IDW Publishing: Beast Wars "The Gathering" #1 Review
Cover Price: $2.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publication Date: February 2006
Written by: Simon Furman
Art by: Don Figueroa
Colors by: Josh Burcham
Letters by: Tom B. Long
Edits by: Chris Ryall & Dan Taylor
A flashback to moments from the first Beast Wars summarize what that timelost struggle involved. Our narrator is Predacon General Magmatron who arrives on ancient Earth with Drill Bit, Transquito, Iguanus, Spittor, Razorbeast and Manterror from the Cybertron of the future! Upon arrival Magmatron dispurses his troops with only Drill Bit and Razorbeast remaining with him. He orders Razorbeast to set up the equipment they brought with them. Drill Bit is alarmed when the Maximal Depth Charge appears, but Magmatron explains that the time travellers are chronolly displaced just enough so that the Maximals and Predacons currently active in the Beast Wars cannot perceive them.
As their mission gets underway, Magmatron thinks back to the events leading to this trip. Magmatron is in a base surrounded by his followers. No longer content with the terms of the Pax Cybertronia, he declares that he will work to overthrow the Maximal Imperium. However, this work is in secret as on the surface he reports to the Tripredacus Council, telling them that he is monitoring all their signals. In reality he manages to contact Tripredacus Agent Ravage shortly after he has been dispatched to Earth to capture the renegade Megatron. Once the two are in contact, Ravage sends Magmatron a planetary scan from the past.
Back on Earth the array has been set up, but Razorbeast needs time to calibrate it. As he does so he has his own flashback to Cybertron where we see him meeting in secret with Maximal Lioconvoy. Their activities are neither known to or sanctioned by the Maximal Imperium. Lioconvoy knows that Magmatron only appears to be cooperating with the Bi-partate Committee for State Affairs. Concerned with Magmatron's recruiting for an insurrection, Lioconvoy explains that Razorbeast's mission is to infiltrate Magmatron's group and do what he can to thwart his plans.
Back on Earth Razorbeast's signal is finally set. The transmitter will send a shell program to all the dormant Stasis Pods on Earth and reprogram the Protoforms within as Predacons! At each site one of Magmatron's troops observes the Transformers emerge. Iguanus watches Retrax emerge, Manterror watches as Snapper exits his pod and Transquito confirms Jetstorm is a Predacon. However, when Spittor reports something is wrong. The Protoform he sees emerge is the Maximal Polar Claw! Razorbeast's hand has been played. He transforms and gores Drill Bit before running as fast as he can. In the Artctic Polar Claw thrashes Spittor. Magmatron is infuriated and orders reports on the other emerging Transformers and a hunt for Razorbeast!
Razorbeast knows he is in trouble and sends out a signal to the Maximals to alert them to gather. Among those who hear his signal are Ramulus, K-9, Bonecrusher, B'Boom, Cybershark and Optimus Minor. Elsewhere the Predacons report to Magmatron. Wolfang is seen taking on Insecticon. Elsewhere a group of Maximals including Torca, Bantor, Armordillo and Noctorro have gathered together to answer Razorbeast's call.
Magmatron realizes what this situation has come to. It is time to unleash the Beast Wars!
The original Beast Wars series had a relatively small cast for a Transformers show. Previous shows had featured literally dozens of Transformers running around as 2D animation allowed characters to be dropped in and out of episodes at minimal expense. The CGI animation used in Beast Wars was expensive, limiting the cast size. However, this had the net effect of forcing writers to focus heavily on characterization and no characters ever became "lost" in the shuffle or ignored.
That said, one of the frustrations people often expressed with the series was not seeing a particular figure represented on the show. Hasbro (and earlier in the line's life, Kenner) released dozens more figures than the ones that appeared on the show. While Beast Wars had a satisfying ending, the Stasis Pods left on Earth from the Axalon's original dump seemed ripe as a source of having these characters emerge - but how?
It is this question which gets answered in this series. While Beast Wars' tale spanned time and involved the very past and future of the Transformers race, "The Gathering" gives us a better look at the varioius machinations going on during the age of the Pax Cybertronia. Just because Maximals and Predacons are not openly blasting each other on Cybertron, it hardly means their conflict has ended. Through Magmatron and Lioconvoy's activities we see that a secret war is still being waged, but it resembles a game of chess more than a melee.
Many characters from the two Japanese continuity Beast Wars series appear including Big Convoy, Heinrad, Lioconvoy, Killerpunch and Dead End. These were not just random cameos. Writer Simon Furman and I have mapped out a history that takes into account the Beast Wars the Second and Neo series as events that took place within Beast Wars continuity (with some level of adjustment of course). The appearance of these characters adds to the richness of the storyline and is much more satisfying to a fan than simply having random robots running around in the background.
It is also nice to have more of the government structures of the Maximal/Predacon era fleshed out. It makes sense that there would be an overall committee with both Maximals and Predacons on it, but it is also clear that the Predacons have little to no real power. Their frustration is understandable especially if you take into account how powerful their military machine once was.
Having Razorbeast play a role as a double agent was an excellent decision. Though he was one of the very first Beast Wars toys, the character has largely been ignored in Transformers history. To see him gain such a prominant role is really cool.
Of course, this issue has what the TV series did not, character appearances left and right. It is interesting to note that the characters appear regardless of classification. Fuzors, Transmetal 2's and "regular" beasts all appear. It may seem unusual at first since the TV show would often place heavy emphasis on how a Protoform became its final form. Here however it is enough to assume that the Fuzors were in failing pods and that perhaps the Transmetal 2 driver had exposed many Protoforms to its energies.
Artist Don Figueroa is very well known for his work on previous series. However, a bulk of his work has been on the more robotic looking generations of Transformers including G1. While he excelled there, he has proven himself one of the best Transformers artists out there with this series. The Beast Wars aesthetic is a very different one than G1. Most of the characters are more organic than mechanical looking. The various textures such as fur and scales require an ability to adapt an art style and he has done so briliantly.
Fans of the "War Within" series will get a kick out of Figueroa applying his skills to Beast Wars-era characters in their Cybertronian forms. Having created some of the most memorable ancient Cybertronian forms for classic characters like Bumblebee and Prowl, we get to see Don apply his skill towards Beast Wars characters. Magmatron's pre-Beast Wars design is most impressive and indeed, he has worked out just what three vehicles Magmatron would have transformed into including a submarine. Lioconvoy also looks brilliant here with a robot form suggestive of some type of lion-like vehicle mode. Big Convoy and Dead End show that he knows how to maintain the basic recognizable shape of a character but turn them into a mechanical version that is still recognizable as the beast they will become.
Figueroa's attention to detail is much appreciated. Observe that the moon he draws in Cybertron's skies is the same shown not in Beast Wars, but in its sequel series Beast Machines!
The color palette of this issue is nicely done. In comic book color schemes it parallels (not replicates) the rather bright and rich look of the TV show well. The flashbacks have a wonderfully dream-like quality to them that gives you a sense of Cybertron's rather dark look during the age of the Pax Cybertronia. This is something we received hints of during the Beast Wars series. Fortunately the Beast Wars toys were very bright and diverse in their color schemes, giving the colorist a lot to work with.
I did notice two odd lettering errors. When Magmatron reports to the Tripredacus Council, their speech trails off in one panel and seems like it continues in the next - except the word balloon winds up being ascribed to Magmatron. A similar error occurs when Razorbeast flashbacks to his meeting with Lioconvoy. In one panel we see Lioconvoy's speech balloon (incorrectly colored purple when it should be red) leading to text in the next panel that should be going to Lioconvoy, but winds up being ascribed to Razorbeast. Hopefully these will be fixed in the inevitable trade paperback of this series.
Despite two minor lettering glitches, this is a very cool kick off to a series that will fulfill fan wishes of seeing tons of beasts in action in one series. The artwork is spectacular and the inclusion of Japanese-continuity based characters is a nice nod to fans and helps to grow the Beast Wars universe. Highly recommended.