The Autobots return to the Ark with Buster, but no fuel. Meanwhile Sparkplug appears to agree to help the Decepticons, the military make a hash of attacking the Decepticon base and a journalist by the name of Peter Parker turns up to cover the story.
Sparkplug Witwicky, Buster Witwicky, Jessie, “O”, Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Joe Robertson, Nick Fury
Gears, Trailbreaker, Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Joe Robertson, Nick Fury
Oregon, Washington D.C and New York, USA and Moscow, USSR
The Decepticons fly back to their fortress base, with their new captive, Sparkplug Witwicky. Megatron insists that the human use his abilities to provide them with a life-sustaining fuel.
Back outside Sparkplug’s house, the Autobots are incredibly weak after last issue’s battle. Before they can even attempt to save Sparkplug they have to return to the Ark for refuelling. Buster says his goodbyes to Jessie and “O” and goes with the Autobots, and the huge convoy drives back to the Ark.
Meanwhile, Sparkplug starts to crack under the Decepticons’ increasing pressure to aid them, and reluctantly agrees to help. They set off to get him the raw materials he will need to assist them, and they subsequently launch a series of raids across the country.
All this Transformer activity does not go unnoticed by the local populace. From Washington to Moscow debates rage over the origins of the rampaging robots, and as a media frenzy grows, soon both the army and the media are surrounding the Decepticon fortress.
Also on the scene is Peter Parker, who is on an assignment for the Daily Bugle to take pictures. He changes into Spider-Man to get closer to the action…
Salicrup’s writing is good, both involving and witty in places. The comic series seems more engaging at this point, and Salicrup is probably aided by the fact that he is no longer tied down to Bill Mantlo’s original 4 issue plot arc.
The human interaction is handled reasonably well, and Salicrup rightly doesn’t ignore the fact that the Transformers presence on Earth would cause huge shock waves amongst its inhabitants. Startled civilians, policemen, a security guard close to retirement, a petrified truck driver, the White House, the Kremlin and SHIELD; all reactions are dealt with nicely. Sadly Jessie and “O” are very sketchy one-dimensional characters, but the inclusion of Spider-Man does inject some zest into the proceedings.
However, whatever is the point of the rubbish notion that the Transformers, “can’t comprehend Earth’s primitive technology?” It sure doesn’t cause the likes of Shockwave and others many problems in future issues. At least Salicrup’s description of them as being, “like modern men trying to hack it back in cavemen days,” is a nicely put comparison.
This is a turning point for the art with Springer no longer reproducing the ‘toy look’. The added artistic license makes a world of difference, and characters like Ratchet and Bumblebee now look a lot more like the ‘bots we know and love.
This issue was reprinted in Collected Comics 2, The Complete Works Volume 2, and the Titan Trade Paperback ‘Beginnings.’
Megatron does not appear to suffer fools gladly, and is not gullible when it comes to his traitorous lieutenant Starscream: “I haven’t remained in power for countless millennia by surrounding myself with assassins! Watch your step, Starscream! The day may soon come when your services are no longer required!” The Transformers Universe explains why Megatron doesn’t just destroy Starscream and be done with him: “Megatron overlooks the potential threat Starscream represents for one very good reason: Starscream is very good at his job.”
Starscream shows himself to be immodest and a bit vain: “Fortunately, my superior design enabled me to easily wrest this lowly, carbon-based creature from our enemy’s grasp.” He shows much contempt for the humans in general: “Machines have been slaves on this backward world long enough! Today the roles are rightly reversed!” Whilst he assures Megatron of his loyalty he remains mildly sarcastic to his leader.
Optimus Prime takes the blame himself for the failure to protect Sparkplug (Bumblebee initially does so as well), demonstrating that he puts himself under a fair degree of pressure.
Hound exclaims: “Wait ‘til Doc Ratchet sees he has to patch up Sideswipe again!” The brazen Autobot does seem to get into the habit of getting damaged a lot in battle. His profile states: “Sideswipe, more than any other Autobot, finds himself being patched together by Chief Medical Officer Ratchet. Naturally, he takes his injuries in stride.”
Laserbeak is shown using his eye beams to convince Sparkplug to help the Decepticons. His profile explains: “Laserbeak uses these beams like a surgeon uses his scalpels - with extreme precision. He employs this talent to persuade captives to reveal secret information.” By all accounts Laserbeak is a bit of a sadist.
Rumble seems to be warming to Earth during his latest raid, as rampaging amongst the humans is fun. “Yah-hoo! I’m getting to like it here!” he says.
Buster Witwicky is not afraid to snap at the Autobots whilst they dither in the immediate aftermath of the battle. He also is insistent that he go with them back to the Ark: “I’m going with you! I haven’t a chance of getting my father back without your help!”
Sparkplug shows bravery and relative calm whilst a prisoner of the Decepticons. He does cave in eventually when threatened with Laserbeak’s eye beams but maintains his composure.
The issue marks a Transformers crossover with Spider-Man, as well as a cameo from members of the super-spy organisation known as SHIELD. Some insist that the Transformers are not part of the main Marvel Universe, however, the fact that the prehistoric domain of Ka-Zar, the Savage Land, will feature in upcoming issues also rubbishes this theory. Nevertheless, the only other blatant Transformers crossover in future issues will be with Action Force/Gi-Joe.
Ratchet says to Optimus Prime: “The repairs you requested on the Ark proceed well.” These early issues seem to imply a somewhat frenetic amount of activity to patch up the Ark, with Ratchet, Huffer and Wheeljack (the latter who still hasn’t made a proper appearance) beavering away at it and remaining as a small crew back at the ship whilst the others are away on missions. The Ark’s repairs would not be completed until issue 143, suggesting that the damage must have been extensive.
Rumble is shown as able to provide a sample of Transformer fuel simply by unscrewing his hand. It then flows out, with the Decepticon in no visible pain.
Rumble calls Sparkplug a “scraplet”. It’s a throwaway line, but later in issue 124 we will be introduced to the Scraplets who are in fact “the deadliest disease known to mechanical lifeforms in the entire galaxy.”
Soundwave is described as “the super-strong Decepticon.” Soundwave’s great strength often seems forgotten about by readers, as he’s better known for his shrewd and sneaky methods. However, as the Transformers Universe makes plainly clear, “He also has great physical strength.”
Starscream says that the Decepticons have been analysing the human species.
When Starscream transforms from jet to robot mode, he can do so without injuring his human passenger inside his cockpit.
This issue shows Buster’s first visit to the Ark.
The Russians suggest that the Americans “must be testing their Star Wars arsenal.” Another cultural reference that clearly dates the action to the Reagan-era politics of the mid-80s.
Sparkplug’s real first name is William. He was “Sergeant, first class, United States Marines” and fought in the Korean War where he also served time as a POW.
Spider-Man appears in this comic in his notorious black costume, where all Peter Parker has to do “is think about changing and it takes care of the rest!”
The script (or more accurately “O”) mentions Star Wars creator George Lucas.
“You will co-operate or cease to exist!” Megatron.
“A foolish request! Our analysis of your species finds that if I were to release you at this height your frail form couldn’t possibly survive! We need you for our purposes whole!” Starscream turns down Sparkplug’s animated request to be set free.
For two panels in the Decepticon fortress Shockwave is shown in the background.