Jetfire and Finkleberg arrive at the spot where the Autobots arrived from Cybertron, to find traces of TF fuel. Meanwhile the Aerialbots engage the Decepticons at the dam, beating off the Coneheads and Insecticons, and combining to tackle the drill (which is to be used to send a massive water flow to drive turbines on Cybertron), but the bots' conflicting personalities cause problems. They are then threatened by the controlled dam worker wielding Megatron, but Bombshell's mental hold is broken by the site of the dam worker's daughter, and he instead fires Megatron at the drill. Defeated, the Decepticons retreat. Elsewhere the Autobots from Cybertron are revealed to have been captured by Circuit Breaker, who is now working for Triple I. The cow.
Issue
090
Writer
Bob Budiansky
Pencils
Don Perlin
Inks
Ian Akin & Brian Garvey
Colours
Nel Yomtov
Release date
06/12/1986
Autobots featured
Jetfire, Silverbolt, Fireflight, Air Raid, Skydive, Slingshot, Superion, Blaster, Beachcomber, Powerglide, Warpath, Cosmos, Perceptor, Seaspray
Decepticons featured
Megatron, Dirge, Ramjet, Thrust, Shrapnel, Bombshell, Kickback
Humans featured
Donny Finkleberg, Ricky Vasquez, Carmen Vasquez, Maria Vasquez, Winowski, Kurtz, Circuit Breaker
Origin of
Death of
First appearance
Winowski, Kurtz
Locations featured
Columbia River Gorge, Black Canyon, Nevada and Southern New Jersey, USA
Story synopsis
Jetfire, with Donny Finkleberg aboard him, flies towards the Columbia River Gorge, the setting where the seven Autobots from Cybertron were last seen. There’s no sign of them anywhere, but then Donny slips in a puddle that Jetfire recognises as Transformer fuel. He surmises that one of the Autobots must have been leaking, but it has left a trail…

Meanwhile, the Aerialbots arrive at Hoover Dam, where they are greeted by the sight of the gigantic drill on the space bridge. The shocked crowds below watch as Dirge, Thrust and Ramjet transform into their jet modes and engage the five Autobot jets in battle above the dam.

Skydive leads the Aerialbot attack, and swoops down at the drill. However, his missiles have no effect, and he’s left wide open to an attack from Thrust, whose engine roar deafens him, forcing him to land. Meanwhile, Ramjet flies right into Slingshot, forcing him to land as well, which he does so using his vertical take-off and landing capability.

Then Dirge shoots at Fireflight but misses. However, his stray shots result in falling rocks at a crowd of humans below. Silverbolt shouts out a warning to Fireflight to save the humans. Fireflight vaporises the rocks, though he doesn’t understand why he has to waste time saving humans that just get in the way. This makes Silverbolt realise that the other Aerialbots’ programming is not complete. Suddenly, Silverbolt is attacked by Dirge, who broadcasts a shrill frequency that brings out Silverbolt’s deepest fear – he’s afraid of heights! Panicked, the Aerialbot dives towards the ground as fast as he can…

Within the dam’s control room, the sounds of the battle outside can be heard. Megatron (still in gun mode and held by the mind controlled Ricky Vasquez) instructs Shrapnel to find out what’s going on. Checking the external cameras, they see the aerial dogfight outside. Megatron insists that nothing must prevent them from draining the reservoir dry and using it to power Cybertron. He sends the Insecticons to join the battle against the Autobots. Ricky shows a flicker of emotion at the mention of Earth becoming a wasteland, but remains under Megatron’s thrall.

Outside, Air Raid dives at the Decepticon jets, and then transforms and shoots Ramjet head on with his rifle. Air Raid is then kicked off the side of the dam by Kickback, but just before he collides with the drill he transforms to jet mode and flies out of danger. Slingshot, meanwhile, is blasted by 40,000 volts, courtesy of Shrapnel.

Amongst the frightened onlookers to the unfolding action is Ricky’s wife Carmen and his daughter Maria, worrying for his safety. In the meantime, Ricky ascends the steps of the dam with Megatron still in hand.

Silverbolt fights his fears of vertigo, and comes to Slingshot’s aid just in time. And after Air Raid shoots Shrapnel, the Decepticons soon retreat. Silverbolt seizes the moment to order the Aerialbots to merge into Superion, but hopes that he’ll still be able to maintain control of his team (whose personalities are still incomplete) whilst in gestalt form.

Superion flies to the rescue, and immediately sets about dismantling the drill. Suddenly, Ricky Vasquez appears at the top of the dam, brandishing Megatron and pointing him at the combiner! Megatron orders the human to fire, and Superion responds by turning round and preparing to squash Ricky! Silverbolt tries to take control of Superion before he flattens the human, but Superion’s under the impression that he must do everything in his power to stop the Decepticons. This power struggle cause Superion to hesitate, and all the while Megatron is instructing Ricky to fire! However, the human tries with all his might to resist the command to shoot.

Just at that moment, Ricky’s little daughter Maria runs past the barriers, shouting his name. Ricky immediately recognises her, and shouts to her to stay back for her own safety. Superion is still on the verge of crushing the gunman, so Silverbolt is left with no choice but to order the Aerialbots to disengage. Megatron shouts a final desperate order to Ricky – shoot Silverbolt before he gets away! But Ricky continues to fight against Megatron’s hold of him, and, finally, aims Megatron at the drill and pulls the trigger! The drill blows to pieces and the space bridge teleports back to Cybertron.

Megatron can’t believe that the human was able to break his control, and starts babbling hysterically. He flees the scene with the rest of the Decepticons.

The Aerialbots head for home too. Whilst the other four confused Aerialbots question their leader as to what exactly happened, Silverbolt assures them that, more important than anything else, they protected human life. Silverbolt doesn’t realise, however, that Bombshell is secretly hitching a ride aboard him, back to the Ark!

Ricky Vasquez finds himself surrounded by his family, the press, the police and various other bystanders. He happily agrees to go down the police station for questioning, but not before apologising to Maria for not being able to take her to the fireworks. She cheerfully says that she doesn’t mind, as she’s seen enough fireworks for one day.

The story concludes at a long forgotten airstrip in Southern New Jersey, which is the headquarters for a newly created government agency called RAAT (Rapid Anti-Robot Assault Team). Its members are unloading a delivery of cargo, which turns out to be the bodies of the Cybertronian Autobots! The Transformers are dismembered, and then the heads of Blaster, Perceptor, Powerglide, Warpath, Beachcomber, Cosmos and Seaspray are placed on a wall like hunting trophies. All this is to the delight of Circuit Breaker, who promises that many more Transformers will follow!
Remarks
The aerial dogfight that’s stretched out for 5 odd pages in this issue is reasonably entertaining, even if the dialogue that accompanies it is a bit cheesy and obvious in most cases.

It’s livened up by the concluding stand off between an emotionally detached Superion and the Megatron-toting human. It proves fairly tense, with a decent outcome where the human saves the day instead of the Aerialbot novices. However, it is marred slightly by Megatron’s illogical behaviour. Why doesn’t he just fire on the drill himself? Why does he need the human to do this for him? Why doesn’t he just transform and utilise his fusion cannon?

It’s the issue’s ending that proves most effective. Circuit Breaker makes a dramatic comeback, and you can’t help but feel sorry for the poor Cybertron Seven.

At this point in his stint as Transformers artist, Perlin always proves reliable, but in a functional, and not exciting way.

This issue was reprinted in the Titan trade paperback, ‘Showdown.’
Character development
Silverbolt is the only Aerialbot at this point whose programming is complete, and hence cares for the welfare of the humans. “Our actions must not endanger them in any way,” he insists. He does start to pick up on the fact that his comrades aren’t quite in tune with the Autobot code, but he makes sure that he keeps them in check, and gives them explicit orders along the way. Eventually he feels he has no choice but to give the order to combine into Superion, though he worries, “I just hope I can maintain control of our actions in this form!” However, Superion is prepared to kill a human to succeed in his mission: “My orders… are to destroy Decepticons… do whatever’s necessary… to thwart their plans… human is a threat… must kill him.” Silverbolt continues to protest with the gestalt whilst in combined mode, with reminders like, “No! We Autobots are sworn to protect humans!” but it doesn’t seem like he’s getting through, so he orders them to separate, thus prioritising human life over destroying the drill. Later, when the Aerialbots question him, he refuses to combine again because, “to do so would endanger human lives again! I won’t risk that!” Finally he assures them: “We protected human lives. For an Autobot on Earth… there is no greater accomplishment!”

Ironically, Silverbolt is scared of heights. He supresses it as best he can, but it comes to the fore when Dirge uses his special engine roar that brings out deepest fears. The Aerialbot leader instantly panics and heads downwards, but he’s no coward, and he eventually gets to grips with it, telling himself, “Aerialbots need me… must fight the fear… turn my thoughts elsewhere.” He then comes straight to Slingshot’s aid, and when Slingshot tells him, “Am I glad to see you – you’re just what I needed!” Silverbolt replies, “And I can say the same about you!”

Skydive is the first Aerialbot in action, and he shows himself to be the one with the strategies: “I’m peeling out and taking the first shot at the target… I suggest the rest of you follow me one by one.”

Air Raid, “doesn’t like to be left out of anything!” He gleefully ambushes all three Decepticon jets at once.

Slingshot’s pretty brash: “All right Decepticons, where’re you hiding? Are you all afraid of Slingshot?” The Transformers Universe describes him as an incessant braggart.

Fireflight says, “Who cares about the humans… they just get in the way!” This can be attributed to his incomplete programming, and he still saves them when ordered to by his leader.

Megatron is focused on success and won’t accept anything else: “Nothing must prevent the drill from tunnelling through the dam!” His dream of powering Cybertron with Earth’s energy remains a huge driving force behind his actions. He seems to enjoy the irony of ordering the enslaved human to fire upon his would-be saviour: “I give you the honour of destroying your last hope!” Whether he could shoot with or without the human’s assistance is not clear, but if he could, and chose instead to command the human to do so, then it was a mistake that would cost his plan dearly. When the human defies his will, Megatron ends up gibbering his way to a mini-breakdown: “You broke my control over you! But how?! How! …he’s only a fleshling…”

Ramjet, Dirge and Thrust are pretty territorial when it comes to proving who is king of the airways. Upon the Aerialbots arrival they shout out, “those guys are invading our space,” and, “lets get ‘em!” Later, Thrust claims, “we showed them who’s boss of the skies,” and Ramjet’s warning to Slingshot is, “Ramjet rules the skies, Autobot! You’re trespassing!”

Shrapnel is quick to see when the game is up: “Come… the plan has failed. No sense hanging around gathering rust.”

Bombshell is quite the opportunist, hitching a ride to the Ark aboard Silverbolt when he sees his chance. This also shows his confidence and bravery – he’s not at all worried about entering the enemy’s lair, and he clearly takes the initiative too, not needing orders to act.

Jetfire clearly doesn’t trust Finkleberg, or have much time for him. He maintains a vaguely intimidating attitude, and letting Donny drop from the sky and catching him at the last minute comes across as a little mean. Finkleberg’s Robot Master persona has obviously made many Autobots dubious about his intentions.

Jetfire talks about the Cybertronian sport Basketrek as if he played it on Cybertron. Since this is impossible due to him being created on Earth, it could betray the fact that he wishes he was a Cybertronian like the rest of his comrades, which may have contributed to his crisis of confidence in issue 93’s Christmas story. Of course, it might just be that he’s been swatting up on the Ark’s history tapes, or has discussed it in depth with his fellow Autobots.

Circuit Breaker has gone and got herself a proper job. Well, sort of. She now hunts down Transformers legitimately for RAAT. She still comes across as a bit manic, talks about herself in the third person, and places the heads of her captives on a wall, proving herself to be just as barbaric as the Transformers that she labels as a menace. One of the soldiers mentions that she’s a perfectionist, but more importantly, she makes it clear that she’s not done yet.

Donny Finkleberg is pretty wary of Jetfire, and remains jumpy, and eager to prove that his story his true.

Ricky Vasquez continues to be a mind-controlled zombie type, but as the issue progresses, certain key words and phrases said by others start to enter his subconscious, and help him snap out of it slowly. The true catalyst is when he sets eyes on his daughter, and his subsequent breaking of Megatron’s orders leaves the Decepticon leader flabbergasted. Afterwards, he happily agrees to going down the station for police questioning, but not before apologising to his daughter for not being able to take her to the fireworks.
Trivia
Basketrek is a sport played on Cybertron. The Transformers played with ‘Ballobots’ which, apparently, enjoyed being bounced.

Jetfire can determine Transformer fuel by look and smell alone. He calls it, “the lifeblood of my people.”

The leaking fuel is later shown to have come from Blaster.

Silverbolt is a Concorde SST.

A parallel can be drawn between the Aerialbots’ disregard for the Autobot code here as was the case in the cartoon episode War Dawn. Also, in both cases Silverbolt is the voice of reason.

Skydive is the Aerialbots’ chief strategist.

Skydive is equipped with laser-guided missiles. However, they barely make a dent in the drill.

The sound of Thrust’s engines can be deafening and interfere with the guidance systems of other Transformers.

Ramjet can smash into other aerial Transformers head on, causing himself hardly any damage. However, he’s still susceptible to the power of Air Raid’s torque rifle, which bends his fuselage out of shape.

Slingshot has vertical take-off and landing capability.

One blast from Megatron in gun mode is enough to reduce the drill to a smoking ruin.

Dirge uses air-to-air missiles. He can also broadcast a special frequency that can grab at the core of a Transformer’s cerebro-circuitry and pull out their deepest fears. According to the Transformers Universe: “In jet mode, the sound from Dirge's engines has the uncanny effect of producing spinetingling (circuit-tingling, in the cases of other robots) fear in nearly everyone who hears it. Apparently, the engines emit a combination of frequencies that has a disorienting, fear-provoking effect on the nervous systems of all those within earshot.”

Fireflight has fire-fog missiles that he uses in this issue to vaporise falling rocks. The Transformers Universe describes them as missiles that, “explode and release a mist of highly flammable liquid.”

Superion is described as eight storeys tall.

The water in the reservoir from the Colorado River can create enough energy to power Cybertron for years, or as Megatron puts it, “enough energy to make Cybertron the pre-eminent planet in the galaxy!” Once the drill tunnels through the dam, the water behind the dam would flow through the pipeline and across the space bridge to Cybertron, where it will turn massive turbines. Doing so will turn the American southwest into a wasteland though.

Air Raid’s torque rifle can bend, or even snap, parts of other Transformers with its beams.

Shrapnel zaps Slingshot with 40,000 volts.

Megatron seems unable to fire himself when in gun mode, and has to give Ricky Vasquez orders like, “Fire!” “Pull my trigger!” and “Blast that jet!” This actually gives the human the opportunity to use Megatron against the drill. On previous occasions, Megatron has been able to shoot by himself, for instance in Decepticon Dambusters (issue 30) and Shooting Star (issues 51 and 52). On the latter occasion he could only shoot when instructed to, due to a malfunction in his brain functions, but even then this was done by giving Megatron orders, not by pulling his trigger (in fact, the trigger simply fired bullets and not powerful laser bursts). It’s possible that in this issue Megatron could have fired if he wanted to, and simply enjoyed the irony of the human doing the damage himself, ultimately underestimating him. Perhaps he can fire either bullets or fusion blasts, depending on the situation or his preference.

This issue marks the debut of RAAT (Rapid Anti-Robot Assault Team). They are a newly created top secret agency of the US government with the task of dealing with the Transformers ‘menace’, and their HQ is based at an air strip in Southern New Jersey. They’ve also got Circuit Breaker on the payroll.

Transformers’ memory chips can be decoded to reveal their origins and histories.

Whilst the Aerialbots are combined into Superion, Silverbolt can still make his voice heard and can maintain control of the gestalt’s actions to an extent.
Good quotes
“Stay back! You… you wouldn’t bounce a guy wearing glasses, would you?” Donny Finkleberg.

RAAT worker – “Boss, this is the last of the heads.”
Circuit Breaker – “You’re in error, soldier – this is just the beginning! So swears Circuit Breaker!”
Bad quotes
Mistakes
Blaster’s head is blue, instead of red/yellow.

Thrust calls Dirge ‘Thrust’, and Dirge calls him ‘Ramjet’ in reply.

A speech balloon comes from Kickback instead of Shrapnel.
Story rating
5 star
Art rating
5 star
Media
Reviewed by
spiderfrommars

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