth, despite the misgivings of some of the Nebulans. On the way, Fortress Maximus is given a new, larger body, also incorporating Cerebros. Meanwhile, Spike Witwicky arrives back at Sparkplug's garage to find it wrecked, but his father is okay. Spike heads off to Mount St. Hilary to find Buster. He's interrupted by the Autobot Headmasters, on Earth to investigate the distress call. They find what's left of Goldbug, and debate whether to set off after Buster, or find the Autobots who were meant to be stationed in the Ark at the volcano. Spike tires to persuade Galen to help rescue Spike, but Galen is unmoved. The Autobots then leave Spike behind. He spends the night at the mountain, but is woken the next day by the Decepticons. Spike hides, and is able to signal to Chromedome. The Autobots return, with Galen suddenly aware of his responsibilities. While the battle rages, Scorponok heads off after Spike, with Maximus following. The two Transformers fight, and eventually Zarak and Galen face each other. However, Zarak causes a rock fall, and Galen is crushed saving Spike. Before he dies, he passes his control helmet to Spike, who drives the Decepticons off with Fortress Maximus.

Notes: Spike is a college student, and would seem to be Sparkplug's oldest son. He has none of the mechanical skills of his brother or father. He used to hike up Mount St. Hilary when he was a boy scout. This issue happens after Headmasters #4.

Spike was introduced, out of nowhere, to tie in with Hasbro having Spike as the Headmaster figure for the Fortress Maximus toy.

Errors: There's too much white on Brainstorm, and far too much blue on Highbrow, pretty much throughout. Chromedome also gets a white head most of the time. On page 2, Galen calls Chromedome "Highbrow". In the background of page 9, Pointblank's shoulder stops suddenly to the right of his wheel. On page 10, in the bottom-left frame, Brainstorm's face is much too long in profile... it actually looks slightly freaky. The timescale's also unrealistic - the distress call was sent no more than a day before the start of this story [the time Sparkplug spent buried in his garage], and was received right at the start of "Brothers in Armor!". So in this day, all the events of that story have happened and the Autobot ship has got pretty much to Earth. Without details of the distance between Earth and Nebulos, or details of the capabilities of the Autobot ship, it's difficult to definitively write this one up as an error, but it certainly feels unlikely. Hmm, Spike gets the hang of that control helmet pretty quickly - it also makes a mockery of "binary bonding" if any old guy can pick up a helmet and successfully control a Transformer. It's a bit silly the way the other Autobots are already thinking about him being leader.... I mean, let the lad onboard by all means, but leader? Scorponok had purple antennae for the first few pages. On page 14, Brainstorm appears to be wearing a polo-neck. On page 16, Yomtov colours Snapdragon like Weirdwolf, and Apeface like Snapdragon. On the next page, Stylor is blond. Why exactly does the volcano blow up? It doesn't seem to be an eruption...

Transformers featured [in rough order of appearance]: Hardhead, Fortress Maximus, Highbrow, Brainstorm, Chromedome, Cerebros, Pointblank, Ratbat [flashback], Scorponok, Apeface, Snapdragon, Mindwipe, Weirdwolf, Skullcruncher.

Notable Others: Galen [killed by rock fall], Zarak, Llyra [flashback], Gort, Duros, Spike Witwicky [first appearance], Sparkplug, Arcana, Stylor, Vorath, Krunk.

Review: A big step up from most of the recent US stories, but it's still quite faulted. Galen's hard-line character is a good basic idea, but while most of what he says about the war rings true, his callous disregard for the humans is a little hard to swallow. Also, it's a shame they drew Spike pretty much exactly like Buster, and gave him the same character his brother had in the first couple of issues, as it makes it pretty clear Spike's just going to supplant him. Dave Hunt's inks also aren't good enough, so Delbo's art is beginning to shine through... "Trial by Fire" is let down by the last couple of pages, and some variable art. It's a shame that, presumably at Hasbro's behest, that Galen gets killed off, and it must have annoyed Budiansky considering the comprehensive background work on him, in favour of Spike, who's basically a ret-con [okay, so his existence doesn't contradict anything, but it's clear he's been shoehorned in], and is Buster by a different name. But overall it's a moderately interesting, but thankfully rather sensible, story.

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#39 - "The Desert Island of Space!"

[cover]
Cover: José Delbo
Cover Date: April 1988

Script: Bob Budiansky
Pencils: José Delbo
Inks: Dave Hunt
Letters: Bill Oakley
Colours: Nel Yomtov

Later Reprinted By: Transformers #158 -159 [UK], Titan Books: Trial by Fire [Worldwide].

Synopsis: Buster has been captured by Ratbat, and is being used as a hostage to ward off a human naval attack on the Decepticons' island base. On the taskforce is Walter, with the brains of the Throttlebots. He calls Sparkplug to tell him Buster's alive. Spike traces the call, and sets off to rescue Buster with the Autobot Targetmasters. They are beaten back by the island's defences, and to the astonishment of everyone watching, the Island suddenly takes off, with the Decepticon base underneath actually being a spacecraft. Fortress Maximus grabs onto it as it takes off, but is spotted by Shockwave. The defences disable Maximus, so Cerebros continues the assault. Shockwave attacks him personally, knocking him out, but Spike gets away, and activates Fortress Maximus' guns, disabling Shockwave's rockets and sending him falling to Earth. However, the ship then reaches escape velocity, leaving Spike behind. He's rescued by the Autobots, though, convinced of his leadership abilities.

Notes: When combined, Spike's mind is combined with the engrams of Fortress Maximus' brain, so he's a gestalt. Shockwave can fire a heat laser of some sort from his optic. Presumably there's an oxygen supply in the Headmaster armour. Oh, and there's confirmation Spike is the older brother.

Errors: Both Forsythe and Barnett refer to there being six Autobot brain modules, and Goldbug being the seventh - there aren't, there are five [Rollbar, Wideload, Searchlight, Chase and Freeway], with Goldbug the sixth. It's charmingly naive for both the Decepticons and Budiansky to have the faith that a full military assault would be reined back by the presence of one random human. On page 7, in the bottom-left frame, Sparkplug's face has random blotches of white and purple on it. Cerebros' head has reversed its colour scheme since last issue. Spoilsport, Pinpointer and Recoil are all coloured wrong. How is Maximus' body still there for Spike to control? Why aren't Maximus and Cerebros burnt up in the atmosphere?

Transformers featured [in rough order of appearance]: Shockwave, Ratbat, Headstrong [flashback], Tantrum [flashback], Cerebros, Fortress Maximus, Chromedome [flashback], Crosshairs, Hot Rod, Pointblank, Kup, Blurr, Sureshot, Kickback, Dead End, Frenzy [or Rumble], Onslaught, Breakdown, Scavenger, Razorclaw, Soundwave, Shrapnel, Vortex, Hook, Cerebros. Rollbar's brain speaks from its remote controlled car.

Notable Others: Buster, Walter, Sparkplug, Spike, Pinpointer, Firebolt, Peacemaker, Recoil, Haywire, Spoilsport.

Review: Again, quite well scripted and more-or-less competently drawn, it continues something of a return to form for Budiansky, who seems a lot more comfortable with the Headmasters characters, but it's still not a patch on his earlier work. Shockwave gets something of an improvement - he may be beaten, but he's not being bossed about by Ratbat. Ratbat himself is also improving quite nicely, finally being put in a story that isn't totally ridiculous.

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#40 - "Pretender to the Throne!"

[cover]
Cover: José Delbo
Cover Date: May 1988

Script: Bob Budiansky
Pencils: José Delbo
Inks: Dave Hunt
Letters: Bill Oakley
Colours: Nel Yomtov

Later Reprinted By: Transformers #162 -163 [UK], Titan Books: Trial by Fire [Worldwide].

Synopsis: Now working for a company named Alternate Reality, Ethan is playing with Optimus on a computer game, but the Autobot can't understand that he's not a computer character. Fortress Maximus' Autobots find out he's being stored there, and, after Goldbug a new body, decide to investigate. Goldbug finds Ethan, and they are able to use Prime to hack into Scorponok's computers. The Decepticon is creating Pretender shells for some of his warriors. However, he is traced, and to counter this, and hopefully snap Optimus out of his belief that he's a character, Goldbug contacts Fortress Maximus so he can make six Autobot Pretenders to counter them. The Autobots create six Pretenders shells also, and Optimus purposefully springs the Decepticon alarms so their Pretenders will attack Alternate Reality. Meanwhile, Scorponok enters the Decepticon computer. The Decepticon Pretenders find their Autobot counterparts waiting for them. Optimus directs the battle via Goldbug, and the Decepticons are beaten back. Optimus then defeats Scorponok, but after the Autobots win, still thinks he's a computer-generated character.

Notes: Scorponok claims only his genius made the Pretender process possible. Optimus' personality has been possessed on a disc by Ethan since #24. The Autobots recovered Goldbug's brain in #38.

Errors: It's a bit off that the Autobots are investigating random phone-calls when a) the Throttlebots are still bodiless down on Earth and b) Buster is still a Decepticon prisoner. Optimus must be the highest resolution '88 Computer game character by some considerable margin. Yomtov's inaccurate schemes for Brainstorm and Highbrow return. After the first frame of his new body, the "hood" part of Goldbug is missing until he gets to Earth. Ethan's had Optimus' personality on disc for about a year, and hasn't bothered doing anything about it. It's highly implausible that the Decepticons actually think the Autobot Pretenders are human. Oh, and Yomtov, as well as using more block-colouring that a 4 year old with a single crayon, also chooses his buggered up schemes for Brainstorm and Highbrow again.

Transformers featured [in rough order of appearance]: Goldbug, Fortress Maximus, Brainstorm, Highbrow, Scorponok, Iguanus [first appearance], Bomb-Burst [first appearance], Bugly [first appearance], Submarauder [first appearance], Finback [first appearance], Skullgrin [first appearance], Landmine [first appearance], Cloudburst [first appearance], Waverider [first appearance], Groundbreaker [first appearance], Sky High [first appearance], Splashdown [first appearance], Goldbug. There's also computer-Optimus.

Notable Others: Ethan Zachary, Sparkplug, Spike, Zarak, Vorath.

Review: Not terribly good at all. A dull "computer" story, with the angle of Optimus thinking he's a computer game character totally bludgeoned to death in the opening few pages, so the fact in turns into a plot point isn't good. Add into this that the Decepticon Pretenders are the most stupid looking Transformers so far, that the art's totally stale and that the potentially interesting Scorponok is already morphing into a generic Decepticon leader, and you're not left with an awful lot of any value. Delbo's improved ability with the handling of the humanoid Pretenders is totally undermined by Yomtov's colouring, which is generally pretty poor anyway, but is also incredibly lazy here. Unless you're hugely interested in Pretenders, this one is best skipped...

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