War Within: The Dark Ages #1
Release date: October 2003
Cover variants: Two regulars, incentive, Dynamic Forces
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: Andrew Wildman (pencils) Erik Sander (inks)
Rating: Art / Story
First appearance: The Fallen, Mindwipe, Bugly, Bludgeon, Hardcase
Synopsis:By Ian Arrowsmith
Prime is determined to stop Megatron even at the cost of his own life!
Previously in The War Within, having received the Matrix and become Autobot leader, Optimus Prime defeated Megatron and prevented Starscream from activating Cybertron's mechaforming substructure.
Years later and Megatron is attempting to escape through a space bridge when Prime leaps for him. The Decepticon calls him a maniac - doesn't he realise the portal is only configured for one? Optimus knows the consequences all too well, and he plans to take out Megatron even if it means sacrificing himself. They fall into the void and there is huge explosion. The Autobots can only look on in horror as the space bridge goes up in flames.
Decades or possibly millenia later, a fireball appears over Cybertron and crashes to the planet's surface. A flaming robot known as The Fallen emerges from the ball of searing heat and reminisces it has been a long time since he was last on Cybertron.
Outside the Moon Alpha Spaceport, Kup yaps on to Grimlock about how the Transformers are supposed to be part of a grand cosmic plan, but they are a race who are standing by fighting an unending and pointless civil war. How insignificant it must seem in the grand scheme of things... Grimlock can't get a word in edgeways and is getting more annoyed. Luckily Swoop arrives and reports that two transports are coming. Grimlock reminds Kup that "right here right now it about energon" - without fuel to keep them going nothing else matters.
In the former capital of Iacon a group of Autobots return to their underground base. Hound has a new problem to report to his commander, Prowl - the Decepticon's new mobile assault base is almost operational. The Autobots will need to muster a response, but finding troops is a lot harder these days, due to all the splinter factions now on the scene.
Orbital Torus State; Kalis. Mindwipe, Bludgeon and Bugly are gathered around a couldron dabbling in some kind of ancient hocus pocus. The Fallen interupts the ceremony and Bludgeon unleashes some of the bug-like creatures they have summoned on him. The Fallen repels the attack with barely a thought and promises the trio far greater power if they would agree to serve him. They agree to be his acolytes and to help him acquire four Transformers whom he seeks for a process called 'the unbinding'.
Meanwhile two fuel-laden transports are arriving and Grimlock's Lightning Strike Coalition are waiting to launch an ambush. Starscream steps off one of the crafts expecting to be greeted by the rest of his warriors, as they will need numbers to ensure that the shipment doesn't fall into an enemy camp's hands. There's no-one around and suddenly a round object comes hurtling down. Starscream and his crew think its a bomb, but it is worse - it is the head of Hardcase (one of their number) and a full scale assault by Grimlock's men ensues. Finally the Lightning Strike Coalition retreat and Starscrem realises that his transports and their precious cargo have been stolen.
Within Cybertron: The Fallen reveals that Grimlock is to be the first. Bludgeon knows it will be hard to make the capture but they will find a way. It is the beginning.
Ian says: Well the Dark Ages are upon us. Dreamwave reunites the Wildfur duo from the end of the original Marvel run. Simon Furman had already been involved with Dreamwave quite a bit at this point but I was interested to see how Andrew Wildman would fit in. Apart from a dodgy looking Megatron on the first few pages he does quite well. His Transformers aren't as organic looking as I remember them but certainly more so than the other Dreamwave artists. Making them look 'more human' does have advantages in terms of expressionism as opposed to pure robotic forms, but obviously then you are losing the fact the Transformers are actually supposed to be robots. I think the presentation in this volume could do with a few tweaks get the right balance.
As for the Story well its good. Op and Megs were got rid of early and without much of a meal being made of it, and apart from The Fallen appearing it seems to be Simon's almost typical way of laying the seeds for various plotlines. It is executed well and has the right balance of humour, action and mystery. Overall it looks like Furman is trying to set up something grand and I'm not sure if it's going to work out with all these factions, but I suppose, there has always been certain different groups in Transformers, the Wreckers, the Dinobots, the Mayhem Attack Squad etc so we'll just have to see how it goes now that they are officially separated.
Steve says: The Dark Ages trade paperback, which was released in September 2004, sheds a little more light on the character The Fallen. It turns out he is one of 13 original Transformers created by Primus and is exiled after betraying the others. The circumstances behind this, and how he is able to return to Cybertron, and why this time in particular remain a mystery. It is a pity that these questions are not answered in the series. Both Simon Furman and Pat Lee designed the character's appearance with a medieval theme in mind, hence he looks like a suit of armour that a night would wear. The three Decepticons huddled around the couldron also bring to mind black magic and the kind of happenings you might expect in Earth's own Dark Ages. The three chosen dark disciples, Mindwipe, Bugly and Bludgeon are interesting, as this is the first time we've seen them without pretender shells and (in Mindwipe's case) a head master companion.
Andy Wildman's artwork has never appealed to me, obviously it's each to his own and I know he has a lot of fans. One thing he does do is give Transformers facial expressions, which while it doesn't always work (they are supposed to be made of metal after all) at least it is better than the identical faces drawn by Pat Lee. Dreamwave's style appears to revolve around Lee's and other artist emulate him, so it is nice to have somebody as refreshingly different as Wildman on board. I never thought I'd say that! His work has been heavily inked though, presumably to make it fit the style, and that is a shame. After going to the trouble of hiring Andy Wildman and promoting his arrival to the fans, Dreamwave should trust him enough to do draw the way he wants (a way which has been well appreciated in the past) instead of doctoring his work through the inking process. Well that's certainly how it appeared to me.
I'm not sure of the wisdom of removing Prime and Megatron from the picture, but it sends out a message that this will be a series about the supporting characters, which is no bad thing. We aren't told how much time has elapsed between their disappearance and the break-up of the Autobot and Decepticon armies, but the fact that neither leader is mourned to any great degree suggests to me that it is many months or years after. Time is not such a big deal to Transformers who have, to all intents and purposes, a degree of immortality.