The Transformers #17
Marvel Comics (June, 1986)“Return To Cybertron” part 1, “The Smelting Pool!” WRITER: Bob Budiansky PENCILER: Don Perlin INKER: Keith Williams LETTERER: Janice Chiang COLORIST: Nel Yomtov EDITOR: Mike Carlin
Cybertron: In the four million years since the Ark crash-landed on Earth, the war has not ended. If anything they’ve become more ruthless, sending Autobot and neutral alike into the smelting pool to be turned into new Decepticons. When Blaster’s friend Scrounge learns of a captured neutralist scientist and an interdimensional message before disappearing, he defies unit commander Perceptor, and risk the smelting pool to rescue him.
What they got right: The first time we’ve seen Cybertron since #1 (see “other notes), Budiansky–if you’ll pardon the expression–fleshes out the world of Cybertron. The Decepticons are shown to be monsters by Transformer standards. If you’ll recall my issues with the “Decepticon Justice Division” in the IDW comics, Straxus and his Decepticons are about as bad. The difference here is limits. We get far-away shots and descriptions of what it’s like for a Transformer to suffer in the pool. It just feels less graphic than one guy shoving another through the fan in his chest or tearing off his face to shove torture instruments into another bot’s face. It’s dark without being graphic. It didn’t give me nightmares back in the day like the DJD stuff would have.
What they got wrong: I give the artists credit for giving the Autobots “Cybertronian” modes that match their robot modes (which should turn into Earth vehicles since they keep their toy design). However, the Decepticons (debut of the Insecticons and the “Coneheads”) turn into their Earth forms and they shouldn’t even know what Earth is by now. There’s also an obvious exposition dump as Perceptor tells Blaster what he should already know so they can get the readers up to speed.
Other notes: This is the first visit to Cybertron, and Budiansky spares nothing in depicting Cybertron as a war-ridden wasteland with dwindling fuel sources. The planet is nothing short of a mess. If anyone was wondering what happened to Cybertron in all this time, here you go. There is also the introduction of Cybertronian time units “vorns” and “breems”, the former still popping up in fan productions and comments. It’s also the debut of the the next wave of toys who will be our focus during the two-part storyline.
Recommendation: It’s a good stand-alone tale, but it will play a part in the next issue and sets up a few future stories. It is worth reading and comparing to IDW’s depiction of Decepticon insanity.