Beast Wars
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Review of IDW's Transformers - BEAST WARS: The Gathering #4


Reviewed by: Outtsyder

Warning: Spoilers!!!



Again, with just six different covers. Cover A shows Magmatron duking it out with BW Grimlock, sword to sword. Cover B shows a heavy-shadowed rendition of BW Ravage in his "Transmetal" form, not his TM2 form. Cover C shows Magmatron in his three separate beast-mode bodies, attacking Razorbeast. And Cover D shows robot-mode Magmatron in a charismatic-leader pose atop a podium, with a number of Predacons saluting him. Two collector's covers are available: a foil-stamped version of Cover D, and a monochrome sketch cover version of Cover A.


Mostly the same as usual; artists details crediting Simon Furman, Don Figueroa, Josh Burcham and company. An additional credit is found; Ben Yee himself as Script Consultant. The "story so far" blurb summarizes the events in previous issues, and uses the same negative-film black-and-white shot of Magmatron as well.


We begin this time NOT with a full-page frame, as Ravage and his team of Predacon soldiers are tracking and scoping out their target; the secret base where Razorbeast's militia had set up their transwarp transmitter to contact the Maximals on Cybertron. Meanwhile, Magmatron's own set-up in the wilderness - planning to haul the captures BW Megatron back to the Tripredacus Council - is met with an uninvited visitor; Grimlock! And yes, it's the original Grimlock in a new body; still big, and now about the size of a Megaraptor (I believe)! He effortlessly takes out Drill Bit (again) and Iguanus, and turns his attention to the Predacon Commander. As the two powerful warriors begin to face off, the spying Maximals Razorbeast and Optimus Minor take advantage of the distraction, allowing Minor to scoot over to the transwarp shunt station, grab a stray chronal phase armband from Megatron's body, and bring it back to Razorbeast undetected.

Tensions are running and patience is dwindling at the Maximal lair, as Snarl tries to complete the transwarp signal booster using both current Cybertronian parts with ancient Autobot technology gathered from the Ark; not an easy task. No one's even sure if it will even start up, and even if it does, there may only be a really short amount of time before it burns out for good, allowing only one single brief chance to contact Cybertron. All the while, Ravage's team is still on the hunt. Back to the Predacon outpost, after a HEAVY effort, Magmatron, using his triple-body beast mode(s), finally takes Grimlock down, and finds there's still enough time to shunt back to Cybertron with his prisoner. However, Razorbeast jumps in, issuing a challenge to the Predacon, and with the animosity of treachery at the beginning of the story, Magmatron is all too eager to accept….

Ravage's hunting squad has finally located the vicinity of the Maximals' base, and launch their attack just as the Maximals prepare to send their message off. Snarl insists that the others go out to hold off the Predacons while he tries to make contact; despite their protests and small numbers, they go out to fight them. The odds do not look good… until eventually, the other Maximals who had also been called - but had taken a long time to leave their points of origin - finally arrive and converge, with Torca leading the charge of reinforcements and turning the tide! Magmatron, OTOH, is not having much luck in fighting Razorbeast, as the Maximal is using the chronal phase armband to shift in and out of time synch with Magmatron, allowing him to appear and place his shots, and then disappear to avoid retaliation and damage. And just as Magmatron is groggy from Razorbeast's attack-and-evade tactics, Optimus Minor sneaks around and removes a similar chronal phase capsule from Megatron's body, making him "disappear" out of Magmatron's time-synch. Which Razorbeast is all too glad to aid him; he fires a couple shots, toppling Magmatron into the transwarp shunt portal as the countdown terminates, carrying him back to Cybertron… without his prisoner.

The fights now over on both fronts, as the Predacons retreat, Torca and Wolfang meet up and return inside the base with the others. Snarl reports he was able to send the signal before the machine burnt out. Whether or not the Maximals on Cybertron got the message, they don't know. All they can do until a rescue mission arrives - if that even happens - is wait things out and hold off the remaining Predacons as best as they can, as we spot them being re-organized under Ravage's direction….

A couple weeks later, as Razorbeast's Maximals begin to set up camp, Prowl meets with the militia captain, noticing something is on Razorbeast's mind. After asking, Razorbeast explains he knows the "Beast Wars" are still occurring right this moment, and he actually had Megatron down and out; if he acted differently, he felt he could have completely changed things around by getting rid of the Predacon renegade while he had an easy chance to do it. But as tempted as he was, he recalled his instructions to respect the intricacies of traveling into the past, and not tamper with the timelines, lest they turn up results less predictable than imagined. Prowl assures Razorbeast that he did the right thing, and that it isn't their place to change the new past all over again, even while Optimus Primal and his crew are busy with Megatron. But they do still have some Beast Wars of their own….

The End… or is it The Beginning…?


The mini-series is over. What now?

Honestly, this was a pretty good issue. The pacing didn't feel too rushed, and it did what it sought to do; compete the four-part story. There were really only two major plot points that had to be addressed. Number one: Can the Maximals contact Cybertron with their report, or would the Predacons flush them out and crush them before it started? Number two: Will Magmatron make it back to Cybertron completing his assigned mission of arresting Megatron - and risk screwing up the timelines even more in doing so - or can Razorbeast find a way to thwart the Predacons yet again? Other secondary ends were present, such as the arrival of the other Maximals who had been called, but still had yet to arrive; as expected, they came in time to fight off Ravage's hunt. Without too many story threads, things didn't feel the last been convoluted, although at the same time, it felt like a simpler story than the original BW series. But sometimes, the upside to having a simple story means less potential for plot holes that need to be sewn up.

Which is not to say that everything is completely told and finished up. The obvious point is the remaining Maximals and Predacons on Earth, after "The Gathering". This will lead to the inevitable and expected fights between the two sides. There is also the question of the four Mutants - Icebird, Poison Bite, Razorclaw, and Soundwave - lurking about, and wondering how they will figure into the story. Also given the contrasting personalities among some of the new Maximals - B'Boom's impatience, Snarl's cockiness, Wolfang's constant giving the benefit of the doubt, etc. - as well as some hoped-for development for more of the Predacons, it's possible that Magmatron's removal from the picture could spread the spotlight around a little more to other players (and you'd bet Drill Bit will become the servant to Ravage this time… and STILL get trashed in every issue).

And I wonder what will be up with Grimlock, after he was defeated in this issue. He was already in a bad mood when he came online in his new body; after losing a fight, however hard the opponent was, it can't be too good for him, or anyone else around him.

So to wit, Magmatron's arrest of Megatron has been thwarted. The Maximals sent a transmission to Cybertron, calling for help. Razorbeast and his reinforced crew are staying put until rescue arrives, while the remaining Predacons look to be led by Ravage. And there's a quartet of Mutants still lurking about somewhere on Earth. What now?

Well… just wait until you read further down. (I can just see Chris Ryall swatting me for stealing his "tease and make them wait" tactic.)

The art… it's Don Figueroa and Josh Burcham; what else do you need to say? All the scenery shots and action bits are as majestic and dynamic as can be hoped. Each character is chock full of detailing and the right style that makes them all look alive. And how about the wordless two-page spread in the middle of the book, showing off the HUGE fight scene? That had to take an INSANE amount of work to do. But even the smaller frames are strong enough to convey a kind of mood. Look to the last frame on the second-to-last page, at night in the forest with a full moon, and the silhouettes and shadows evoke the dim hope of the defeated Predacons, while a ground-level side shot of Ravage shows that someone's going to have to take charge of these guys and whip them back into fighting shape.

After the story is a full-page ad for the forthcoming (now sighted in stores) Alternators Dodge Ram Optimus Prime toy. Next are full-page ads for IDW TF Wall Posters, and the upcoming Evolutions line (starting with the "Hearts Of Steel" mini-series). Following that is a three-page preview of the forthcoming "TF: Stormbringer" book (coming in July), which was showcased in this year's Free Comic Book Day TF Special issue. Finally, the "Maxi-Mail" letters section, where the caricature art shows Editor-In-Chief Chris Ryall as beast-mode Razorbeast, driving a vehicle-mode Alternators Windcharger Honda convertible with the top down. The response from the letters continue to praise the book, and as expected, re-iterate that a four-issue mini-series just isn't enough, and the readers want more. Well, finally, after several months of very thinly-veiled teasing… we're getting what we wanted. There will be plans for another BW mini-series to come later this year (rather than an ongoing series), as well as - (drum roll, please) - "official Beast Wars handbooks", which will give illustrated profiles of every single BW character ever made. Simon Furman and Ben Yee will be co-writing the profiles' text, and the art with be handled by a squad of artists. Ending the "Maxi-Mail" section are the preview blurbs for three TF comic issue previews set for next month. The first is Infiltration #6, where Megatron looks like he'll be having trouble taking down a powered-up Starscream, and things look really bad for the Autobots on Earth. The second is the debut issue of TF Evolutions: "Hearts Of Steel", where folk hero John Henry meets with a steam train - who turns out to be Bumblebee - and the Decepticons attack while disguised as vehicles of the 19th Century. The last is TF Generations #4, which re-prints the classic Marvel US issue #16, "Plight Of The Bumblebee".


I enjoyed this mini-series, and while I'm sad to see it "end", I'm also glad there will be more to come later this year. What I wonder about the next mini-series; will it continue from where this issue ended? Will it tell a story from an earlier time? Will there be a story on Cybertron before the Axalon disappeared (or will that story be reserved exclusively for BotCon this year)? Will we remain on Earth? Will we hear from Cybertron? Will we jump back and forth between the two worlds? Will you be driven nuts from all these questions I'm asking? Will you strangle me to death if I don't stop?

Will you be satisfied if I just said I liked it? You will? Thanks.

SCORE: 4 Matrixes out of 5



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