Comics : Transformers #23

Staff Only
Edit Review
Edit Title

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Filling Gaps

This review was first published on: 2008.

Background...

Four million years ago a civil war broke out on the planet Cybertron. The warring factions allied themselves with either the normally-peaceful Autobots led by Optimus Prime or the world-conquering Decepticons led by Megatron. At one point an Autobot space mission was interrupted by the Decepticons. Both groups crash landed on Earth and subsequently went off-line. They were recently revived and in desperate need of energy to not only function but also return to Cybertron.

The Decepticons have little problem taking what they want from the humans. The Autobots prefer to work with the humans to get what they need, but they are generally feared by the public who only see giant alien robots.

One Decepticon raid to take over an oil-drilling plaform left computer genius Josie Beller a quadriplegic. She eventually designed a costume that duplicated her motor skills and allowed her to combat the robotic aliens. She took the code-name of Circuit Breaker and led the U.S. government's Rapid Anti-Robot Assault Team (R.A.A.T). They have captured several Autobots that recently arrived on Earth as well as the Aerialbots.

As of last issue, the Autobot Skids was betrayed by his human associate Don Finkelberg. He turned Skids over to R.A.A.T for a reward of $50,000.

In Detail...

"Decepticon Graffiti!"
Transformers #23
Dec 1986 : SM Reference
Summary: Spider-Man Reference - Kid wearing Spider-Man t-shirt
Editor:  Don Daley
Writer:  Bob Budiansky
Pencils:  Don Perlin
Inker:  Brian Garvey, Ian Akin
Staff Only
Issue
Review

Circuit Breaker balances Skids' mind on a single finger and electrically stimulates various parts of it. She's quite content as she watches him write in robotic agony. Don tries to get her to stop performing these experiments; Skids appears to be in pain. Circuit Breaker refuses as this is part of her job (that she enjoys a little too much).

She reminds him that he was compensated for his assistance. Don tells her that he thought this would involve a question-and-answer session, not a dissection. As she explains her motivation and shows him her trophy wall (the faces of the deactivated Autobots) he realizes how badly he's screwed up. So far she's taken out 13 Autobots that could be protecting the planet from the Decepticons.

At the Decepticon base, a strip mine in eastern Wyoming, Megatron summons two messengers newly-arrived from Cybertron: Runabout and Runamuck. Runamuck has a peculiar quirk in his speech module that compels him to laugh after almost every statement. Megatron orders them to deliver a challenge to Optimus Prime – a duel to the death. Soundwave's practical offer to establish a communication channel with the Ark (the Autobots' ship) and deliver the message is violently rejected by his megalomaniac leader. Runabout and Runamuck transform and quickly leave before they find themselves on the receiving end of Megatron's wrath.

When they are a few miles down the road, the pair decide to ignore their orders and have some fun, but they don't know what to do first. They pull into a rest area and spot the Acton family on a cross-country vacation. The pre-teen son Noah is bored out of his mind and wants to go home. They watch as he writes "Vacations are the pits" on one of the walls, which infuriates his father. Having found a role model, the messengers decide to follow him for a while.

Three days later, Walter Barnett pays a visit to Circuit Breaker and Don in the R.A.A.T facility in southern New Jersey. He informs them of the strange markings that have appeared on national monuments. Circuit Breaker identifies the markings as Cybertronian but cannot read them. Don admits that while he is unable to help, perhaps if Skids were reassembled he could help. Circuit Breaker vehemently rejects his suggestion claiming that no one can trust the robots. Barnett points out that the pattern indicates an eastward movement. She is to anticipate their next move and intercept. The next day as the Acton family visits the Washington Memorial, their robotic shadows vandalize the monument. As they transform and drive away Runabout observes that nobody gets as angry at them as they did for the fleshling.

Circuit Breaker arrives later and interviews the Actons. She encourages them to continue on to the next stop of their vacation: Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Four hours later the robots reappear and are met by Circuit Breaker and R.A.A.T. Troops. During the battle Noah runs into harm's way, forcing Circuit Breaker to protect him. For her efforts she is injured from falling debris. Unwilling to continue due to the interference, the Decepticons postpone their fun until tomorrow.

Back in Jersey, Barnett is furious at Circuit Breaker's actions, allowing her vendetta against the Transformers to blind her to public safety. He informs her that the robots' next target is the Statue of Liberty but is temporarily removed from duty to heal.

Circuit Breaker is frustrated that she will be unable to stop the two robots from desecrating another monument. Don suggests working with the Autobots. Circuit Breaker informs him that even if she wanted to it would take days to reassemble them. He offers a compromise: interface with them and control their actions. She decides to finally take Don's advice and as the Autobots for help.

The next day Runamuck and Runabout arrive at the Statue. They're eager to see the reaction they get today, because they just learned how to write in English. They write "humans are wimps" (with the last letter of each word reversed) on the robe of the Statue. At this point Circuit Breaker arrives, having jury-rigged the Autobots together, and attack the Decepticons. During the battle, she is protected from a stray blast by the Franken-bot. She is surprised as she didn't have time to react. They quickly defeat the two Decepticons, who plunge into the harbor.

Hours later when Barnett returns to the R.A.A.T. facility in New Jersey, he congratulates then fires Circuit Breaker and Don Finkelberg. The firing is a result of releasing the captive Transformers. Circuit Breaker admits that it was the only way to guarantee their cooperation. She walks away vowing that she will have her revenge. Conversely Don is ecstatic to be allowed to return home.

When Don arrives at home he learns of the funds needed to repair the statue after the battle earlier in the day. As a way to make amends for his part in this, he signs over his finder's fee check to the statue repair fund.

In General...

To anyone that reads this issue *now*, Runamuck and Runabout are the robotic equivalents of Beavis & Butt-head. This was very obvious when I reread the issue for this review. What's interesting is that this issue was published in 1986 while Beavis & Butt-head began airing in 1993. Do we have Bob Budiansky to thank for Beavis's unique laugh? Probably not. Mike Judge would have been 24 when this was published. As fun as the series was (and still is) it was written for kids of the 1980s. Regardless, this similarity is uncanny.

The fact that two robotic aliens reject their authority figure and begin emulating a rebellious pre-teen by way of graffiti is amusing. Robotic monkey see, robotic monkey do.

Overall Rating...

2.5 webs. As far as the overall story, it was acceptable. A few questions do pop up. Why must Megatron's ultimatum must be delivered by two special messengers from Cybertron? I thought they were low on fuel. That seems to be a great expense, but then again Megatron has a big ego. The second major flaw is Circuit Breaker's claim that it would take days to reassemble the Autobots and then it's accomplished in hours? This is the type of timetable that Scotty would give Kirk on Star Trek: it'll normally take a week but I can fix this in 20 minutes. Sorry, but ½ web off for those items. The ending was a nice touch though.

Footnote...

http://www.electric-escape.net/tf/comics/Marvel/G1/ has a review all issues from this series.

Just in case: Beavis & Butt-head were two dull-witted and destructive teenagers in an eponymous animated show on MTV in the 1990s.