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A story that’s more than meets the eye, Part 2 of 2 – The Transformers #34

August 27, 2010

So we’re back for the second installment of the U.K. Transformers import, “The Man of Iron.” In the last issue there were some weird doings at an old castle, and a young boy, Sammy, was surveilled by the Autobots and then apparently kidnapped by one of them.

Here’s Sammy, behind the wheel of Jazz, and on the right side of the car, I might add — hey, this story really does take place across the pond!:

The action starts quickly. Jazz assures Sammy that he means him no harm and then joins up with a convoy of his fellow Autobots, but they’re all soon attacked by a squadron of Decepticons. They manage to avoid and defeat them with some nifty driving and some well-timed firepower:

With that taken care of, Jazz takes Sammy to a secluded spot in the woods. Uh-oh… You can relax — that’s not where this one is going. There they meet up with the big boss man himself, Optimus Prime. Not only is Prime the head cheese, he’s also a font of backstory:

I’m not really clear on why the Decepticons would want to destroy this rescue craft. If the Autobots find it, would they leave? Would they really abandon Earth to the Decepticons? Wouldn’t the Decepticons want the Autobots to find the craft on the off chance that they would leave? Or wouldn’t they want to get it for themselves, maybe so they could go back to Cybertron and get some reinforcements and really get this conquest thing on the road?

I could go on and on, but maybe instead I should just let it go.

Meanwhile, at the castle, an excavation is underway. Sammy’s father is there trying to help out, though he’s a little distracted by, you know, his son’s abduction. You have to admire his devotion to duty. You really do. I’m not sure that I’d make it into work in the same circumstances.

There’s not much time for him to mope, though. Soon there’s some rumbling and rattling and a certain somebody shoots up out of the ground:

The Man of Iron doesn’t say a word and starts firing at members of the British Army. Then, as if on cue, Starscream shows up and pokes a big hole in the Man of Iron’s appellation:

So one (okay, two) shot(s) from a fellow Transformer makes him crumble like a house of cards? Perhaps “Man of Balsa Wood” would be more accurate. Or “Man of Rice Cakes.”

The Autobots and Decepticons then square off in a battle that would probably come off better on a screen than on a page, and in the end good triumphs over evil. Sammy and his father are reunited, and Jazz and Prime ponder what to do with the rescue craft beneath their feet. They decide that it can’t be left intact because they can’t leave Earth with the Decepticons running amok (Why does that mean that they have to destroy it? I ask). Little do they know, the Man of Balsa Wood Iron wasn’t the only occupant of the craft:

Jazz blows the whole thing to bits in what isn’t the best example of due diligence that I’ve ever seen.

A melancholic coda ends the story:

Okay. There are some gaping holes in this plot. I’ve already pointed out the amorphous and maddening motivations for the Autobots/Decepticons wanting to find/destroy the rescue craft. There’s that. Maybe the biggest one is this — there’s no real reason for Sammy to be in this story. It wasn’t like he had some mystical information imprinted on his brain. When they get him to the woods all that they do is ask about the legends of the Man of Iron. The purpose of his presence was just to have a kid in the story that kids like me could identify with. I’ll say this for that ploy — it was an effective device back in the day, and gave the story what I’d in later years think of as an Iron Giant vibe (you know, E.T. but with metal):

Now the whole thing gnaws at me and activates some sort of literary O.C.D. They didn’t really need the kid.

Still, it’s a memorable moment in the title’s run, something different and new in a comic where novelty often meant that the writers were cramming in new characters as ads for the new line of toys. I’m not as nuts about the action of the second issue, but the quiet, pensive moments in the first are quite nice. And I really like those final few panels — I sometimes wonder if Sammy still dreams about Jazz and the Man of Iron.

When I want to take a trip down memory lane with some Transformers action, these two issues are usually the ones that I grab. Maybe that’s the best thing that I can say about them.

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