IDW Publishing: Beast Wars "The Ascending" #2 Review
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publication Date: October 2007
Written by: Simon Furman
Art by: Don Figueroa
Colors by: Mark Bristow
Color assist by: Andrew Elder and Jeong Joo Park
Letters by: Neil Uyetake
Edits by: Dan Taylor
Elephorca, Drancron and Rartorata are gathered on Cybertron, communing with their lord, Unicron. He orders them to destroy anything that may disturb his return. While Drancron and Elephorca stay on Cybertron to continue gathering Angolmois energy for Shokaract, Rartorata is being sent to Earth!
In the era of the Beast Wars, a battle continues to rage between the Maximals and Predacons. The aerial superiority of the Predacons is quickly turning the tide of the battle in their favor. The Maximals gain a brief respite when Grimlock joins the battle but the battle is still going badly for the Maximals. Inside the caves, Snarl tells Razorbeast they need him in the battle. While he is reluctant to leave the fallen Ravage alone, he understand the need for every last Maximal on the battlefield and heads out.
As soon as Razorbeast leaves the room, Ravage awakens and frees himself! He steals one of the temporal phase devices and puts it on. As soon as he activates it, Magmatron appears before him! He thinks that the Predacon general wants him to finish the conflict, but instead he tells him that for Cybertron's future, he needs to call a truce.
Back on Cybertron, the Maximal Elders Ironhide, Prowl and Silverbolt are conferring. The situation on Cybertron has gotten worse, and they decide to call in one of their best to investigate: Big Convoy! Big Convoy, Ikard and Tasmania Kid are gathered to investigate the situation. At a riot site, they discover the remains of a Cybertronian along with a spent Angolmois cnister. The trio thought they had seen the last of this material, but now they know they haven't and Cybertron is in deadly danger. Little do they know, the threat is already growing worse - with Shokaract gathering more and more Angolmois energy!
In the past, above Earth orbit a Maximal ship drops out of Transwarp. It is the ship containing Lioconvoy and The Pack! All the members onboard have resumed using beast modes. Below, the battle is coming close to an end, with
the Maximals running low on power. Still temporarily displaced, Ravage exits the cave and looks around at the battle, contemplating what he has to do. Suddenly, the Pack's ship roars onto the scene and they disembark, joining the battle!
Just as things seem to be going well, Ravage deactivates his temporal device and reveals himself to everyone. He tells them about the great danger facing Cybertron, but before he can finish Rartorata appears on the scene with a gigantic beast mode! He quickly injects Razorbeast with the Angolmois energy, turning him into a snarling beast infused with rage!
I remember thinking after my initial reading of this issue that I'm glad the story did not go in an obvious, one dimensional direction. A lot of stories (books, comics, TV shows etc.) nowadays usually have an "A" and "B" story. Here we actually have A, B and C, which is awesome.
The A story is the biggest, overriding story - with Unicron sending his minions to gather Angolmois for his return. Interestingly, this takes up perhaps the least time in the issue, but it has the most significant repurcussions. There is a sense of urgency here as obviously Unicron has gained enough power back to actually communicate directly with the Blendtrons. It's not as if they are doing this in hopes of resurrecting him partially, he already is partially resurrected. He just needs physical form, and that's kind of creepy because there's no way to really stop him. Destroy his body and his essence still exists. I really like that fact as it plays to the fact that he is a god, not just a big robot.
The B story is the one that takes up the most space in the issue, the ongoing conflict on Earth. It's really cool to see that the aeria superiority of the Predacons factors in so strongly. It's a bit easy to have the good guys always get the upper hand "just because" they are the good guys, but the fact is the Predacons are die hard warriors and they have been wearing down the Maximals for some time. In fact, had Magmatron not intervened, they would have no doubt lost. The irony behind that really makes the story because you know it must kill Magmatron to have to put aside personal vengeance and the quest for power to think of the greater good of Cybertron. In my eyes this really elevates him as a character. In some ways it jives with his US portrayal from the past. In the Botcon comics he was shown as part of the "Dinobots" team in the Beast Machines era and his tech specs on his Target exclusive toy indicated he fought the Vehicons. While he is a Predacon, his ultimate allegiance seems to be to Cybertron itself. The same can be said for Ravage. We know from Beast Wars that he's a Decepticon at heart, and allies himself with the Predacons for convenience - but ultimately he too puts aside vengeance for the benefit of Cybertron and the Transformers race as a whole. It really amuses the heck out of me how in many ways two of the heroes of this piece started as villains in "The Gathering".
The C story involves the "two Convoys", Lioconvoy and Big Convoy. By finally showing the "Maximal Elders", what fans have speculated for years have been revealed: the Elders are G1 Prowl, Ironhide and Silverbolt in new forms. Their place in Maximal society will be explained further in the Sourcebooks, but it was great to see them acknowledged and not just appear in shadow, but almost full body. While the two Convoys wind up in different places, they are each investigating mysteries that occur around the hunt for Angolmois. Seeing Big Convoy, Ikard and Tasmania Kid was a nice touch. By showing them in their Cybertronian modes we get a flavor of who they are without potential confusion with the rest of the Beast Wars cast. It's also nice for them to talk about their previous adventures that involved Angolmois, adding a depth of history to this story. We also get some cute character moments with The Pack. Stampy's hyperactivity, Apache asking Break about "snowballs" firing from some unmentionable place etc. are all nice homages to the anime source material which (at times) got super silly. It also shows these characters are comfortable around each other which is important since the audience is still not 100% familiar with them.
The one criticism many people have brought up centers around the decision to use both Japanese and American versions of toys as separate characters. I think some people could have easily confused Injector with Rartorata at the end. A scene showing Rartorata taking on his weirdo beast mode probably would have helped avoid this confusion, but my hope is that the big ripping Angolmois energy would be a big clue as to who he is.
I've spent many a review gushing about Don Figueroa's art so I'll spare everyone. Suffice it to say, his pencils rock hard. This issue gives us a fantastic sampling of Don's various skills. First is his reinterpretation of characters in different forms. Big Convoy, Ikard and Tasmania Kid all appear with alternate modes that look like vehicles with some animal-like features. For instance, Big Convoy has huge claws on him, Ikard has cannons but they resemble the tentacles from his past squid mode. He makes it look effortless because all his "redesigns" are so natural, it is truly one of his strengths.
Another great thing I enjoy about Don's art is his set design. His Cybertronian landscapes are awesome and great extensions of the art he did for "The War Within", filled with grand structures and alien topography. Perhaps the piece of design I love the most is his design for The Pack's spaceship. From the overhead view I knew it was somewhat based on the Maximal symbol, but when the shadow from undernath is shown the true simplistic brilliance of its design becomes evident. It's truly a breathtaking panel. Of course, then the interior of the ship took the cake where we see a zebra pattern rug on the ground and Stampy holding a carrot. I honestly laughed out loud when I saw that.
One of the interesting art challenges with this book touches on the criticism mentioned earlier. An example brought up by many fans is the use of Apache and B'Boom in the comic. You'll note that artist Don Figueroa draws them both differently. Apache has a high mohawk cut while B'Boom doesn't and his shoulder weapons are deployed. I agree it could be confusing for someone who is not initiated, but my personal feeling is that it would have been a disservice had we not used the Japanese characters. To take the example of Apache and B'Boom, they were conceptualized as two separate characters, not a "version" of the other. Don really did his best to make the characters look distinctive and I believe he did a good job.
I found the colors in this issue were much more rich than the last. A lot of the shading gave extra life even to some of the brightest scenes. Bright colors are not hard to find, but extra coloring that adds depth is very much appreciated.
This issue does a spectacular job of pushing the storyline into overdrive. Characters don't do everything you expect them to and there are some really fun character moments. A must read for any Beast Wars fan!