The War Within Preview
Release date: August 2002
Cover variants: Starscream
Writer: Simon Furman
Artwork: Don Figueroa
Rating: Art / Story
First appearance: Emirate Xeon, Maul
Synopsis:By Omega Steve
Starscream spots his old buddy Grimlock and can't resist a hello!
Cybertron: four million years ago. Grimlock sits engrossed in his thoughts at the ruins in Kaon where he once fought as a gladiator. Soaring overhead is his old colleague from those dark days - Starscream, who has since sign-up to the Decepticon cause under Megatron. He transforms and lands and then proceeds to tease Grimlock about his nostalgia for the good old days. Starscream's new colleagues Skywarp and Thundercracker look on, convinced it is a bad idea to be conversing with a member of the enemy camp. Their outspoken colleague blusters on about how Grimlock doesn't belong alongside no-hopers like Optimus Prime and the Autobots. He should join the Decepticons instead and enjoy the power, status and unlimited freedom to maim and kill that this brings.
Grimlock tires of all of this and lashes out at Starscream - sending him flying. The Decepticon picks himself up and stupidly presses the point by telling Grimlock about their mission. They are on their way to take out an Autobot command post in sector zero six and Grimlock can warn his Autobot friends or he can come along and join in the fun. Skywarp is horrified at the ommision but Starscream is confident that Grimlock will give in to his inner beast. With that the jets transform and continue on their way leaving the Autobot clenching his fists in anger.
We jump back several thousand years to the period before the civil war when Cybertron was at peace. Below the surface an arena established by Megatron is drawing huge crowds for its fights to the death. Backstage finds Starscream giving Grimlock some unwanted advice that he should start killing his opponents because people are starting to question his commitment. Grimlock ever a being of few words puts Starscream straight by grabbing him by the throat before picking up his weapons and going out to fight. Emirate Xeon, a member of Cybertron's ruling council, skulks in to pick up his bribe from Starscream as payment for turning a blind eye to the illegal games. His example proves that no-one is beyond corrupting and this is a lesson he is reminded of years later, following the encounter with Grimlock.
The jets arrive at the command post only to find it deserted. Something is not right. Then Grimlock's face appears on the monitor screens telling Starscream that he warned everyone and it wasn't a hard choice at all. True he always had a lot of anger to unleash, but with the war on he now has an outlet and can exist quite comfortably in the ranks of the Autobots. After all they are better than the alternative. The Decepticons get into a blind panic and frantically look for the exit as we see the building suddenly self-destruct!
At first glance 28-pages for the same price as a regular sized issue might not seem like good value. But this is a fantastic little comic. Anyone who considers themselves a Transformers fan is sure to love Grimlock and Starscream in their original forms and the insight into the early days on Cybertron that this story gives. I wasn't aware that there was a dynamic between Starscream and Grimlock but apparently they have a lot in common, having both been through Megatron's unofficial recruiting grounds, the arenas. They are clearly very different personalities though, with Starscream fighting for his own selfish enjoyment and greed, while Grimlock is your angry loner with a conscience. Starscream underestimates him and as usual overestimates his own powers of perception to his cost. He truly is an idiot, telling Grimlock what they are up to and nearly killing the unit (we find out in issue 3 that Skywarp is able teleport them all outside before the explosion). Reading the preview also explains who Xeon is and I imagine anyone who read issue 2 first would have wondered.
What really makes this comic a gem, other than the story, is the additional contributions from Simon Furman the writer and Don Figueroa the artist. Simon has penned a two-page introduction where he explains that he could have chosen any number of stories to tell, but this allowed him to be sufficiently different to the rest of Dreamwave and delve into a rich and largely untapped vein. He notes that there have been stories that have alluded to the early days before, notably the cartoon episode War Dawn, but this one will shake things up more. It is a rare thing to get an insight into the workings of the great Simon Furman, who has probably done more to make Transformers the enduring property it is today than anyone. So the War Within is to be about the likes of Optimus Prime, Grimlock, Megatron, Starscream and how they came to be the characters we know and love. Furman asked the question: was Optimus always this great and earnest leader. What if he doubted whether Cybertron was worth fighting for in the early days? "The truest hero is the one that don't yet know their own self" he writes.
In addition there is a Q&A with Don Figueroa talking about how he designed the TFs retro modes to look like they would convincingly transform and we've got five pages of concept sketches to back up the point. And they look awesome! It is a shame that Devastator doesn't make it into this War Within series but as we now know, he does turn up in the sequel. All in all this preview comic is a great start to one of the most eagerly awaited stories for years and a potential future collectors item.