The cover was also by Dan Reed and while I sometimes enjoy his style, I don't think it works very well for covers. The advantage of Reed's organic-looking Transformers is how they look in motion but as part of a relatively static image, (despite all the explosions), all that becomes apparant are the flaws, like the fact Kup looks a bit like an outer-space potato man or Rodimus' thigh is nearly as wide as his torso. This would have made a fine interior panel, but as a cover it doesn't really measure up.
On Cybertron, a rare calm has descended. Kup doesn't like it as it doesn't feel natural. Rodimus Prime chides him for his pessimism but is forced to eat his words when a near-miss from an exploding shell heralds the arrival of their worst nightmare - a full-on Decepticon assault!
The Autobots scramble to retaliate and Rodimus throws himself into the thick of the fighting, all the while wondering what has prompted Shockwave to try such a risky move, as the evenly matched sides stand a very good chance of totally destroying one another.
There follows a dramatic two-page montage, which you can see just here, of the Autobots charging into the fray. Like the rest of the issue it's drawn by Dan Reed and his messy, line-heavy style works very well to convey the chaos of this scenario. That's not to say that I wouldn't have liked to see Geoff Senior's take on this scene but there's something abstract and almost... desperate... about Reed's style that I really like here. I think the difference is that Senior would have drawn something dramatic and precise and comic-book, whereas Reed's take is full of lovely little moments, but homogenises the combatants more than Senior would have done. Unusually, that is actually an advantage here, conveying just how unimportant individuals are in this kind of all-out battle. This isn't the clever heroics of Optimus Prime and his elite team on the Earth of the 1980s. This is proper, hand to hand, blaster to blaster total war.
(I would be very interested to see Furman's original script for these pages because Reed must have winced when he read it. I am reminded of a fan project I was involved with a long time ago where I wrote a script that contained the instruction: "Two Page Spread - Massive battle with hundreds of combatants on either side. Each should be unique." - needless to say, it was never drawn...)
Meanwhile, Scourge and Cyclonus overlook the battlefield, their minds no longer their own, and Unicron, safely ensconsed on the planet of Junk gloats over his imminent victory. The desperate final battle he wanted has begun, and now he only has to await the outcome. His enthralled Junkions are slowly, but surely, rebuilding his body and he will be ready to destroy the few pitiful survivors of this epic conflict.
Inferno, Wreck-Gar and Smokescreen decide that they have seen enough and have to get back to Cybertron to warn Rodimus Prime, hoping the matrix will be able to defeat Unicron as it did once before.
They are stopped in their tracks by an enslaved Junkion but Wreck-Gar, despite clearly hating himself, chooses the greater good and takes him out with a well-placed axe throw.
Death's Head has returned to Junk and is locked in a battle of wills with Unicron as he attempts to throw off the mental control. It's a tremendous effort, (even causing the mechanoid to sweat!) and it actually impresses Unicron, but the outcome seems inevitable, nonetheless.
The Autobots have nearly reached their shuttle when Inferno is blasted from behind and takes a tumble. Apparently Death's Head was not able to fully resist and is now back on the attack. Wreck-Gar is more alert and gives him a reasonable duel before being disabled. Death's Head/Unicron gloats over his victory before Wreck-Gar points out the shuttle taking off. Death's Head is about to execute the Junkion anyway but once again attempts to break Unicron's influence, managing to shoot wide. Unicron's mental punishment begins, causing the bounty hunter to fall to his knees in pain, but it's a small victory. Death's Head has proven that Unicron's domination is not total.
As issues go, this one is pretty huge, if a little unbalanced. In context as a part in a larger story it works very well but obviously taken as an individual installment it's hard for the final cliff-hanger to top the spectacle of all-out war on Cybertron. That said, the last page is very exciting, with interesting implications for future issues, especially for those of us who count ourselves as fans of Death's Head.
I find it interesting to compare this comic with the cartoon by Sunbow at this point. This issue came out after the three part finale episode, The Rebirth, a large part of which is concerned with a similarly all-out Decepticon attack, this time on Earth. On the cartoon the animators and writers are unable to really give us a sense that this is apocalyptic in scope. All the combatants are named characters and no-one seems to get seriously hurt. Legacy Of Unicron by contrast shows us a tough, desperate, all or nothing brawl. There are no individual heroics, no clever flanking manouvres, inspiring rallying cries or witty retorts.
There is a case here, after the comparitive sunniness of the issues set in the '80s, to regard this future as a kind of worst-case scenario. On Earth the Transformers are superheroes, on Cybertron they are meat for the grinder. Rodimus Prime is a more dour leader for a more dour time. No-one seems to think the war winnable, on either side, and the prospect of actually having a decisive battle is equally unthinkable for both.
Ultimately, of course, this future, along with the events of the Transformers: The Movie itself, will be erased from comic book reality by future UK comics and the Unicron war will happen in a rather different manner, but since there was not yet any hint that this was going to occur (and Furman probably hadn't considered it either) it could have looked like the future of all our favourite '80s characters was very bleak indeed, with the raft of shocking deaths from Transformers: The Movie still raw because those characters still featured regularly in the 1980s based issues despite the horrible fate awaiting them.
I've already written a fair bit about Dan Reed's contribution to this issue and while I don't really count him among my favourite Transformers artists he does occasionaly pull out something very memorable, and not in a bad way. This issue has to count among the high-points of his Transformers career and is a good indication of why he kept getting jobs on the comic despite his rather polarising art-style.
The Legacy Of Unicron! continues to charge ahead at a breakneck pace, introducing new story elements and testing characters to their limits. This is Transformers story-telling at its finest folks! See you next week!