Dry Run!

Cyclonus and Scourge call on Shockwave to form an alliance, only for their stupidity to land them in a fight for their lives against the ultimate opponent

THA-KUNCH! The sound of an uppercut from a mystery assailant that leaves Galvatron damaged and disorientated. He retreats to prepare a particle cannon blast, but takes a drop-kick and is blown to bits by a Fusion Cannon blast – Fraddam! It’s all over in 10 seconds. Megatron is victorious!

It’s fair to say that Dry Run, the 1988 story from Marvel UK (scripted by Dan Abnett, using a plot by Simon Furman), makes a dramatic entrance. Long-time readers will have been aware that Galvatron is the most powerful Decepticon there is. Created by a god (Unicron) during the Transformers Movie, he’s said to be the ultimate enhancement of Megatron – more powerful, more durable, more cunning. Yet here getting his ass kicked by his less powerful former self. What gives?

Simon Furman’s masterpiece Target: 2006 introduced readers to the concept of facsimile constructs – automated fake Transformers used in combat training. So, it’s not a surprise that Galvatron we’ve just witnessed getting ripped to bits is a fake, and I cannot imagine that Megatron could dispatch the real Galvatron with the same effortless ease. Nevertheless, Shockwave is pleased.

Since Enemy Action, earlier in the year, he’s been paranoid that Galvatron, who fled 2006 to hide out in ‘present day’ Earth (the 1980s as was), is out to steal his command. And not wanting to take him on directly, Shockwave had recovered the non-functional Megatron from his watery grave in the Thames and reprogrammed him into an obedient agent of destruction.

In the US ‘master’ continuity Shockwave burned up in Earth’s orbit after a space battle with Fortress Maximus (see Desert Island of Space) and the ambitious Ratbat very rapidly jumped into his seat (Shockwave would resurface on the beach at Blackpool in a later US story, creating a continuity faux pas).

In the UK comic, the fall to Earth was less of a big deal. Shockwave dusted himself off and regrouped to the original Decepticon base, Fortress Sinister, to continue his machinations. One of these would have been dealing with the Galvatron situation. However, if he’s worried about threats to his command, Ratbat ought to be the immediate problem.

As Shockwave muses the possibility of testing Megatron against more substantial opposition, he watches Cyclonus and Scourge on the monitor. These two refugees from the future are waiting in the hall, having come to Shockwave for his protection following their abortive attack on Galvatron (they confronted their former boss, Galvatron, in Wrecking Havoc hoping to steal his time travel device).

It’s debatable what protection Shockwave can provide, seeing as he seems to be on his own in the fortress – the rest of his Decepticon army is with Ratbat.

Cyclonus is on edge. He’s uncomfortable about cosying up to Shockwave, who was their hated commander in 2008 and who they subsequently executed (well, Death’s Head did the deed, but with their help). This was in the very excellent Legacy of Unicron part 2 of course. Scourge seems to be thinking more clearly, though that’s not saying much.

Within seconds of Shockwave entering the room and letting them know they’ll be serving him, Cyclonus is ‘triggered’. He calls Shockwave a “pompous, overbearing fool” and goes further – much further – by letting slip that they are destined kill him in the future and take his command. It’s such a ridiculously dumb and unnecessary outburst, like he’s developed the robot equivalent of tourettes syndrome! Scourge is furious.

The response is predictable: a volley of fire from Shockwave (who manages to miss, despite being at point blank range) as Cyclonus and Scourge scatter. The hapless pair unite with their Targetmaster Nebulans, Nightstick and Fracas, and return fire (also misfiring!). What happens next is entirely foreseen…

Shockwave appears with Megatron, instructing him that these are two ‘lieutenants of the hated Galvatron’ and must be destroyed, he’s happy to oblige. Cyclonus and Scourge are shocked and surprised – first Cyclonus is hit by a Fusion Cannon blast, and Scourge is pummelled and thrown against a wall.

Cyclonus, getting throttled, opens fire at point-blank range but Megatron only seems to become more enraged. He crushes Nightstick (surely fatal for the Nebulan) and threatens to crush Cyclonus, who screams for Scourge to help.

Scourge, on his knees, lines up Megatron with Fracas on full power to unleash a fatal blast. Then he thinks of the timeline, if Megatron dies might that mean that he can’t become Galvatron in 2006, and Cyclonus and Scourge might cease to exist as well. It’s a fascinating conundrum, and one that Scourge is not willing to test. He reverts to his jet mode and flees the fortress with Fracas, leaving poor old Cyclonus – the guy who was once able to throttle Megatron in Target: 2006 – to be terminated by Megatron tearing his head off.

In deep space the ‘heavens scream’ as a tear in space time is formed. Decapitation in a kids’ comic, well why not? It’s happened before, to Optimus Prime during the ‘Creation Matrix saga’ of 1985, and Scorponok’s head is severed by Highbrow in the 1988 Annual story All in the Minds. Neither of these died so Cyclonus seems to have been very unlucky in this instance!

In epilogue, Shockwave has decided that Megatron has proven himself ready to take on the main target. Human media reports a mechanoid answering Galvatron’s description running riot through a nearby settlement. Shockwave dispatches Megatron to find the “impostor who claims to be descended from you” and destroy him! And so, the stage is set for that irresistible reckoning, in the 1988 Transformers Annual (on sale now, naturally). It’s a good piece of marketing.

This issue is part of a major story arc that Simon Furman has been weaving in the UK comics since Fallen Angel (way back issue #101) where Galvatron fled to Earth’s past. We’ve since had Cyclonus and Scourge travel back (further disrupting time) and now the death of one of them nearly 20 years before his creation. This resulting rift in space-time is apparently the cause of the destruction of the Quintesson planet, as seen recently in the Space Pirates saga.

(Why the rift should form half the galaxy away at the Quintesson planet rather than at source is a curious question – there they are minding their own business, staging gruesome executions, and a rift that’s nothing to do with them shows up to destroy everything).

The comic is still being printed on the lower quality paper, but thankfully with eight of the 24 pages on glossy, including the cover. This is important as the tip in physical quality is unsettling. I remember thinking at the time that it was a sign of cost cutting and maybe the comic was losing sales and might be about to fold. In fact, it would survive until early 1993, though resorting to black and white and reprints along the way, which would test the loyalty of readers.

What happens when Megatron and Galvatron meet is told in the Annual story Altered Image.

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