A probe is sent to find out what happened to Shockers and the Dinos. Meanwhile Megs finds out that the Autobots are nearly out of fuel and, with Sparkplugs formula, gets ready to attack. To counter the attack the Autobots channel all their remaining fuel into Prime, Prowl, Mirage, Bluestreak and, erm, Huffer. Just as it seems they are beaten, the Autobots are saved by the fact that Sparkplug poisoned the fuel he gave the Decepticons. The Autobots start to celebrate and then Shockwave, revived by the Ark's probe, turns up and wastes them all. Oops.
At the Ark the Autobots transfer fuel from one group of warriors to the five Autobots that are to form the last stand against the Decepticons: Prime, Huffer, Ironhide, Bluestreak and Mirage. They wait in the volcano, until Megatron’s fusion cannon blows an opening in the cavernous walls, and the Decepticons fly in one at a time. The battle begins and the two sides fight long and hard.
Meanwhile the probe in Antarctica picks up a signal and starts to excavate. But all of a sudden something awakens, and bursts free from the rocks, crushing the probe.
Back at the volcano and the Autobots fight on valiantly, but the tide is turning in favour of the Decepticons, who are fully fuelled and have the upper hand. Soon it looks like all hope is gone; the Autobots fall one by one and Megatron blasts Prime, lifting him high above his head in victory. But suddenly all the Decepticons collapse in terrible pain…
At the hospital, Sparkplug is awake and on the mend. He reveals that the fuel he made for the Decepticons was actually corrosive…
As Prime and the Autobots survey their victory, they realise Sparkplug has saved the day. Then suddenly there is a huge explosion, and all the Autobots are knocked off their feet and out cold. Arriving on the scene is Shockwave, who claims that the Autobots are no more…
An entertaining read, and though the action seems pretty quaint compared to what is to come in future issues, it still has a mild fervour to it, as there’s plenty of heroism on display as the odds are stacked very high against the Autobots. The constant cuts to Sparkplug’s dream sequences do hamper the flow, but at least form a nice parallel to real life events (where in Korea, as with the Decepticons, Sparkplug used his expertise against his captors) which lead to the eventual twist. There are nice character touches during the course of the action here too, with Mirage’s character arc coming to a conclusion of sorts.
Also, this issue contains one of the best cliff-hanger endings ever, though UK readers would not find out what Shockwave had in store for the Autobots until issue 22. It’s the last Transformers issue that Salicrup would write, and he did good service, but the comic was now ready to go in a new direction.
Regarding Springer’s art, it’s still definitely iffy. Prime looks silly with his stump after he loses his arm, and a lot of the fight sequence doesn’t convince. He finishes on a high note though, with a dramatic rendering of Shockwave’s entrance. Springer signs off as Transformers artist for now, though he returns to pencil the entire Headmasters mini series (issues 130 to 145) as well as the truly awful Cosmic Carnival (issues 177-178).
This issue was reprinted in Collected Comics 2, The Complete Works Volume 2, and the Titan Trade Paperback ‘Beginnings.’
In the battle against the Decepticons Huffer says: “I barely managed to save Bluestreak! He’s scared bad!” Bluestreak’s gregarious manner covers up a bit of a dark side, but sadly it is only ever fleetingly touched on in the comic. His profile lists the following weakness: “As powerful and threatening as he is, Bluestreak can be completely undone at times by his disdain for combat.”
In the heat of the battle it becomes very clear why Optimus Prime is such an effective commander out in the field. Though outnumbered Prime leads the retaliation from the front at all times. When Ironhide suggests they take on the Decepticons head on, Prime is onto them, saying “No! That’s exactly what he wants so he can pick us off easily! Let him come to us!” His orders come thick and fast during the battle: “Find cover Autobots!” “Stand fast! They’re coming through!” “Get up Ironhide! I’ll handle Ravage!” and “Huffer! Bluestreak’s in trouble!”
Mirage actually shows some cowardice in this issue (or is it indifference?) when he walks away from the battle and retreats inside the Ark. There he comes face to face with Ravage. Again, his coolness to the cause is evident: “This is insane! We’re both from Cybertron! Why must we fight?” But this issue is also a huge turning point for Mirage’s character, when he has an important realisation: “I’m going outside where I belong – fighting alongside my brothers! I’ve finally realised that that is the only way I’ll ever see Cybertron again!”
Huffer seems to be attentive to the needs of others on the battlefield and also yells encouragement before getting gunned down.
Sparkplug, Buster’s father, appears to be as tough as old boots. Having fought in the Korean War and not afraid to stand up to the Decepticons, he is one of the Autobots more useful allies; for instance, in this issue it is revealed that he tricked the Decepticons, and that the fuel he supplied them with was corrosive. After this issue his feelings for the Autobots would cool off quite a bit, and he would want Buster to have nothing to do with them after this bad experience. In time though, he would grudgingly put up with them, though his family’s role in the Autobot/Decepticon war would become even more fateful and his patience would be thoroughly tested.
Desperately low on fuel the Autobots resort to using the Tubes of Transference. “The Ark’s computer takes over as thousands of cables, wires and tubes attach themselves to the Autobots.” What follows is a transference process, where the fuel is drained from one set of warriors and used to re-energise another group.
Why did Prime choose these particular Autobots for his last stand? Well, Ironhide and Huffer were both tough and had seen little action so were in good shape. Bluestreak too, had not seen much action and was a hardy warrior. Mirage is the most controversial decision, both because of his coolness to the cause and due to the fact that he’d also played a large part in the major battle of issue 4. But with strong Autobots like Sideswipe, Brawn and Gears currently out of action it seems Prime didn’t have much of a choice. Also Windcharger, Jazz, Prowl and Hound were badly damaged in Raiders of the Last Ark (a story that begins in issue 18 but actually predates the battle in this issue). The only other valid option that was not taken would have perhaps been Wheeljack, unless he was stuck on Ark reconstruction chores again. It must be said however that Wheeljack has not even made an appearance in the UK series at this point.
The fate of the Autobots who had the fuel drained from them in the transference process is unclear. It seems possible that they were in stasis lock, and the next time we would see them would be in issue 22, all dismembered by Shockwave.
The power of Megatron’s fusion cannon has been, in the main, consistent. It’s obviously a very deadly weapon. In issue 5 Megatron says: “As long as I wield the power of my fusion cannon my position of command is assured!” so it clearly adds much to his status. Last issue it deactivated Starscream with one shot, and in this issue it disintegrates Prime’s right arm and after another direct hit Prime is defeated. However, we have still seen nothing on the scale of the laying waste “to entire Autobot strongholds” that we saw in issue 1. However, it is possibly the case that when he uses his circuitry to connect the cannon to a black hole, the damage is far greater.
“Like a surgeon’s scalpel, Buzzsaw’s beak slices through Mirage’s armour.” This seems to be a favourite trick of Buzzsaw’s, a weapon he used also in the strike against the nuclear plant in Power Play and the air force in Prisoner of War. The Transformers Universe elaborates on this deadly weapon: “His most feared weapon is his beak, which, with its diamond-hard, micro-serrated edges, he can use to carve up all except the most strong-skinned opponents. And, like the artist he is, he uses his beak with great finesse.”
This is the first time we see Mirage use his special ability. He says: “Mirage isn’t always where he seems to be! That’s why I’m called Mirage!” His profile explains this: “Mirage carries a rear-mounted electro-disruptor which is able to interfere with the circuitry of an opponent by casting discrete packets of electrical charges at him. Hence, he never is situated where he seems to be when it is in use.”
The Transformers Universe describes Mirage’s other weapon as an “armour-piercing hunting rifle” so it is appropriate that it is Ravage who falls prey to it in this issue. “Chew on this! Tell me how my armour-piercing liquid fuel darts taste!” he quips.
Shockwave’s ray gun mode is described as 35 feet long.
“I’m not here to debate – but to bite!” Ravage.
“He’s had this coming for centuries!” Megatron.
Ravage bites off Mirage’s left arm, but by the end of the issue his arm is back again.