Comics : Transformers #3

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Lost Classics

This review was first published on: 2002.

Background...

Ah, the Transformers... Remember the cartoon way back in the 80's? The never-ending battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons? Seems Marvel wanted to cash in on the popularity of these crazy robots at the time and who better to team them up with than Spider-Man? This is the 3rd issue of a 4 issue limited series.

In Detail...

"Prisoner Of War"
Transformers #3
Jan 1985 : SM Guest
Summary: Spider-Man Appears
Editor:  Bob Budiansky
Writer:  Jim Salicrup
Pencils:  Frank Springer
Inker:  Kim DeMulder, Mike Esposito
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Articles: Robertson, Joe "Robbie"

Apparently captured last issue, Sparkplug Witwicky (Yes, that's his name) is being taken back to the Decepticon's fortress. Once they arrive, they inform our pal Sparky that they need him to convert Earth's natural fuels into a form which they can use, for it seems these guys are running low on their special go-go juice.

What I find strange is that the Decepticons can remove parts from a nuclear facility and build this tremendous fortress out of it, complete with gizmos and technology that would make even Reed Richards blush... but yet they need a local garage mechanic to create the special type of fuel they require to function? Ol' Sparky even says, "Despite their advanced science, they can't comprehend Earth's primitive technology."

Sorry Jim, but I think your really reaching there.

Anyway, we see the Autobots recovering from what looks like last issues battle, and Buster (Sparky's son) wants to get going to rescue his dad. Before they can do that, the Autobots themselves need some fuel and so they transform into vehicles for a trip back to the Ark, which is basically the Autobots home away from home. Along the way a motorcycle cop is in for a surprise when he attempts to pull over the convoy, finding that there is no driver! So surprised in fact, he loses control of his bike and ends up in a ditch questioning his own sanity.

Meanwhile, Sparky is being 'persuaded' by Laserbeak to cooperate in making the fuel, and cooperate he does, although Sparky probably needed to change his underwear. Sparky then tells the Decepticons what he needs, a sample of their fuel to test, and some equipment and resources. How this garage mechanic knows his chemistry is beyond me, but the Decepticons go out and acquire the items. (That means stealing them, they are bad guys you know.)

It seems news of these strange robots has really gotten around, for we soon see the local military and press at the bottom of the mountain where the Decepticons fortress is located, and among the press is our own pal Peter. Pete decides he can't get any good photos from his current location and makes the change to Spider-Man for an up-close opportunity.

I should point out that in this story Spidey has his black symbiote costume, before he had it removed, and they even footnote that this story takes place before Amazing Spider-Man #258.

The Decepticons are wise to the military presence and begin to attack, and despite their best efforts, our boys in fatigues prove to be no match for the bots. While this is going on, Spidey spots one of the Autobots named Gears, and not knowing the difference begins to question Gears as to why his robot buddies are attacking. When Gears saves some people from a tank thrown by a Decepticon, Spidey figures out not all the bots are bad... At least Gears and Spidey didn't trade blows for 2 or more pages before this revelation came around, as Marvel tends to do.

The rest of the Autobots arrive and ask Spider-Man to tell the military that the good guys are there, but of course Spidey says they wont believe him and instead forms a plan to get the Autobots past the soldiers. Snagging a helmet, Spidey jumps in the Autobot jeep (Hound) and posing as a soldier crusies right past the Sargeant... kinda dark to tell, but I hope Spidey changed his costume to match some fatigues, otherwise I doubt the Sarge would fall for it. Once they get close enough to the Decepticons and transform though, the Autobots come under fire of the military! Now its a big free-for-all as the bots battle each other and the military fires at anything thats huge, walking, and made of metal.

While this is going on, Gears and Spidey try to sneak into the fortress by going up the mountain. Gears's power gives out and not being able to maintain flight, begins to fall but our favorite hero Spidey saves the day by firing a webline. I always knew Spidey was strong, but wow... He can hold this thrashing, several ton robot in one hand, and the only other part of his body touching anything else is his foot stuck to the side of the mountain! Check it out if you don't believe me, page 24, 3rd panel. We also learn that Sparky his finished his job of turning normal gasoline into this special fuel for the Decepticons... (??) I would hope once he gets out of his predicament Sparky patents his little gasoline trick and makes millions, since no one else could figure out this essential formula. We also find out the reason Spidey and Gears are trying to get into the fortress is to save Sparky, but Spidey was never told the Decepticons had a hostage! I guess Gears must have mentioned it to him off-panel a few pages ago.

Once inside, Decepticons come out of the woodwork (Or metalwork as it were) and at every turn, Spidey merely distracts the Decepticon long enough for Gears to land a haymaker. Why these bots would target itty bitty Spidey first instead of their natural bot enemy is again beyond me... I thought these bots were smart, but it seems they lack tactical knowledge along with their chemistry abilities.

Eventually, Spidey and Gears run into Megatron and while Spidey webs him up, Gears grabs Sparky. The webbing doesn't work, Megatron frees himself and blasts a hole in the floor even saying "Here, let Megatron help you escape!" Okay, for one, its disturbing to hear anyone talk in the 3rd person, especially a giant robot with a big gun. For two, since WHEN does a villain HELP the good guys escape? Okay, so it wasn't really an escape, Megatron knows that they are on a mountain after all and he was blasting the floor out from underneath Gears but he didn't know that the Autobot was so low on power he couldn't fly anymore... Besides, why blast the floor and not Gears directly? Oh wait... Too easy, I forget sometimes that villains have to make death situations as interesting as possible.

Spidey leaps into action, diving through the hole and firing his webbing to both Gears and Sparky. Here is something interesting, Spidey says: "Hang on! I'll shoot a web to each of you!" *Thwip!* *Thwip!* Spidey fires two separate weblines at the same time from one hand... Now, I realize the symbiote generates its own webbing, but I don't ever recall reading Spidey did this before. I suppose its possible, it was just unusual. Spidey catches both of them, but Gears proved to be moving too fast and his momentum snaps the line and he falls hundreds of feet below to the bottom... "BOOM!"

The battle is over involving the other bots and the military (We never see this end of it) as it was explained by the narrative, so all we do see is that the rest of the Autobots have collected all of the pieces of Gears that were scattered everywhere from the impact of his fall. Buster and Sparky are reunited, and Spidey expresses his condolences for Gears, but he is told that Gears is not really 'dead', he is after all a machine. So on that bit of happy news Spidey takes off. Gears then barely makes consciousness and reveals that Megatron now has fuel, and upon hearing that Buster is shocked to learn his dad aided the Decepticons. I can't tell if Buster just doesn't want to believe his dad helped them, or that his dad had that amazing knowledge to create that special fuel out of ordinary gasoline... I guess we will never know.

To be continued! Without Spider-Man, of course.

In General...

Well, I didn't read the first two issues, so this might be slightly unfair. My biggest deal about this issue is not the incredible stupidity of the Decepticons, its not that only here they appear in the Marvel Universe and nowhere else, its gotta be that this is a part of Spidey's legitimate continuity! Ranks right up there with Howard the Duck if you get my meaning.

I remember watching the old cartoons, and I really liked the Transformers, as long as they were in a world of their own. Unless Marvel wanted to somehow actually gain some rights to the bots and incorporate them into their stories, involving Marvel's own characters in this limited series was not the greatest move here. It is a genuine Spidey appearance, but most certainly not his best. If you want a good Spider-Man story you should skip this one, but if you are a true Spidey fan and collector, you should pick this up if only for two words: Black Costume!

I wish we could forget that this was a part of Spidey's continuity, but even aside from that, the story just wasn't up to par. You know what I mean if you read the detail portion of this review. Several times the story doesn't seem logical, even after it is attempted to be explained, or at least seems to be missing a few sentences. Yes, its just a comic but the physics and logic of the comic world thats created should still apply here, and I am VERY familiar with those properties as they pertain to Spider-Man. Why Bob let Jim get away with this one I'll never know. I think they should have kept Jim only as an editor, but this issue can easily be explained... after all it was written by the same guy who wrote half the issues of Spidey Super Stories. You should check out fellow Spiderfan Eric's hilarious reviews of that series! The art was okay, what there was of it, as backgrounds were nearly scarce in this issue... Seems like 80 percent of the time the 'camera' was aiming toward a cloudless sky, which ranged in colors from white to pink to yellow to blue to...

(Note: A dedicated fan had written to me after reading this review. He informed me the Editors had adopted a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding Spider-Mans appearance in the Transformer 'universe'. So, I suppose it will not be a part of Spidey's continuity. Also, Transformers did not stop with a mere 4 issues, it went on to become a regular series up to 80 issues. Thanks Ian!)

Overall Rating...

I told myself I could never rate a book low, that I was too nice. Guess not.