IDW Publishing: Beast Wars "The Gathering" #3 Review
Cover Price: $2.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publication Date: April 2006
Written by: Simon Furman
Art by: Don Figueroa
Colors by: Josh Burcham
Letters by: Tom B. Long
Edits by: Chris Ryall & Dan Taylor
Optimus Primal, Cheetor and Rhinox are gathered outside the entrance to the volcano. The Maximal leader senses something, but he can't quite put his finger on it. In reality, he is sensing the approach of four Maximals, Razorbeast, Bonecrusher, Optimus Minor and Snarl! The four are heading to the Ark to recover equipment they will need to send a signal to Cybertron alerting them to Magmatron's plans. While Snarl suggests that they use equipment from the Maximals (which would be more compatible), Razorbeast argues it would be potentially more disruptive to the timestream.
A squad of Predacons led by Transquito works through swampland, searching for Maximals. When they see an owl fly by they believe they have found their quarry. The immediately go on the offensive, firing at the beast. Suddenly, Poison Bite leaps out of the swamp, transforming and attacking Retrax! Soundwave locks Powerpinch in his jaws, tearing his leg off. Transquito approaches Icebird, believing he is catching the Mutant unaware. But the Mutant leader is no fool, and quickly turns the tables on the Predacon by transforming into his bear mode and attacking! Insecticon and Scourge run for it, knowing when they are clearly beaten.
Deep in a jungle, Magmatron, Iguanus and Drill Bit look over a fallen Stasis Pod containing a blank Protoform. They insert Ravage's Spark and soon, a new Transmetal 2 Ravage emerges! His plan is to use the Predacon agent to help him in his mission as he captures Megatron to send back to the Tri-Predacus Council as a distraction while he focuses on his own plans.
Inside the Ark, the Maximals gather the parts they need. Snarl launches a sensor drone which detects three Predacon signatures heading towards the Predacon base. Magmatron is on the move - after Megatron!
Near the Predacon base:
Megatron, Rampage and Inferno return from a successful mission. As his troops head to the base, Megatron stops, having detected something. Suddenly, Magmatron appears, coming out of his chronal displacement! The two battle briefly, but Drill Bit and Iguanus also appear, getting the drop on Megatron. After the placing a chronal displacement unit on Megatron, the four Predacons disappear from view, leaving Inferno and Quickstrike confounded.
Realizing Magmatron's plan could potentially disrupt any signal he sends to Cybertron, Razorbeast decides to go with Optimus Minor to stop Magmatron from sending Megatron back to Cybertron. He puts Snarl and Bonecrusher in charge of getting the parts back to their base. In hopes of recruiting more help, Razorbeast uses his call signal again, hoping there are nearby Maximals who can help.
Ravage is gathered with Lazorbeak, Sky Shadow, Buzz Saw, Jetstorm and Injector. He dispatches the group to find the Maximal lair, but tells them not to attack. The fliers disperse and the hunt is on!
Ramulus, Wolfang and B'Boom wait (rather impatiently) hoping for some battle soon. Little do they know Ravage's team will soon be right on top of them!
Magmatron has a Transwarp gate set up to go off in ten Cycles. This device will send Megatron back to modern day Cybertron. The platform will then self destruct, preventing anyone from following the trail back to ancient Earth. Razorbeast and Optimus survey the situation, and Razorbeast comes up with a plan. He needs a distraction however. Then, as if on cue - a Maximal shows up to disrupt the proceedings. Large, powerful and angry - Grimlock has joined the Beast Wars!
This issue truly made me wish what we were working with here was either an ongoing title or a maxi-series of say, twelve issues. I understand the need for getting a lot done at once (and throwing in action to boot), but so many multiple storylines are running here that it is almost distracting from the core story of Razorbeast getting his signal sent to Cybertron to thwart Magmatron's plans.
A lot happens in this issue, and pacing-wise it is a bit chaotic. One moment we are at relative peace, watching characters discuss some plot point, then we're thrown into action pieces with other characters and so on. This is not a criticism so much as an observation. Unlike the G1-centric "Infiltration" that can drag on an entire page over one character making a decision or talking about something, every panel here has to be used to maximum effect to push the story points along. Given that, certain action pieces are welcomed to break the potential monotony.
As an example of a scene that could have been it's own issue (or a B story to an A story in one issue) is the sequence with the Mutants. While much of fandom doesn't think much of the Mutants, I love them as a small subset of characters. They are weird, have an interesting back story/goal and I love how they are their own little faction. Having them claim a patch of land of their own is appropriate - and most of all I love how they surprise the Predacons. In a conflict such as the Beast Wars, it is easy for the disguise aspect of the Transformers stories to be lost (especially with more "out there" looking Transformers such as the Transmetals). Here we see how the Mutants use surprise in their own ways to deadly effect.
One sticking point some fans have commented on is Razorbeast's decision to use parts from the Ark instead of the Axalon. Some people feel that either choice makes little sense. However, I think the Ark makes perfect sense. The Axalon is still inhabited by the Maximals who are very much conscious - and will be leaving Earth relatively soon since this all takes place during Beast Wars' third season. On the other hand, the Ark is going to be kicking around a volcano for tens of thousand of years. And virtually any continuity you go with, part of the Ark is going to wind up sticking out of the volcano, so there's going to be quite a bit of shake up going on, and a few parts smaller than a Maximal are hardly going to be missed. I grant that maybe one of those parts could be some crucial piece that Wheeljack uses in an invention or something way down the road - but all of time and space didn't start warping around Bonecrusher when he had the parts on his back, so it's doubtful the effects were harmful (if there were any at all).
Another sticking point is the Big Grim himself popping up at the end of the series. His presence was hardly a shock as a cover for issue #2 already showed his eventual arrival. Personally, I think it's neat. Most fans think it's a bit too "fanwanky" of Simon to use the character, but let's put this in context. First: the goal of this series is to bring in most of the toys/characters not used during the Beast Wars TV show - Grimlock is among them. Second: When Simon was planning this series, he asked me very specifically if Grimlock had any association with the original. He was prepared to write the character as a totally new entity. However, I told him that (according to Hasbro's tech specs) this was indeed THE Grimlock. This was borne of Hasbro's original tech spec, so Simon just ran with it. Also, why not have fun with one's favorite character? I look forward to the Magmatron/Grimlock brawl!
Magmatron's capture of Megatron was perfectly executed. He utilized Megatron's primary weakness: his arrogance, and used it against him. Megatron was sure he could win, only to be beaten because he did not give Magmatron enough credit to think he would bring backup. If Magmatron could appear out of nowhere, so could backup - and rather than call for help, Megatron just launched into the situation himself. Very well played. On a side note, Megatron's comments indicate this takes place during the time of the episode "Changing of the Guard", where the Sentinel security system was taken from the Maximals to be used in the Predacon base.
I can go on and on about how much I love Don Figueroa's pencils, but I think at this point that would just be repetitive, so I will spare everyone. I could also go on and on about how I love Josh Burcham's bright colors and how vibrant they are - but I've done that in previous reviews - suffice it to say these things remain firm in this issue.
This issue presented Don with some interesting artistic choices. You can tell he's a true fan because he knows what these figures look like, and from their fluid, well drawn appearances you know the artist at hand is comfortable with the subject matter. On the Maximal side, Wolfang's robot mode is an example of this. Notice he uses the figures' "Mutant Head", sizing down the exaggerated chin piece and then giving the character a dark, sleek look by having his visor down. With Icebird, note how different the bear mode looks compared to Polar Claw. He worked in details from the figure such as the smaller head and the long red (threatening looking) claws.
On the classic G1 front, we get to see two characters "reborn". Ravage's form is based on the Tripredacus Agent figure, which itself was a redeco of Transmetal 2 Cheetor. He manages to differentiate the figure from its source by keeping the beast mode head in robot mode - a carry over design homage to the CGI model used for Ravage which utilized Tigatron's beast mode head.
Grimlock's design is largely based on the figure, but he is much more bulked up, giving him the threatening appearance Grimlock deserves. It also keeps him from looking like a Dinobot clone. In an effort to blend a tiny bit of (what I call) "scifi" accuracy, Don also drew on a few feathers on the edges of the head and body, playing to current theories that raptors may have had feathers. I like this interpretation a lot, especially since it gives Grimlock his own distinct appearance.
Overall this is a fun, smashing issue with lots of threads going on at once. It's a bit dizzying, and makes you very conscious that there is only one issue to go. If this had been a longer series (say 12 issues) I would probably not forgive the pace as much, but given its limitations, this issue works very well. Pick it up today!