Power Play

The second instalment of the Transformers saga sees both the Autobots and Decepticons preoccupied with finding a source of fuel that will enable them to survive on Earth. For the Autobots (who are sworn to protect Earth’s inhabitants) an alliance will be necessary, while the Decepticons are simply determined to take whatever they need. It won’t be the first or last time that the moral and ethical path chosen by the heroic forces turns out to be the harder and more fraught with danger and sacrifice.

We get a fuller introduction to the personalities in the Decepticon camp as they set about the task of securing (and stealing) the Harrison Nuclear Plant. It is to be used as a power source and raw materials for a fortress.

Ravage, the spy, is unleashed to do what he enjoys most – prowling in the shadows and uncovering enemy secrets. It’s a bit coincidental that he happens to find a foreman who is the process of recording a summary of the facility’s operations and in need of a cassette. We also get a taster of Starscream’s ambition to replace Megatron as leader and how his words of advice said in front of the troops are all calculated to further that goal. Megatron is on to him.

The attack allows the team to display their talents; Thundercracker deploys his sonic boom, Buzzsaw flies through reinforced concrete (I particularly enjoyed his assessment of the damage, ‘another masterpiece’) and Frenzy blocks human attempts to radio for help. Rumble, meanwhile, shakes the vital equipment loose from its foundations. Finally, the giants make off with huge chunks of machinery leaving the terrified workers to question whether (this being the time of the Cold War) the attack was the work of the Russians!

Elsewhere, Sparkplug Witwicky deploys his auto mechanic skills to seal Bumblebee’s wounds and prevent further loss of fuel. In a cheeky nod to Star Trek’s Bones McCoy he tells Buster, “blast it son! I’m a mechanic not a doctor”! Bumblebee transforms to express his gratitude ‘in person’ and explain the Autobots’ desperate need for fuel. Sparkplug offers to help them convert gasoline to their needs (while at the same time questioning whether he really wants to be involved). This is all a bit odd because, as good a mechanic he is, and we’re told he’s the best, it wouldn’t naturally follow that he has the requisite expertise in chemistry. The job sounds more suited to a team of scientists!

Buster hops aboard Bumblebee to go to the Ark, via town. He stops briefly to tell his friends Jessie and ‘O’ what is happening. Conveniently Ravage is lurking in an alley way at that very spot (why?) and hides in O’s stereo just long enough to learn of Sparkplug’s plan to convert Earth fuels. Bumblebee realises he hasn’t enough juice for the rest of the journey and they summon the Autobots to Sparkplug’s garage.

Human reactions and the alien nature of the Transformers are often part of the comedy moments. So we get the Witwickys’ elderly neighbours peaking through their curtains at the arriving Autobot convoy and speculating that ‘Sparky probably developed a remote control device’ to explain how the vehicles are all driverless! Optimus Prime transforms and offers ‘greetings from Cybertron’ – this is very much alien invasion, take me to your leader stuff. However, there is little time for pleasantries as they are almost immediately under Decepticon attack.

As earlier, the action is a chance to tease out more details about the characters. We have the gung-ho brothers, Sideswipe and Sunstreaker, trying to outdo one another, with Sideswipe even strapping on a jet pack and taking the fight to the airborne enemy. Mirage is clearly not on the wavelength of the rest of his comrades. Not only is he sympathetic of Decepticon ways of working (taking what they need) but tries to appeal to Ravage as a ‘fellow Cybertronian’ with no success. Luckily for him Brawn in on hand to swat Ravage off. Unlike the wily Megatron, who is aware of the threat within his camp posed by Starscream, Prime would seem to be oblivious of Mirage’s divided loyalties, awarding him a place in the five who will fight the Autobots’ last stand in a later issue.

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Megatron easily sweeps Bumblebee aside and steals Sparkplug, but Optimus engages him in battle and allows the human to get clear. We’re treated to an exciting first battle Prime and Megatron, who use the raw materials of the junkyard to great effect – Megatron using a car wreck for a shield, and Prime bounces an engine off his opponent’s face!

Ultimately the battle is lost, as Starscream grabs Sparkplug and takes to the air (again showing off in front his colleagues). With their mission accomplished, the other Decepticons follow suit, leaving the beleaguered Autobots too exhausted and critically low on fuel to follow!

The story is published in #2 of the Transformers US and issues #3 and #4 of the fortnightly UK comic. The latter seems to be taking on a more communal feel with competitions, a soon-to-come pen pals corner and reader letters (one of which is calling Machine Man to be dropped as the back-up strip!). There are fact files (on Hound and Gears) as well as a bizarre invitation for readers to design a robot that can play table tennis!

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