On Cybertron in the year 2510, the last Decepticon falls, but can the Transformers’ war ever truly end?
Of the four stories in the 1988 Transformers Annual, the simply titled Peace is the standout favourite for me; in just six pages of story, it manages to be both profound and disturbing, posing big questions about how war corrupts the soul.
Unusually for once it is not Simon Furman writing the story, but newcomer Richard Alan, but the characters and set-up are closely knitted to Furman’s future-verse that I wonder if he had a hand in the edits. Robin Smith is the artist, with a tendency to ignore the fact that some robots (like Ultra Magnus) are larger than others and draw his robots in uniform, with small bodies and larger heads. The style is okay but niggles with me a bit.
Peace is set on Cybertron in the year 2510. War has raged for thousands of years, but this is the day the ‘last Decepticon has fallen’. It is a bold opening and cannot fail to command the reader’s attention; after all this is a comic series with a civil war between Autobot and Decepticon at its core. We’ve never stopped to consider what the end of the war might look like.
Well, perhaps not strictly true. The uber classic The Smelting Pool from 1986 had presented a Cybertron where the Decepticons had won the war, but even then, there was an active resistance movement. This time the last Decepticon has literally hit the floor, courtesy of Springer and his Wreckers team.
At a battered looking Autobase, Blurr breathlessly reports the good news to Autobot leader Rodimus Prime: “the war is over, the war is over”. There’s no joy or jubilation from Prime, relief and disbelief perhaps, but he looks like he’s about to pass out.
We’ve seen Rodimus doubting himself in previous stories like Wanted Galvatron and beating himself up for mistakes. It is a tough gig to follow in the footsteps of a legendary leader like Optimus Prime, but the Rodimus of 500 years hence is robot who is browbeaten and weary, probably suffering from severe post-traumatic stress and has literally nothing left in the tank.
Ironically, this is the very moment that his leadership is most needed. He now has a heavily armed warrior force that is devoid of a purpose or an enemy to keep them together. What follows is almost predictable but no less shocking.
Rodimus convenes a meeting of his warriors to confirm the rumours sweeping the planet that the war is over. The gathering looks like a cast of the key people from the 1988 set-up – Ultra Magnus, the Autobot triple changers, fellow Wreckers, and the Technobots. He announces that he will be standing down as Autobot commander with immediate effect and passing the Matrix and the mantle of leadership to the hero-of-the-hour, Springer.
Here’s where things get interesting. In the crowd is Triton, a Decepticon spy who has been lurking in the Autobot ranks undetected for 90 years. He faces the failure of his mission (and race) unless he can do something to upset the Autobot victory, even at this final stage. He takes his opportunity, stepping forward to question Springer’s suitability to lead in peacetime and suggesting Ultra Magnus, a previous Matrix bearer, is the better choice. He has a point on this to be fair.
This triggers Whirl who asks where Triton’s precious Magnus was when Springer was achieving the great victory. Triton punches Whirl, causing Roadbuster to raise his weapon, and Scattershot (a Magnus loyalist) blasts Roadbuster in the face leaving a smouldering pile of wires and circuits where the latter’s head was. Wow!
Rodimus can see the situation collapsing around him but is powerless to stop the car crash events from unfolding.
Sandstorm opens fire on Triton and in moments two Autobot factions are shooting at one another. Out of eyeshot an Autobot badge slips off the fatally injured Triton to reveal the Decepticon insignia underneath. It is the day the last Decepticon fell… and the war began again!
If that isn’t a kick in the pants, what is? You like to think that the Autobots would come to their senses and realise that they have been manipulated by a Decepticon troublemaker. But it’s like everybody is so traumatised by the centuries of fighting that they’ve lost the ability to think straight and know no other way than to keep running the same program.
Peace is dark, pessimistic, and massively ironic, as the Autobots win only to lose, and they become the warmongering race they initially took up arms to defeat. It begs the question of what will happen next; will a strong leader emerge to quieten everything down? Will the population end up locking up or banishing their once mighty warriors who don’t have the ability to stop?
We don’t find out as no sequel was ever produced. But the story does throw up many interesting and unanswered questions.