Mechanical Difficulties! is the twenty-eighth issue of the US G1 Marvel Transformers comic. The creative lineup is largely unchanged from the prior issues; script by Bob Budiansky, pencils by Don Perlin, inks by Akin and Garvey, colors by Nel Yomtov and letters by Janice Chiang. The cover was by one of the inkers, Ian Akin.
The cover is quite nice. The Mechanic uses his power booster rod to slam a tree into Blaster and Goldbug, knocking them off their feet. There is a lot of action in the postures of the Autobots, though the anatomy is a bit off. It's worth it for the sense of motion that he imparts, though. You can really feel the Autobots getting slammed here. "The Mechanic strikes again ... and the Autobots strike out!" it promises us, which, as it turns out, is more or less what happens. Kudos for accuracy here.
The issue opens with a splash page of the Portland International Airport. The Mechanic is using the stolen power booster rod to literally walk off with their radar. The inking and coloring are used to great effect, with a plane landing in the distance and everything in shadows. The control tower and the moon are two spots of light against the blue sky and black foreground. Chiang has fun with the sound effect as he RRRIPPs off the radar. Naturally, the good folks of airport security aren't too happy about someone absconding with a big piece of their hardware, though they prove helpless against his Cybertronian weaponry.
Miles away, Goldbug and Blaster are just entering their third day of a stakeout of the Mechanic's garage. Grimlock wants all Autobot hardware returned, though Blaster doesn't think highly of their new leader's leadership ability. Of course, Blaster voted for Grimlock, but maybe he's starting to regret that decision. Some human punks hear Blaster and decide that he's too good a boombox for the heap o' junk he's inside. Goldbug drives off, rather than take a rock through the window, prompting the punks to run off ... straight into the arms of the Portland P.D. Blaster predicts an angry reaction from their commander, and he's right. Grimlock gets so furious that he crushes two of the prospective crowns he's been trying out. "WHY YOU NOT DESTROY HUMANS?!" he asks when he found out why they abandoned their mission. Still, Wheeljack is working on a high-tech solution to their missing gear, so he tells them to await new orders. Our first hint of Grimlock's command style seems to have backtracked from the lessons the Dinobot learned (or claimed to have learned) at the end of the last issue. His crown is a quick visual shorthand that the Democratic consensus-building days of Optimus Prime are well and truly over. His willingness to 'destroy' humans who get in his way is a huge departure to Optimus Prime's bizarrely pathological need to protect them at all costs. I can't help but feel that there should be a happy medium in there somewhere.
The Autobots aren't the only ones getting new orders about the Mechanic. Detective Greco was also on the trail of this newly minted supervillain. Though he's dismissive of the punk's claims of cars driving off themselves, his boss puts two and two together and deduces that the new transforming robots may be working with the Mechanic. Greco is ordered to bring in the robots if they show up, even before the Mechanic is apprehended. It's actually a clever deduction, and not far from the truth.
After a quick peek at Mechanic's operation, the Autobot's desire to capture the Mechanic('s implements) intersects with a P.P.D. plan to bring the criminal in. The P.P.D. has let it be known that a supercomputer is being shipped near the Mechanic's know areas of operation, even as the Autobots track the power booster rod to an isolated bit of Oregonian highway. When they see him ambush the truck, they move to apprehend him, but the police show up and start to fire ... on the Autobots. The Mechanic wastes no time in getting away as human and robot law enforcement get in each others way.
The Autobots and the P.P.D. independently track the Mechanic back to his lair, and each side gets ready to storm in. Goldbug, though, has discovered that the Mechanic has modified the cars of many local mobsters into remote-controlled supercars, complete with lasers and other heavy artillery. Blaster realizes that the humans are going to get slaughtered, and so reveals himself to them. Despite orders for both sides to destroy the other, they decide to work together for their common goal. This is, of course, the true theme of the issue; putting aside differences despite what those above you are telling you about who is and isn't your enemy.
Unfortunately for us, the readers, the 'plan' that they come up with apparently involves Greco walking in the front door, holding a radio and dancing, then pulling a badge. I have no idea what this was intended to accomplish, but when he turns off the music, the police swarm in. Blaster uses his electro-scrambler gun to make sure the supercars are ineffectual in battle, which results in them firing at random. This seems like a pretty terrible plan, but apparently nobody gets seriously hurt. Blaster saves some cops from the Mechanic, who takes advantage of the confusion to flee (with all his special gear.) Goldbug gets caught by an electro-magnet, but Greco saves him and captures the Mechanic's #2 man, Juan. Perlin does a good job with his humans - doesn't Greco look tough here?
And so, the P.P.D. has managed to capture some of the most wanted criminals in the country and shut down the Mechanic's operation. Unfortunately, the big man himself got away. This is especially bad news for Goldbug and Blaster, who face the prospect of 'punishment' from Grimlock for their failure. Blaster asks which way back to the Ark, and Goldbug replies that it's to the east. His response is short, but telling. "Let's go west."
It's a solid issue, well constructed. Greco's situation parallels that of Blaster, with an intransigent boss who's orders are getting in the way of getting the job done. We learn a lot about Grimlock's leadership, both from his words and from the visuals. In addition to things like the crown, his physically and verbally violent outbursts are setting the tone of his reign. Perlin's art shows off Grimlock's body language nicely here. It's also telling that his first mission has nothing to do with the Decepticons, but with a human who's humiliated the Autobots in the past. One gets the sense that he's putting his house in order before moving on to bigger stuff. This sense will be reinforced as time goes on.
This is the second and final appearance of the Mechanic. In a way it's a shame, it would have made a good trilogy for him to show up later. I suppose he's still out there, somewhere, planning human crimes and not winding up on the Autobot's radar. His crippling fear of the police is less evident here, though he does quickly flee in both instances once they show up.
Next issue, we're promised the Triple Changers, though they're infected with the deadly Scraplets! Since this is 1986, the Triple Changers could be Autobots, Decepticons, or both, so we don't know how to feel about them being infected. In any event, it doesn't sound like it'll be a typical Autobot vs Decepticon slugfest if there is a disease involved. Intriguing. Mechanical Difficulties! is available for sale from IDW Publishing as part of
Classic Transformers Volume 2.