Dreamwave Comics: "The War Within: The Dark Ages" #5

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: Alan Wang and Ramil Sunga
Letters by: Ben Lee

War Within: Dark Ages Issue #5 Cover
Synopsis:
Cybertron, the neutral territories:
The fight does not go well for Dynobot leader Grimlock. He struggles to fight The Fallen, but ultimately the powerful Transformer defeats him. Jetfire watches helplessly, asking if The Fallen comes from the ancient Golden Age. The Fallen seems amused as he knocks out Jetfire and takes him prisoner as well.

As The Fallen drags the two victims away, he tells Bludgeon and the others that his intention is to capture the fourth subject he needs himself. As the group heads out, Shockwave awakens!

Iacon:
While Skids is being repaired by Ratchet, the Autobots are discussing their defeat at the hands of Trypticon. Prowl is concerned at the rate of escalation in the war, citing combiner technology and an "experiment" in Level Zero being held prisoner. Trailbreaker remembers something Jetfire said, about how this is not random, there is a pattern to all this technological development.

Suddenly, Swoop contacts the Autobots and tells them about the meeting between Jetfire and Shockwave, and Grimlock's investigation. Now on site in the Neutral Territories, Swoop reports everyone gone. Prowl tells him to find out more and keep a channel open.

Unfortunately, the time has come for more trouble to erupt! On Level Zero, The Fallen is attacking!

Iacon:
The Protectobots are gathered studying every record they have on the combiner process, trying to understand how Defensor lost control in his last battle. Suddenly, Bludgeon, Bugly and Mindwipe attack! One by one the Protectobots are eliminated. Groove tells Hot Spot to order the combination process, but he hesitates, and that is all the time it takes for the Protectobots to be defeated!

Autobase, Level Zero:
Jazz, Sunstreaker and Mirage desperately try to stop The Fallen, but in the end, the Transformer defeats them all, and frees his prey: Blitzwing!

Above ground in Tactical Command, the Autobots try to erect a containment field but The Fallen manages to override it.
Things are looking bad.

Elsewhere:
The Fallen finally has what he needs for The Unbinding. Jetfire, Grimlock, Blitzwing and Hot Spot are all strapped down around a device that begins to fire a beam of energy to the Seal of Primus!

To Be Continued...

Story:
As a fan of the Transformers from day one, this story really brings to emphasis the type of "generation gap" that older and newer fans can experience when viewing Transformers stories. The story that is happening here echoes a tale done by Simon Furman once before in the Marvel comic book series, issue #61. In that issue, the Autobots Bumblebee, Grimlock and Jazz stumble accidentally upon their slumbering god, Primus deep inside Cybertron. Through a battle, they accidentally awaken Primus, and thus Unicron learns the location of his ancient foe.

In this case, the story works for you whether you've read this tale before or not. If you have, you know that all this is leading to Unicron possibly being given a signal as to Primus' (and thus Cybertron's) location. If you don't, then it's a mystery with bits of foreshadowing sprinkled in that tells you the big U is involved somehow in The Fallen's mission.

What that mission is becomes obvious towards the end. Somehow Primus has shielded his presence and location from Unicron thus far, perhaps in hopes that his creations, the Transformers, would be able to fight his ancient foe off or mature to a level where they could unleash Primus' power and fight alongside their creator against the Dark God. The Fallen's "Unbinding" mission obviously is meant to break the Seal of Primus and have Unicron find Cybertron before the Transformers are ready to face the Dark God.

I do like how a familiar tale is basically being retold with new elements, and it is this issue that really starts making "What's going on with this Fallen guy?" clear. Sure we older fans know "Okay, this is like issue #61" but at the same time, the path the story is being told on makes it much more interesting than an accidental teleport into Primus' lair. Of course, now the question becomes - will Primus' Seal be broken? And what will happen if it does get broken? That I'm looking forward to seeing the answer for in the next issue.

Artwork:

When I first read this issue many moons ago, it was a relief to see that many of Andrew Wildman's trademark details were incorporated into this issue. The past issues all seemed rather flat and undetailed, which is not at all his style.

Then, not too long ago I purchased one of the Wildfur art packs which include (among other things) a copy of the original pencils by Wildman before they were inked and colored. I have to say it's absolutely stunning how much of Wildman's pencil details were lost or obscured in the inking/coloring process. The biggest example of this that sticks out in my head involves The Fallen. When he's stomping down the hallway to extract Blitzwing, Wildman's original artwork has tons of lines, indentations and cracks drawn on The Fallen that were simply lost upon coloring. Some details were obscured by the computer added effects such as burn marks while others were simply obscured because of the overall dark color of The Fallen.

On the plus side, character facial expressions are preserved rather well in this issue from Wildman's original line art to the final product. Some of the most expressive scenes involve Prowl, who you can see agonizing over his decisions and the situation around him. Unfortuantely, even with this positive light, some things are lost. In one scene, Bludgeon is talking and it's a great close up of his face, details in all. But in the original pencils we see bits of armor coming off of him (another Wildman trademark), a detail lost in the final colors.

While the artwork in this issue overall (pencils, inks and colors together) is a huge improvement over previous issues, it's sad knowing how much visual candy readers are never getting to see. It would have been better if some of the computer effects were kept out and instead lighter shades had been used to emphasize details such as damage and cracks.

Quick Hits:

  • On the cover, Blitzwing's cell door has the number "D-43" on it. This was his toy designation in Japan during the run of G1 toys.
  • In a huge bit of foreshadowing, The Fallen's shadow in the last page forms a sillouette of Unicron!

Final Thoughts:
On the story side, it's great to see the pace pick up and The Fallen's true mission revealed. It's cool to see that The Fallen's mission is something i>other than conquest or taking over Cybertron etc. The artwork definitely has picked up a notch in this issue, but for reasons stated above, I don't believe we received the full potential of the artwork that we could have. Believe it or not, this isn't a bad point to read the series even if you missed the previous issues since the emphasis is on The Fallen and past issue events are recounted briefly.