Reprinting: #78-88 (Marvel UK)
Script: Simon Furman [#78-88]
Art: Jeff Anderson [#78-79,81,87] / Ron Smith [#82] / Geoff Senior [#83-84,86]
Pencils: Will Simpson [#80,85,88]
Inks: Tim Perkins [#80,85,88]
Letters: Richard Starkings [#78,82-85,88] / Annie Halfacree [#79-81,86-87]
Colours: Tony Jozwiak [#78-81,85,87] / John Burns [#82] Gina Hart [#83-84,86,88]
Editor: Ian Rimmer [#78-88]
Transformers under Marvel UK comes of age with its first epic story arc!
Transformers are much of the reason that 2006 will always seem like the distant future to me, even though it's only two years away at time of writing -- I was only about five when these stories were first published, but watching the Movie when it came out on video was enough to root the events in my head as a long, long way off. Anyway, that's quite enough nostalgia -- Target: 2006 deserves to stand or fall on its own merits, and stand it does. Very respectably, in fact.
Safe in the knowledge the movie cast wouldn't be appearing in the US comic for a long time, Simon Furman saw his opportunity to pull out all the stops and commit to ink the first major UK-originated storyline. Not content with having the new characters introduced by the Movie to work with, he also took the opportunity to flesh out Cybertronian society and introduce a small cast of his own: the Wreckers, an infamous elite Autobot commando unit including several non-toy characters. In addition, Target: 2006 would emerge containing many concepts and details which launched further Transformers UK storylines and served as the inspiration for endless amounts of fan writing (some of it even good!)
Told over nine parts, plus bookending issues for prologue and epilogue, the story begins as a mystery. Without warning, Optimus, Ratchet and Prowl disappear right before the Autobots' eyes! This doesn't go unnoticed on Cybertron, either -- the matrix flame tended by Emirate Xaaron's resistance cell is extinguished, reacting to the Creation Matrix carried by Optimus having likewise vanished. (This alone is perhaps controversial -- rather than simply programming Transformers, the Creation Matrix is more akin to a device capable of creating and healing life. Quite reasonably, some Transformers mythologise it as sacred.) Elsewhere, Galvatron and his lieutenants have time-travelled back from 2006 to the 1980s and appeared on an Oregon hillside, scaring farm inhabitants.
Part one focuses on the Autobots trying to work out exactly what's happened, and Galvatron introducing himself to Megatron and being not-so-politely rebuffed. Elsewhere on Cybertron, Ultra Magnus is torn between investigating the fate of Optimus and participating in Operation: Volcano, a plan to strengthen the Autobots' shaky position by luring out and terminating Decepticon forces. He chooses to teleport to Earth, hoping to return in time for the other mission.
Part two introduces us to Galvatron's plan to build a super-weapon in 1986 which he can retrieve in the future and use to destroy Unicron, freeing him from enslavement to the monster. Magnus teleports in, rescuing Hound from Cyclonus, but Jazz isn't as lucky. The earth-bound Autobots are a little wary of Magnus but accept him, and the installment ends with Galvatron gloating over his capture and torture of Jazz. This issue also introduces a minor controvery... at one point, Cyclonus is relating the Hound the story of his recreation as a titan amongst Transformers, saying "Unicron took what had once been life spark... restoring and sculpting him into... Cyclonus!" Some fans have suggested that Furman's intention may have been to imply an actual Transformer called Life Spark. This would suggest that Marvel UK's version of Transformers: The Movie deviates from the animated version by more than some of the characters taking time out during it to travel back in time. Personally, I think the 'him' is a goof or an attempt at intentional vagueness, as we don't know how far in advance of UK screenings Furman was drafting his comic scripts.
In part three, Magnus fails to endear himself to Ironhide and Jetfire by refusing to take the fight to Galvatron, opting to remain in the Ark to try to work out what happened to Prime and the others. The Autobots are predictably trounced, leading Ironhide to make the difficult decision to attempt to rescue and make a deal with Megatron (who was deactivated and buried by Galvatron in part one.)
Part four takes us to Cybertron, as the Wreckers train against fascimile Decepticons for Operation: Volcano. They conclude that, without Magnus, it would be a suicidal fight and want nothing to do with it. They head out to Maccadam's Old Oil House to refuel and commiserate. Elsewhere, Xaaron talks Impactor into being ready for Volcano if Magnus should return. The other Wreckers get into a pub fight with a Decepticon by sticking up for another 'bot, renewing their resolve to be ready for the mission. (This installment introduces the Wreckers' equally infamous battle cry, "Wreck and Rule!")
Part fives opens with Starscream deciding to find a way betray the fledgling Autobot/Decepticon alliance, and ends with Megatron taking out out Scourge as he's in the process of stealing metal supplies for the construction of Galvatron's weapon. (This is the first part to feature art by Geoff Senior.)
Part six continues with the wonderful art, opening as Impactor takes on three new Decepticon triple-changers in an ambush. He's prevented from transforming by an inhibitor claw buried in his back, a concept which was hardly ever expanded upon in subsequent official media. Of course, they turn out to be the (then) new Autobot triple-changers, replacements for Magnus organised by Xaaron, who sent them after Impactor as a way of convincing him that they're up to the job! The rest of the installment is equally action-packed, as Galvatron outlines his plan Bond-villain-style to Jazz, learns that Megatron has joined sides with the Autobots, and Shockwave, Thundercracker and Frenzy disappear in the same way as Prime as the future Autobots (Hot Rod, Kup and Blurr) time-travel in!
Part seven ties up the loose end of the space-ship the Decepticons abandoned in Earth orbit when they boarded the Ark four million years earlier -- Galvatron destroys it as a test of his new weapon! Starscream, meanwhile, has fully defected. The future Autobots come across Magnus, with Hot Rod at first mistaking him for their Magnus (Autobot leader in 2006.) The Autobots trade Scourge for Jazz, whilst Megatron and Soundwave take out Cyclonus at the weapon base, before succumbing to Starscream's traitorous null rays. We then discover how the form of time-travel being used by the future Transformers works -- by displacing beings of similar mass from the time zone travelled to. (It's a quite distinctly 80s view of science fiction physics, but gets used consistently in subsequent Transformers stories.) In the remaining pages, Jazz is revealed to be a zombie under Galvatron's control (Will Simpson turning in some interesting pencil work on this) and Ultra Magnus challenges Galvatron.
Fortunately, it's back to Geoff Senior for part eight, a collosal battle between Galvatron and Magnus which underlines how dangerous the future Decepticon leader really is. It's impressive stuff. Part nine is more narrative, as the super-weapon is destroyed and Galvatron is conned into abandoned his scheme by the plan of the future Autobots. I shan't spoil the surprise, but it involves some surprisingly elaborate special effects on their part and some speculation on the limits of temporal physics.
It's not over, however. The epilogue issue is narrated for the first part by Unicron, and we discover how insidious and far-reaching the creature's mind-control can be -- Unicron was responsible for sending the future Autobots back in time, subsequently erasing the knowledge from their minds. (Obviously, this is done first and foremost to ensure continuity compatibility with the Movie. However, it's early characterisation of Unicron in the UK stories, demonstrating supreme confidence, a preference for manipulation over brute force and also, possibly, a fear of early detection by the Autobots and the bearer of Creation Matrix. It also raises interesting possibilities for Unicron's ability to selectively erase memory to be used to shoehorn the events of the Movie, the Legacy Of Unicron story arc and the Unicron War arc from the end of the US comic into one timeline.)
An important part of the impact Target: 2006 had was the scale it established and the levels of conflict it reached. Lines such as "I'll tear off your head and rip the power core from the twitching husk of your corpse!" were unusual for 80s comics aimed at kids, to say the least. The conclusion of the tale on the Cybertron of 1986, in which Operation: Volcano goes ahead with results no-one would have expected, lends a realistic unpredictability -- even favourite characters are not sacred when it comes to casualties, with just enough frequency and finality to spur genuine concern and interest in readers.
Indeed, the final few panels feature Prime counting the cost of victory in deactivated Autobots. It also features a few of the cheesiest lines of rhetoric he'll ever deliver, which a generous reader could attribute by to the brief spell of relocation to another dimension having warped his mind. It's a good thing the rest of the story is decent!
the initial sketch models for Galvatron, Cyclonus and Scourge in the prologue were awful, toy-based affairs. Whilst these improve massively by the first part of the story proper, the art still tends to jump around a bit in terms of quality. Ron Smith puts in a creditable performance, but best of the bunch are Geoff Senior's installments -- it's work such as this which makes him the most distinctive and definitive artist on TF UK.
The introductory essay in this volume deals with the UK comic from its beginnings up to Target: 2006 [issues #1-77.] For those unfamiliar with Marvel UK material, it also helps explain why so many British fans are firm fans of the Dinobots -- Furman used them often and to great effect in the UK-only stories. It also gives a little background on Marvel UK and its creators, explaining how UK publishing schedules differed from US ones and thus why the UK received so much exclusive original material.
Even discounting the time-travel adventure aspect, the Wreckers material and the Magnus/Galvatron battle make this an enjoyable classic and strong recommendation.
Reviewed by Denyer
Thanks to Ultimate Weapon for additional information.