Dreamwave Comics: "The War Within: The Dark Ages" #3

in 2004, Comic Book Review, Generation One

Dreamwave Comics

General Information:
Cover Price: $2.95 (US)
Publisher: Dreamwave Productions
Written by: Simon Furman
Pencils by: Andrew Wildman
Inks by: Erik Sander
Colors by: Espen Grundetjern and Rob Ruffolo
Letters by: Benjamin Lee

War Within: Dark Ages Issue #3 Cover
Synopsis:
Springer is not happy. As he charges at the Ultracons, knocking them aside one by one, he tells Ratbat that unleashing the powers of the Combiners again was a very bad idea. As if to illustrate Springer's point, Devastator and Defensor cause massive damage as they fight. Ratbat is not convinced by his arguments as the two continue to struggle.

Iacon, Virtue's Forum:
Jetfire is monitoring the various battles going on all over Cybertron. Trailbreaker and Bluestreak are there with him, and Trailbreaker agrees things are bad - but then again things have never really been calm on Cybertron since the wars began. The two Autobots are about to leave when Jetfire stops them, asking just where everyone else is. They explain the Autobot forces are being stretched thin, and that Prowl has led a group to investigate the new Decepticon Mobile Command Base. Jetfire realizes this is the base he himself had submitted a report on, but was never called in for. He also sees that all the battles happening aren't random, someone or something is forcing them to happen, but he can't seem to put the pattern together yet.

The Border Regions of Iacon:
Prowl, Jazz, Sideswipe, Gears, Skids and Cliffjumper enter an abandoned area of the city, not sure of what they'll find. They approach carefully, when the ground beneath them begins to rumble! Before they know it, panels are moving, the floor is shifting and a Decepticon warrior has formed: Trypticon!

The Tagan Heights:
The battle between Devastator and Defensor has not dulled at all. The two continue to pummel each other until the Wreckers are trapped by molten metal. Twin Twist begins to drill underground to form an escape route. The Wreckers hate running, but they realize that they are totally out of their league now.

Back at Autobase, Jetfire is trying to analyze all the data on the battles and disturbances erupting all over Cybertron. He realizes that he does not have enough data nor the capability to sort through the variables to come to a satisfactory conclusion. So he decides to contact someone else who can help...

Back at the battle between the giants, the fight has become even more brutal, with both giants becoming lost in the fight. Springer flies over to Defensor and tells him that he has to stop tearing the landscape apart and serve his purpose: protecting. Unfortunately, this distracts Defensor long enough to let Devastator get a powerful punch in. Before Springer knows it, Devastator is grabbing him and the Protectobots are nowhere to be found!

At Autobase, Jetfire is talking to the one other Transformer he believes can help: Shockwave! Shockwave is wary of dealing with Jetfire, who once shared many Decepticon ideals, but is now an Autobot. However, Jetfire tells him that they have no choice but to listen to reason and logic. Something is manipulating the Transformers, and Shockwave realizes it too. They agree to meet in the neutral territories in five Breems.

Back at the Heights, Springer is being wrecked by Devastator when the Protectobots appear on the scene, back in their individual forms. They hook up a line to Devastator and connect it to a power source within a building. The resulting shock knocks Devastator out, separating him into his component pieces. First Aid tells Springer that the backwash from the surge has hurt him, but that he'll recover. He then agrees with Springer, explaining that the Protectobots realize they have to understand their combined form better before another incident such as this occurs.

Inside Autobase, Grimlock watches as one screen plays Prowl pleading for help against Trypticon as another screen shows a recording of Shockwave agreeing to meet Jetfire. And either way he sees it, he's not happy!

To Be Continued...

Story:
There are two levels that this issue works on, and one is a bit stronger than the other - which turns out to be a good thing. The apparent "A" story is the general chaos breaking out all over the place on Cybertron, no doubt due to the presence of "The Fallen" and Jetfire's desire to get to the bottom of things while everyone else is blasting each other to bits. Like Jetfire, the audience is given views and some slight glimpses at situations coming to a head, but we have no clue how they're all connected (despite the fact that "we" know about the presence of The Fallen). We're also given a really cool introduction to the new "Mobile Command Center", whom long time Transformers fans will know as Trypticon.

What I found interesting is that, for the most part, this story tries to focus on characters other than the standard set of Grimlock, Bumblebee, Prowl etc. The Wreckers are the ones who get a lot of "air time", along with the Protectobots. It's really nice to see this version of the Wreckers get the attention that their predecessors only received in the UK Marvel comics. I also like the fact that these Wreckers still carry the same independent spirit the Marvel Wreckers had, taking it upon themselves to thwart the Ultracons.

So there's an "A" story, which is cool - but it's the "B" story which really grabbed my attention. In between all the fighting and thrashing about is some nice exposition that really gives an interesting view of the Cybertron of yesteryear. Perhaps one of the most interesting ideas is that the combiner Transformers were, in effect, banned from battling because they were simply too powerful and capable of mass destruction without even having to think about it. The way Devastator and Defensor thrash the area they fight in is ample proof that the combiners can be dangerous whether they're Autobots or Decepticons (or Predacons, or Ultracons etc. etc.) It's an interesting idea because this elevates the status of the combiners a bit from what we are used to. In Generation One's cartoon and comic series, generally merging of robots was treated as everything from a titanic, almost unstoppable force to a regular Transformer who just happened to be "big". This approach makes them out to be true titans among regular sized Transformers - as they should be.

A good portion of text in this issue is also dedicated to giving us a crash course in learning about Jetfire. Long time Transformers fans have at least two previous incarnations of Jetfire to draw from for reference. One was introduced in the G1 comic book series, a construct of Shockwave's who was later given life by the Creation Matrix and made into an Autobot. In the cartoon series, Jetfire was called "Skyfire", and he was a scientist and former associate of Starscream's who later joined the Autobots. Simon Furman takes this Jetfire and makes him a "new" character with qualities that echo his predecessors. This time Jetfire exists in Cybertron's distant past, and he's an Autobot whom we learn once had leanings towards the Decepticons. We also learn that he is a scientist (like his G1 cartoon predecessor) who listens to logic and reason. It is this combination that probably allows him (like Shockwave) to see that there is an underlying rationale behind everything happening on Cybertron. Having Jetfire and Shockwave form this dichotomy is interesting as once upon a time, it was Shockwave who created Jetfire in the G1 Marvel comics. I'm really curious to see just how the two (okay, if the two) figure out what's going on.

Another interesting note that's practically a throw away line involves Predacons, who are mentioned as being so numerous they're overwhelming Grimlock's Brigade in several positions. It would be interesting, if not in this series perhaps another, to see just how the Predacons work as a faction. Are they led by the five Predacons who come to form Predaking? Are they made up of Decepticons we already know but under a different banner like the Deluxe Insecticons being "Ultracons"? This type of speculating is often fun for fans as we see a past unfold that has never been addressed
before.

Artwork:

It's interesting that this series contrasts so heavily from the first War Within series in terms of visuals. In the first War Within series, there were Transformers bursting out from left and right, grandiose battle scenes and so on. Itfelt like a big, deadly circus was going on every issue. That lent to a general air of excitement, almost optimism since you knew Prime and his gang were going to triumph
there.

In contrast however. Dark Ages truly lives up to its name in visuals. Wildman and company paint a very abandoned, barren looking landscape, reflecting the sense of hopelessness and futility that seems to be permeating this time frame in Transformers history. The scene where Prowl leads the Autobots through an "abandoned" city is probably the best illustration of this. Despite having several Autobots with him, the area is so big and deserted that it really sinks in the feeling of loneliness that Cybertron seems to ooze in this series.

Don Figueroa's redesign of Jetfire deserves honorable mention here. Like his previous War Within designs, this one is inspired. He has managed to take elements of G1 Skyfire/Jetfire as well as the classic toy (which was really a Robotech Macross Veritech Jet) and meld them into one form that is unmistakably familiar. Other fans have already harped on it so I will too: the coolest part is having the Macross Veritech face be a helmet which can slide over the more familiar "Skyfire" face.

One of the nicest visuals in the issue is Bludgeon's vision of the "dark powers" that The Fallen promises. In there we see an allusion to Bludgeon's future form in the guise of a skull. We also see demon heads, one of which bears a slight resemblance to a certain Dark God. It's a very striking panel and hints at a lot in one shot.

Being, what I term an "old school" fan, I do miss one thing about Wildman's art. In the G1 comic, he often drew the Transformers as having damaged parts, bits hanging out etc. Showing the stresses of battle (and the fact that a Transformer could not run to a repair bay ever fifteen minutes). He was also big on drawing in liquids leaking from Transformers (and often, being spit by Transformers), another "worn" quality. I realize Dreamwave's style doesn't really lend itself to this, and it's no failure on the part of any of the artists, it's just something I
miss.

Final Thoughts:
A very satisfying issue. Though I did read it fast initially, going back and reading it four or five times really helped immerse me more into the "world" of the Dark Ages. It will be very interesting to see where the story goes from here!