Transformers Beast Wars is – forgive the choice of phrase – a strange beast when compared to the preceding forms the franchise took. Beast Wars and its immediate successor Beast Machines however form a certain maturation of the franchise both in the storytelling and the technology used to deliver those stories. Beast Wars is twenty-five years young this year and to celebrate IDW revisited the series in comic form. IDW’s prior Beast Wars comics ran parallel to the TV series via some ingenious storytelling by the legendary Simon Furman.
This time long-time IDW contributors Erik Burnham and Josh Burcham have hopefully put their stars into ascendence with their retelling of the main Beast Wars narrative. Issue one was astounding if not divisive. My favourite takeaway was the realization and build-up to what became Beast Wars Megatron’s Ozymandias moment. Coming to read issue three without reading the second is a little uncomfortable. A lot must have happened in the second issue. The main content of the issue is also a little discomforting. Does this make the comic a bad one? No. Not at all.
As you may recall I said Beast Wars was a maturation for the Transformers franchise. Particularly in storytelling. One of those more mature aspects was the nature and portrayal of the antagonists – now called Predacons – and their evil schemes. At times yes the Predacons were at best as low-key menacing but mostly out loud laughs bumbling and comical as their predecessors. There were however also some genuinely dark moments in their machinations. This comic perfectly illustrates one of these.
Tarantulas is the Predacon’s resident mad scientist, however, he is potentially also a member of their secret police. These two combined often result in situations not too dissimilar to the one presented in this issue. The Maximal Onyx – a new addition to the cast – is currently captured and being tortured by Tarantulas and Megatron. One of the original series’ main draws was the redemptive journey of Dinobot. Here his reasons for and eventual parting ways with Predacons are given a quick revision. The impact however is much the same as in the original broadcast episode. A cliffhanger moment where we wonder what will become of this now kind of cool and honorable soul.
Josh Burcham’s art is personally for me one of the big draws of the comic. I like his dynamic, vibrant, animated, geometric look. Not everybody does, which is a shame. Josh has done enough guest stints or cover art gigs that his aesthetic portrayal of the denizens of Cybertron should really be as well-received as that of say Geoff Senior or Alex Milne. His colouring choices are on par with his drafting. I may not have liked what they were up to, but at least the Predacons looked pretty.
If I were to have one critique it would be that – to paraphrase Gail Simone – fridging Onyx to spur Dinobot on does seem a little redundant. Perhaps even a little 90s. Which begs the question if that was maybe the point seeing as Beast Wars was a product of the 90s itself. To me having the torture seem to be so much the focus of the issue, upon reflection, evokes feelings I haven’t felt since Alan Moore’s Providence.
Of course Alan said art should make us feel uncomfortable or challenged. So, while I may not be a big fan of watching male characters gloating as they torture a female prisoner, I can safely guess that it won’t be the sole content or theme of the series as a whole. That certainly wasn’t the case with the TV series. If anything I will probably now catch up on the second issue to understand said torture’s context, then keep an eye on where this series is headed.
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