Dreamwave Comics: "The War Within" #1

in 2003, Comic Book Review, Generation One

Dreamwave Comics

General Information:
Title: Transformers The War Within #1
Cover Price: $2.95 (US)
Publisher: Dreamwave Productions
Written by: Simon Furman
Pencils by: Don Figueroa
Inks by: Elaine To and Don Figueroa
Colors by: Rob Ruffolo
Graphic Design by: Kevin Lee
Letters by: Dreamer Design

Synopsis:
Sentinel Prime has fallen and the Autobots are without a military leader. Meanwhile, in one of the few safe parts of Cybertron, Optronix is hard at work inputting data as Bluestreak chats on and on about the Decepticon leader Megatron. To Optimus, the war is about facts and figures, to Bluestreak, it is a nightmare.

Elsewhere, in the city of Altihex, a small Autobot force led by Grimlock is being pounded by Decepticons. Covering an evacuation headed up by Bumblebee and Trailbreaker, the Autobots manage to evacuate the city just as it is destroyed. Grimlock is upset, concerned that more and more, the Autobots are losing ground in this Great War and that they need a leader who can handle the rigors of such a war.

Inside The Chamber of the Ancients, Optronix has been brought forth to be named as the next Prime. He is skeptical however, not believing in the Matrix or the possibility that there is a sentient mind behind it. The elders explain that the Cybertronian war is just a part of a much more vast and complex series of events in the universe. They do their best to help Optronix understand what his true purpose is.

Elsewhere, Grimlock meets up with Prowl and Jazz. He explains that he wants to judge the new Prime for himself, feeling that the old mystical ways of the Autobots need to be set aside for more practical ways.

Inside the Oracle Tank in Iacon's Stellar Galleries, Optronix seeks guideance. He is not completely convinced that Cybertron is worth fighting for. Despite his feelings, later he is presented with the Matrix in the Chamber of the Ancients. When placed into his body, he grows and changes into Optimus Prime!

The Autobots are not alone however, a squad of Decepticon assasins have broken in. Consisting of three warriors: Darklight, Umbra and Backbite, they quickly slice off Skid's hand and knock Bumblebee aside. Kup and Hound manage to dispatch of one Decepticon, but the other two take Prime on. Grimlock tells the other Autobots to hold back, wanting to see what the new Prime is made of.

Optimus Prime fights off the two assassins, but when he asks for information, the remaining Decepticon commits suicide. Frustrated, Prime tosses the dead body aside. The Autobots are impressed at first, but then Prime tells them that the war is lost and that Cybertron must be abandoned, leaving the Autobots in shock.

Deep underground, a force awaits Optimus Prime...a force named Megatron!

Review:

Story:
Being a fan from the days of Generation One, I spent many, many years reading Simon Furman's work on the American Transformers comic and I remember desperately hunting down copies of his UK issues. The reason for this was simple: his writing was awesome. He took Transformers and did more than just make them faceless robots bashing each other into bits, he took them and turned them into science fiction characters involved in story arcs much larger than any one individual.

In "The War Within", Furman does it again. This time, we are taken back to an age that is somewhat familiar, but a timeline all its own. Instead of Orion Pax, we have an unwilling Autobot leader. This issue only introduces us to him, and shows us his reluctance to be the great leader that Transformers fans know he will eventually become. There is a particular frustrating element to Optronix. We the audience know that he will become an incredible leader with amazing adventures. However, this young Autobot and young version of Optimus Prime is not what we expect. Unlike past
iterations of Prime which show him as heroic from the outset, we are introduced to a Prime whose first inclination is to give up. This is a far cry from the Prime who we would know later, one who would never surrender. However, it is this frustration which drives us and makes the story compelling. Despite all the death and destruction that awaits the Cybertronians in the great war, we know we are seeing the emergence of a great leader.

Another character Furman has traditionally made interesting is Grimlock. Furman has always written the Dinobot leader as a rebellious type, with the ability to do the right thing when the going got tough. Here he is shown as a competent squad leader, and we see where some of his seeds of resentment against Prime are sown. Though they do not heavily interact yet, you can feel the tension between the two characters leap off the page.

Furman also makes sure that the personalities of other characters remain intact. Despite overwhelming odds, Bumblebee is not ready. to flee Altihex, showing his bravery. In the beginning, we see Bluestreak prattling on, something his tech specs said he had a tendency to do in Generation One. These touches are both welcome and truly appreciated.

This issue serves as an introduction, but it feels much more dense than that. We also run into several Furman staples
of Transformers storytelling: characters being killed off in battle, Grimlock's rebellious streak, A city with the word "hex" in it somewhere and even sound effects ("Skree-ak" and variations on it are often the death calls of Transformers at the hands of Furman). Seeing these elements again makes me feel like I'm welcoming an old friend back into my imagination.

Artwork:

In creating the artwork for "The War Within", Don Figueroa had a daunting, yet exciting task: recreate classic characters in "new" forms while maintaining the integrity of the character. I am of the opinion that Don approached this task from one of the best possible perspectives: a long time Transformers fan. Each character, though different, retains some visual cue that immediately tells you who he is. Optimus Prime's face is unmistakeable, Bumblebee's horns and small stature sets him apart from other Autobots while Grimlock is a vehicle, but no less animalistic looking thanks to the "teeth" on his mouthplate.

Fans will also notice that Don has used some alternate forms that we saw in the original Generation One episode "More than meets the eye". These include the vehicle modes of Jazz, Bumblebee, Wheeljack and the Decepticon seekers. Of course, he did not merely copy those forms, he used them as a base and improved on them. Other nice homages include
two older Autobots (Kup and Ironhide) having the "windshield in front of your face" designs attributed to an older Cybertronian design aesthetic. These type of design decisions are those that could only be done by a long time fan,
or an artist who chose to do his research.

Don's command of action is apparant here. He knows how to make one panel flow into the other, all the while using exaggerated angles and perspectives. This is very impressive work and I wish Don a lot of success in his career.

Neat Stuff:

  • Sentinel Prime is the name of an Autobot leader who was mentioned in the Generation One comic book series.
  • In the opening shot of Cybertron, we are treated to a group of easter eggs: A Vehicon symbol, the Japanese Transformers logo, a Maximal symbol and several symbols which look like proto-Autobot symbols.
  • The drones milling about in the background as Bluestreak is talking are the drones Megatron used in "Beast Machines".
  • Grimlock's "teeth" are meant to allude to his future form as a Dinobot.
  • Ironhide's design is loosely based on the toy design, which featured the "face behind a windshield" design.
  • As the Autobots retreat from Altihex, three figures can be seen in the background. The middle one, though painted like the Insecticon Shrapnel, is really meant to be the deluxe Insecticon Ransack.
  • In the Chamber of the Ancients, the words "Till all are one" are written on the wall (in somewhat altered text).
  • Optimus Prime refers to a sentient lifeforce within the mainframe, could this be a reference to the Transformers god, Primus?
  • Guarding the Stellar Galleries are two Guardian Robots, the Cybertronian warriors of whom Omega Supreme was a member.
  • The elder uses a device shaped like the "Key to Vector Sigma" to open up the Matrix compartment.
  • One of the three assasins is loosely based on the Galvatron toy design (Backbite), note the ring around his neck.
  • When the Decepticon assasin is thrown against the wall by Prime, look at the designs on his leg. That is the Japanese Microman logo, a line which has a history with the Transformers. Many of the original Generation One Transformers toys started out as toys from the Microman line.
  • Cybertron's moon as shown in this issue resembles the moon fans saw in "Beast Machines", and not the more city-like
    designs of Transformers: The Movie.

If you are a fan of the original Transformers series, you owe it to yourself to purchase this comic now and read it. It shows that an incredible Transformers project can be assembled with the right talent and background. It is also quite extraordinary that this title was created at all if you consider that there are no "War Within" toys on shelves. This is a title that is clearly a fan-love-fest, and I intend to enjoy every second of it!