Love and Steel! is the third of the four-issue limited Headmasters series. The creative line-up remains steady: Budiansky on scripts, Springer on pencils, Akin & Garvey on Inks, Yomtov on colors and Brosseau on letters. The same artistic team drew the cover.
The cover is less inspired than the previous offerings. Some Nebulons float in bubbles, Llyra prominently among them. The others, though, look a bit too super-hero-ish. Autobots shoot at them against a black background, which makes it hard to put the image in context. "The Love That Kills", it says, which oddly is about the most interesting thing on the cover. That theme would be visited from a number of angles throughout the book. In the Marvel box, Fortress Maximus removes his head dramatically. All in all, it's an interesting idea, but the execution is lacking.
The book opens with a Decepticon attack on the resort city of Splendora. The Terrorcons and Horrorcons are trying to show the fleshlings how powerful they are by killing as many as possible. Naturally, the Autobots can't allow that and soon it's Computron vs Abominus. The Decepticons are soon driven off, thanks in no small part to the augmented power of the Headmaster process. The natives, though, are still concerned. There are, after all, still giant robots among them. Duros and Arcana attempt to convince the populace of their good intentions. One of the Council of Peers, a woman named Soriza, remains skeptical and thinks that perhaps neutral observers would be a good addition to Autobot missions.
Meanwhile, at the same remote complex where the Decepticons were first summoned, Zarak and his inner circle are locked in a makeshift cage while Scorponok's troops conduct experiments. They're working on an anti-gravity gun, designed to dump dissidents into space. When Apeface and Snapdragon return with news of defeat, Scorponok is furious. He has no patience for tales of organically enhanced adversaries. Zarak, though, proposes an alliance. He still believes that the Autobots are as much of a threat as the Decepticons. Scorponok mulls over the idea and decides that it has merit. One gets the sense that he is as interested in seeing what the impact will be on Zarak as he is in defeating the Autobots. This gives the whole scene a sort of Foustian feel. It's also an example of the love that kills - it's Zarak's love for his daughter and his planet that leads him to propose enhancing Scorponok's power. Without this bargain, it's very likely that Scorponok would have eventually been defeated and driven off Nebulos.
At the Autobot headquarters, the Council informs Galen of their intentions to observe, interrupting an examination of the weapons left behind by the Targetmasters-to-be. Duros points out the danger of proximity to battle, but Galen bends to the rule of law. Llyra arrives (wearing what appears to be a negligee) with word from her father ... he has been captured by the Decepticons and begs Galen set aside their differences and help him. The Autobots, council in tow, head out without delay.
As the prepare their assault, they're startled to see six Nebulons walk out of the fortress, with headless Decepticon bodies following closely behind. Zarak gloats for a moment, though he's briefly startled to see a Council hovercraft. Soon enough, though, he initiates the ambush and a battle begins. The battle is pretty standard comic fare, but the presence of the observers allows for some additional anguish. When the Council's craft is brought to ground, Mindwipe hypnotizes the members into heading into the complex. He then encases them in anti-gravity bubbles, allowing Scorponok to shatter the roof and send them skyward. He's horrified when he realizes that he's endangered his daughter, but that soon passes. The Autobots do their best to bring the bubbles down, shooting them (VERY carefully) and then catching the occupants. With the Autobots thus occupied, Scorponok regroups and prepares to deliver the coup de grâce. Fortress Maximus manages to save Llyra just before she floats out of range and set her down safely, only to have him and his troops laid low by the Decepticons. Here we REALLY see the love that kills theme played out. Galen's love for Llyra (and, indeed, all life) allows him to be distracted and defeated. Zarak's very love for his daughter prompted him to merge with Scorponok and then put her life in grave danger. And really, Llyra's love of her father put her in harm's way in the first place.
The Decepticons and their Nebulon allies are elated, but Zarak soon realizes that he almost killed his daughter. He wonders how she can forgive him, but fortunately for him she was so disoriented by Mindwipe's hypnosis that all she really remembers was Galen shooting at her. She embraces her father and thanks him for saving them. Ever the savvy politician, Zarak takes credit and promises that Galen won't be a threat to anyone any more.
It's a good penultimate chapter. The Decepticons now have Headmasters too. Llyra's affection has shifted back from her lover to her father. Fortress Maximus lies defeated before the Decepticons. All the main threads are twisted together, and the tension is high. Next issue, we're promised "The climactic, cataclysmic conclusion of Head Masters!" With a set-up like this, it might just live up to the hyperbole. Love and Steel! is available for sale from Titan books in the anthology
Transformers: Trial By Fire.