(W) Erik Burnham (A) Josh Burcham
When Bob Forward and Larry DeTillo started developing the Beast Wars: Transformers TV show, Hasbro wasn’t clear with them on whether it was going to be set on a prehistoric earth. So they put two moons in the sky of the planet where the Maximals and Predacons — descendants of the Autobots and Decepticons — crash-land at the series onset.
“OK if we decide this is going to be earth later on, we can always blow up a moon,” Forward recalls.
“And lo and behold that’s exactly what we ended up doing. And it tied into a huge story arc that made it look like we really knew what we were doing this whole time.
“And frankly no, we were scrambling constantly.”
That the show’s somewhat slipshod production churned out one of the best Transformers properties ever written is a testament to the work of its creators. But while I would argue the late 90s classic’s plotlines stand up — nostalgia goggles removed, even — no one in their right mind would say the same for the ultra-dated 3D animation.
Thank Primus that for its 25th Anniversary, IDW has decided to revisit the property with a new comic and some fresh art. Only this time writer Erik Burnham has the benefit of foresight to streamline some of the jank — and play with fan expectations.
The main plot beats of the first two issues remain much the same. Megatron and his rogues steal a priceless artifact and warp through space and time pursued by the crew of a Maximal science vessel. But now we’ve got early appearances from the Tripredacus Council and the mysterious alien Vok, two forces crucial to the plot only introduced later on in the TV show.
And the gang’s all here. Optimus Primal is written to be more headstrong and brash (and that’s not a bad thing) but Rattrap, Rhinox, Cheetor, Megatron, Dinbot, Tarantulas and the rest act faithfully to their animated precursors.
Burnham has also added two new members — both using she/her pronouns — in Maximal Nyx and Predacon Skold. In an interview that bookends issue #1, he says the team didn’t want to wait until Blackarachnia showed up to finally have female characters.
“[Skold] starts off as strong, but otherwise shy and looking for acceptance,” Burnham says. “Eventually, she’s going to come out of her shell (pun intended!) and I think at that point, if we’ve done everything right, fans will cheer.”
Issue #2 heavily features Nyx and is where the plot really starts to differentiate from the show. Dinobot’s still palling around with the Predacons while Tarantulas has picked up some “unspace” readings — the Vok, perhaps? But when Nyx excitedly takes on the chance to fly and explore the new planet in her bat-form, the plot takes another turn not seen before.
Josh Burcham’s expressive, cartoony art is brought to life with colors that pop. Character models are sharp and blocky and at first glance don’t seem to be mock-ups of the Transformers: Kingdom line of toys currently lining shelves. It’s refreshing to see a modern Transformers comic that isn’t just a vehicle to show off a product.
IDW’s Beast Wars is off to a strong start, offering a fresh take on the mythos that should entertain new readers and weathered fans alike. He’s still just getting started, but I’m excited to find out where Burnham takes the plot from here.
Will he even blow up the second moon?
- Returning cast with new additions
- Expressive, colorful art
- Plot still has surprises
- Why'd we have to wait 25 years?