The future Autobots arrive, sending Op and 5 others to Limbo. Fort Max, not knowing whats going on, declares the future 'bots murderers and a big ruck ensues. The present day Decepticons are about to join in when Soundwave and co arrive from the future and the Limbo deal happens all over again to Scorponok’s troops. However thanks to some Matrix magic™, Optimus Prime is projected to the battling Autobots, and his calming influence brings the battle to an end. Elsewhere is an uneasy alliance between the Wreckers and Mayhems, and they arrive at Galvatron’s cramped underground base…
The Autobots continue to fight against each other, following on from last issue. The present day Autobots are clearly the aggressors, their future counterparts play peace makers, and at their own peril.
The respective leaders duke it out. Rodimus Prime manages to gain the upper hand on Fortress Maximus and attempts to use his position to clear the air. Maximus almost accepts the future leader’s version of events but at the last second decides to continue the fight. Prime is hurled against a mountain and accused of treason by Fortress Maximus, who then gives the order to destroy all future Autobots.
Kup and Blurr continue to try persuasion over punching and are promptly taken down by Grimlock and a Scattershot/Wheeljack double team respectively. Arcee is left in peril at the hands of the other Dinobots until Ultra Magnus steps in at the 11th hour and manages to fell Slag and Sludge. Following his actions, Magnus reflects aloud on the utter madness of the situation. Goldbug hears and approaches him. Having previously experienced time travelling Transformers, Goldbug suggests he can bridge the divided factions.
However, Scorponok’s Decepticons have regrouped and Goldbug is immediately wounded in a sneak attack by Misfire. As the Decepticons state their intentions, Ultra Magnus is left to contemplate taking on a primed Decepticon battle party complete with Scorponok, recently reunited with his head!
The Decepticons move on Magnus, but suddenly all except Scorponok vanish in a blinding light. Scorponok is left dazed by the event, allowing Magnus precious time for respite. Magnus correctly presumes Scorponok’s crew have been transported to Limbo and is left to consider the possibilities of the arrival of additional future Transformers…
Nearby, Soundwave and the Terrorcons arrive from the future with the sole intention of killing Rodimus Prime and his troops.
Further north Springer has arrived from Cybertron with the promised reinforcements. He immediately meets with the scout party of Broadside, Inferno and Sandstorm who are all puzzled by Springer’s choice of transport – a Decepticon spacecraft! Springer explains: the situation on Cybertron is dire and the rest of The Wreckers have been forced to team up with Decepticons. Carnivac and Catilla step from the ship to announce the cooperation of the Mayhem Attack Squad with The Wreckers.
Whilst those on board the craft (in particular Carnivac) aren't particularly thrilled with the arrangement, Broadside is utterly disgusted with the situation. Carnivac listens in on Broadside and Springer’s discussion (the Triple Changers are worried that they’ll be shot in the back by their Decepticon ‘comrades’ whilst they battle Galvatron) and Carnivac lets on to Catilla that Broadside is right to assume the worst. He has orders to kill any Wreckers standing after Galvatron has been despatched!
Ravage sits patiently, guarding an entrance to Galvatron’s base. He sniffs the air satisfied – it is enough to sense the approach of the 'bots and 'cons!
Ultra Magnus, now free of harassment, moves quickly to aid Goldbug. Presuming the Terrorcons and Soundwave are now present in the past and in search of him, he thinks it vital that the battling Autobot factions are united. Upon reaching Goldbug, Magnus realises the gravity of the situation - Goldbug is dangerously close to death following their previous encounter and Magnus daren’t move him. A compassionate plea from the brave Throttlebot sways Magnus - Goldbug's situation is dire, but the situation the Autobots have brought on themselves is worse. The battling troops need to be calmed before its too late.
Goldbug is carried to the scene of the Rodimus Prime/Fortress Maximus fight. The two leaders immediately realise the stupidity of their actions and they stop. The Autobots sorely need guidance, they wonder, but how can they reach Optimus Prime? Suddenly a reaction takes place in Rodimus Prime's chest. The Matrix seems to activate, becoming a dimensional stepping stone and allowing Optimus Prime to face his beleaguered troops through Rodimus.
Optimus Prime is projected from Limbo and addresses the gathered parties with the problems facing them. Unseen, Soundwave and his troops have also gathered. The Terrorcons wait on their commander’s order - the order is passed, the time for conflict is over. They secretly listen.
Meanwhile, The Wreckers and Mayhems arrive at Galvatron’s base. The ease with which they have entered is surprising - Springer wonders this aloud, clearly apprehensive about his groups actions. It feels like a set up.
There is every right for Springer to be worried. The combined Decepticon and Autobot elite are under the watchful eye of the most powerful Transformer in existence... worse still, he is accompanied!
Galvatron cuts Springer mid sentence. The cream of Cybertronian Autobots and Decepticons is then promptly jumped by him and Megatron!
Straight to business. The Autobot fighting in this issue is contrived and utterly stupid on several counts:
1) Several Autobots have witnessed future Transformers as well as the mass transportation effect before. Obviously the present Autobots have just had a shock, and on top of this believing everything Rodimus Prime says would be unwise. But as a none aggressive body, should Autobots not always approach in peace?
2) The battle is initiated by Fortress Maximus, a Transformer who is a pacifist.
3) None of the future Autobots are recognised by past Autobots. "Who are these strangers we battle? They sort of resemble - almost identically - several of the warriors that many of us fought alongside on Nebulos…
Hmm… Must be impostors and it’s my duty not to investigate their claims, but to instead destroy them utterly! Damn their peaceful explanations!"
4) They fight on, even though there is a large body of Decepticons present in the area and their leader is seriously pissed, having only recently recovered his missing head!
Aside from the Autobot on Autobot shenanigans, the other major plot development involves The Wreckers and Mayhem Attack Squad joining forces. Autobot/Decepticon cooperation is always interesting, but what interests more are the remarks made by several members of the collaboration which seem to suggest a messy history between the parties involved. At the very least it allows potential scope for fan fiction material. The co-operation of the two factions hints at possible dialogue opening between Autobots and Decepticons on Cybertron. Could this lead directly on from previous co-operative events witnessed in City of Fear (164-165), Legion of the Lost (166-167) and Meltdown (168-169)?
The end of the issue is another contentious area for many fans. Are we to believe two crack guerrilla units would walk so gamely into an obvious trap? Galvatron’s comments go some way to lending credibility and drama to the situation but I personally find it asinine. The trap is even less convinving given The Wreckers' recent encounters with Galvatron - they know how lethal he is.
The story is contrived as noted, but enjoyable enough. Smith’s art is again workmanlike - it does the job but isn’t particularly outstanding. The opening and closing renderings are accomplished and interesting, but serve only to bookend standard art inbetween. Apparently Smith doesn’t like drawing Transformers, but the poor soul had to realise over 60 of the buggers in this and last issue!
This issue was reprinted in Collected Comics 18, as well as the Titan trade paperback 'Time Wars.'
Fortress Maximus is handled badly. He acts totally out of character. The pacifist is not willing to listen to anything, but instead aggressively seeks battle against peaceful opponents. His motto is: “Prepare for war, but strive for peace”. More? His Universe entry states: “Peace is his most fervent wish. Fights only out of necessity, believes all violence is actually pointless and counter productive.” This Fort Max could be put down to Spike being his Headmaster companion, who is still somewhat of a young hot headed novice (going by the mess he made in The Desert Island of Space, issue 159). This theme is further played on later during the comic's run (see issues 329 and 330) and in G2 (issue 2).
Rodimus Prime’s leadership and conduct is accomplished especially considering the circumstances. He collars his troops in the face of extreme provocation – his common sense rules supreme and he fights a counter battle to Fortress Maximus’ all out assault on him. His pangs of low self esteem perhaps only plague him in moments where he feels totally hopeless.
Springer is hesitant and indecisive – clearly a 'bot that knows how to handle himself, but cut out of leadership material? That remains to be seen. Previous encounters have seen him respond admirably to dangerous unforeseen circumstances. He is definitely battle savvy, showing excellent initiative under pressure, but his tactical thinking leaves a lot to be desired. Superb response when circumstance demands it doesn’t hide the tactical errors made in working with the Mayhems and the initial approach to the base. On top of this, Springer’s reaction is too slow to be effective once an error has been realised.
Ultra Magnus stays true to the philosophical all action hero role that he has moulded throughout the book. He takes on all comers only as a distraction to pondering how the situation got so dire and what can be done about it, considering all else but himself. He is portrayed as Fortress Maximus should be. Maybe Furman thought the script would drag if the two central protagonists were too similar? Goldbug proves to be an elaborate and courageous back up to him as well – Magnus seems to work well as a foil, rubbing off consistently on smaller possibly overlooked and underrated Transformers. Goldbug always seeks to prove his worthiness and has been equally valiant in past issues.
However, it is worth noting that the Ultra Magnus from the future seems to be slightly more wussy compared to his present day counterpart - I doubt the Magnus we know from Target 2006 et al would be as phased by Scorponok and company.
Many characters are set up for the arc, having only peripheral roles:
Broadside falls into second in command of the Wreckers, being the most vociferous questioner of Springer’s actions.
Carnivac is sly and self assured, and hints at fireworks to come in his brief appearance: "The funny thing is Catilla, he's absolutely right! Once the mutual danger is removed my orders are to kill any Wreckers left standing!" Catilla stands by as his right hand man.
Galvatron is cold and calculated.
Soundwave is calm and collected – there is the impression that an opportune moment is being waited for and that the moment it presents itself an attempt will be made to work an angle in the Decepticons' favour. Soundwave’s ability to manage his troops is clearly working. He is highly respected as future Decepticon leader, his words are waited on, his troops seek guidance and accept whatever is said. A highly accomplished leader it would seem.
Arcee is referred to as ‘broad’ by Slag. Transformers referring to each other based on looks and suggested sexual orientation is not something often noticed, likely mainly due to the lack of apparently female characters in the comic. Slag’s actions and Ultra Magnus’ comment afterwards can be put down to either dramatic comedy or possibly noted as a form of humanisation for the Transformers, a rub off of Earthen culture.
Scorponok gets his head back, which was lost during the 1989 Annual story, All in the Mind.
Ravage is able to detect oncoming Transformers at some distance through a sense that appears similar to the human sense of smell. It's noted in his Universe entry: "Ravage has monitoring devices in his nose module that give him a superior sense of smell, hearing and full-spectrum electromagnetic wave detection."
Autobot leaders share a mental link through the Matrix, powerful enough to allow trans dimensional communication.
Catilla, whilst a Decepticon here, is actually an Autobot toy.
"It’s a trap? Ha, ha, of course it is, as well you know! But confident that weight of numbers will be enough to force me to return to my own time, you walk blithely into the lion’s den." Galvatron.
"As this impending Holocaust seems to threaten all of us, I suggest we do what he says… and listen!" Soundwave.
"Nice shootin' Swoop, old buddy! The broad never knew what hit her!" Slag.
"I’m not fussy!" Scorponok.
There's a first page printing error – the colours are all wrong (rectified in the Collected Comics and Titan reprints). There’s another small colouring error on the bottom right panel on page 2.