IDW Publising: "Beast Hunters" Issue 1 Comic Book Review
Title: "Interference Patterns"
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publishing Date: May 29, 2013
Written by: Mairghread Scott & Mike Johnson
Art by: Agustin Padilla
Colors by: Priscilla Tramanto
Letters by: Tom B. Long
Edits by: Carlos Guzman
One a vibrant world, Cybertron is little more than a burnt out husk, with the surface being the worst of all. Most of the population has gone underground, hunting for precious Energon reserves. Sludge returns to base with a dead creature in tow, handing it over to a guard for Energon extraction. He joins Snarl and Grimlock in the throne room where Grimlock hears the grievances of other Transformers, making one ruling after another - but slowly losing his patience as he does so. Eventually Slug comes in, breaking the series of cases being brought to the Dinobot leader. He presents two bodies that had been attacked by The Forged for Grimlock to examine.
While the Throne Room activities continue, Sludge and Snarl step out, with Sludge telling Snarl that Grimlock needs to stop for the day. He needs to let Grimlock rest and control his anger, which has been a huge issue since Shockwave experimented on him many moons ago. Should his anger overwhelm him it could spell doom for many of those around him. Snarl convinces Sludge to let Grimlock go on for another cycle before finishing things out. Sludge agrees and stalks off to go hunting.
As Sludge goes through a tunnel, he is suddenly greeted by an orange truck racing at him with Insecticons giving chase! He transforms and begins taking on the creatures! The truck transforms, revealing herself to be Firestar! The two manage to beat the Insecticons and Firestar asks Sludge to take her to Grimlock. When they arrive, Firestar asks for Grimlock's help with an unseen enemy that has taken several victims. When she mentions she needs help with the settlement of Last Spark, Grimlock loses his temper at last, transforming into dinosaur mode and swearing that he will not help Last Spark!
Sludge tries to reason with Grimlock, but his mind is made up. Last Spark has said they want nothing to do with the Dinobots, and he intends to stick to that. Sludge leaves with Firestar, but Snarl chases after them. He agrees to help Sludge and they head to Last Spark with Firestar. There they are greeted by citizens of the settlement and the leader, Airwave. He is not happy to see the Dinobots, remembering a time when Grimlock lost control and nearly killed him and his people. He doesn't see them as Autobots, only experiments of shockwave.
Firestar and others ask Airwave to reconsider and he does, but tells Firestar any fallout will be on her head. The two Dinobots examine the bodies and find all Energon drained, but no signs of defensive wounds. Firestar suggests Kickback might be one suspect though the bodies don't exactly fit his pattern. Without anything better to go on, they decide to check into the Insecticons as a possibility. On the way out of Last Spark, one of the citizens gives Sludge a fuel pack that is fully charged as thanks.
Underground, Sludge still doesn't think the Insecticons are responsible. Cannibalism hasn't been the way the Insecticons operate, though Snarl speculates cannibalism is the future of the Cybertronian race once all the animals have been hunted and reserves drained. Eventually the pair comes across a pile of bodies who were all apparently part of the Forged - and who had turned on each other! Eventually they hear a voice telling them that lack of Energon caused the Transformers to turn on each other - right before Kickback comes charging at them with a legion of Insecticons!
For those not in the know (and who may have skipped the synopsis above), it's best to acknowledge straight away that this "Beast Hunters" tale has little to do with the current "Transformers Prime" cartoon. There are some tangental connections such as the Dinobots and Insecticons being "beasts" and the Dinobots being victims of Shockwave's experiments. However, the characters from the television show such as Optimus Prime and Starscream do not appear (despite Starscream appearing on one of the covers) and no Predacons play into the story as far as I can tell (despite Predaking being on one of the covers). The term "Beast Hunters' definitely still applies as you have dinobots essentially "hunting" Insecticons but it's a different interpretation of the term.
I'm a long time fan of the "Law & Order" franchise, which, for those who aren't familiar often involves part of an episode focusing on a police investigation and then another part on courtroom drama. With that in mind, I was amused to see the "Law & Order" formula essentially reversed in this issue, with courtroom drama happening first followed by what is essentially a homicide investigation. This new era of Dinobots are not the somewhat dim-witted brutes of the Generation One era. Instead, they are fully intelligent and capable Transformers with a savage side. This combination makes them much more effective characters since they are not one note and instead have depth. This allows Sludge and Snarl to convincingly act as the pair of investigators looking into the killings brought to their attention by Firestar. Their banter during the investigation is both profound and scary to read. This Cybertron recalls the one first shown in the Generation One series (both in the cartoon and comic books) where Cybertron was mostly desolate and Energon was a precious resource that needed to be scavenged. The conversation between the two Dinobots was a constant reminder of this depressing landscape.
I do like the use of Grimlock's "anger management" as a sotry point here. It was key in the "Fall of Cybertron" game (get Grimlock mad enough and he transformed into the near-invincible dinosaur form). That action replicates itself here in the "courtroom" scene though Grimlock manages not to completely turn violent. It shows that despite the fears of the others, he is not an uncontrollable rage monster in dinosaur form.
Another nice character introduction is Firestar. First introduced in the Generation One cartoon series, the character has appeared here and there in "Transformers" fiction over the years. Whe originally introduced, a big deal was made of her being a "female Autobot", but here I'm glad to see her treated as Arcee is on the "Transformers Prime" cartoon: just a plain ol' Cybertronian with battle ability. Her "feminine aspects" (for lack of a better term) aren't called out at all and she is shown as a strong and brave warrior. I was very pleased by this and to the design homages to her Generation One counterpart (inclouding her head design).
As for Kickback, I do find it interesting how qualities of Generation One characters carry over from one incarnation to the next. Starscream's treachery for instance has appeared in almost every incarnation of the character. With Kickback, I liked the use of his the "Insecticon speech pattern" from the original series, though it was the Insecticon Shrapnel who was more famous for repeating syllables, it works as a nice homage to the original Insecticons. His appearance also offers another tie to the "Fall of Cybertron" video game where the Insecticons appear in a key scene inside Shockwave's laboratory.
The artwork in this issue has a gritty style to it that is really well done. Characters are drawn tight, with little embelishment outside of parts like Snarl's panels sticking out his back. I enjoyed the variety of character designs from the very simple, yet sleek looking 'background robots' to the more savage and complex looking Insecticons led by Kickback. The Dinobots have hints of their "Generation One" designs but for the most part are new takes on old characters. The color work is strong, with subdued colors dominating the dying Cybertronian landscape and "glowing" reserved for characters who represent the last signs of life on the planet.
The world of Cybertron shown here is a bleak and daunting one, consistent with what we've seen on the few return trips to Cybertron during the "Transformers Prime" cartoon series. The story in this issue is largely character driven, with very little movement on the actual main story itself - which is cool for a first issue. The artwork is strong, but not excessively flashy, which may turn some people off. Recommended for a different kind of comic from a corner of the "Transformers Prime" world.