In comparison with its American counterpart, the British Transformers comic seemed to escape Hasbro’s constant requests to feature new characters in its stories. The only really notable times this happened were in the cases of the Special Teams (issue 63) and the Headmasters (issue 130).
In other cases, it’s felt like the UK comic enjoyed showing off new characters in their stories before they were introduced into the American storyline: The Triple-Changers during “Target: 2006”, The Predacons in issue 96, Ratbat in issue 99 and, now, the Seacons, Firecons, and Sparkabots in issue 152.
“Enemy Action” introduces a whopping 13 new characters, none at Hasbro’s request. Weird, right! But anyway, none of that really matters because Galvatron is in this one!
Written by Simon Furman
Illustrated by Jeff Anderson (pencils) / Stephen Baskerville (inks)
Coloured by Steve White
Lettered by Gary “Glib” Gilbert
Originally published in Transformers 152-153 (February, 1988)
Length: 22 pages
Galvatron is back! After that terrible tease at the end of “Ladies’ Night” in Transformers 138, my 10 year old self continually had the same question in the back of his mind every time a new issue came out: “Where’s Galvatron?”
All that time spent buried under a volcano seems to have dulled Galvatron’s emotional intensity somewhat and he’s back to his cold, calculating self. This isn’t the berserker villain who’s been rampaging across the comic’s pages since his (second) arrival from the future in issue 101-102’s “Fallen Angel”. This is a reformed Galvatron. A Galvatron who’s been meditating in total sensory deprivation for the last few months. Plotting all sorts, I bet! It’s a toss-up as to which version is the more dangerous.
“Enemy Action” is set on Earth in the present-day (1988; thirty years ago!) and Galvatron has turned up at the Decepticons’ undersea base with unknown motives, and Shockwave is having one massively unplanned bowel movement about it. For all that Shockwave is emotionless and logical, he’s always been obsessed with leading the Decepticons and since (finally!) taking over from Megatron, he’s guarded his position quite jealously. Galvatron’s presence seems to have tipped Shockwave over the edge, to the point of visibly shaking in front of Soundwave and even resorting to prayer!
Shockwave sends his newest recruits (newest toys!), the Seacons, to destroy Galvatron before he can reach the base. Two things: Firstly, the battle takes place underwater at roughly, for argument’s sake, 500 metres under sea level. That’s about 50 times normal atmospheric pressure. The Seacons are (presumably) well equipped to operate in these sorts of conditions. Galvatron probably isn’t. Secondly, Galvatron has just walked from Mount Verona in Oregon to an island in the Florida Keys. That’s over 3,000 miles. That’s one heck of a walk!
The point is, it’s the Seacons (literally in their element) Vs Galvatron (probably quite tired and stiff after all the walking). Talk about a one-sided battle! Of course, you don’t need to be told how it played out… do you?
In addition to the 6 new Seacons (7, if you count Pirranacon), issue 152 also introduces the 3 Firecons and 3 Sparkler Mini-Bots. You may think this is a lot of new introductions for a single Transformers comic but you’d be wrong. Issue 63’s “Second Generation” still holds the record for introducing 24 new characters in 11 pages!
Of all the new characters, the Sparkler Mini-Bots (Sizzle, Fizzle, and Guzzle) are my favourite. I think they’re quite likeable and, while not actually fighting Galvatron under the ocean, they are very much out of their depth. They are closely followed by the Seacons (the same day issue 152 came out I saw the Seacons in a toy shop and took Seawing home), and then, by a long margin, the Firecons. Did the Firecons even transform? I wasn’t sure at the time as their robot modes aren’t shown in the story. Other oddities include Overbite being named Jawbreaker, Sizzle and Fizzle’s robot mode colours being swapped around, and the Sparkabots being called Sparkler Mini-Bots.
(Toy-wise, the Firecons and Sparkabots represent “mini-bot” parity for the first time in the Transformers range; same sized teams, equally matched, each at the same price point.)
The Seacons and the Firecons are quickly forgotten by the comic after “Enemy Action” but the Sparkler Mini-Bots become semi-regular cast members of the rest of 1988’s British stories. (In-story, Galvatron himself cheekily derides the Seacons.)
“Enemy Action” positions Galvatron as a highly sought-after prize for the rest of its cast. In a way, this mirrors Marvel UK itself. Galvatron is pure gold as far as readership attraction goes and to have him on the cover (and featured inside) is to utilise him as a powerful weapon with which to sell more comics.
At the beginning of 1988 there were hints that Transformers was starting its decline in popularity, and cost-saving measures were beginning to take place. Indeed, issue 153’s cover by Lee Sullivan will be the last fully painted cover commissioned for Transformers for several years (barring the anniversary issues 200 and 250) until it reaches issue 300 at the end of 1990. (NB: issue 157’s cover, also by Lee Sullivan, was originally intended for the 1988 Transformers annual.)
In a fortuitous intersection of creative continuity both parts of “Enemy Action” are written, pencilled, inked, coloured, and lettered, by the same team! Even both covers are provided by the same artist!
Jeff Anderson inked by Stephen Baskerville is one of my favourite artist teams on Transformers. While not as energetic as other artists (particularly when depicting fight scenes) Jeff’s expressiveness (both facial and via body language) is second-to-none. Galvatron is at his most devious in these two issues and Jeff absolutely nails the Decepticon’s wit and guile, making him the villain you can’t help but love to root for.
Steve White’s colours are, despite the mechanical process, fantastic. The underwater scenes are nicely rendered and the detail put into all the robotic immolation that’s going on is incredible. This is Steve’s last colouring work for the weekly comic (aside from the two-page “Space Pirates” bookend) and it’s nice to see him leave on a high.
“Enemy Action” could almost fall flat as an introducing-new-toys chapter of the Transformers story but, thanks to Galvatron’s inclusion, it doesn’t. 13 new characters is a lot to juggle but they are introduced far more organically than you might give credit for.
Galvatron, of course, is the star of the story (as he always is!) and here he is as charismatic and enigmatic as ever. The denouement of “Enemy Action” is expertly revealed and is a welcome surprise considering Galvatron’s previous antics.
Shockwave is completely undone not by Galvatron himself but by the unquantifiable threat of Galvatron. Whereas as Megatron previously posed a physical threat to Shockwave’s command, Galvatron poses a purely psychological one and that’s what unravels any thread of logic.
The last few panels of the story are pure poetry. Shockwave, desperate and utterly broken by the threat of Galvatron–in a sapid twist of irony–now turns to his age-old adversary, Megatron.
Simon Furman digs deep into the characters’ mutual histories from both the British and the American storylines for his ongoing plot. He uses this history to great effect both here and to make sure that Megatron and Shockwave still have major roles to play in further episodes of what is now surely the backbone of Transformers, the ongoing “Galvatron Saga”.
In what started in “Fallen Angel” and what will end in “Time Wars” these two issues are a turning point more for Shockwave than they are for Galvatron and in that way “Enemy Action” elevates itself, in the grand scheme of things, to essential reading.
May your luster never dull, and your wires never cross.
Transformers AtoZ: Fizzle, Guzzle, Sizzle