Reprinting: #101-101,113-120 + annual story Vicious Circle (Marvel UK)
Script: Simon Furman #101-102,113-120,VC
Art: Geoff Senior #101,113,116,120 Jeff Anderson #102,118 Dan Reed #115,119
Pencils: Will Simpson #114,117 Jeff Anderson #VC
Inks: Tim Perkins #114,117 Stephen Baskerville #118 Harwood #VC
Letters: Annie Halfacree #101-102,113 Starkings #114-117,120 Mike Scott #118-119
Colours: Steve White #101-102,113-120
Editor: Ian Rimmer #101-102
Death's Head goes after the reward Rodimus has placed on Galvatron's
head, but it's Ultra Magnus who finds him!
This volume reprints the Marvel UK stories Fallen Angel, Wanted: Galvatron - Dead Or Alive, Burning Sky, Hunters, Fire On High and Vicious Circle from the 1987 annual. Together, they develop the territory explored by Target: 2006 (in which Galvatron time-jumps back to 1986 during the course of Transformers: The Movie ) — however, this collection gives us some details of future Autobot society before moving on to concentrate on events unfolding in the past.
Opener Fallen Angel sees Furman pick up where Budiansky left off in the US story "Decepticon Graffiti" — after being freed by Circuit Breaker for their help in defending the statue of liberty, Powerglide, Cosmos, Beachcomber, Warpath, Seaspray, Blaster, Perceptor and Skids are heading toward the Ark base. Skids promptly vanishes, shunted into limbo as Galvatron time-jumps back immediately after having been thrown through Unicron in 2006.
(A word of explanation for those not familiar with time-travel as it occurs in Transformers UK: a 'conservation of matter' approach is adopted. When a TF travels back in time, another TF near to the jump site is displaced into a limbo dimension to 'make room' for the time-traveller.)
Unfortunately, Skids was the only one who knew the route to the Ark. Meanwhile, Centurion (a mechanoid piloted remotely by the human Professor Morris) arrives at Galvatron's crash site. Galvatron mistakes Centurion for Rodimus Prime and pretty much destroys the mechanoid, and we're then given the flashback in which Galvatron's time-travelling is explained, as the Decepticon's head clears. Soon after this, he encounters the lost Autobots, and proceeds to knock them around also. The sounds of battle attract the notice of Shockwave and his retinue, who presume Megatron has returned, and also the Dinobots, friends of Centurion's, who aren't happy...
Geoff Senior's distinctive artwork really makes the first half of this story stand out, an expressive angular style which suits Galvatron to a tee. It's concluded competently in the second part by Jeff Anderson (in which Professor Morris assists a damaged Swoop to distract Galvatron whilst the Decepticons arrive to drive him off) but the result is a little disjointed. Still, there are enough flashbacks here to make the potentially very convoluted storyline coherent for incoming readers — essentially there's a big fight, Galvatron is let the loose on the past and then the UK title had a very different US storyline to reprint and support for the next eight issues.
Wanted: Galvatron - Dead Or Alive gives us the first appearance of Death's Head in a Transformers comic. Created by Simon Furman, this skull-faced robotic bounty-hunter decides to take the contract Rodimus Prime has put out on Galvatron's head in 2006. We're given some recap of Movie events, before it's explained precisely why Rodimus has put this contract out: after throwing his Decepticon adversary out of Unicron and into space, no body was every recovered. Rodimus feels obliged to make sure that Galvatron is dead.
Death's Head runs into Cyclonus and Scourge, abandoned by their leader, and beats the story out of them — that Galvatron has most probably jumped back in time again. Death's Head decides to do similar... the weakest part of this storyline as a whole is that time-travel devices seem to be extremely commonplace and are never really explained. Still, this is a criticism which can be made of most Marvel comics of the era.
Again, a great opening chapter by Geoff Senior gives way to fairly average art — this time by Will Simpson — for the second. We're given the first real development of Rodimus' character in the comics, though, which makes for good reading. We're shown a Cybertron on which the Autobot leader has to be ruthless in wiping out opposition and in which the Autobots send spies deep undercover into Decepticon ranks to root out critical information. It's a very different world to the fairly straightforward war expressed in previous comics and the animated series.
(Death's Head arrives in 1987 and promptly encounters Bumblebee and blows him apart. This deserves a brief explanation, as it sets up the character's recreation as Goldbug in a few issue's time and is a deviation from the US stories. In the US, Marvel had a mini-series crossover with G.I. Joe in which Bumblebee was blasted by the Joes and rebuilt as Goldbug. Although reprinted in the UK TF comic as a space-filler much later, it isn't UK continuity. Furman inserted this short scene to bring the stories at that time into line.)
Burning Sky, Hunters, Fire On High and Vicious Circle run together as one continuous story, Geoff Senior putting in plenty of welcome appearances on the art front. We go from past Magnus having his peaceful sojourn on Earth interrupted by Galvatron to the future Autobots (Rodimus, Kup, Blurr, Wreck-Gar) showing up to keep tabs on both Galvatron and Death's Head. We also discover Galvatron's plan: to siphon the energies of a volcano and achieve godlike power! (Of course, this will quite possibly destroy a large chunk of America, like most insane evil plans.)
Highlights include the play-off between Soundwave and Death's Head, Rodimus trying to cancel the contract on Galvatron's head, and the result of Wreck-Gar's plan to force all of the time-travellers back into the future — something which still throws up dramatic twists and turns even for those familiar with the stories. Goldbug proves himself a hero several times over, whilst Magnus lives up to the demands forced upon him. It gives us a chance to realise that most Autobots aren't warriors by choice, but from necessity.
One annoying inconsistency is the lettering and speech-balloons in the annual story, Vicious Circle. By this point in Transformers UK, distinctive styles had been developed, and the job on this story looks amateurish by comparison. Overall, the presentation on each of the stories here is never less than serviceable, but it does vary a lot stylistically. Having each installment as two-issue block with its own story name doesn't help the occasionally disjointed feel.
An average cover featuring a silhouette of Death's Head behind gun-sight cameos of Galvatron, Rodimus and Magnus. Inside, we get a timely four-page overview of Target: 2006 and Furman's propitious decision to write using the Movie cast, taking advantage of the opportunity to work with characters from the near future which weren't being considered by the US comic. We also get a basic overview of the first three annuals, a Marvel UK tradition which mixed comic strips and text stories in a hardback format. For US readers encountering the material for the first time, these introductions will no doubt prove especially useful.
There's something to like in each installment of this storyline, but I'd be lying if I said I consider this essential reading. Wanted: Galvatron - Dead Or Alive and Fire On High are strong highlights, both in terms of story and art, but as a collection Fallen Angel falls short. Perhaps it's the fact that we know Galvatron will reappear in Legacy Of Unicron and Time Wars, but the appeal it would have held for me as a first-time reader of the original comics is lacking. A bit rushed, a little too convoluted and nothing which isn't told in more compelling form elsewhere.
Reviewed by Denyer
With thanks to Ultimate Weapon for information about bonus material.