The Worse of Two Evils

The Decepticons are under new management as the reign of Shockwave begins! Meanwhile Optimus Prime’s head is a prisoner of the Decepticons and his troops are all non-functioning, saving for the surgeon Ratchet. Phew! Things sure aren’t looking good for the good guys at this point.

As first impressions go, Shockwave takes some beating! With impeccable timing, he showed-up and blasted the victorious Autobots into next week, single-handedly saving the Decepticon army from certain defeat. His cold logic and awesome firepower ensured he was quickly able to press his advantage and consolidate control of the Decepticon forces, ruthlessly ejecting Megatron from power. He has big bold plans and has identified exactly how to use Optimus Prime for maximum advantage. And to top it off Shockwave has featured solo on one of the most stunning covers in Transformers comic history. All in all, not bad for a newcomer.

In terms of a comparison with the raw power and cunning of Megatron, which of them is the worse of the two evils? This is the question for eager readers to ponder, as posed by the title of this instalment. It was published in UK issues #24 and #25 in August and early September 1985.

The story opens at an oil drilling platform off the Oregon coast. This gleaming steel example of man’s struggle to conquer the natural elements is billed as the ‘most productive and technologically advanced’ facility of its kind, and well defended too. We’re told the roustabouts (a new term on me, but it means unskilled workers) are proud of the rigs industry-leading reputation and want everyone to know about it. Trouble is they now have the wrong kind of attention as Shockwave soars overhead in space gun mode and claims the facility for himself.

Surprisingly, G.B. Blackrock, the millionaire industrialist who owns the platform has got an office on board! Likewise, the young technology hotshot who designed the rig, Josie Beller, is also present and at the controls of the rig’s defences. At Blackrock’s command, cannons spring up and security staff in laser-equipped helicopters mount a counterattack. For a business venture, the rig is surprisingly well defended!

Shockwave blasts the rig repeatedly. You would think this would be enough to reduce it to rubble floating on the sea surface, but not so. Josie obeys an order to unleash harpoons, which piece the Decepticon leader’s armour. Shockwave soars higher and rips the harpoons from their moorings. We also learn that he can deploy bursts of light from his gun barrel which are enough to blind his opponents.

Blackrock orders staff to abandon the rig. Josie Beller refuses the instruction (not for the last time, as well see in later stories). She pays the price as falling debris sets off a chain reaction that sees Beller fried by a huge electrical discharge. Blackrock carries the wounded young woman topside where they are confronted by Shockwave in his full robot glory. He will allow the survivors to depart, but only so that they can spread the word that reign of the Decepticons has begun!

Meanwhile, Megatron is feeling like yesterday’s news as seething with anger as he sees his erstwhile warriors now following Shockwave’s orders. But what can he do while he’s manacled to a wall, undergoing repairs and well below his normal strength. He’s cutting a pretty pathetic figure at this point. Likewise, Optimus Prime is also in a bad spot thanks to Shockwave. He head has been removed from his body and is suspended by several beams. Prime is being kept alive because Shockwave plans to plunder the Creation Matrix energy which resides in the Autobot leader. With it he can create a new generation of Decepticon warriors.

Last time we saw Buster infiltrate the Ark and discover Prime’s fate. He’s now informed by the stricken Optimus that the fate of the Autobots is in his hands, whatever that could mean. Though Buster promised his father he wouldn’t get involved any further, it’s clear the situation is desperate and so he agrees to Prime’s demand that they establish a mind link. Buster attaches a cable to either side of his head, which immediately earths and administers a severe shock, rendering him unconscious! Just what is Prime playing at?

The story continues in TFUK#25 a fortnight later. The comic’s editorial page Transformation promises the ‘fight of the century’ as Megatron and Shockwave resolve their differences robot to robot. From the looks of the cover it you’d have to figure that Megatron is about to meet his match.

Though evenly matched in brute strength and firepower in normal circumstances, timing is a huge element in success or failure. Megatron knows that now is the wrong time to make a move on Shockwave – he is not fully recovered and is too weak to succeed, but his pride will no longer allow him to stand by passively while another assumes his rightful command. It must be particularly galling to be on the receiving end of Shockwave’s put downs about securing a defendable new base (the rig) and fuel source, which were goals that alluded Megatron as leader.

Ratchet, watching from a safe distance outside, has seen Shockwave return to the Ark. Buster staggers out, looking like he’s been caught in the middle of Megatron-Shockwave grudge match. He tells Ratchet that the Autobots are all dead and Prime is a prisoner!

Now it’s the moment fans have been waiting for. Megatron breaks free and with the immortal line “Shockwave, you are relieved of command” -unleashes the full power of his fusion cannon against his rival. Shockwave is propelled through the side of the mountain and crashes into a football stadium in the heart of a human settlement. One player’s comment “I hope he’s not playing for Deforest High this Saturday” shows once again how Bob Budiansky, the writer, loves to inject a bit of camp humour into proceedings – even in a fight to the finish between Decepticon rivals!

There’s a nice touch with Megatron stepping over a supermarket’s roof and presumably flattening a car or two as he pursues Shockwave. He’s repelled backwards, through a wall by Shockwave, who accuses Megatron of foolishness for attacking at less than full strength. Shockwave’s claim that even at full strength he is the stronger is curious. If this were true you wonder why Megatron had not been deposed before now.

Even in battle Shockwave continues to analyse and deduce the strength of his opponent based on his reaction time. He exploits Megatron’s unhealed wounds by battering him with a water tower and causing him to short circuit. Transforming into gun mode, Shockwave finishes the job.

Poor Megatron, he is beaten and about to be given the humiliation of his life. Shockwave refuses him the death he asks for and instead takes him back to the Ark to become an example to the other Decepticons of the fate of any who defy Shockwave. The Decepticons in unison pledge their lives and loyalty to their new commander. Megatron raises his arm and does the same. His humiliation is complete.

In summary, wow – what a battle. It really summed up the difference in style between the terrifyingly smart and calculating Shockwave and emotional and foolhardy Megatron. The outcome was never in any doubt but Shockwave’s humiliation of his rival is brutal. We may not have had the Autobots in the story for a while but I’m not missing them at this point – the drama in the Decepticon ranks is more than enough.

The final panel sees Ratchet drawn with a red Decepticon insignia – oops! And issue #25’s Soundwaves settles a long running debate over whether Ravage is a dog. We’re told he’s in fact closest to a jaguar.

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