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Speculating the time-split relates to Cyclonus’ Death, Scourge attempts to return to the future with his carcass. A frantic Shockwave guards it, and Scourge is shot attempting to take it. Elsewhere the remaining Wreckers and Mayhems call for back-up, which the Transformers assembled outside the Autobot shuttle endeavour to bring. Optimus Prime considers returning to aid them but fears his arrival would cause further damage to the dimensional rift. Before reinforcements arrive, the Mayhems and Wreckers finally consolidate, rally, and cause huge damage to Galvatron – but he still lives!
Issue
203
Writer
Simon Furman
Pencils
Dan Reed
Inks
Dan Reed
Colours
Euan Peters
Release date
04/02/1989
Autobots featured
Roadbuster, Sandstorm, Rack 'n' Ruin, Springer, Twin Twist, Broadside, Inferno, Optimus Prime, Rodimus Prime, Fortress Maximus, Ultra Magnus, Swoop, Snarl, Highbrow, Skids, Catilla
Decepticons featured
Scourge, Shockwave, Cyclonus, Carnivac, Galvatron, Megatron, Flywheels, Ravage, Scorponok, Soundwave
Humans featured
Fracas
Origin of
Death of
Sandstorm, Roadbuster
First appearance
Locations featured
USA and Limbo
Story synopsis
The issue begins with Scourge launching a questionable break-in effort on Shockwave’s fortress base. As he and Fracas gain access (via the huge hole they've blown in the side) they reminisce about their last visit, the encounter with Megaton and the deaths of Cyclonus and Nightstick (see Dry Run, issue 189). The pair are clearly uneasy being on Shockwave’s terrain but Scourge sees the retrieval of Cyclonus’ body as imperative. Springer’s conjecture regarding the whereabouts of Cyclonus last issue has hit home. Scourge is certain that he and Cyclonus need to be returned to the future for the space/time imbalance to be peacefully resolved.

Whilst stalking the now shattered ruins of the base, the pair happen across Shockwave, sitting in squalor. The once fearfully logic Decepticon commander has been reduced to talking incoherent rubbish: “Dead… I’m dead. Lost command… lost life. Continuing is… illogical.” He's clearly relating to being ‘blessed’ with the information that he is to die at some stage in the not too distant future. Scourge’s initial attempts at conversation glean little. Upon mention of Cyclonus however, Shockwave comes alive!

There is a flick of a switch... it reveals Cyclonus’ corpse, lashed to a wall! Scourge speculates that finding out about his death has reverted Shockwave to his current most basic mental state. This, he figures, will allow him to nab Cyclonus’ corpse with the minimum of fuss. Wrong. As Scourge attempts to remove his partner’s corpse, Shockwave blasts him from behind. As Scourge falls motionlessly off a ledge, landing with a smash below, you have to wonder if his error of judgement has met him with fatal consequences!

Elsewhere, the remaining Wreckers and Mayhems fight a battling retreat, having managed to pull Inferno from the base after Megatron was last seen belting him. Springer knows they're outgunned - being in the open makes matters worse. He orders a further retreat. The squad will regroup around the Decepticon drop ship and bring out the heavy guns! Carnivac continues to berate his opposite numbers decision making, whilst continuing to plot Springer’s downfall after their (increasingly somewhat unlikely) victory has been sealed.

The Wreckers and Mayhems reach their drop ship with no hint of a let up from Galvatron and Megatron’s pursuit of them. Springer rapidly relays orders to his brigade as they near the ship entrance, but they are cut short by a deadly burst of plasma fire from Galvatron. Sandstorm is blown apart as he attempts to haul Inferno aboard, prompting Springer to order a panicked defensive formation. Rack 'n' Ruin carry Inferno off with help from Roadbuster, who just about manages to tear himself from the battle field. The Deluxe Autobot is furious, disgusted with his comrade Sandstorm's death and eager to reap revenge.

All the while, Ravage has been casually watching the events unfold. He decides to head off.

Cutting briefly to Limbo, Optimus Prime watches the events unfold through the eyes of the future Autobot leader Rodimus, who has just got news of the Wreckers and Mayhems dire circumstances. He relays the situation to the combined band of present and future 'bots and 'cons and then issues the call to move out. Optimus, still watching from Limbo, inwardly questions whether Rodimus is up to it. He worries for the situation of his Limbo-based troops minds, knowing only too well the tricks the dimension can play on a Transformer's mind. Optimus greatly wishes to offer assistance, but knows his presence combined with that of Rodimus Prime would only hasten the effects of the time storm.

On Earth, Galvatron and Megatron are gaining the upper hand in their battle with the Wreckers. Carnivac is put down by Galvatron. The situation reaches critical as Galvatron readies the death blow, only for Springer to thwart him, crunching him with a boulder. In doing so, Springer leaves himself exposed - Megatron almost finishes him, but he forces himself into evasive action and manages to avoid a string of blows.

The event prompts a recovered Carnivac to a change of heart. Where the hell is the honour in shooting a fellow warrior in the back? Going deeper then that, Carnivac feels a debt is owed. Springer has saved him, he is now duty bound to save Springer’s life in return!

Carnivac’s charge catches Megatron off guard, who whilst distracted becomes a sitting duck. Roadbuster emerges from the drop ship with an absolute beast of a gun - namely the Decepticon Pathblaster! Amidst the action, Roadbuster casts off Rack 'n' Ruin’s warnings about the stability of the gun, and aims for the prone Megatron.

Galvatron is stunned. He remembers the scene from 20 years ago as his previous incarnation and decides to edit the little part of history that sees Megatron shot to pieces. He flings himself at 'himself', taking the blast full in his face… er… himself! Galvatron goes down, in the immediate aftermath Roadbuster loses himself, drunk on success… but his gun is defective and its about to explode! Rack 'n' Ruin alerts him before diving for cover, but it’s too late. Unfortunately Roadbuster is too slow to react and is destroyed as the gun spontaneously explodes! Springer rushes to see if he can do anything but is stopped dead by Broadside. The Pathblaster has only(!) taken half of Galvatron’s face off – the future 'con leader is still very much alive!
Remarks
Part 5 of Time Wars is pretty solid and exciting stuff, although again there are minor discrepancies in some parts of the issue.

Scourge’s quest begins, following on from his and Springer’s tense discussion last issue. The early dialogue involving Scourge and his partner is a tiny bit awkward, as it is primarily a catch up point for any late arrivals to the story. This extension of the plot is handled adequately enough though, although again it feels a little rushed. The state of the Decepticon base isn’t explained – my feeling is that it’s an undertone for Shockwave’s mentality and I can accept that as writer's licence, but a little welcome party wouldn’t have gone amiss, perhaps offering an insight into why the place was deserted and crumbling.

Shockwave’s scenes are handled well - it is interesting to see this once great Decepticon completely destroyed, his mind literally collapsing in on itself. What is equally satisfying is the fact that deep within, something ruthless still burns at a basic level. Scourge’s blasting by Shockwave was a neat little moment of drama and a timely reminder not to turn your back on him!

The Wreckers and Mayhems are finally developing battle tactics! They’re working a hit and run strategy of sorts (the emphasis being on run), but unless they can get their hands on some better weaponry it seems only a matter of time until they are beaten. I personally have no problem with the two commando units getting bettered in the open. The Wreckers are a guerrilla unit whose ability in the field relies heavily on theirs skills to operate in situations they are prepared for. Losing tactical advantage to Galvatron and Megatron by fighting in the open with a depleted unit and no cover is going to result in a hammering if it persists for any degree of time. It's entirely consistent as far as I’m concerned.

It’s also fair to assume Galvatron could put a hole in most Transformers with an unchallenged, properly aimed (fully charged?) shot in the back, so there can be little quibble with the technicalities of Sandstorm's death. It's handled in a far better manner then the death of Topspin in the previous issue. The circumstances are similar, ie. it is quick and brutal, leaving his comrades no time to properly acknowledge his passing; however this time the actual act seems more plausible.

As the issue focuses on the Wreckers/Mayhem Vs Galvatron/Megatron battle, the secondary 'bot/'con alliance is used only sparingly to break up proceedings in the main fight. However, it is hinted that Optimus Prime will join the fight at some stage and that the fight is going to get a hell of a lot worse before he does! It also seems that Optimus Prime fancies himself as better then Rodimus Prime!

In the closing stages, the Wreckers and Mayhems finally bond. Too little too late for most of them, but a funky dynamic between Springer and Carnivac begins to develop! It’s played out in a believable fashion and is interesting to watch – it’s an unsuspected (especially given the cover) and interesting little surprise – Carnivac has flipped 180 degrees as far as his concerns for Springer go. The fact that it takes place during a cool action sequence (nicely rendered by Dan Reed) and serves up a thrilling and highly memorable set piece is even better!

The set piece: Galvatron has half his face blown off! The section explaining Galvatron’s decision to prevent Megatron from experiencing ‘face shooty’ himself has been debated to death. It would take fookin years for me to do it justice and I might even end up like Galvatron himself did at the end of this issue trying to do it.

Needless to say, I think it’s safe to presume that circa 1989, Simon Furman would probably have thought Galvatron/Megatron defunct as far as US comic appearances went, and that he had free run on the character. Only following Megatron’s reintroduction to the US comic does the passage before Galvatron’s rugby tackle suddenly become difficult to fit into continuity.

Galvatron’s ‘memories’ could still have potentially opened a can of worms even if the ‘real’ Megatron hadn’t returned to the US comic. It is generally held that as far as comic continuity goes, Galvatron is created by events roughly following those that occurred in Transformers: The Movie. Frankly, Galvatron’s idea that he remembers winning the Time Wars as Megatron put the events of the movie ever occurring into extreme doubt. Also, if he does remember winning the Time Wars as Megatron, it tends to suggest he survived Roadbuster’s attack anyway, making it pointless risking being 'burninated' again to save ‘himself’. In effect, he only stood to mess himself up in some way or another, either through more pain, as eventually came to pass, or by giving himself a mental head caning! Regardless, he does a pretty good T1000 impression, what with the whole ‘not being able to be stopped’ feeling coming across.

This along with the countless carcases helps reinforce the feeling that with this epic it’s clear to the reader that no-one is safe, and any of their favourites could meet their end at any minute!

Er… As eventually came to pass…

I have a minor quibble with the ending of this issue. Roadbuster blowing himself up is a bit stupid. I felt the same result could have been pulled off in a more convincing fashion, e.g. the Pathblaster could have melted and fused itself to him maybe? It is worth noting that Furman has turned Roadbuster from the thoughtful experienced soldier seen in Target 2006 to a howling cowboy - not a step forward and one that is a plot rather than a character concern.

Dan Reed’s art is again cool, whilst not being entirely suited to Transformers. Some of the perspective shots are odd, notably Cyclonus pinned to the wall above Scourge, but as Reed's style is one that thrives on exaggeration, this can be overlooked. Also, the final image of Galvatron sans half a face is a memorable and striking rendition! The dynamism conveyed after the Pathblaster hits is also striking. As Galvatron falls you can see the light going from his eyes and his mind faltering. It’s a classic image.

Reed also deserves further credit for supplying such an austere mood to proceedings – the rain, the mud, lightning and grey skies really establish and convey the dark, menacing atmosphere of the story very well.

This issue was reprinted in the Titan trade paperback 'Time Wars.'
Character development
Carnivac continues to develop nicely - his inner monologue has been working overtime during the story, and it’s nice to have such a large amount of time developed to an at first glance rank and file Decepticon warrior. It helps paint the Decepticon cause overall as much more than just a group of Republicans. The fact that he values honour above all else is interesting - it has been hinted at in other stories that many Decepticons are not purely driven by conquest. There are fully rounded, intelligent, living, thinking warriors fighting for a very bad cause. This in itself is intriguing, even more is the fact that they can be turned. This I put down to the slowly emerging grim reality that Carnivac finds himself facing. Springer is possibly his best chance of survival (obviously he’s the only thing that keeps him alive at one stage), and maybe points to the possibility that many Transformers have joined the Decepticons because they represented the best chance for survival even if it meant going against their better judgement.

Despite the development of their relationship, they aren’t best buds yet. The issue begins with Carnivac still fully prepared to kill Springer after the battle: “It’ll be a pleasure to do my duty as a Decepticon… and rub you out!” and Carnivac still hates running away from the battle - having to do so at Springer’s request just riles him up further.

Carnivac’s burgeoning friendship with Springer (“My orders state I’m to kill any Wreckers left standing, but where’s the honour in that? Sure, I’m a Decepticon, but first and foremost I’m a warrior! Springer saved my life… and by heck I’ll save his!”), will be explored in detail in future issues (see in particular 219 to 222, 237 to 239, and 272 to 274).

Carnivac’s change of heart is the main character development. The other two most interesting are those of Scourge and Shockwave. Shockwave is WAY out of character – or possibly as in character as he could possibly be, depending on the way you look at it. Gone is the cold decisive leader, logic has been taken to the nth degree and has now caved in for this Decepticon – although, surprisingly enough this isn’t the first time Shockwave has broken down. He has in the past (issues 40 and 60) and has another relapse upon first seeing Unicron (later in issue 319). It seems if a situation cannot fit into the strict confines of his (admittedly rather complex and intelligent) mind, Shockwave does tend to struggle slightly.

What is apparent is that Shockwave has a deep, fascinating hatred of Cyclonus – obviously considering he is his ‘murderer’ - probably Scourge as well, although this isn’t demonstrated in Scourge and his initial conversation. I feel Shockwave doesn’t actually realise who he’s talking to, and has backed that deep into his own insanity: “Dead… I’m dead. Lost command… lost life. Continuing is… illogical.” This is conjecture though, as Shockwave’s decline to his present state was never developed – a pretty frustrating occurrence as far as I’m concerned. Cyclonus being killed whilst Shockwave was still sane possibly allows Shockwave to associate more with him than Scourge. Shockwave may be trying to cling to his last sane memories. Maybe Transformers get depressed and Shockwave has reached absolute zero, and is feeding his depression with the bittersweet reminder that he has killed his killer but that eventually it will make no difference? I don’t know – it is also possible that having him as a trophy has allowed Shockwave too much time to develop his thoughts over the situation, that Scourge is still out there somewhere, as well as burning that specific Decepticon deep into his thoughts. Shockwave’s degeneration to insanity really was a missed opportunity. This does not detract from the particular issue, more the complete story.

At any rate, Shockwave’s existence seems to revolve around Cyclonus now and only when Scourge tries to take him is Scourge dealt with. Also interesting is that Shockwave’s mumbling includes mentions of Galvatron, Megatron and even Ratbat – all 3 having been recent thorns in his side, a reminder that nothing has been going to plan for him lately.

Scourge is now actually doing the right thing! Unbelievable as it sounds, there is not a hint of a cold cruel killer on show here. You get the feeling he is plain scared. Not of any person, but of the whole situation – but nevertheless trying to do the best under the circumstances, for Number One and for the greater good. He starts the issue in a pretty cautious manner, stating how he has previously underestimated Shockwave. However, he goes and does the same thing again – by dismissing Shockwave as a “basket case” this time round. This error of judgement leaves him vulnerable and he is shot in the back.

Fracas is cautious (or just plain scared), asking his partner: “Are you sure this is a good idea? …we only just escaped with our lives last time we were here!” He also remembers the grim fate of Nightstick and Cyclonus, adding to his worry. He feels happier once he’s transformed and arming Scourge.

Springer continues to be heroic despite his struggles, putting himself on the line again and again to help parties that have not sworn allegiance nor have they been forward in backing him in similar circumstances. You still sense a young, not totally battle hardened leader (note his reaction of disbelief at the Wreckers being caught so easily by Galvatron and Megatron outside the Decepticon shuttle), but he is certainly determined and able to compose himself. In the firefight he’s barking orders, and keeping tabs on his men: “Fall back, Wreckers! Twin Twist, Rack 'n' Ruin – I want covering fire. Roadbuster, Sandstorm – help Inferno. Regroup at the Decepticon ship. Rack 'n' Ruin will distribute new weapons. Broadside – with me!” He pretty much gives orders to both Wreckers and Mayhems: “Tight defensive formation, concentrated fire!” Alas, several soldiers are now perishing under his command, but he keeps focused. He shows dismay over the death of Roadbuster, though has less time to mourn for Sandstorm. He’s fully aware that they’re getting their 'butts kicked' and is keen to retreat to familiar ground on his own terms as soon as possible.

His dynamic with Carnivac is just beginning to get good. He continually reminds Carnivac they fight on the same side: “If we fight together… we can win!” He eventually risks his life for Carnivac, telling him: “Enemies we may be… but today we’re allies! Work with me!” It’s with these actions that he finally brings Carnivac round to his way of thinking.

The Wreckers remain as dedicated to the cause as ever. In particular, Roadbuster comes across as an ideal soldier, ready to take personal responsibility for anything. Roadbuster wants swift revenge, and has to be practically dragged in the shuttle to stop him jumping right back into the fray. Later he’s a little careless, and gets carried away in the moment, the exploding Pathblaster costing him dearly.

Rodimus Prime does well to actually take command of the other leaders (Scorponok, Soundwave and Fortress Maximus) during the crisis.

It’s safe to assume now (if it wasn't before!) that Galvatron is barking mad. He is ‘remembering’ events from twenty years ago, even though this is simply not possible with the Megatron by his side being a clone. He seems to have a complete mental breakdown after he’s shot by the Pathblaster: “To him – this just didn’t happen! His mind tries to grasp the impossibility and fails! The blackness is welcomed!”

Rack ‘n’ Ruin keeps a cool head (heads?) and always sticks to the job at hand.

Optimus Prime admits to feeling helpless and, “a captive audience to the unfolding drama.” He says his faith in Rodimus is absolute, though he worries that this situation may still be more than he can handle. He wants to return but knows that doing so will only increase the ferocity of the time storm.
Trivia
Cyclonus has been hanging from Shockwave’s wall since he bought it at the hands of Megatron in Dry Run (issue 189).

Skids remains in Limbo since his last appearance in Fallen Angel (issue 101) where he was used as the mass substitute for Galvatron.

The Decepticon weapon, the Pathblaster, gets its first field test. It is a beast of a weapon, appearing to require its own portable power generator, and blast measure device. It goes off the scale on its first shot and explodes, killing Roadbuster in the process.

Fracas pilots Scourge in his spacecraft mode, as he did in issue 172 (Wrecking Havoc Part 1).

Transformers have neural diodes. Scourge suggests Shockwave may have blown a few of these when things did not compute for the former Decepticon leader.

Fracas disappears during the Scourge/Shockwave scene. It is possible he is destroyed by Shockwave when he blasts Scourge.

Also this is the last we see of Flywheels – Galvatron is seen grabbing hold of him. Its uncertain if he perished or not, but he was not part of the 'Survivors' seen in issue 219.

Optimus Prime can see all that happens in the ‘real world’ from Limbo through the eyes of Rodimus Prime, using the Matrix as a bridge.

Apparently at some point during this issue or last, Springer sent a distress call which Rodimus picked up.

The Limbo creatures are seen for the first time since issue 100. Prime explains: “Given time, they fashion a reality from their subject’s dreams.” This is interesting to note. Skids’ near two year spell in Limbo will actually have quite big repercussions based on the idea that Prime has explained. See the forthcoming Survivors story arc (issues 219 to 222).
Good quotes
“You will all die! It is pre-ordained!” Galvatron.

“Galvatron may have been put down… but not out!” Broadside.
Bad quotes
Mistakes
Story rating
8 star
Art rating
7 star
Media
Reviewed by
snarl