IDW Publishing: Beast Wars "The Gathering" #2 Review

in 2006, Beast Wars, Comic Book Review

IDW Publishing

General Information:
Cover Price: $2.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publication Date: March 2006
Written by: Simon Furman
Art by: Don Figueroa
Colors by: Josh Burcham
Letters by: Tom B. Long
Edits by: Chris Ryall & Dan Taylor


Cover A Cover B Cover C Cover D Incentive Cover Foil Cover

Synopsis:
The Predacons are gathered before Magmatron. He explains to his new warriors that there are those on Cybertron waiting to support them in their mission, but first the Beast Wars must be won. Iguanus begins dividing the warriors into groups. Magmatron knows that Razorbeast will try to contact Cybertron now - and he knows of only one source where that material may be obtained!

Elsewhere, Razorbeast leads a small group of Maximals to Ravage's Transwarp Cruiser, where they can obtain the parts they need to send a signal to Cybertron. As they walk, Razorbeast explains that Magmatron did not reveal his true plan until the moment they were about to go back in time. While supportive, the other Maximals feel a bit overwhelmed, wondering how their small group will be able to hold up against Magmatron's army. Razorbeast is unsure as well, wondering where all the other Maximals are. Unbeknownst to him, groups are everywhere including a group pulling Torca out of a bog, Claw Jaw and Cybershark swimming towards him and a group of aerial warriors including Air Hammer and Sonar.

Soon, Magmatron and his troops reach the area where Ravage's cruiser went down. Magmatron divides into his three beast modes to search for the ship. Drill Bit and Spittor join him on his search.

Below, B'Boom questions Razorbeast's trustworthiness. Razorbeast explains that everything down to his Spark resonance was adjusted on Cybertron to give him the appearance of a Predacon. The Maximals are right to be paranoid however, as the Predacons have arrived! In no time Ramulus has been disabled by Spittor and Magmatron has taken down B'Boom. Soon Razorbeast finds himself facing the very Predacon he betrayed: Magmatron!

Nearby, Optimus Minor has found the remains of Ravage's ship and begins to look inside.

Near the battle site, Razorbeast takes on Magmatron's gigantosaurus component. Unfortunately, the other Maximals are being kept busy by his other two components.

Meanwhile Optimus Minor sees the parts that Razorbeast needs inside the ship and switches to robot mode to begin digging around. Unfortunately, he is not alone! Drill Bit shows up too and he is itching for a fight.

Outside, Magmatron has Razorbeast cornered. It looks grim for the small Maximal until he turns the tables by blasting a large pile of rocks onto Magmatron. Using the distraction, the Maximals quickly escape.

Inside the ship, Drill Bit thinks he has the upper hand - until Snarl decloaks behind him - cannon at the ready. Drill Bit is blasted and knocked out. The Maximals manage to gather with the needed part - the only problem is that the part is broken. However, there are tools to fix it, and the small band of Maximals has a new destination: the Ark.

While the Predacons did not stop the Maximals from getting their equipment from Ravage's ship, he decides to salvage the situation: literally. Finding the destroyed body of Ravage, he finds that the Spark core is still intact!

To Be Continued...

Story:
Poking around the 'net to see other opinions on this series one of the most interesting debates I see going on involves the sheer number of characters being used in this series. For a four issue limited series, many feel that throwing every character and the proverbial kitchen sink into the comic is a bit too gratuitious, even by comic book standards. However, what struck me about this issue was that despite the presence of a lot of Beast Wars characters, the focus was really on a core group. On the Predacon end we really only see Magmatron, Drill Bit and Spittor. On the Maximal side the story confines itself to focusing on Razorbeasts' small band of warriors. I like this approach and it is very similar to Furman's approach during his run on the G1 comic book by Marvel.

The sense I get from Magmatron is that he is not a Beast Wars Megatron clone. He seems much more controlled, much less arrogant. In many ways he is like a military leader carrying out a mission, not a megalomaniac with dreams of grandeur. I really enjoy how he does not fly into fits of rage over his setbacks, but rather tries to find ways to salvage the situation as best he can.

On the other side of the coin, Razorbeast's little group is shaping up nicely. I am very happy with Razorbeast's portrayal thus far. Despite his smaller size and relative power to enemies like Magmatron, he faces challenges head on (literally in some cases) and never once seems to flinch. Since he is a part of a "Mission Impossible" type team, those nerves of proverbial steel are a joy to see. B'Boom's questioning of Razorbeast's motives made perfect sense, and I must be honest when I say that it never even occurred to me that the Maximals had reasons to distrust him, but they did just come online on an unfamiliar world meeting a Transformer they've never met before. Nice touch.

And what about those dozens of other Transformers? Although most of their appearances are token ones thus far, it is nice to know they are around. The opening shot of the Predacons is nothing shot of breathtaking. The page showing various Maximals converging equally inspiring. From my point of view, one thing the Beast Wars show both benefited and lost from was the expensive CGI limiting the number of characters. While this forced writers to develop tighter stories and characterization, it was often frustrating as a toy collector to be buying over sixteen figures a year and have all but a few of the new ones show up on a program during one season. On a personal note I do attribute this to having grown up with Generation One, where entire groups of new characters would seem to sprout up in episodes like magic. The kid in me still thinks having lots of characters around, even if some are in the background (for now) is kind of cool - sue me.

I was very pleased with the action in this issue. Much of issue #1 was set up (understandably so). To finally see some conflict was refreshing. What made the action even more fun was that it was mostly beast-based action. Having Magmatron use his beast modes since he had to dispurse his troops made perfect sense. I even found it refreshing that a "regular, basic sized" character like Spittor could take down a larger (and presumably more powerful) Transmetal 2 like Ramulus. It made the Predacons seem more threatening, not a force to be underestimated.

Artwork:

While the first issue of the series had some really nice covers, I am very fond of cover C this time around. Featuring the gigantic Fuzor Torca about to take on a group of smaller Predacons, it has a grandiose feel to it. Combined with its rather gritty coloring style it is a spectacular work of art I wish I could have in poster size.

This issue did a spectacular job of reminding us that any conflict called "Beast Wars" should involve a fair amount of beasts fighting beasts. As such it was a treat to have Figueroa work his artistic magic primarily on animals, something he was seldom able to do in his previous work with Dreamwave. His animals have a very dynamic look to them. Every panel suggests movement or in some cases deep thought. When aggression is needed his expressions are very well done. Spittor's attack on Ramulus is a prime (heh) example of how Figueroa is able to create awesome looking action with an organic character.

The other wonderful part of Don's take on the beasts are the relative sizes. The wide shot of the beasts in Razorbeast's group is perfectly done. Snarl and Optimus Minor are the smallest (rightfully so) with Bonecrusher being the biggest and bulkiest.

One artistic choice I'm still trying to get used to is the lack of pupils in the beast mode eyes. After seeing Beast Wars episodes with so many shots of eyes and the things that could be done with pupils going wide and such, it is a transition to see none at all. However, Don draws the faces with such wonderful expressions outside the eyes that the pupils are really not necessary. Indeed, most of the Beast Wars toys themselves did not have pupils for the eyes, so in a sense these are more accurate to the source material. And I grant that Transformers having pupils is not always a good thing, when Marvel G1 series artist Jose Delbo did it, the Transformers wound up looking way too "Looney Tunes" cartoony in some panels.

On a final note, I love the panel of Polar Claw walking alone. To have one of the largest Maximals shown as such a tiny thing in contrast to his larger surroundings echoed his loneliness and the challenge ahead of him. Wonderfully done.

Final Thoughts:
A strong second issue that moves the story forward without sacrificing focus on the characters we met in issue #1. Wonderfully done, highly recommended!