"You and the Dinobots are everything wrong with Cybertronians. All you ever were was a gun... and you have no ambition to be more. Even if you didn't pull the trigger yourself, it's creatures like you that create an environment where this happens."
— Optimus Prime
A one-shot comic leading towards the events of Combiner Wars, taking place after the events of Issue 35 of The Transformers: Robots in Disguise, written by John Barber and with Livio Ramondelli on art duties.
Optimus Prime travels to Cybertron for an unfinished business and lands in the middle of a triple-murder mystery.
The Transformers: Punishment includes examples of:
- An Arm and a Leg: When confronting the Firecons, Sandstorm blows off Sparkstalker's legs.
- Broken Pedestal: It's kind of mutual between Optimus Prime and the Dinobots. Optimus Prime can't believe they can't let go of the war, and the Dinobots resent being called out on it. It's never really touched upon if they're able to patch things up towards the end.
- Call-Back: Sandstorm asking Prime if he or High Autobot Command knew about all the atrocities committed by the Autobots is a callback to every dirty thing Prowl has been involved with since The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers (and likely way before that). He also mentions a specific event of LSOTW where the Wreckers executed unarmed Decepticon prisoners.
- Died Standing Up, Disturbingly, Treadshot's corpse stays upright as half his head is blown away and the rest smolders down to an endoskeleton.
- Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: Acid Storm tells Sparkstalker that no, intimidating and taunting Optimus Prime is a stupid idea even if he is outnumbered.
- Fantastic Ghetto: The 'cons live outside Metroplex, and it's explicitly called ghettos.
- Informed Ability: The Firecons are noted to be immensely powerful soldiers, burning a planets atmosphere so severely, thousands of Autobots died. While it's likely the atmosphere was flammable, it's hard to swallow the Firecons as such a huge threat, partly because such an atrocity is just brought up here, partly because the Firecons themselves are fairly standard Decepticon troops, just with a fire-gimmick.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Sandstorm is horrified when he realizes that he almost executed a defenseless Flamefeather in cold blood. That one's faked, but his reaction to shooting Prime with an Infernus bullet certainly isn't.
- No-Respect Guy: Barely anyone gives a fuck about who Prime is these days.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Barricade, although he's mid-level management and dealing with 'bots and 'cons in the upper echelon.
- Red Herring: The Firecons, the Dinobots, and even Barricade. It's really Sandstorm.
- Man on Fire: More like Fire in Robots. The killer's weapon of choice, the infernus bullet, overloads the target's neurosystems and immolates the target from the inside.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: It's politically motivated, to be sure, but Starscream participates in the investigation nevertheless.
- Series Continuity Error: Sparkstalker freaks out over attacking Optimus Prime, thinking he'll be out for revenge. It was Flamefeather who shot at Prime.
- Windblade gives one to everyone about how they all suck for the 4-million year War.
- To Be Lawful or Good: Barricade defies Starscream's order to lay waste to the Decepticon ghetto.
- Token Good Teammate: Barricade is easily one of the most heroic characters, but he's also a faithful Decepticon. In addition, Swoop takes on his traditional role as the Dinobots' mediator.
- Varying Competency Alibi: In issue #4 "The Killing Jar", Optimus Prime is investigating the deaths of several former Autobots and Decepticons. They've been killed by being roasted from the inside out, with the murder weapon being identified as Infernus Bullets (a type of ammo that enters the victim before igniting). The prime suspects are the Firecons, but Optimus clears them by pointing out that the Firecons don't need Infernus Bullets to inflict the kind of damage done to the murder victims: their natural abilities allow them to do that, and the Infernus Bullets were actually an attempt to duplicate those powers.
- Vigilante Injustice: The killer pursued by Optimus Prime and Barricade turns out to have been targeting Cybertronians, both Autobot and Decepticon, who carried out war crimes during the just concluded Forever War. However, his actions risked inflaming tensions between the Autobots, Decepticons and Neutrals, to the point that Starscream (in his position of elected leader) gave orders to raze the Decepticon ghettos in an attempt to flush out information, though Barricade refuses to follow said orders and continues the investigation. Optimus Prime himself points out during the final confrontation that due to how terrible the war was, just about everyone was involved with some sort of war crime, and the killer's "justice" was more about how he couldn't come to terms with the idea of such monsters just... settling down peacefully.
- What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: Spoken word for word by Treadshot in the opening. Brisko and Wilder, being far more intelligent, immediately call him out on this. Not that it helps them.