I’ve mentioned this a few times before, but I’m not exactly what you’d call a fan of the Transformers.
Admittedly, the idea of a talking semi-truck that fights a talking gun is probably in the top three high concepts of all time–narrowly edged out by “gorilla with a jetpack”–and I think I’ve proven over the past five years that I’m a pretty big fan of robots in general. In practice, though, the property itself does absolutely nothing for me, and my affection starts and stops with Lion’s version of the theme song. As such, I’ve never really bothered to read many of the comics, and that’s probably why I was surprised that just how bad Transformers #24 actually is.
This little gem from 1987 was actually recommended to me by Chris Piers, the artist of my upcoming comic Woman of A.C.T.I.O.N., and after actually reading it, I’m seriously considering re-evaluating our working relationship to one where I do more screaming and threatening.
So basically it’ll be more like the way I work with Smithy.
Anyway, the plot, such as it is, revolves in equal parts around a) the exciting new world of video games, and b) a plug for Hasbro’s many fine playsets and toys that’s so shameless they might as well have ended lines like…
Not yet, Megatron! Not when the Protectobots can combine to form… Defensor!
…should be followed up with “each sold separately at your local Kay-Bee Toys!”
Also: “Protectobots?” Really? I mean, I realize that a devout GI Joe fan like me can’t really throw stones at goofy names when I’m within arm’s reach of both Big Lob and the A.W.E. Striker, but man. Protectobots? I hope somebody took the rest of the day off after they wrote that one down on a piece of paper.
Regardless, the Protectobots and Optimus Prime tumble to what is possibly the vaguest evil scheme of all time, as the Decepticons plot to steal something from a place for some reason. The only one of these Maguffin elements that’s actually discussed in the book is that they’re going to Oregon, and so after Wheeljack’s unfortunate assertion that they’re going to “give the Decepticons a taste of their own lubricant”–yes, really–they’re off for what I foolishly assumed would be an intense round of Robot-on-Robot Violence.
Instead, they just kind of stand around reading from the filecards on the back of their boxes for three pages.
Eventually, though, enough ad copy is recited to appease Marvel’s sinister licensing paymasters, and at this point, something has to happen, and mercifully, it does. But instead of a throwdown between two giant robots and two even more giant robots that are made up of twelve other giant robots that would level buildings–a scenario that would come perilously close to something that would actually be exciting to read about–they decide to settle things in the cut-throat world of multiplayer video games, recruiting a young bystander to blow the loser up with a controller from an Atari 2600.
Given the combative nature of the Transformers and the constant assertions that their battle would be so furiously devastating that property damage and human casualties are a foregone conclusion, one would assume that they’d be duking it out in a game built around fighting or war or lumberjacking, but instead they end up getting doppelled into something that looks a lot more like Kirby’s Dream Land, where the most threatening obstacle comes in the form of plant life:
When you were a kid, did you ever go over to a friend’s house to hang out, but they were playing video games and didn’t want to share so you just ended up watching them play for a while? Remember how boring that is? Well, then you’ve got a pretty good idea what the next five pages are like, only with the added bonus of reading to make sure that the children of the ’80s stay firmly interested.
Eventually Optimus Prime kills Megatron, but Megatron drops some Game Genie shit on him and comes back to life, and then Optimus kills him again, but is so guilt-ridden by the fact that he accidentally threw some NPCs off a bridge that he asks the kid to blow him up.
Although to be honest, he does it in what is probably the most hilarious way possible.
And then the kid actually does it, which means that at the end of this issue, Optimus Prime commits suicide because he didn’t unlock the Pacifist achievement, a moral that’s dubious at best and doesn’t really seem like it would inspire anyone to buy an action figure, although it might have inspired children to stay away from video games out of fear that they would kill childhood heroes, which I guess would have the side effect of moving a few more Grimlocks off the shelf.
In any event, I’m assuming that it all turns out okay because the kid is able to save Optimus’s brain on a 5″ floppy disk, though it resulted in the tragic overwrite of his copy of Oregon Trail.