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THE TRANSFORMERS: COMICS, BOOKS AND MANGA

IDW Publishing
(2005-now)
Devil's Due
(2003-2007)
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(2002-2004)
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(2001-now)
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(2001-now)
Marvel Comics
(1984-1994)
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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 #41 - #50

| #41 | #42 | #43 | #44 | #45 | #46 | #47 | #48 | #49 | #50 |

#41 - "Totaled!"

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

Script: Bob Budiansky
Pencils: José Delbo
Inks: Danny Bulandi
Letters: Bill Oakley
Colours: Nel Yomtov

Later Reprinted By: Transformers #174 -175 [UK], Titan Books: Maximum Force [Worldwide].

Synopsis: Fortress Maximus' Autobots unsuccessfully try to build a new body for Optimus Prime. They then set out to find the Ark. A delegation from his ship meets Grimlock, who is unhappy that Prime might return. Goldbug then turns himself in to appease Grimlock, but the Dinobot still decides to fight Fortress Maximus for leadership of all the Autobots. Goldbug, meanwhile, finds Blaster, and persuades him to fight Grimlock on Fortress Maximus' behalf, on Earth's moon. The combatants prepare, unaware that Ratbat is preparing to assault them as they fight. The Autobots watch as Blaster and Grimlock fight, but are attacked by Ratbat, unknown to the duellists, whose fight has carried them further away. As the battle continues, the Constructicons liberate the Decepticons held in the Ark. Maximus then sends Goldbug to get the message to leave to his own ship. Meanwhile, Blaster and Grimlock notice the fighting, and call a truce before investigating. They initiate a counterattack which forces the Decepticons to retreat. Then Fortress Maximus confides that Goldbug has taken his ship to Nebulos to try to revive Optimus Prime.

Notes: Grimlock has led the bulk of the Autobots since #27. Blaster was imprisoned by Grimlock in #36. Sunstreaker has been repaired since #10. Ratbat captured Buster in #39. Starscream, Thundercracker, Skywarp, Frenzy, Rumble and Buzzsaw were deactivated by Omega Supreme in #19. Landmine commands the Autobot Pretenders.

Errors: Yomtov again messes up Brainstorm and Highbrow, and on page 2 the former gets a white face-plate too. Aside from Scattershot, Fort Max' top officers bear little resemblance to who they're meant to be on page 4. On the next page, Scattershot has a scarlet head, and the rest of him is grey. Blaster has no detail on his chest. Soundwave is missing his chest detail, but has gained a mouth. Also on page 9, in the bottom-left frame Shockwave can be glimpsed, despite falling to Earth in #39. In the next frame, some diabolical colouring from Yomtov makes it look like Ratbat's eyes take up the top of his head. Considering the composition of the frame, it was probably too hard to edit out. In the same vein, Sandstorm appears in Blaster's flashback. By page 11, the disk with Prime's personality on it is at least 6 foot wide. Getaway's miscoloured badly. Delbo gets Grimlock's head wrong throughout. His crown design flits around a fair bit too. Blaster is again bereft of chest detail. As he kicks Grimlock on page 12, Grimlock's head is coloured yellow. In the bottom frame of the second page, in the background an uncoloured Optimus Prime can be seen. On page 14, Beachcomber's chest is uncoloured. As Swindle shoots Brawn on page 17, Prowl's car mode can be seen floating alongside. On page 19, Yomtov's colouring makes Getaway look like he's wearing an executioner's mask. The following page, Grimlock shoots two red missiles through Dragstrip without apparent damage. At the bottom of the same page, Thrust doesn't even resemble his jet mode - it looks more like a botched Blitzwing. In the third frame of page 22, Blaster's head isn't coloured.

Transformers featured [in rough order of appearance]: Goldbug, Fortress Maximus, Brainstorm, Highbrow, Hot Rod, Ratchet, Sludge, Grimlock, Slag, Snarl, Swoop, Pointblank, Scattershot, Landmine, Grotusque, Cerebros, Chromedome, Blaster, First Aid [flashback], Sandstorm [flashback], Perceptor, Wheeljack, Omega Supreme, Cosmos, Sky Lynx [flashback], Crosshairs, Sureshot, Soundwave, Ratbat, Kickback, Shrapnel, Bombshell, Tracks, Slingshot, Silverbolt, Trailbreaker, Smokescreen, Jetfire, Mirage, Powerglide, Sideswipe, Skydive, Windcharger, Sunstreaker, Seaspray, Ironhide, Prowl, Hound, Hoist, Jazz, Huffer, Bluestreak, Air Raid, Beachcomber, Brawn, Cliffjumper, Grapple, Fireflight, Gears, Hardhead, Nosecone, Afterburner, Lightspeed, Slapdash [first appearance], Joyride [first appearance], Getaway [first appearance], Onslaught, Blurr, Broadside [first appearance], Blitzwing, Astrotrain, Laserbeak, Motormaster, Vortex, Wildrider, Dirge, Rampage, Tantrum, Headstrong, Dragstrip, Breakdown, Ramjet, Razorclaw, Swindle, Brawl, Octane, Hook, Scrapper, Long Haul, Scavenger, Bonecrusher. There are some I can't identify - I can never recognise Pretender inner robots...

Notable Others: Spike, Buster.

Letters Page : The issue contained two competitions - one to name all the Autobots on page 10, and one to spot the name "Shingo" thoughout the issue. In response to requests for female Trasnformers, the letter answerer points out that Transformers aren't specifically gendered, but then mentions Arcee anyway. The character model of Sinnertwin's alt mode is also included, for no apparent reason.

Review: A fair script completely hamstrung by ugly, confusing art. This is probably Yomtov's absolute low, and considering the volume of mistakes made throughout, it's difficult to believe he was actually employed by a professional comic company, much less would hold onto his job until the end of the series. Still, Budiansky's handle on Fort Max, Blaster and Ratbat is good, while decadent Grimlock is once again good fun, especially mocking Max. An all-out army-on-army battle is something not seen often enough, and it's worth noting that this plan from Ratbat is about the closest the Decepticons have come to a decisive victory since Shockwave's assault in #4, against about twice the Decepticon numbers. It's a worthy story.

[*][*][*][*][*][*][0][0][0][0]

#42 - "People Power!"

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

Script: Bob Budiansky
Breakdowns: José Delbo
Finishes: Dave Hunt & Don Hudson
Letters: Bill Oakley
Colours: Nel Yomtov

Later Reprinted By: Transformers #176 -177 [UK], Titan Books: Maximum Force [Worldwide], IDW Publishing: The Transformers Magazine #1 [Worldwide].

Synopsis: The Decepticons Darkwing and Dreadwind are terrorising Nebulos, aided by their native partners Throttle and Hi-Test. Shortly after, Goldbug, Getaway, Joyride and Slapdash land. They approach a Nebulan scientist named Hi Q to build Optimus Prime a new body. However, the atmosphere of the planet has been made to drain Transformers, though Hi Q's Powermaster process was stolen by Throttle, allowing the Decepticons to function. He does allow them to build Optimus a new body nonetheless, though. The Decepticons then attack the Council of Peers, and the Autobots set out to stop them, despite their dwindling energy reserves. The drained Autobots are no match for the Decepticon Powermasters. Back at Hi Q's lab, they continue to fade, though Goldbug's fuel economy means he isn't in as bad a state as the others. Hi Q is touched by Goldbug's feelings for Prime, and builds him a body, despite the fact he will have a short life. Prime is revived, and after initially still thinking he's a computer character, is soon back to his old self. Hi Q, Lube, Rev and Hotwire then decide to undergo the Powermaster process to save the Autobots. Led by Prime, they drive off the Decepticons, who are banished by the Council. Hi Q then realises he must follow with the Autobots to preserve Nebulan peace, and they leave also.

Notes: Darkwing and Dreadwind can combine to form a larger jet, referred to as Dreadwing, though it will be portrayed as simply having two separate personalities, rather than being a gestalt. Galen died in #38. The Nebulans have destroyed all their weapon stockpiles since Headmasters #4. Powermaster companions need to consume food to power their partners, around ten times the normal intake. Hi Q and Hi-Test developed the atmosphere together, before the latter grew jealous and walked out. Hotwire was a car thief in his youth. Throttle is linked to Dreadwind, and Hi-Test to Darkwing. Hi Q bonds to Optimus Prime, Rev to Getaway, Lube to Slapdash and Hotwire to Joyride. Optimus Prime's new body is two-stage, combining with his trailer to form a larger robot - the smaller robot is identical to his old body. It's also worth noting that Prime more or less says he's never died.

Okay, a bit of alleged-error defending. Some have criticised that Goldbug says there isn't enough fuel for the Autobots to go back to their brethren, and yet they leave at the end anyway. Two things - 1) They aren't necessarily planning to go back to the other Autobots, just leaving the planet for now and 2) they can always refuel on the way somewhere. Simple, isn't it? I also have no real trouble with Goldbug's alleged warped priorities... When he left the other Autobots in #41, he had no idea that Nebulos would have the Autobots in such a state, and his friendship with Prime would override a lot of logic in wanting to see his friend and hero alive again - he obviously knows Prime fairly well, as he guesses correctly that Prime would rather die than stay encoded on a disk, just as someone might want to see a close friend pass away than spend fifty years in a vegetative state. He doesn't force Getaway & co. to stay or anything. It's also possible that he's trying to convince Hi Q they just aren't machines. If it was some minor/new character who didn't know Prime, like Chromedome or Joyride, making those decisions, I could buy some of the doubts, but this is Goldbug/Bumblebee, and it tallies with the development he's been given since the very start of the series.

Errors: On page 3, Dreadwind has white feet. As he transforms on page 5, Goldbug's chest has an extra blue panel. On page 10, Getaway has blue legs, and three frames later is missing a mouth.

Transformers featured [in rough order of appearance]: Dreadwind [first appearance], Darkwing [first appearance], Getaway, Goldbug, Joyride, Slapdash, Optimus Prime [in his new body].

Notable Others: Hi-Test [first appearance], Throttle [first appearance], Lube [first appearance], Hotwire [first appearance], Rev [first appearance], Hi Q [first appearance], Sorgen [first appearance], Soriza.

Review: Actually pretty damn good. The art's not too bad, perhaps due to the change in finishers, and the story's engaging, with Dreadwind and Darkwing the best characterisations Budiansky's turned out since, oh, Skids at least. There are some real moments of poignancy from Goldbug and Prime, and the bittersweet ending. There is the odd moment of silliness, notably the "I'm still a computer character!" bit, but it's the best US story for absolutely ages.

[*][*][*][*][*][*][*][*][0][0]

#43 - "The Big Broadcast of 2006!"

[cover]
Cover: Herb Trimpe
Cover Date: August 1988

Script: Ralph Macchio
Pencils: Allan Kupperberg
Inks: Dave Elliot
Letters: Kurt Hathaway
Colours: Nel Yomtov

Later Reprinted By: Transformers #180 -181 [UK], Titan Books: Space Pirates [heavily edited overview; Worldwide]

Synopsis: It's 2006, and the Sharkticons try to recover the canister from Junk, but are driven off by the Junkions. The Quintessons then take over the planet using a control signal. Sky Lynx reports this to Rodimus Prime and Ultra Magnus, while Astrotrain also reports it to Galvatron. The Aerialbots are sentto investigate, and are attacked, but they have found the Quintesson ship and attacked it as Superion. However, they are knocked out, just as Cyclonus and Scourge arrive. Superion has been recovered by Sky Lynx, and the damage he did disrupted the Junkions' programming. They change the signal so it goes to the outside world. This draws in Galvatron, while Rodimus and Magnus have set out to investigate. The signal causes a huge intergalactic battle above Junk, while Rodimus and Galvatron battle. In the chaos, the Quintessons attempt to regain the canister, but Blaster jams their signal, and the Decepticons retreated. The canister was lost in space, however.

Notes: This story takes place in an alternate future.

Errors: The Aerialbots' jet modes are abysmally rendered. On the top of page 5, I really hope that's not meant to be Wreck-Gar. But it probably is, so Kupperberg's managed to get nothing whatsoever about his rendition of the Junkion leader right. Sky Lynx is spelled "Skylynx" on page 7. On page 13, Superion is much too small. At least he didn't drift home, though... As he and Magnus fly off, Rodimus is missing lots of red. In the last frame of page 17, Rodimus' fists are white. His feet have a habit of going white too, or even orange. In the bottom-left of the same page, Galvatron is briefly replaced by Cyclonus. Rodimus also conveniently escapes being under a rock to deflect Galvatron's blast on page 19, and then sportingly goes back under the following page. In the top-middle frame of page 20 Galvatron's top-right arm goes orange for no better reason than Nel Yomtov has no brain, just after Kupperberg's given him a bizarre back arrangement. In the final frame on the same page, his cannon sneaks off for a quick smoke. Or is it just hiding on the back of the other Galvatron opposite him? On page 21, Galvatron cunningly changes into Soundwave before making his escape. Cyclonus and Scourge travel to Junkion for a second time.

Transformers featured [in rough order of appearance]: Rodimus Prime, Ultra Magnus, Sky Lynx, Astrotrain, Galvatron, Cyclonus, Silverbolt, Air Raid, Slingshot, Fireflight, Skydive, Superion, Scourge, Omega Supreme, Blaster, Soundwave, Blast-Off

Notable Others: Wreck-Gar.

Production Notes: This issue was a last-minute fill-in, with Ralph Macchio adapting his own Season 3 TV script for the comic.

Review: Of all the episodes which they could have adapted, why choose this diabolical one? Kupperberg's inept, rigid art topped off with an especially lax day at the office for Yomtov does a below-par script no good whatsoever.

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#44 - "The Cosmic Carnival!"

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

Script: Bob Budiansky
Pencils: Frank Springer
Inks: Danny Bulandi
Letters: Bill Oakley
Colours: Nel Yomtov

Later Reprinted By: Transformers #178 -179 [UK], Titan Books: Maximum Force [Worldwide], IDW Publishing: The Transformers Magazine #2 [Worldwide].

Synopsis: Optimus' team are on their way back to Earth's moon when they see an advert for a carnival, featuring Sky Lynx. They decide to check it out, and find four Earth kids there as well. They then meet the alien in charge, Big Top, to see about releasing the children. He refuses, saying they've signed a contract, and Optimus and Goldbug set off to watch the show, starring Sky Lynx. They meet the Autobot backstage, and he prepares to tell them how they got into this mess. It turns out Berko tricked Sky Lynx into performing as payment for a circus visit, also using the kids as an exhibit. The Autobots then persuade Berko to free the kids, while Optimus frees Sky Lynx. Big Top trues to stop Goldbug, but ends up in a cage. The Autobots and humans then leave.

Notes: Sky Lynx and the kids have been missing since #36. Berko is from Earth.

Errors: The flashback image of the four Nebulans who join with the Autobot Powermasters is all messed up - Hi Q is in front of Lube's armour, Lube in front of Hotwire's, and Hotwire in front of Hi-Test's. Those kids must bloody stink after six issues in the same clothes. Could have mentioned that above, but then this review would be a little short...

Transformers featured [in rough order of appearance]: Goldbug, Getaway, Optimus Prime, Joyride, Slapdash, Sky Lynx.

Notable Others: Hi Q, Rev, Lube, Hotwire, Allan, Sammy, Jed, Robin, Berko [first appearance].

Review: Funny in an odd kind of way. It's no classic, it's got the bloody space kids in it, and it's daft enough to be a cartoon episode. It's not the best return for Optimus, but he gets a few hilarious bits - admitting the Autobots only have enough funds for two tickets, and referring to the ringmaster as "Mr. Top". Sky Lynx' note that the lizard is scared of heights is great, as is his showmanship, but everything gets tied up much too neatly, with Berko's transformation from total bastard to loveable rogue being a bit unconvincing.

[*][*][*][*][0][0][0][0][0][0]

#45 - "Monstercon from Mars!"

[cover]
Cover: Bob Budiansky
Cover Date: October 1988

Script: Bob Budiansky
Breakdowns: José Delbo
Finished Art: Dave Hunt
Letters: Bill Oakley
Colours: Nel Yomtov

Later Reprinted By: Transformers #190 -191 [UK], Titan Books: Maximum Force [Worldwide]

Synopsis: Sky Lynx finally delivers the kids known as the Space Hikers to Earth, but is attacked by a crowd and flies off in anger. Meanwhile, Skullgrin, on Earth on a fuel scavenging mission, is pursued by humans until a movie producer hires him and turns him into a film star. Skullgrin is befriended by a fellow film star named Carissa, while Circuit Breaker observes him. Skullgrin reveals his true form, and Circuit Breaker attacks. In the fight, Carissa is nearly killed, but Skullgrin saves her. Circuit Breaker then turns on the greedy movie mogul, before heading off.

Notes: Sky Lynx gives his rank as "Lieutenant Commander of the Third Cybertronian Strike Unit". It's the first sighting of Circuit Breaker since #23. The kids left Earth in #35.

Errors: Scorpnok's mad if he thinks a giant 40-foot humanoid with a goat's skull for a head won't arouse much suspicion.

Transformers featured [in rough order of appearance]: Sky Lynx, Skullgrin, Scorponok [flashback].

Notable Others: Allan, Jed, Sammy, Robin, Circuit Breaker.

Review: Wow, it's completely mad, and hideously implausible. It's also a bit derivative, stinking of "Hoist Goes to Hollywood", though Skullgrin is amusingly stupid, and there are a couple of sharp lines, but much of the intended satire is a little too stereotypical, and thus wide of the mark.

[*][*][0][0][0][0][0][0][0][0]

#46 - "Ca$h and Car-nage!"

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

Script: Bob Budiansky
Pencils: José Delbo
Inks: Danny Bulandi
Letters: Bill Oakley
Colours: Nel Yomtov

Later Reprinted By: Transformers #192 -193 [UK], Titan Books: Dark Star [Worldwide]

Synopsis: The mysterious Z Foundation hire four human bounty hunters - known as Roadhog, Burn-Out, Skunge and Felix to hunt Transformers. Meanwhile on Cybertron, the Sparkler Minibots and Triggerbots are prisoners of the Decepticons, but Sizzle, Fizzle and Backstreet are curiously released and sent to Earth. They split up, but Sizzle is attacked immediately by Roadhog. Sizzle is soon disabled by Roadhog, using one of the Z Foundation's jamming devices. The same fate awaits Backstreet at the hands of Skunge, and Fizzle from Burn-Out. However, Fizzle warns them they could be pawns in a Decepticon plan, and the Roadjammers set off to find out the truth about the Z Foundation. Mr. L, Mr. K and Mr. B are actually the Nebulons paired with Squeezeplay, Horri-Bull and Fangry, but the Roadjammers have disabled their bodies. However, Zarak arrives, attacking with Scorponok. Felix then sets both the Decepticons and Autobots on Scorponok. Zarak is forced to free all six Transformers, and the Autobots take the Roadjammers to safety.

Notes: The Smelting Pool would still seem to be active on Cybertron. The line "A Transdimensional Spacebridge!" would seem to confirm there's more than one of them. Considering the Transformer-unfriendly state of Nebulos in #42, it's likely that Kreb, Brisko and Lokos were friends of Zarak that either left alongside him in Headmasters #4 without being bonded to Transformers, or followed on afterwards, and have since been combined with other Decepticons using replicated technology.

Errors: Once Sizzle, Fizzle and Backstreet are re-energised and armed, why not attack the Firecons? On page 10, Backstreet's head is red, as is Sizzle's face when the rest of him is block-coloured. Why do the Foundation keep up the masquerade when there's no-one else around? Why do the Autobots split up when there's obviously something suspicious going on? Where did Backstreet get his Earth mode from [possibly an unseen visit]? If Zarak heads the Z Foundation, why did he order the capture/destruction of Decepticons? Backstreet's Porsche 956 mode is missing the rear fairing, and he's coloured all orange on page 21.

Transformers featured [in rough order of appearance]: Dogfight [first appearance], Sizzle [first appearance], Fizzle [first appearance], Guzzle [first appearance], Backstreet [first appearance], Override [first appearance], Flamefeather [first appearance], Cindersaur [first appearance], Sparkstalker [first appearance], Horri-Bull [first appearance], Fangry [first appearance], Squeezeplay [first appearance], Scorponok.

Notable Others: Kreb [first appearance], Brisko [first appearance], Lokos [first appearance], Zarak.

Review: Utter stupidity, bereft of the humour that often enlivens some of Budiansky's more ropey stories. The Roadjammers seem to be a desperate attempt to create a new archenemy, which is a bit silly when there's a perfectly good one [the bloody Decepticons] on the book already, and the comic has too many human baggage characters as it is.

[*][0][0][0][0][0][0][0][0][0]

#47 - "The Underbase Saga! Part One - Club Con!"

[cover]
Cover: Bob Budiansky
Cover Date: December 1988

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

Later Reprinted By: Transformers #194 -195 [UK], Titan Books: Dark Star [Worldwide]

Synopsis: The Decepticons have returned their island to Earth, and are now seemingly using it as a holiday resort for humans. The Autobots are naturally suspicious of this, especially when they find that Buster is apparently King of the island. Blaster is sent to investigate, and is smuggled onto the island by Jessie. She takes a dive in the ocean, and finds the Seacons travelling into the island. Jessie fetches Blaster, and heads into the Decepticon base. They find Buster, but can't free him. He tells them the Decepticons are looking for the Autobots Grandslam and Raindance, sent to warn the Autobots of something approaching the planet. The Seacons find the Autobot tapes, but Jessie swipes them. The Seacons follow, and Blaster tries to fight them before leaving the tapes to stop the holidaying humans from getting hurt. He then hides, and Jessie gets him off the island.

Notes: Sparkplug smokes cigars. Jessie's dyed her hair since #31, and is an excellent swimmer. Optimus Prime has returned to the Autobots since #44, taking over leadership from Grimlock - presumably without a hitch as the pair seem to be getting on fine. The Autobots have also repaired the Ark, and returned from Earth's moon. Grandslam and Raindance were dispatched to contact Optimus Prime "a few hundred years ago" - they were definitely on Earth in the 18th century, when their forms were part of a pirate crew's treasure stash. It's likely they lost the ability to transform during their ordeal. Blaster knows Seawing, and the Seacons, most likely from Cybertron. Starscream has been revived since #41.

Errors: Considering the last time the island was on Earth it was the target of a huge naval assault, it's pretty astonishing that the Decepticons are publicly promoting a successful holiday resource without any interference... A Battlecharger is in the Ark's drill room. By page 8, Ramjet has morphed into an F16 Falcon upon landing. Blaster's without his insignia throughout - though it's possible he removes it to go undercover. Though not that likely, as not even Ratbat would be that stupid. Defensor and Sunstreaker are shown in the flashback on Cybertron - Defensor was created on Earth in 1986, and Sunstreaker would have been dormant on Earth. Why sent two messengers for a leader who could well be dead when Grandslam and Raindance could investigate themselves? Buster's line about a king giving the island immunity is absolute nonsense. Drag Strip's visor is miscoloured on page 12. On the last page, Vortex and Thrust's alt modes are huge - Thrust also has too much black on him. Why on Earth do the Decepticons go to such bother to cover hunting the tapes? If they'd just done it subtly with the Seacons there would be no need for all the pesky humans, or attracting the Autobots' attention. Cybertronian technology is very similar to 1980s Earth, if the cassettes' alt modes are anything to go by...

Transformers featured [in rough order of appearance]: Starscream, Dragstrip, Breakdown, Swindle, Fortress Maximus, Optimus Prime, Grimlock, Mirage, Outback, Blaster, Grapple, Jazz, First Aid, Ratbat, Ramjet, Soundwave, Wildrider, Skalor [first appearance], Overbite [first appearance], Tentakil [first appearance], Nautilator [first appearance], Snaptrap [first appearance], Seawing [first appearance], Dragstrip, Vortex, Beachcomber [flashback], Perceptor [flashback], Raindance [first appearance], Grandslam [first appearance], Ratbat, Thrust.

Notable Others: Buster, Sparkplug, Jessie.

Extras: The issue features Transformers Universe profiles for Snapdragon, Apeface and Highbrow.

Review: Once you've got past the absolutely absurd central concept [I won't say 'plot'...] there's actually some good stuff here. Both Starscream and Blaster are on great form, and Delbo's art isn't too bad, although it is ruined by the truly massive amounts of block-colouring utilised. Not good by any stretch of the imagination - there are some serious logic shutdowns [Ratbat once again needlessly complicates a straightforward mission], and that silly bit with the kid - this again isn't too bad, but certainly better than its reputation.

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#48 - "The Underbase Saga! Part Two - The Flames of Boltax!"

[cover]
Cover: José Delbo
Cover Date: January 1989

Script: Bob Budiansky
Pencils: José Delbo
Inks: Danny Bulandi
Letters: Bill Oakley
Colours: Nel Yomtov

Later Reprinted By: Transformers #196 -197 [UK], Titan Books: Dark Star [Worldwide]

Synopsis: Ratbat uses his new Realvision 3D hologram playback system to view the information carried by Grandslam and Raindance. They see a young Optimus Prime leading the Triggerbots to see a scientist named Boltax on Cybertron, stalked by Megatron and the Triggercons. Upon reaching Boltax' citadel, his disciples warn the Autobots to leave. Prime sets off towards Boltax alone, pursued by Megatron and the Triggercons. Boltax tells Prime he has created the Underbase, a huge database of knowledge. Back in reality, Buster has escaped, and is also watching the playback. Megatron catches up with Prime, who has found that the knowledge in the Underbase is too great for any one Transformer. The Decepticons attack him, but Prime sends the Underbase into space. Back in the present, the Decepticons work out the Underbase's course, and that it is due to pass Earth in a week. Buster hears this, but is then recaptured.

Notes: Optimus Prime is Optimus Prime at this stage, and presumably has the Matrix [or is at least the Matrix holder]. He gives his rank as 'Lieutenant Commander of the Fourth Autobot Computerised Division'. This must mean that either the Matrix doesn't, or didn't at the time, automatically constitute leadership, or for some reason it was kept quiet.

Errors: Optimus has a totally different Cybertronian mode to the one shown in #1. It is possible it was changed, though. The Triggerbots all have clearly recognisable Earth-based alt modes, which makes you wonder why Delbo bothered with a new model for Prime. Soundwave has a mouth once more. On page 2, Starscream has a white chin. On page 4, Raindance is miscoloured yellow. Why put all that information on the tapes if all Optimus needs to know is that the Underbase is passing the solar system? He was there, he can remember everything else... On page 14, Starscream's chest is entirely red. As he leaves the citadel, Optimus' chest is all red, and his lower torso is all grey.

Transformers featured [in rough order of appearance]: Ratbat, Starscream, Soundwave, Grandslam, Raindance. Optimus Prime, Backstreet, Override, Dogfight, Megatron, Ruckus [first appearance], Crankcase [first appearance], Windsweeper [first appearance] and Boltax [first appearance]all appear in the Realvision flashback.

Notable Others: Buster.

Extras: The issue features Transformers Universe profiles for Brainstorm, Chromedome, Crosshairs and Searchlight.

Review: Rather dodgy, with the traps bad padding designed to show off a skill for each Triggerbot. It's also very gaudy, the better parts undone by the silly Ratbat/Starscream Greek chorus [they should both realise that Prime and Megatron make it through unscathed]... The whole thing feels like 18 pages for about a page's worth of plot, though the slightly rasher Prime is a nice angle.

[*][*][0][0][0][0][0][0][0][0]

#49 - "The Underbase Saga! Part Three - Cold War!"

[cover]
Cover: José Delbo
Cover Date: February 1989

Script: Bob Budiansky
Pencils: José Delbo
Inks: Danny Bulandi
Letters: Bill Oakley
Colours: Nel Yomtov

Later Reprinted By: Transformers #206-207 [UK], Titan Books: Dark Star [Worldwide]

Synopsis: Ratbat's Decepticons move to meet an arriving Star Cruiser at the arctic location that is the latest location for their island base. Starscream tells them not to destroy it - the ship contains Scorponok and his Decepticons. Scorponok has contacted Starscream, who suggested the rendezvous, but neglected to mention it to Ratbat. Starscream then shows Scorponok's troops around their base. Buster lets slip about the Underbase, and Scorponok is angry Ratbat has kept this from him. Meanwhile, Starscream takes Buster to be terminated. Back at the Decepticon base, a fight breaks out between the two factions. Starscream, meanwhile, leaves Buster in the arctic with an Autobot distress beacon, as bait for a trap, before taking Scorponok's ship to get the Underbase for himself.

Notes: Scorponok contacted Starscream sometime in #47. Buster has been the Decepticons' prisoner since #37. Fortress Maximus' base alt mode can float, and presumably propel itself in water, unless Optimus and Blaster get out and push the thing. Blitzwing's been repaired since being cleaved in half by Grimlock in #41, and Thundercracker, Skywarp and Buzzsaw have been repaired since his body was recovered in the same issue. Starscream is Ratbat's second-in-command.

Errors: On page 2, Seawing appears to be flying. The relative size of Scorponok's ship jumps all over the place. On page 10, Yomtov gets confused between Ratbat's optic and the side of his head again. In the bottom left frame of page 11, Starscream has a blue nose and tail. On page 12, Skullcruncher's head is green, and Scorponok's legs are purple with green feet. On page 13, Thundercracker's coloured like Starscream. As Scorponok transforms on page 16, his head is red. In the next frame, Razorclaw's coloured green, barely visible in front of Scorponok. Nice one, Nel. Soundwave's got that bloody mouth again. On page 17, Skalor appears to have eyelashes. Triggerhappy was initially with Scorponok's delegation, and is then watching them from the ship on page 12.

Transformers featured [in rough order of appearance]: Buzzsaw, Laserbeak, Ratbat, Soundwave, Octane, Tantrum, Astrotrain, Headstrong, Blitzwing, Rampage, Onslaught, Thundercracker, Divebomb, Overbite, Seawing, Snaptrap, Skalor, Nautilator, Tentakil, Piranacon [first appearance], Starscream, Scorponok, Mindwipe, Snapdragon, Skullcruncher, Bugly, Bomb-Burst, Finback, Iguanus, Apeface, Razorclaw, Optimus Prime, Fortress Maximus, Blaster, Weirdwolf, Horri-Bull, Headstrong, Blitzwing, Triggerhappy, Tantrum, Rampage, Hun-Grr, Slugslinger, Sinnertwin, Squeezeplay, Rippersnapper, Bomb-Burst, Skullgrin, Bugly, Iguanus, Finback, Submarauder, Swindle, Cutthroat, Skywarp, Apeface.

Notable Others: Zarak, Vorath, Krunk, Monzo, Spasma, Spike, Buster.

Extras: The issue features Transformers Universe profiles for Chase and Freeway.

Review: Interesting, if slow. The biggest problem is that the fact Starscream's up to something can be seen a mile off, and it's astonishing that Ratbat hasn't had him shot yet, let alone promoted him to second in command. Still, it's nice that the two Decepticon forces on Earth have finally linked up. Starscream's treachery is rather overcooked, especially the Decepticons' sudden realisation that they've been tricked. The level of violence would be worth some comment if the art was actually consistent from who's being torn apart and who just looks like that. Delbo's art by now has degenerated into undynamic cluttered nonsense, with many of the fight scenes looking very poor, not helped by Yomtov.

[*][*][*][*][0][0][0][0][0][0]

#50 - "The Underbase Saga! Part Four - Dark Star!"

[cover]
Cover: José Delbo
Cover Date: March 1989

Script: Bob Budiansky
Pencils: José Delbo
Inks: Danny Bulandi
Letters: Bill Oakley
Colours: Nel Yomtov

Later Reprinted By: Transformers #208 -210 [UK], Titan Books: Dark Star [Worldwide]

Synopsis: The Autobots investigate the distress beacon, rescuing Buster, but are ambushed by the Decepticons. Meanwhile, Starscream nears the Underbase. Buster, meanwhile, tells Ratbat of Starscream's plot, and the two sides call a truce. They set off after Starscream in the island base-come-rocket, and Prime succeeds in shooting Starscream down, but not before he has absorbed some of the Underbase. Starscream has enough power to destroy the island spaceship, though, and heads off to Earth. Prime picks everyone up via the Ark's remote control. The Transformers deploy to three Earth cities Starscream plans to attack, though Optimus remains behind to co-ordinate things from the Ark. Starscream then decimates the Transformers in New York led by Blaster and Ratbat, though Ratbat is able to escape, heading back to the Ark. As Optimus works on something to stop the Underbase with Hi Q, Starscream routs Grimlock and Scorponok's forces in Tokyo, but Scorponok also escapes and heads for the Ark. In Buenos Aires, Fortress Maximus and Soundwave's forces fare no better, and only Maximus survives thanks to being binary-bonded to Spike. However, he receives a call from Buster on the Ark, and Starscream traces it, intent on revenge. Ratbat and Scorponok reach the Ark in time to see Prime launch a rocket at the Underbase, and leap to the conclusion he wants it for himself. The rocket deflects the Underbase towards the Ark, and Ratbat sets off to claim it, only to be killed by Scorponok. Scorponok then sets out for the Underbase, but Optimus tackles him, and it hits Starscream, overloading him.

Notes: Buster's age is given at 17. Apeface and Tantrum have been repaired since last issue. I'm firmly of the opinion that Soundwave's deactivated by Starscream here. He won't show up again until #61 in the regular timeline, easily allowing time for repairs and there's nothing whatsoever, besides people liking Soundwave and liking to think of him as some sort of ultimate survivor, to suggest he'd be any less damaged than any of the other totally inorganic Transformers.

Errors: Why does Ratbat need convincing from Buster as to Starscream's plan when he and Scorponok worked it out last issue? In the flashback on page 2, Starscream's shown, despite the fact he was busy nicking Scorponok's ship at the time. On page 3, Cerebros has yet another new colour scheme, with all-grey head. As he transforms on page 4, Optimus' shoulder cannon are blue. As Beachcomber gets clobbered by Mindwipe, his body goes brown. The timescale of the pursuit of Starscream is a little messed up - he's obviously quite close to the Underbase while the Autobots and Decepticons are still fighting, yet they still catch him despite all the truces, posturing and repairing of the ship... Why does Starscream announce his plans to the other Transformers? Why doesn't he kill them all while they're helpless in space? Why those three cities? How do the Transformers beat him back to Earth? Why does Starscream fall off the bridge after killing Jazz? Why does Starscream head to Tokyo after wiping out the New York force in seconds? Why do the Throttlebots stay in their useless vehicle modes when Starscream's right on top of them? Would the Tokyo residents really believe the Dinobots are from a monster movie when there's a giant robot blowing up chunks of the city? After Jetfire shoots him, Starscream's chest cockpit goes white. In the next frame, Gears' face is blue. As Starscream kills him, Bluestreak's colour scheme goes mad. On page 24, Thundercracker's left wing just stops after its leading edge, and his tail's missing too.

Transformers featured [in rough order of appearance]: Air Raid [killed by Starscream], Skydive [killed by Starscream], Fireflight [killed by Starscream], Octane [killed by Starscream], Horri-Bull, Skullcruncher, Astrotrain [killed by Starscream], Ratbat[killed by Scorponok], Soundwave [killed by Starscream], Scorponok, Mindwipe, Nautilator [killed by Starscream], Tantrum [killed by Starscream], Gears [killed by Starscream], Beachcomber, Prowl, Fortress Maximus, Cosmos, Cerebros, Ratchet, Perceptor, Omega Supreme [killed by Starscream], Warpath, Hoist [killed by Starscream], Jetfire [killed by Starscream], Optimus Prime, Sideswipe, Powerglide, Blaster [killed by Starscream], Buzzsaw [killed by Starscream], Laserbeak [killed by Starscream], Blitzwing [killed by Starscream], Mirage [killed by Starscream], Grimlock [killed by the Decepticon Pretenders while being used as a shield by Starscream], Slingshot [killed by Starscream], Tracks, Blot, Hound, Tentakil, Skullgrin, Slag [killed by Starscream], Snapdragon, Slugslinger, Apeface, Swoop [killed by Starscream], Starscream [destroyed by the Underbase], Sludge [killed by Starscream], Snarl [killed by Starscream], Submarauder, Perceptor, Slag [killed by Starscream], Weirdwolf, Silverbolt [killed by Starscream], Brawn [killed by Starscream], Bluestreak [killed by Starscream], Goldbug [killed by Starscream], Hound [killed by Starscream], Jazz [killed by Starscream], Overbite [killed by Starscream], Tentakil [killed by Starscream], Seawing [killed by Starscream], Snaptrap [killed by Starscream], Skalor [killed by Starscream], Searchlight [killed by Starscream], Freeway [killed by Starscream], Chase [killed by Starscream], Rollbar [killed by Starscream], Wideload [killed by Starscream], Thundercracker [killed by Starscream], Skywarp [killed by Starscream], Divebomb [killed by Starscream], Bugly, Razorclaw [killed by Starscream], Rampage [killed by Starscream], Headstrong [killed by Starscream], Bomb-Burst, Scattershot [killed by Starscream], Strafe [first appearance, killed by Starscream], Nosecone [killed by Starscream], Afterburner [killed by Starscream], Lightspeed [killed by Starscream], Rippersnapper [killed by Starscream], Sinnertwin [killed by Starscream], Cutthroat [killed by Starscream], Blot [killed by Starscream], Hun-Grr [killed by Starscream].

Notable Others: Buster, Spike, Hi Q.

Production Notes: A giant-sized issue with 38 pages of story, priced at $1.50.

Review: Rather unengaging. The bits with Starscream are the best, the rest feels rather loose and fractal, especially the "so-and-so shoots so-and-so" battle scene snapshots. Still, at this stage there is promise for the conclusion, despite ever-less impressive artwork from the Delbo-Yomtov dynamic duo. It's very amusing to see Ratbat deck Fort Max, though, and for Buzzsaw to take down Omega Supreme... If you took out the silly plot conveniences, the leaps of logic, added some gravitas to all the minor characters killed off that haven't been seen for a hundred-and-odd issues, got in a proper art team and made the thing about three hundred percent less mechanical, there might be a half decent story in here. That said, the final act's actually quite good, with Scorponok, Optimus Prime and Ratbat well done, even if the latter gets a rather lame exit. Delbo does have a real moment of glory with the frame of a powered-up Starscream on page 37. The Underbase Saga is far too uneven and overlong, and far too much of a self-conscious epic to be that enjoyable, and while it's far from the high point of Budiansky's work it's often claimed to be, there are a number of decent moments buried within.

[*][*][*][*][0][0][0][0][0][0]

 

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