People Power! is the forty-second issue of the US G1 Marvel comics run of Transformers. It features a Bob Budiansky script, though the art is a bit complicated. Breakdowns are by José Delbo, but finishes are by Dave Hunt and Don Hudson. This, combined with the filler issue we'll get next month, make me think that something was running behind, probably the artwork. Letters are by Bill Oakley, and colors by Nel Yomtov. Delbo and Hunt are credited with the cover. Given the aforementioned time issues, it's not clear which of them did what exactly on the cover.
It's a pretty mediocre cover. Hasbro was probably happy, but I can't imagine anyone else was. Optimus Prime is the focus, though his chest is popping out as a little man. He's fighting a rather lackluster Darkwing and Dreadwind, backed up by some badly miscolored and weirdly drawn Powermaster Autobots. "Optimus Prime -- Powermaster!!" it proclaims, when surely anyone in the audience would just be excited to have prime back at all. The composition is actually pretty good, but the execution is simplistic and unappealing.
Oddly, it's not the rushed art but the slapdash story (note the capitalization there) that hurts this issue. We open on a scene of a Decepticon super-jet attacking a Nebulan ... restaurant? The Gardens of Eternal Peace and Harmony Macrobiotic Resturant, to be precise. Off the patrons scatter, and the jet reveals itself to be two squabbling Decepticons, Darkwing and Dreadwind. They each have a partner, and they quickly engage in their 'mission:' chowing down on 20 servings of their best entrees. It's a suitably bizarre turn of events, one that does not fail to intrigue. The prose, especially, is nice right at the beginning. "Several dozen light years from Earth, the planet Nebulos spins contentedly around its sun, its people unblemished by want or war. Indeed, the serenity and sophistication of Nebulan society would typically be the envy of most worlds in the galaxy." Nice to see that Bob can still bring it when he wants to.
Meanwhile, the Steelhaven has arrived, allowing Getaway, Joyride, Slapdash (see what I did earlier?) and Goldbug to attempt to complete their mission. They're heading towards the lab of Hi Q, old friend of Galen, to request his help rebuilding Optimus Prime. Hi Q doesn't quite get that these are living, sentient robots, which seems odd for one as brilliant as he. He warns the Autobots off, for following the events of the Headmasters mini-series, he and Hi-Test turned the fuel of Nebulos poisonous to living robots. It worked, and when some Decepticons showed up, they quickly broke down. But envious Hi-Test hated being 2nd fiddle to Hi Q and brokered a deal with them, creating the Powermaster process to bond Nebulon and Cybertronian and bypass the poisoned fuel. It's a lot of backstory, all to justify the new toy gimmick. It holds together, but only barely.
Goldbug volunteers to help, but Hi Q points out that without energy the Autobots can't win. Joyride wants to leave the planet, but Goldbug refuses. Hi Q welcomes them as guests even as he mourns their inevitable passage. He believes that it is their programming that compels them to stay, and helps them with the construction of Prime. Their efforts are interrupted by a Decepticon attack on the Council of Peers, but their best efforts are repulsed. Not only are the Autobots low on fuel, but the Powermaster process (surprise, surprise) makes the cons tougher than normal. Here the rushed artwork really hurts, as what should be exciting is merely perfunctory.
Hi Q is impressed that the robots defied their programming to attempt to thwart the Decepticons, prompting one of his four helpers to muse that they may be more than just machines. The Autobots incredibly decide to energize Prime with poisoned fuel, arguing that living in real life however briefly is preferable to a living death as a computer program. Guh? Really?
When Prime wonders if he's still a game character, Hi Q returns to his original impression that these are merely intelligent machines. But when Prime starts to die, he realizes that he must actually be a living organism. He thanks his troopers for restoring him to life, and Hi Q decides that he can't let such a noble soul die. He agrees to undergo the Powermaster process, as do Rev, Lube (unfortunate name!) and Hotwire. However, the fifth member of the Nebulon science team, Kari, can't bring herself to bond with Goldbug. He assures her that with his legendary fuel efficiency, he'll be all right for a little longer. It was actually really shrewd of Budiansky to introduce five Nebulon characters to go with the five Autobots. If you weren't following the toy line, you'd probably fully expect Goldbug to go Powermaster. Also, Kari wears a lot of clothes for a Nebulon woman .... what's that about?
With the Autobots now Powermasters , the Decepticons are quickly dispatched. Hi-Test and his partner Throttle are banished from Nebulos, which is pretty convenient for future stories. Kari points out that the Powermaster process irrevocably united the Autobots to the Nebulons, and that Nebulos wasn't a proper place for her compatriots. Reluctantly, they leave the planet behind, to Kari's tears. It's a tender moment, and makes one wonder what exactly her relationship was to the rest of them. Hi Q's daughter, perhaps?
Yawn. For an issue that reintroduces Optimus Prime, it's amazing how dull it all manages to be. Budiansky does a passing fair job of introducing us to Darkwing, Dreadwind, Hi Q, Hi-Test, Throttle, Rev, Lube, Hotwire and Kari. Hi Q, in particular, gets to shine as the avuncular skeptical scientist. But the real focus should have been on Optimus Prime's resurrection, the culmination of a plotline that began way back in #24. And while that's in here, it's kinda buried in the middle somewhere. The unspectacular artwork certainly doesn't help.
This issue marks a turning point. We've basically hit a local climax, with a ton of resolution to plot threads in this issue and last. From here on out, we've got one last hurrah left, the rescue of Buster Witwicky, but mostly we'll get stand-alone stories from this point forward.
Next month, we're promised Sharkticons battling Junkions at the behest of the Quintessons? Ultra Magnus, Galvatron and Rodimus Prime! Really? Has the time come to incorporate all of these new elements? Sadly, no, it hadn't, we'll get a bizarre fill-in issue, but we couldn't know it at the time. People Power! is available for sale in IDW's
Classic Transformers Volume 3.
NEXT UP… RETCON!
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