The Transformers #38
Marvel Comics (March, 1998)“Trial By Fire!” WRITER: Bob Budiansky PENCILER: José Delbo INKER: Dave Hunt COLORIST: Nel Yomtov LETTERER: Bill Oakley EDITOR: Don Daley
The Nebulan Transformers arrive on Earth. Fortress Maximus is rebuilt into a larger robot requiring a second robot, Cerebros, to form his head, with Galen turning into Cerebros’ head. On Earth, Buster’s brother, Spike, learns about what happened to Buster, and isn’t trusting of the Autobot Headmasters, especially after Galen has become quite cold in his mission to join up with the Autobots and hunt down Decepticons. However, he has a change of heart when Scorponok threatens Spike’s life and Galen sacrifices himself to save Spike, who becomes the new “master” of Fortress Maximus.
Other notes: I just wanted to put this first instead of the usual position. In the cartoon, of course, that makes sense but in the comic Sparkplug’s son was called Buster. While I understand why Budiansky introduced Spike, a brother never mentioned before the previous issue, making him a Nebulan in this continuity, instead of Galan, would have made more sense. I wonder what part Hasbro played in this. Or was it Marvel, the same whomever that insisted the cartoon character models be used instead of the toy? Fortress Maximus’ tech spec claims Spike as a Nebulan.
What they got right: Budiansky seems to be writing the Headmasters easier here for some reason, making me wonder if Budiansky didn’t have a ghost writer in the Headmasters miniseries. You also don’t need the miniseries to follow what’s going on since the important parts are included here. Also, we finally get Cerebros introduced as well as Fortress Maximus’ battle station mode. I also like the contrast to how the Autobot and Decepticon allied Nebulans have different views of Earth at first appearance.
What they got wrong: Cerebros should have been in there from the start. Also, what does Fortress Maximus have to say about all this? Speaking of which, aren’t the Headmasters’ original heads still in a bunker on Nebulos? In the second issue of the miniseries it was stated that the heads were in contact with their bodies and plotted strategy. What happened to them? I still prefer the US toon’s approach to the Headmasters. Also missing for all time are Gasket, Grommet, and their combined form of Cog, also from the toy. Since Roller never shows up in the comics I’m not surprised by this.
Recommendation: if anyone missed the miniseries this was a good introduction to the Headmasters. By itself it’s an okay story that’s still worth reading.