The Battlechargers arrive from Cybertron, and Megatron sends them to issue a challenge to Prime. On the way they observe a human family on holiday. The Battlechargers see the eldest child graffiti-ing a wall and arguing with his dad and they decide to follow him. From then on every time the family stop at a tourist spot the Battlechargers douse it with indecipherable graffiti. The family contact RAAT, and Finkleberg, now with the organisation, begins to regret his decision to turn in Skids.
Josie Beller/Circuit Breaker, Donny Finkleberg, Walter Barnett, Gary Acton, Judy Acton, Noah Acton, Leah Acton
Runabout, Runamuck, Gary Acton, Judy Acton, Noah Acton, Leah Acton
Southern New Jersey, Eastern Wyoming, South Dakota, Washington DC, and Missouri, USA
At RAAT HQ, Circuit Breaker examines Skids’ brain module, as his dissected and inoperative body lies on a slab. Donny Finkleberg glumly watches her at work, and asks if taking Skids’ apart is really necessary. She says that it’s simply research, and she doesn’t understand why he would sympathise with a mere machine. She tells him of the accident she suffered at the hands of the Transformers, and how she vowed to use her new powers to pay them back. She’s pleased with her work so far, and gestures to the heads of the 13 Autobots she has captured to date. But Donny is feeling guilty, and realises that he is helping RAAT who are continuing to inadvertently put Autobots out of commission whilst the Decepticons are being left to roam free on Earth...
At the Decepticon coal mine base, Megatron briefs Runabout and Runamuck, two Decepticons he has summoned from Cybertron. Megatron instructs them to deliver a message to Optimus Prime on his behalf, a challenge to meet him for a duel to the death. Soundwave offers instead to send a message to the Ark via radio signal, but Megatron angrily swats Soundwave aside, insisting that sending the two Decepticons would be much more dramatic. With that, Runabout and Runamuck transform and roll out.
It seems, however, that the two Decepticons have little time for Megatron and have no intention of following his orders. Instead they just want to have fun on Earth. They stop by and observe a family on vacation planning their trip. The boy, Noah, is fed up and wants to go home, and as soon as his parents’ backs are turned, he scrawls graffiti on a nearby wall. Noah’s dad tells him off and bundles him into the car, but the two watching Transformers have been given an idea. Impressed with the boy’s impudence, they decide to investigate further, and follow the family car as it drives off…
Three days later, Walter Barnett flies in to RAAT HQ. He shows Circuit Breaker and Donny various news reports of a strange unearthly graffiti that is popping up on tourist attractions across the country. A football stadium in Wyoming, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and the Gateway Arch in St Louis have all been daubed in this way. Fear and panic are apparently spreading, and eyewitnesses have reported Transformer sightings at the locations.
Circuit Breaker, realising the markings are Cybertronian in origin, asks Donny to translate. He doesn’t understand either however, and suggests that they ask Skids for help. She mocks the idea, insisting the robot would never help them and that none of them can be trusted. As Barnett gives her orders to anticipate the robots’ next move and be ready with an RAAT squadron to attack, Donny spares a silent thought for Skids, thinking it’s more a case that the Transformers can’t trust the humans, instead of it being the other way round…
The next morning, the vacationing family reach Washington DC. They hope the graffiti won’t turn up there like all the other places they’ve visited, but then Runabout and Runamuck drive onto the scene. They transform and fly up to the Washington monument and then… start spraying it with paint! The onlookers watch dumbfounded as the two cackling Decepticons leave their mark, and then transform and drive off before anyone can do a thing.
Later, RAAT arrive on the scene and survey the robots’ messy handiwork. Donny suggests contacting the Autobots for help, but Circuit Breaker angrily refuses, insisting that they’re probably behind it all in the first place. She then interviews Noah’s family, who explain that every place they’ve visited on their holiday has been covered in the strange graffiti. Circuit Breaker realises its no coincidence, and also suggests that the robots’ behaviour may have been inspired by something the family have done. However, the family deny that any of their members dabble in graffiti.
Circuit Breaker asks them what they’re next destination is. When informed that it’s Philadelphia, she immediately plans to get RAAT forces in place…
This is another of Budiansky’s offbeat tales that, for the most part, defies logic, and is dispensable for several reasons. Firstly, it totally lacks an Autobot perspective, which means our central protagonists are the RAAT bozos. The way Circuit Breaker and Barnett constantly ignore the advice of Donny Finkleberg is nonsensical. Why put him on the payroll and yet never hear out the man who has spent so much of his recent time with both factions of Transformers? Circuit Breaker’s stubbornness is headache inducing at this point. There are too many irritating humans in this issue - the Acton family being a case in point.
Runabout and Runamuck (or Beavis and Butthead as many have dubbed them, not least because of their speech patterns) are hardly the most deadly of Decepticon menaces. Their greatest crime is… drawing on things. But admittedly, they are an amusing twosome up to a point, and the panic and concern they spread from their relatively harmless meddling is fairly entertaining. The way the two tearaways ditch Megatron’s plan as soon as they leave the ‘con base is endearing as well. However, it’s a bit far fetched that the two Decepticons would not understand why the humans cannot read their Cybertronian scribblings. Also, why does Megatron summon them from Cybertron to do a job that practically any of his other warriors could have done?
The scenes with Skids (or what’s left of him) aren’t bad – seeing such a good natured Autobot reduced to such a grisly state isn’t easy to watch (even Donny seems choked up by it). Donny is written well – after seeing him turn into such a Judas at the end of issue 92, it’s good to see him regretting his actions already, and beating himself up over it. Maybe it’s a swift turnaround, but as a character he’s recently been depicted as a man often in two minds anyway.
Soundwave emerges somewhat more one-dimensional than Furman’s portrayal of him. Thankfully the UK arc that kicks off in issue 96 will see Soundwave develop a more complex and sneaky personality once more.
And apparently Stan Lee liked this issue, so what the heck do I know?
Don Perlin’s art has a couple of scale issues. Megatron looks a bit small as he uses an old car body as a throne, and Laserbeak looks too big – I’m surprised Megatron doesn’t get shoulder ache. Everything else looks fine, and he does a good job of drawing humans (important in an issue overflowing with fleshlings). Akin and Garvey’s inks enhance the art throughout.
This issue was reprinted in the Titan trade paperback ‘Showdown.’
Runabout and Runamuck: What can I say about this troublesome pair? Runabout has a habit of speaking alliteratively (“a preciously perfect plan” and “merest micro-moment” etc) whilst Runamuck finishes most of his sentences with a “heh heh.” Certainly an eccentric duo. Whilst they agree with everything Megatron says when face to face with him, as soon as they’re out of earshot they make it clear that they have their own agenda: “Megatron’s been gone from Cybertron for 4,000,000 years and he treats us like he still runs the place.” As a result they ditch his instructions and decide to have some fun instead. They obviously have little respect for authority and are loose cannons.
They show themselves to be easily influenced by the actions of others. In this case it’s the kid, Noah, who gets their respect after they see him deface a wall. Runabout says, “such a defiant little fellow… not afraid to stand up to the bigger fleshling,” whilst Runamuck says, “He’s just my kind of guy.” And with that, they follow the family on their road trip and re-enact the boy’s bad habits in their own style. As Circuit Breaker comments later: “We’ve learned the robots are prone to highly imitative behaviour when exposed to humans.”
They both enjoy their mischievous antics, amused by each others jokes that they spray on each monument. “What a wonderfully wicked thing to write!” Runabout says, complimenting his colleague. Runamuck replies: “Yours is funny too… it makes me laugh. Heh heh.” After the Washington incident, they deduce that it was, “the most fun we’ve had yet,” and, “a marvellous experience. We simply must stop by again someday!” However, they’re somewhat perturbed that they haven’t made the humans angry in the same way that Noah’s dad yelled at his son. They deduce that the humans’ confusion is down to the fact that their, “wit is too slyly subtle for them to appreciate.” In actuality, it’s because your average fleshling isn’t fluent in Cybertronian.
Megatron wants to challenge Optimus Prime to a duel to the death. Why he has decided to do this now is not clear, but his sanity has seemed to be subtly deteriorating in recent issues, something Soundwave has bared the brunt of on a couple of occasions. This time Megatron whacks Soundwave in the face when he offers to contact the Ark directly: “When I want your opinion I’ll tell you what to say!” He wants the message to be delivered in person by Runabout and Runamuck: “Optimus Prime requires a more dramatic demonstration to get his attention.” The duel between the two leaders eventually takes place in issues 105 and 106, not that Runabout and Runamuck ever deliver the message.
Soundwave misses the point this issue, offering to deliver Megatron’s challenge to Prime via radio signal. For his trouble he gets bashed by Megatron, who wants the message delivered by more dramatic means.
From the start of this issue we can see Donny Finkleberg is already feeling guilty, and seems to regret handing over Skids to RAAT. Watching the robot that he’d (until recently) spent so much time with, now having his inoperative form scrutinised in front of his eyes seems to upset him. “Do you have to do that to Skids?” he asks, “Maybe you could ease up a bit on him. He looks like he’s in pain.” He also mumbles, “I just thought you’d ask Skids a few questions and then lock him up – not dissect him!” The enormity of what he has done hits him: “Great! The way things are going she’ll continue to put good guy Autobots out of commission, like she’s done so far... leaving the bad guy Decepticons to do whatever they want on this planet! And I helped. Great.”
Later, he suggests they ask Skids to help decipher the Cybertronian markings, which Circuit Breaker refuses to allow, saying humans can’t trust robots. He thinks, “I bet you’d voice the opposite opinion, right Skids? If you still had a voice.” Donny persists however, and when in Washington he advises they contact the Autobots for help. However, again he is denied. This leads him to regret his actions once more: “Every time they tried to help in the past humans have either attacked them… or betrayed them. If I hadn’t turned in Skids, I bet he’d be calling in the Autobots right now!”
Circuit Breaker’s crusade continues: “I swore to myself that if I survived, I would do everything I could to stop these robots permanently, to make sure that what happened to me wouldn’t happen to anyone else ever again!” Of course, it seems later she’s already forgetting the reasons she’s doing it, as she prepares an RAAT attack in Philadelphia, where innocents may well get caught in the crossfire.
She coldly dissects Skids, describing it simply as research, referring to him as a monstrosity and claiming, “It’s a machine… it feels no pain.” When Donny suggests they ask Skids’ help she just calls him incredibly na