(W) Erik Burnham (A) Josh Burcham
In the original Beast Wars TV series, Dinobot is booted out of the Predacons in the first episode for questioning Megatron’s scheme. “Beast Wars (Part 1)” ends with a cliffhanger — quite literally — as the prehistoric ex-Predacon confronts Optimus Primal, demanding they battle for leadership of the Maximals on a stone bridge over a canyon.
IDW’s Dinobot, behind bars in a Maximal holding cell at the onset of issue #5, seems to reference that continuity when Optimus questions his motives on their first meeting.
“Would you prefer I’d challenge command?” he says with a smirk. “We could still battle to your death in front of the others, if it makes you feel better.”
It’s a different encounter with a different Dinobot. The robotic raptor here is as clever as ever but with some of the snarling anger that characterized Scott McNeil’s voice performance gone and replaced with slyness and humor.
We also get more of this Dinobot’s motivations in a follow-up exchange between him and the comic original Maximal Nyx, revealing his moral code in saving her and betraying the Predacons.
This first half of Issue #5 is dialogue-heavy and Dinobot-focused but in the second it morphs into one of the most action-packed issues yet as the Predacons launch an all-out attack on the Maximal base. Josh Burcham’s art does wonders to give kinetic energy to a fight featuring plenty of small character moments — a dance in the shadows between Rattrap and Tarantulas; the first (of many) throwdowns between Optimus Primal and Megatron; and — my personal favorite — Cheetor running circles around multiple foes.
This is an issue that will satisfy those looking for their fill of action or solid writing. But most of all, it serves as an exemplar of how Erik Burnham’s stewardship is a remix and refinement of the source material. Having Dinobot choose to leave the Predacons out of a sense of honor rather than getting kicked out for insubordination hones in on the core of the character more speedily than the TV series ever did.
While the plotting of the first five issues remains familiar enough, Burnham continues to play with expectations in a way that keeps the series feeling fresh and full of potential. In the last issue, Dinobot encountered a creature unlike anything that has ever existed on earth, throwing into question preconceived notions about how much the series might ape (a-ha!) the show’s larger plots.
Or, as in the case of Dinobot, how much it might improve on them.