IDW Publishing: Beast Wars "The Ascending" #4 Review
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publication Date: January 2008
Written by: Simon Furman
Art by: Guido Guidi
Colors by: Josh Burcham
Colors assist by: Andrew Elder, Liam Shalloo and Josh Perez
Letters by: Chris Moway
Edits by: Andrew Steven Harris
Cybertron is falling. Its inhabitants, good and bad are tearing the planet and each other apart as Shokaract's heralds dispurse their newfound Angolmois energy. Shokaract redies his Anti-Matrix, knowing that soon Cybertron will be remade!
In the distance, a small pod has fallen and Big Convoy, Survive and Cohrada quickly investigate. Bump emerges, introducing himself as an agent brought into the fray by Lio Convoy himself. Big Convoy briefs Bump on the situation. Suddenly, Stampy shoots out of the fallen Pack vessel, his tail on fire as the rest of The Pack emerges. Lio Convoy gives Bump the venom that Ravage had taken from Rartorata while Ravage chronally displaces himself to consult with Magmatron. Lio Convoy tells Bump he needs a retrovirus to cure Cybertron while Magmatron instructs Ravage to bring Shokaract to him in his chronally displaced universe.
On Earth in the past, the battle between the Blendtrons and Razorbeast rages on. He begins to get overwhelmed, so the remaining (battered) forces of the Maximals and Predacons decide to lend a hand (and claws) to the fray. Optimus Minor jumps on top of Razorbeast, who tells him that shold he completely lose control, his fate is in Minor's hands - something the small Maximal does not relish.
On Cybertron, the Maximals and Predacons gather for one last assault on Shokaract. The goal: get the chronal displacer units on him to send him to Magmatron. The toll grows high as warriors such as insecticon and K-9 fall to Shokaract's power. On ancient Earth, more losses are suffered but the combined forces of the Maximals and Predacons (with Razorbeast's aid) are able to defeat the Blendtrons.
On Cybertron, Prowl manages to get Snarl close to Shokaract before being blasted out of the sky. Snarl plants the displacement device on the Predacon and he is swept away into Magmatron's reality. There, he shows him that he is not the powerful overlord he thinks he is, but rather he is just a tool for Unicron. This realization is too much for him to take and Shokaract rips the Anti-Matrix out of his chest, causing an explosion that releases Magmatron from his time prison!
The battle is over on Cybertron and Earth, where the Maximals gather around the fallen body of Razorbeast - Optimus Minor having had to put his friend down. Bump has developed an agent to protect against the lingering effects of the Angolmois as the Maximals and Magmatron alike hope nothing will interrupt Cybertron during the coming period of rebuilding.
Unknown to any of our heroes, Megatron lurks above, preparing his own plans!
It's hard to be a Transformers fan nowadays and not think of the live action movie, even if it is a line or a flash of a scene in your mind. By the end of this issue, all I could hear was Sam and his dad talking about "No sacrifice, no victory" and this story really embodies that. Simon Furman has never been one to shy away from sacrificing characters. When it comes to epic-planet-shattering scale stories such as "The Ascending", I would argue it is almost a pre-requisite. There is just no way you can have thus much carnage and action without some characters biting the dust. However, when I read this issue the one that surprised me the most was Razorbeast. I kept hoping that he would somehow burn out all the Angolmois energy or overcome its power. However in retrospect those were just hopes that I knew deep down inside would be dashed. Like Jazz's death in the Transformers Movie, victory does often require sacrifice, and in Razorbeast's case it was a much nobler one than most. The image of his still body at the end with Optimus Minor (presumably) in tears next to him is one of the more heartbreaking ones to come out of any Transformers story in a while.
We do of course get some old skool Transformers mass-destruction. Characters are simply wiped out of existence such as Insecticon and K-9, something that also surprised me - but in retrospect I realize really should not have been surprised at all. One of the staples of any of these grand Transformers stories is the loss of many characters (the G1 Marvel "Underbase" saga comes to mind, talk about a body count!). It was good to see this tale not shy away from it.
The nice twist at the end is that the sacrifice that ultimately saves the day is made by the very character that began these events. By denying Unicron, Shokaract must have known he was ending his existence as he knew it (even if it just meant all of Cybertron would be gunning for him for vengeance) and yet he did it. He could have contented himself with being a vessel for Unicron but chose not to, showing a clear show of strength and willpower. It is interesting to see that other Transformers willingly served Unicron and did so with gusto. Having Shokaract rise above that was a very cool way to have the story end.
perhaps the best part of this story is the very end, where a familiar Autobot shuttle and Megatron both appear. The timeline of events seems a bit vague here, which is good since it's open to interpretation. I believe the shuttle as shown is still in Transwarp space, hence all the light around it. It is simply shown to give us a time reference point. Of course we know from "Beast Machines" that Megatron arrived ahead of the Autobots, and his appearance at the end really ties the two stories together. Indeed, the "Beast Machines" story makes a whole lot more sense now. It would be one thing for Megatron to skulk about Cybertron and build a whole army of Vehicons when its security was at its best, but what if the planet was in disarray and many major defenses gone? It makes much more sense that Megatron would be able to plan his rise to power amidst this chaos, and I love how the end of this story sets up Beast Machines.
If one had to pick a successor to Don Figueroa to finish off "The Ascending", Guido Guidi is the perfect choice. While his style is very much his own, it has a very similar feel to Figueroa's. I would say that he uses a bit less flourish in his designs, choosing to accentuate realistic proportions and clear lines that define a lot of mechanical shapes and hard edges. Guidi's designs are also a lot less "anime-esque", favoring the actual toy designs. However, that does not mean Guidi doesn't know how to have fun with a design. His drawings of Stampy are just as hilarious as Don's and he is very adept at drawing just the right facial expressions for a scene including Bump's "You want me to do WHAT?!" expression towards the beginning of the book.
Where this book fails is in the inking, which is wildly uneven. There were a few inkers on this book, so it is hard to say who did what. For the most part, the inking is very strong - with fine lines and detailing. The opening page with Shokaract's heralds and the pages where Big Convoy finds The Pack are really well done, full of gritty details and fine lines. Later in the book, things get a bit odd looking, to the point where your eyes really get distracted. The worst example of this is the page where Shokaract disappars and Hellscream and the gang are talking. The lines are way too thick in some cases and there is very little fine detail, making it look very much like someone else did this page as opposed to the ones mentioned earlier. Consistant style is important to a book and this issue does not manage to achieve this all the way through.
But back to the good stuff, the action in this issue was brutal. Touches like Lazorbeak stabbing Drancron with Rartorata's stinger and the heavy use of melee combat over firepower was really fun to see since it delivers on the savage nature one would expect of any book named "Beast Wars". On the flip side, it was really fun to see Break and Stampy's Targetmaster modes acknowledges as firepower. It was also really neat to see that two of their "Beast Wars Neo" comrades were the ones to fire them. Really nice art touches like that add a lot to a book.
"The Ascending" Part four delivers a satisfying conclusion to the second Beast Wars mini-series by IDW. It also leaves dangling threads for a third series. Heroic sacrifices and great action round out a cool story that lea ves you satisfied even if a bit sad.