The Transformers #24
Marvel Comics (January, 1987)“Afterdeath!” WRITER: Bob Budiansky PENCILER: Don Perlin INKERS: Ian Akin & Brian Garvey LETTERER: Janice Chiang COLORIST: Nel Yomtov EDITOR: Don Daley
Finding the cerebro-shell implanted in Optimus’ head, the Autobots use it to spy on Megatron and learn he’s planning to steal a machine called the Hydrothermocline that generates power by drawing it from different thermal layers of the ocean (and no, I have no idea how that works). Optimus and his new Protectobots versus Megatron and his new Combaticons could lead to the machine’s destruction if not for one of the scientists convincing them to move the battle into his favorite video game. Although Megatron cheats, he still loses, but because Prime has to “kill” some of the game’s inhabitants and taking the game seriously decides he should be the recipient of the battle’s stipulation…the leader who loses in the game dies in real life!
What they got right: I have a lot of problems with Optimus’s decision here, but one thing I do understand, and it turns out to be a good gaming strategy, is to treat this as a real-world battle and not injure the natives. The natives then end up helping the Protectobots against the Combaticons. The designs for the various levels in Multiworld are decent enough for the time period. Not a lot of PC games in 1986 (when the comic was written and drawn) had as much level of detail as today’s games. The new Combiner teams get a proper introduction even if their combined forms don’t.
What they got wrong: Like I said, I understand Prime’s reasoning to keep to Autobot ways in a virtual world. But even if an act of desperation is to be considered cheating by Optimus’s code, until he pulled that pipe I didn’t know anyone was in there and I don’t know how Optimus did either, unless the artists forgot to show them. He couldn’t have known he was endangering anyone, real or fake. It just seems like a lot of stretching went into sending Optimus to his death but still have him win against Megatron in their battles.
Other notes: Not that killing Optimus was Budiansky’s decision. Just like with the movie, Hasbro wanted to kill off the leaders whose toys weren’t selling anymore and focus on new characters. Budiansky didn’t use the movie characters until they became Targetmasters later on but it still wasn’t his call. Anyone wanting me to discuss the disk carrying Optimus’ mind will have to wait until his Powermaster return.
I do also think this was bad timing, as they had just started the G.I. Joe crossover and it would have benefited from Optimus being involved. Maybe have the story take place before these events rather than during them. There’s also a question of continuity as to where events in the main comic and the crossover intertwine. I think Optimus sent Bumblebee on his mission just before leaving on this one just as Megatron did with Dirge and Bombshell. It gets a little trickier in the next few issues.
Recommendation: To be honest this was a rather weak way to send Optimus off and while I can appreciate the “download into a videogame” story based on the time period it’s still kind of flawed. Only recommended for completists sake.