Beast Wars
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Review of IDW's Transformers - BEAST WARS: The Gathering #1


Reviewed by: Outtsyder

Warning: Spoilers!!!


As with the "G1: Infiltration" series, we have cover variants yet again; this time, presumably all by long-time fan favorite artist Don Figueroa. For the general public, this first issue was released in four different covers: one features Magmatron, the new villain in this story; a second with different variations of BW Megatron (original T-Rex, Transmetal, Dragon); a third with the different Optimus Primal bodies (original Gorilla, Transmetal, Optimal); and the fourth one is a wraparound cover depicting a HUGE battle scene with the new characters in the story. Collector's covers are the same drawings of Magmatron, Megatron and Optimus, but foil-stamped. The two "completist" covers exclusive to comics services are: Graham Cracker Comics, featuring a back-to-back shot of both Blackarachnias (original and Transmetal 2); and ND Comics, showing the entire first-year Maximal team in their original robot modes, except for Tigatron, who is in beast mode.

There is said to be, maybe rarest of them all, a "bonus" cover; a "gate-fold out" which expands the battle scene cover to feature even MORE Maximals and Predacons.


On the left vertical half of the page gives the artistic details of the issue (Simon Furman writes, with art by Figueroa), and a "the story so far" blurb leading into the beginning of this issue. The Tripredacus Council has sent another of their officers, Magmatron, to try to contain Megatron, and possibly bring him back. However, Magmatron has plans of his own. On the right half of the inside cover is a sort of Magmatron, rendered in black and white and "color-flipped" like a photo negative. VERY cool effect.


We open with a full-page shot of the Axalon and the Darkseid battling each other in space (like in the TV series' opening), with an unseen speaker discoursing about his unseen crew's point of entry into transwarp space, just as the Maximal and Predacon ships were about to crash. The next two pages (in awesome sweeping fashion) summarize the actions of what happened in the Earth-bound Beast Wars, right up until the opening of Season 3. The launching of the stasis pods. The re-programming of some protoforms into Predacons. The destruction of the Vok's Planetbuster that triggered the transwarp signal that forced the Tripredacus Council to send Covert Agent Ravage and arrest Megatron. And now… using a Chronosphere, Magmatron and his crew - Iguanus, Spittor, Manterror, Transquito, Drill Bit and Razorbeast - have landed on Earth on a shore, around this moment to take their own actions. Razorbeast sets up a transmitter array, while Magmatron sends Manterror, Transquito, Spittor and Iguanus to scout the area in search of activity once Razorbeast's gizmo is activated. Drill Bit stays close, as he sees Depth Charge rising from the water nearby! However, the renegade Maximal security officer cannot see them; Magmatron set the Chronosphere so that the actions of those who entered are out-of-sync with "real time" by a few nano-kliks, allowing them to engage their actions without being seen or allowing any further disruptions in time-space.

Speaking of time displacement, we cut to a flashback (in black-and-white), showing Magmatron and his crew on Cybertron, before the beginning of this mission… and he is not happy with Cybertron's state of affairs. Grumbling about the Tripredacus Council's co-operation with the Maximal Elders while supposedly building their forces for a revolution, Magmatron wants action now, and he plans to do it his way. He later meets with the Tripredacus Council, who are sending him to Earth to observe Megatron's actions in secret, if he is still active. They have already blocked the transwarp signal from reaching Cybertron's Maximal sensors, and sent Ravage to Earth, and Magmatron agrees to their faceplates that the Predacon government should bide their time until the right moment to strike. As Magmatron leaves, he mutters to himself that, if the Predacons wait to long, their best chance to strike will be lost. As he gets his own agenda set in mind, he receives contact from Ravage, who sends him scans of the planet…

Returning us to the present time - well, okay, back on Earth - where Magmatron confers with Razorbeat regarding a delay in setting up the transmitter array. Razorbeast informs that it's because of the remaining stasis pods having been scattered so far apart across the planet, that it will take some time to reach them all (or at least most of them) with the array. While dispensing some technobabble about the complications, Magmatron dismisses the report, and tells him to just do the job… which will reprogram the stasis pods' protoforms into more Predacon warriors. Which takes us to yet another flashback to Cybertron, again before the mission…

Where we find that Razorbeast is, in fact, a deep-cover agent working for Lioconvoy of the Maximals! Lioconvoy gives Razorbeast one more briefing on the consequences and risks of this mission - which is not sanctioned by the Maximal Imperium - basically telling him that if he ever gets captured, the Maximals will disavow any knowledge of his existence, and this message will self-destruct in five nano-kliks. (Okay, not that last part; it's a live conversation. ;) ) While the Maximals and Predacons are "officially" living in peaceful accord, Lioconvoy knows the truth is different, even without Megatron (whom he dismisses as a "loose cannon"!). He believes the real enemy is Magmatron, despite having a seat in alliance with the Maximal Elders, and suspects he's recruiting for a plan that only he has in mind. Before Razorbeast is sent off, he asks for final instructions, in case something comes up and he can't report back to Lioconvoy in time. The commander replies, "Do what you can… and start running."

We return to Earth and Magmatron's machinations, and the array is finally ready for transmission. Magmatron orders it to be fire up, before the Tripredacus Council suspects some more foul play behind their backs. Razorbeast hits the switch, and the remote-scout Predacons report the stasis pods in their regions are opening up, and confirming their status. Iguanus witnesses the rise of Retrax (a pillbug), Manterror spots the activation of Snapper (a turtle), and Transquito detects Jetstorm (a dragonfly)… but there's a problem on Spipttor's end. For from the pod he is observing, who should arise but a white bear named Polar Claw… a Maximal! As Spittor reports the problem to Magmatron, Razorbeast clocks Drill Bit, transforms to wild boar mode, and heads for the hills. Spittor tries to contain the new Maximal, but he is FAR too overwhelmed by Polar Claw's power, who simply stomps him flat! With this complication in Magmatron's plans, he orders Transquito to do a full-sensor scan of maximum range, so they can find out what has happened with the protoforms in any other stasis pods lying around. He orders the other Predacons to regroup - and deadpans Drill Bit to get back up - also tells Iguanus that if he ever finds Razorbeast, bring him back alive.

We finally catch up with Razorbeast, who "shouts" out from a hidden signal transmitter to any of the newly-formed Maximals to converge on his position. We are treated to the arrival of Ramulus the bighorn sheep, Snarl the Tasmanian devil (no, not the Warner Bros. cartoon character), Bonecrusher the bison, B'Boom the mandrill, Cybershark the hammerhead, and Optimus Minor, the chimpanzee (who's eating a banana). In the meantime, Transquito detects more of the new Maximals AND Predacons now all fighting each other, showing Wolfang the wolf, Insecticon the beetle, and many, many more! With this turn of events, Magmatron transforms - by splitting his body into three separate dinosaur-age beasts; a Quetzatlcoatlus, an Elasmosaurus, and a Gigantosaurus - and declares another Beast Wars!

To Be Continued….


Holy SCRAG, I'm loving this book! There had been a lot of concerns from some fans out there about the choice of characters being cast in this mini-series, giving the spotlight on characters whose toys never made it on the show, rather than the TV cast we were so used to seeing. Personally, I say that if it's a good story, it shouldn't matter who the cast is; although I do like the show characters better, I just want to be entertained by a solid running story. And this first issue REALLY delivered with drama, political intrigue (showing more of what we got a hint of, from "The Agenda"), secret missions, uprisings, subtle humor; it's just a great, great read. I'm already sad that this will only be limited to a 4-isssue mini-series, but hey, when this is the first time we've ever had a BW comic released to the public (convention exclusives don't count), it's at least good that BW fans have a book to begin with, and it's already off to a strong start.

That's not to say we don't get the TV cast at all in this issue, even though they're cameo appearances. The 2-page mural-style rendering of key moments in the show's first two seasons is amazing to look at, and it tries to squeeze almost every BW character to have appeared in the show until that point, even a scene with of Starscream's head overlooking Waspinator's shoulder. Depth Charge's cameo appearance also looks cool, although it's there to tell us where in the storyline this is taking place (early season 3), and it serves as a chance for Magmatron's time displacement shpiel that allows the events in this book to happen, without encountering the show characters or interfering with the already-set timeframe within the show's continuity. Sure, it's a little cheatsy - and the technobabble about how Magmatron made this work kind of made my head spin - but I guess there are some little plot-convenience holes you have to accept, to avoid things from getting too convoluted on the bigger scale.

Obviously, Magmatron dominates the story as the lead villain of the book; a remarkable task for a character whose previous involvement in BW was the Japanese-exclusive alt-universe series "Beast Wars Neo"; now, he is given the spotlight here instead. Frustrated by the Tripredacus Council's penchant for playing quiet behind the scenes and waiting seemingly forever until finding a time to strike, Magmatron decides to take initiative of his own, masking his plan within a mission given to him by the Council. So far, he seems to be as much of a master strategist as Megatron is, though less refined and patient. In a funny but cool design quirk, his three-beasts-combined robot mode has an Elasmosaur head-&-neck with not only hangs over his left shoulder… but it sometimes pops up and looks around as if it's alive, too (think Megatron's T-Rex head). And he seems to have a faithful (so far) servant in Drill Bit, who's acting as some sort of a bodyguard or enforcer for the Big Bossman… even though he looks like he may end up playing doormat or decoy/target for him in future issues. Magmatron knows in his spark that the Predacons should rise back up from the shameful loss that their Decepticon ancestors has brought upon them, and after all the waiting, he's not gonna take it… NO, he's not gonna take it… He's not gonna take it, anymore. But in order to pull off his plan and reinforce his chances of success, he makes sure to bolster his own squad with more troops of his own. His opening monolog alludes to the shell programs that Tarantulas used to turn the Maximal protoforms into Predacons, and he uses a modified version of the program implantation, using a wide-field transmitter to scan as many pods as possible within a large territory, and with a single switch; bingo, they all get converted. But his plan ends up attracting a monkey wrench in the form of Razorbeast, who allows some of the pods to become re-programmed… but allows many of the others to remain their Maximal selves and start up yet another war on Earth.

The other major fascinating character in this issue is Razorbeast. Cool-headed, sharp-witted, resourceful and competent; unless Magmatron really suspected something and just played along with the expected treachery, Razorbeast's act seemed pretty convincing to the Predacon Lord, until the betrayal and the emerging of the first Maximal from the pods. Some might wonder why Razorbeast didn't just leave out the shell program entirely, so that more Maximals could be "born" and bolster his side against Magmatron. But I'd suspect that, if he did that, while the other Predacons were scouting the remote areas, it would be WAY too suspicious; any of the Predacons could track him down almost immediately, and Razorbeast wouldn't have enough time to bolt and regroup the other Maximals to his side. If anything, Razorbeast seems to be somewhat of a gambler as well; of course, if he's willing to take on a mission where he'll be cut loose from the Maximals if he fails, that's a pretty big bet to put on the table. He's got some quiet confidence in him without braggadocio (so far), and basically does his job while risking short-term losses for a hoped-for jackpot. With him possibly being the lead Maximal story character, I look forward to seeing what other tricks he'll come up with.

I had to make one more observation on one of the flashback scenes to Cybertron, notably Lioconvoy (who previously was only in the Japanese-exclusive "Beast Wars Second" series, but now gets incorporated here). While we don't get much more of his character other than he's a ranking official and commander on the Maximal Imperium, his line about BW Megatron as just "a loose cannon" gives us another facet as to how Megatron really was regarded by his peers before the theft of the Golden Disk. In the show, Megatron was already called a rogue by the Tripredacus Council, though a brilliant one, and his development in the show arguably made his popularity in the TF fandom as great as the legendary G1 Megatron's, if not larger. Some fans would even argue that BW Megatron may be MORE popular than his G1 namesake, due to the benefit of more sophisticated writing in the '90s as compared to a decade before (and before that, and before that, and before that, etc.). With BW Megatron's character being so highly regarded by the fandom through his actions in the show, it's easy to forget that, within the context of Cybertronian society, he was viewed so negatively that he doesn't garner NEARLY as much respect from them. He's viewed as a troublemaker, a malcontent; someone with delusions of grandeur (they may be right), so much to the point that he even renamed himself after the original Decepticon Leader, while Maximal and Predacon alike would say he's nowhere near as proven or established to dare compare himself to such a Cybertronian legend. It makes for interesting hindsight when Lioconvoy dismisses BW Megatron as no real threat, citing Magmatron, a prominent member of the Predacon Alliance, as "the real enemy", when we all know exactly the kind of damage BW Megatron truly WAS capable of causing. It gives us yet another "more than meets the eye" tidbit that fills out the story's richness even more; it's not always the ones in high-office positions that can cause the most trouble. Just when you think you've drawn a bead on an important target, you turn your attention away from the lowly shadows, where you never know just what could be lurking about.

Other characters, while not showing too much character development yet, do make some pretty good debuts, the more memorable ones having some kind of personality quirk to make them stand out a little more, even without having to say a line. Two examples of which are Spittor (who's living up to his name), and Optimus Minor, famed within toy collectors' circles as the Drunken Kung-Fu Monkey, who doesn't speak in this issue, but is found eating a banana. As for the others, Iguanus acts as a gruff lieutenant, but a verbose one as well. Transquito has been given a Waspinator-like buzz being written into his lines, but without referring to himself in the third-person (yet) or calling everyone "wolf-bot" or "fly-bot". In fact, he actually speaks in proper sentence structure. Cool idea to borrow a little tidbit from the past, but not make it into a complete copycat. (Also considering he's a giant mosquito, he'll be buzzing all the time anyway). As for the others making their debuts with no lines - some whom I can see include Torca, Bantor, Armordillo, Stinkbomb, among others - we'll likely see more from them in the next issue, when Razorbeast assembles them in secret.

And there's the aforementioned Drill Bit. Poor guy… in the toyline, he was probably the least-popular and slowest-selling toy of the entire assortment despite being at the cheapest Basic price point. Even as recently as late 2005, some Drill Bits were still pegwarming in normal retail stores, eight years after his release! It kind of makes me wonder if we're having that carry over into this mini-series, with Drill Bit becoming the comic's "universal chew toy" role that Waspinator once had while acting as Magmatron's hired thug… and maybe he might get a redeeming moment by the time the story is all over. I can see yet another cult following rising around this guy.

The art? I could cheat and say, "It's Don Figueroa. Enough said", and leave it at that. 8) But there are quite a few other notable scenes that I'd overlook if I did that. Besides the aforementioned 2-page mural of the events from Seasons 1 and 2, and colorist Josh Burcham going grayscale for the flashback sequences (brilliant move to depict actions in the past), I must note how the Maximals and Predacons on Cybertron were drawn to still retain an all-technological look, before reformatting their bodies to blend in with Earth's organic life forms; kind of like Beast Wars War Within, if that description helps. My favorite design of this style has to go to the Cybertronized Lioconvoy. Recalling that he transforms into a lion, with the lion head on his robot mode's right shoulder, I really like the way they meched out the lion head's look. It closely resembles the Liger Zero from Zoids! I should also add that, after so many years of seeing Figueroa drawing all-metal robots, vehicles and other mecha, fans should have little concern about his ability to draw organic forms, too. Once in a while, it may seem to falter, but such occurrences don't seem too glaring yet. Another ace job from The Don.

After the story, we see a new ad for the 10th Anniversary Beast Wars toys, showing a photo of a six-year-old kid reading a book on insects (the two visible pages show pictures of butterflies), and a caption saying, "At 29, you still think bugs are cool." This ad shows the 10th Anniversary versions of Dinobot, Tarantulas, and Transmetal Rattrap, and again plug the free single-episode DVDs and Transmutate parts that comes with each toy. Next is a two-page black-and-white uncolored spread of a preview look into next month's issue, plus a rough story blurb about Razorbeast calling his new militia together as they're hunted by Magmatron and his Predacons, with the only chance to contact Cybertron is to find a Transwarp Signal Booster… which isn't easily found on prehistoric Earth. Following that is a colored three-page look at issue #2 of the G1 Infiltration book, already released last week.

Finally, we reach the "Decepticomments" mailbag, where Editor-In-Chief Chris Ryall, a.k.a. "ChrisCharger", answers to comments and letters from various feedback… including long-time TF online fan Dave Van Domelen! No slick contest this month (as was in G1 Infiltration's first issue), but ChrisCharger encourages more comments, whether on the various message boards, or e-mailing them directly to IDW at letters@idwpublishing.com (and mark them as "okay to print" if you want to see your comments printed in an issue). We also get to see four TF comic issue previews set for next month, with a small story blurb on each of them. The first is, of course, Infiltration #3, the blurb of which was mentioned in the previous paragraph. The others are: Beast Wars #2, where Razorbeast, a deep-cover agent for the Maximals, is targeted by Magmatron, and Razorbeast needs to contact Cybertron with a Transwarp Booster… which can only be found in the wreckage of Agent Ravage's destroyed cruiser; TF Generations #1, which re-prints the classic Marvel US issue #7, "Warrior School", where Ratchet is alone against Megatron; and one more reprint of an older book by Dreamwave (Dreamwave?!), G1 Volume 2 "War & Peace" TPB.


Aside from a very minor quibble about the nano-kliks time-displacement issue, it's an unbelievable explosion from the starting block. I think most fans will be happy with the way this story pans out, despite the TV cast making few appearances in the mini-series. If you still insist the book sucks just because it has few of the show's cast, maybe your standards are impossible to live up to. Even though it's a comic book aimed at the BW fan base, it's still entertainment, not a matter of activation and stasis lock, no matter how you slice, cut, chop, or julienne it. And for entertainment value, it delivers in buckets, gaining my personal highest rating for a recent-era comic issue to date. 8)

SCORE: 4.8 Matrixes out of 5

- Outtsyder


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