The Decepticons attack a nuclear power plant to get resources, but are unable to engineer it to suit their fuel needs, but they do build a nice base. Meanwhile Bumblebee is repaired by Buster's unbelieving dad Sparkplug, and Sparkplug offers to adapt earth fuel for the Autobots. The Decepticons realise the Autobots have made contact and Ravage spies on Buster and Bumblebee.
Issue
003
Writer
Bill Mantlo (Plot) Jim Salicrup (Script)
Pencils
Frank Springer
Inks
Kim DeMulder
Colours
Nel Yomtov
Release date
18/10/1984
Autobots featured
Bumblebee, Optimus Prime, Windcharger, Mirage, Prowl, Ratchet, Ironhide, Hound, Jazz
Decepticons featured
Megatron, Starscream, Soundwave, Ravage, Thundercracker, Skywarp, Laserbeak, Buzzsaw, Frenzy, Rumble
Humans featured
Buster Witwicky, Sparkplug Witwicky, Jessie, "O", Jason Boyd
Origin of
Death of
First appearance
Windcharger, Mirage, Ratchet, Jazz, Jason Boyd
Locations featured
Oregon, USA
Story synopsis
The Decepticons discover a nuclear power plant. After Ravage scouts the complex Megatron orders an attack on the plant to steal its technology. The Decepticons strike and loot the structure with ease.

Meanwhile, Buster pleads with his father Sparkplug to fix Bumblebee. As Buster gives an account of what happened to him in the last issue and insists that Bumblebee is “alive” Sparkplug is convinced the whole thing is a prank of some kind. In the end Sparkplug accedes to his son’s wishes and tinkers with the alien vehicle. Upon completion, to both humans’ surprise, Bumblebee transforms into his robot mode and thanks the mechanic for his efforts.

Bumblebee explains the Autobots’ desperate need for fuel and Sparkplug offers to help them figure out some way to convert Earth fuels for their needs. Bumblebee escorts Buster to the Ark to tell Optimus Prime the good news. On the way they catch up with Buster’s friends Jessie and “O” who they tell about the plan, but Ravage is listening in…

Back at the Ark Optimus Prime reasons that the Autobots must contact the humans and forge an alliance of some kind. Fortunately they are contacted by Bumblebee, who is back at the Witwicky garage after realising he didn’t have enough fuel to make the journey to the Ark. He explains that he has befriended humans who will help the Autobots with a fuel conversion process. With that Prime orders the Autobots to transform and roll out, and head for the garage…
Remarks
The series is sluggishly getting into its stride now, and this issue feels a little bit more like a standard Transformer comic than the slightly offbeat previous two offerings. This issue is still plotted by Mantlo but now Salicrup picks up the scripting chores, and has some fun with the concept. The scene with Buster trying to convince his father to repair Bumblebee is a well-written and engaging piece. The writing style in most parts is still over-heavy on the narrative (e.g. Why write things like “Starscream and Thundercracker transform back to their Decepticon modes” when the art clearly shows them doing so?). There are several typically contrived moments too, such as Ravage jumping into Jason Boyd’s cassette recorder with the worker then proceeding to provide all the requisite details in his playback. The fact that Ravage then repeats this trick with Buster’s friends’ tape deck stretches credibility still further. The violence is typical of the early issues, in that in keeping with the feel of a kids’ toy comic it is very sanitised; cluster bombs being used to scatter humans instead of just blitzing them is one example.

The layout looks tidier, perhaps as much to do with the settling down of Springer’s art as the addition of Janice Chiang’s style of lettering, which is always tidy and distinguished. The colours are sadly below par; here Nel Yomtov (who would actually colour every single US G1 story) does not adequately give the impression that the Decepticons carried out their raid under cover of night.

This issue was reprinted in Collected Comics 1, The Complete Works Volume 1, and the Titan Trade Paperback ‘Beginnings.’
Character development
Whilst Megatron is clearly the most powerful Decepticon at this stage, he is shown as quite happy not to get his hands dirty as well. In the attack on the nuclear plant, he doesn’t actually lift a finger, preferring to bark orders like “Attack!” and “Cease fire!” from the back whilst his warriors do the leg work. He also acknowledges that one of Starscream’s suggestions is sound, though he does counter it, choosing Ravage instead of Buzzsaw to scout the plant first.

Starscream continues to smoulder in the background, and for the first time in the comic he makes an outright declaration of his true intentions: “It’s only a matter of time before Starscream commands the Decepticons!” Not that his lust for power goes unnoticed by Megatron, who thinks to himself: “As always Starscream slyly seeks to undermine my command.”

Mirage starts to grow in prominence here, and is quite an original character in that he doesn’t seem to be outright good or outright evil, but more so somewhere between these two lines. It’s refreshing to see a character with varying shades to his personality. Here he insists that the Autobots seize what fuel they need from the humans like the Decepticons do, instead of merely bartering for it. When his suggestions are not taken onboard he grumbles: “Perhaps Mirage is on the wrong side!” This seems to be down to naivety more than anything else.

The script describes Ravage as “ever obedient” whilst displaying his relish at the opportunity of being “free to prowl alone.”

Optimus Prime quite recklessly suggests: “Cybertron’s advanced technology can be offered in exchange” for fuel from the humans. As Prime would learn much more about human nature his attitude on this subject would change immensely. By issue 2 of the Generation 2 comic he makes it quite clear that Autobots should sacrifice themselves rather than allow their Cybertronian technology to fall into the hands of “these scurrying inquisitive creatures… If our presence here advanced this race before its time whatever chaos followed would be on our conscience.” In any case, Prime does seem to prefer leading by consensus, and asks “Be there an Autobot among us that finds fault with this plan?”

Prowl acts as the initial conscience of the Autobots, protesting on behalf of the humans’ rights.

Buster is concerned for Bumblebee’s wellbeing, pleading with his dad to fix him. He also becomes very excited when he realises Bumblebee is in fact an alien, saying, “I’ve always dreamed something like this would happen to me!” He’s quick to take up the offer of a trip to the Ark from Bumblebee.

Sparkplug shows initial concern when his son starts to get involved with the Autobots here, but overall he is accommodating and helpful to Bumblebee, even offering to help the Autobots with a usable form of fuel. His attitude to the Autobots would change a great deal after his adventures in the next few issues.
Trivia
Starscream suggests that Buzzsaw scout the nuclear plant. This makes sense, as Buzzsaw’s official role is Reconnaissance. However, in later issues this role would seem to be primarily assigned to Laserbeak even though his function is actually Interrogation.

Thundercracker’s sonic boom is apparently heard “over a hundred miles away.”

Bumblebee namechecks Ratchet as “the Autobots’ greatest physician”.

Bumblebee explains that his name is a “code-name”, perhaps suggesting that most Transformers have Cybertronian names as well. Whether these code-names are assigned on joining their respective armies is uncertain, as is the fact as to why some Transformers do not appear to have them at all (Straxus, Xaaron, Jhiaxus, etc.)

Transformers cannot just “guzzle Premium Unleaded” it would seem, and need Earth fuels to be converted to a usable form for their intake.

Bumblebee has no ignition or gas pedal, which is possibly the case for the rest of the Autobots.

Frenzy is shown able to make walkie-talkies go dead by emanating “ultra-high radio frequencies.”

Rumble is shown creating a small earthquake when the drum-like constructions in his body “begin to roll - transmitting through his feet immense low-frequency groundwaves.” This differs from his technique in the cartoons where his arms morph into giant piledrivers with which he uses to pummel the ground.

Buster says: “This isn’t oil – it’s the car’s blood!” It’s a simplistic statement, but it’s worth taking literally. When a Transformer is ‘bleeding’ fuel we know that they are often at death’s door, and it helps see them in a more humanistic light. Hence why as Bumblebee leaks fuel he insists: “I’m dying!”

Bumblebee uses a “standard Autobot distress frequency”, a broadcast that Hound picks up. The Autobots are also able to home in on the frequency to reach Bumblebee’s location, without him having to give them directions of any sort. However, Bumblebee has to build a communicator to contact them in the first place, and does not have any kind of built in comlink himself.

Huffer and Wheeljack have built a road leading out of the Ark for the Autobots to use whenever they “roll out.”

The fact that the initial era of Transformers comics were penned in the midst of the Cold War is constantly referenced in the scripting in many early issues, with such cringe-worthy lines as “Argh! It must be the Russians!” Buster also shows a large degree of reverence to nuclear power, “probably the mightiest source of energy.”

The X-Men character Dazzler is mentioned on the radio, proving the close ties that the Transformers Universe had with the main Marvel Universe (at least in the first few issues). Obviously when the limited series morphed into an ongoing one, it must have been decided at some point to gradually distance the two entities.
Good quotes
Bad quotes
“They haven’t yet made the car that Sparkplug Witwicky can’t fix!” Sparkplug.
Mistakes
Jazz is coloured in Hound’s green and blue colours.

Story rating
4 star
Art rating
3 star
Media
Reviewed by
spiderfrommars

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