Naturally Simon Furman finished off the story he started and wrote parts 4 and 5. Geoff Senior supplied the pencils, Dave Harwood the inks, Steve White the colours, Annie Halfacree the letters and Richard Starkings was the editor.
The cover for Part 4 is by Jeff Anderson and shows Megatron's hand crushing a Mauler tank while the driver escapes. Personally I don't think this is an especially great piece of art as there is no background detail and the driver is posed rather oddly. However, if a reader were primarily an Action Force, rather than Transformers fan, this cover with a familiar and powerful tank being crushed by a gigantic metal hand from off-panel might be very dramatic indeed.
Part 5, however, also by Jeff Anderson, is just poor. A lack of detail around Blades' eyes just makes him look lifeless and the three Action Force characters are posed and drawn very sloppily. They don't appear to have any spatial relationship with one another. And what does "Doom watch!" even mean?
Megatron, still somewhat mentally unstable, is smashing Action Force tanks as though they are toys while Flint looks on in horror. Scarlett pulls him away while they discuss how hopeless the fight seems to be. Grimlock is out for the count, Blades isn't powerful enough and Centurion doesn't seem to be doing anything.
We duck into Centurion's head as he thinks back to his last battle with Megatron, which ended in his near-destruction. He is powerless, and feeling like the "ancient relic" that Wheeljack accused him of being.
Grimlock regains consciousness and launches himself back into the attack, reconsidering his opinion on humans. He has never had any regard for them in the past but Action Force's heroic fight against impossible odds has saved his life and Grimlock pays his debts! Managing to relieve Megatron of his fusion cannon he lures the Decepticon towards some enormous gas silos...
The perspective shifts to Wild Bill, riding in Blades' cockpit with Flint. He remembers a mission from his past, having to leave a man behind in South East Asia. The memories are flooding back because the only logical plan from his position is an air strike on the gas tanks. Though stricken with horror he says nothing as Flint calls in the Sky Strikers...
As Grimlock and Megatron continue to struggle, Wild Bill gets his voice back and yells his concerns to Flint. Centurion looks on with interest. Wild Bill wants to tell Grimlock to get out of the way but Flint points out that Megatron will follow him out of the firing line.
Centurion comes to Blades with a suggestion. As Grimlock and Megatron duel Blades drops Centurion in to help Grimlock. The helicopter Autobot drags Grimlock to safety while Centurion keeps Megatron busy. As the Action Force planes release their payloads Centurion grins, pleased that he was still able to contribute.
The gas goes up in a tremendous fireball and the two burning, unrecognisable figures plunge into the Thames. Blades explains to Flint why Centurion did what he did and Flint says that Centurion was more "old soldier" than "ancient relic" and salutes his memory.
The story ends with more exciting action and a farewell (at least for now). The incoming airstrike is a well worn but often effective plot device and while Wild Bill's flashbacks feel a little tacked on I do appreciate the effort to give him a bit of characterisation as well as the reference to Vietnam.
Unfortunately the really emotional part of this story is rather less effective than it should have been because Furman makes the bizarre choice to not show the human intelligence behind Centurion. Anyone who didn't know his history would assume he was just an Autobot, or some other autonomous robot. Professor Morris isn't mentioned at all. If, after Wheeljack's repairs, Centurion is supposed to be autonomous then it certainly isn't made clear, and that seems unlikely, because then he would just be a new character, not Grimlock's old friend.
If poor old Professor Morris has now lost his only connection to the outside world then that is worthy of an emotional pay-off but we don't see anything of the sort. It's probably not strictly a continuity error because there is no way that Furman would forget the history of this character but it is a very strange approach to continuity.
That aside, I do like the story. I like the London setting and the escalating waves of Action Force reinforcements. It's big, loud and over-the-top but at least it shows that humans can do more than just be stomped underfoot. Of course, we could have seen that even better if Professor Morris had been used and I suspect his interractions with Action Force, and their reaction to Triple-I might have been very interesting indeed, but, admittedly, a completely different story from this exciting action piece.
Geoff Senior continues to deliver on the artwork. When doesn't he? The explosion on the second to last page is particularly effective and accompanied by Furman's favourite large explosion sound-effect: "KRAKADOOM!" On a more emotional level the joy on Centurion's face as he realises that he has made a difference is dead on, and a really good argument for the redesign as he now has a face with which to express joy.
I enjoyed Ancient Relics immensely. It was a fast, exciting action storyline that knew how to escalate the situation with each passing issue. I wouldn't want every Transformers story to follow this exact model, but I would certainly have liked to have seen more of Action Force (or, as I can't help but think of them - GI-Joe) than we ultimately did.
Check back next week for a return to the actual Transformers book and a review of Kup's Story.
TO THE DEATH: “HUNTER-HUNTED”
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