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MarvelUS-50

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Marvel U.S. > Issue #50
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Marvel UK > Issue #208–210
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The end of the Underbase Saga... and the Transformers?


Synopsis

Out in the vacuum of space, the Underbase travels ever closer to Earth...

On that planet, the Aerialbots are the first to respond to the alert beacon triggered by Buster Witwicky. Seeing the responsible party, they quickly radio back to the Ark and Fortress Maximus. A full Autobot response battalion arrives within a matter of minutes. Spike is reunited with his brother only to find him on the brink of death. He places Buster within a heating unit in Fortress Maximus's chest to fight off the effects of exposure and frostbite. As the Autobots gather their wits enough to question the situation at hand, though, they are treated to a full scale Decepticon attack, as Ratbat and Scorponok have detected their approach.

The following battle is quick and merciless, and comes to a stop only when Ratbat ends up confronting Fortress Maximus and his own former prisoner, Buster. Buster outlays what Starscream told him before departing, and makes Ratbat see reason about putting his feud with the Autobots on hold until the larger issue can be dealt with. The various faction leaders agree to work together and make a space-worthy craft to hunt down Starscream.

At the edge of space, the most treacherous Decepticon of all leaves his star cruiser to bathe directly in the light of the Underbase's powerful knowledge and knowledgeable power. Before he absorbs much, however, he is blasted out of the way by Optimus Prime, manning the guns on the island starship. Unfortunately, that momentary exposure was enough to supercharge Starscream, and he manages to grab hold of the entire star cruiser he stole and toss it straight through the island ship, leaving the combined armies crippled and stranded in space, and the Decepticons in particular without any means of star travel from then on.

For some reason, Starscream chooses to let them live drifting in the vacuum of space. He also chooses to return to Earth and attack it instead of chasing down the Underbase to fulfill his lust for power. He also announces in advance the exact set of cities he plans to assault. Clearly, the "knowledge" part of the Underbase takes awhile to set in.

Optimus Prime enacts Plan B and summons the Ark to pick them all up and speed back to Earth ahead of Starscream. As the factions begin splitting into teams to cover Starscream's previously identified destinations, Optimus makes the stunning announcement that he will stay aboard the Ark and not confront Starscream. The Decepticons quickly dismiss this as pure cowardice, and leave for Earth in disgust.

Newyorkunderbase

"Never again shall you take up catalog space that could be devoted to my magnificence!"

Autobots and Decepticons alike confront Starscream one after another and in groups, but ultimately he slaughters them all. The only difficulties he runs into are the Pretenders and those who are binary-bonded, as the organic outer shells and bonding prove somehow resistant to his destructive energies. As the battles continue, both Ratbat and Scorponok become suspicious that Prime's alleged cowardice might actually be greed to capture the Underbase for himself, and abandon their respective battles to return to the Ark and confront him.

Aboard the Ark, Optimus Prime and Hi-Q are guarding Buster Witwicky, while constructing a rocket with reflective panels, designed to catch the Underbase and change its course. Buster makes the mistake of radioing his brother during the battle, though, and Starscream realizes the potential threat an absent Optimus Prime poses to him. He takes off for space to intercept the Autobot leader and the Ark. Ratbat and Scorponok get there ahead of him, however, and confront Prime. After Scorponok blasts Prime and annihilates Ratbat, he heads off to reach the redirected Underbase on his own. Optimus manages to replace his Powermaster engine in time to go after Scorponok, and physically drags the two of them out of the Underbase's path, so that it strikes Starscream instead. The combined power of the Underbase mutates Starscream until he is overwhelmed with power, and is obliterated.

In the aftermath, Optimus Prime explains to Scorponok that he learned his lesson about the Underbase millions of years ago. He arranged for the reflector rocket and for Buster's "ill-timed" radio message to Fortress Maximus in order to lure Starscream back out into space, where he would surely try to take all of the Underbase's power and destroy himself. The Cybertronian leaders part in peace, but Scorponok makes it clear that the war will begin anew, tomorrow...

Credits

Script: Bob Budiansky
Art: Jose Delbo
Inks: Dave Hunt
Colors: Nelson Yomtov
Lettering: Rick Parker
Editor: Don Daley
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

  • Originally published: March, 1989

Major characters

(Numbers indicate order of appearance.)

Autobots Decepticons Humans

Nebulans

Errors

  • Ratbat and Scorponok figure out that Starscream stole the spacecraft to go after the Underbase... and then Buster inexplicably needs to explain it to Ratbat all over again a few pages later.
    • The only new information Buster gives him is that Starscream arranged for the Autobots to show up.

Items of note

  • This issue is double-length in honor of its milestone issue number. Accordingly, it also cost 50 cents more than a standard issue.
  • Many people also assume that the rest of the earlier armies, those not possessing organic enhancements like Headmasters and Pretenders, were also wiped out behind the scenes. Though unconfirmed, there's something to be said for this theory. Many Transformers like the Protectobots, Insecticons, and Combaticons are never seen again (within the course of the G1 series). Later issues show Prime mourning the loss of warriors not seen killed in the Underbase Saga, including Perceptor and Powerglide, while First Aid, Ironhide and Wheeljack are all shown as being deactivated during the UK stories "The Greatest Gift of All!" and "Perchance to Dream" despite being alive and well in their previous appearances. (Interestingly, though, Ironhide and Wheeljack's last appearance in UK continuity is in "Time Wars" and in "Deathbringer" Optimus Prime implies the Ark crew suffered casualties during the battle with Galvatron...) Perhaps the greatest support for this theory (at least in UK continuity) is the UK story "Flashback!", which shows [[Prowl (G1)]|Prowl] being destroyed by Starscream in a brief moment not shown in Dark Star, suggesting that there were at least some "off panel" casualties than we were not shown. Still, it remains a point for debate. (It should be noted that in this issue, Powerglide is last seen being shot down by a Decepticon air team and Perceptor is last seen floating in space after Starscream destroys the island, although all or most of the Transformers with them at the time seem to survive.)
  • Prime refers to the casualties as "destroyed", but later issues make it clear that at least some of them could be repaired. The Dinobots, Jazz, Goldbug, Blaster, and Silverbolt are all revived later in the series. Ratchet is also seen working to restore Omega Supreme.
  • With Ratbat's demise, Scorponok is now in charge of all the Decepticons of Earth. Since most of them were wiped out in this issue, that's probably not much of a promotion. (The only members of Ratbat's command later seen serving under Scorponok are Soundwave and Starscream, both of whom are deactivated at this point.)
  • Soundwave is explicitly blasted by Starscream, but apparently either survives unscathed or is promptly repaired, as he soon appears in later issues. This is never explained (he has no organic components to ensure his survival), other than Soundwave is BADASS!
  • The next issue shows Seaspray among the survivors, though by the time Greatest Gift saw print (see above), he is shown and referred to as deactivated.
  • This is clearly Slingshot's worst day ever. He gets left behind by his fellow Aerialbots when they go pick up Buster, is ionically-disrupted by Astrotrain, transforms into jet mode only to get strafed by a Decepticon flying patrol, and finally is atomized battling Starscream. Some people just can't catch a break.

Covers

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Specifics: UK covers
  • U.S. cover: Starscream supreme by Frank Springer
  • UK issue 208 cover: Starscream bathing in the Underbase by Andrew Wildman
  • UK issue 209 cover: Starscream on the attack by Geoff Senior
  • UK issue 210 cover: Scorponok, having just blasted Prime by Andrew Wildman

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