Saturday, 28 September 2013

Beast Wars: The Ascending *updated*

Don't worry, you'll loose track
of these characters, easy.
Beast Wars: The Ascending

Writer: Simon Furman

Artist: Don Figueroa

Owned as Trade Paperback

Please Note: I currently do not own the first volume in this series. Everywhere I look, it seems to be out of print. *sigh*

Background Information:

I half feel like this book needs a "you know you were a kid in the 90s" meme attached to it.

See, Beast Wars was my Transformers. I loved it to the point where you could compare it to a junkie's love for heroine. The series featured one of the best franchise storylines to date, and it (as well as Beast Machines... urgh) was really the last time fans of the 80s Transformers cartoon would ever see of the “G1” continuity before it gave way to multiple reboots. The series featured the Maximals and the Predacons- future descendants of the Autobots and Decepticons, as they battled on prehistoric earth for the preservation of 80s cartoon events. It was the kind of storyline that welcomed new fans without alienating old ones and it worked a treat.

Simon Furman may be the closest thing that Transformers fandom have to an actual god. He wrote most of Marvel’s 80s Transformers comics, as well as the highly popular The War Within series for Dreamwave. For fans of Beast Wars, he’s also the dude who wrote the final episode of the series. Yep, we have him to blame for Tigahawk’s short lifespan (though thankfully not for Beast Machines- I got your back Transformers community).

Furman couldn't have chosed a better time to start work on the Beast Wars series; 2006 marked the 10th anniversary of Beast Wars: Transformers, and, well, IDW thought that was worth commemorating. In that spirit, the company hired Simon Furman to write Beast Wars: The Gathering- a story set parallel to the cartoon’s storyline featuring characters that, until now, had only appeared in the toyline and fan fiction. The series had such an effect that series hero Razorbeast saw his toy price on EBay reach insane figures (and this is for a character that transforms into a pig, something that doesn’t exactly inspire ‘coolness’ in the eyes of children).

Fast forward to 2007-2008 and it’s time to continue the story of characters that we never initially cared about with Beast Wars: The Ascending. This volume does things a little differently, not content to be restricted to toy characters, The Ascending branches out to include characters from the two Japanese spin-off cartoons, Beast Wars the Second and Beast Wars Neo.

The story is fairly simple: Magmatron, the big bad from The Gathering is stuck between time periods following the events of the previous volume. He sees a future Cybertron that is torn to shreds and decides he needs to do something about it. That something involves manipulating the timestream in order to bring the warring Maximals and Predacons of earth together to fight the evil Shokaract- a twisted robot who seems to have a sadistic god-complex going on.

And that’s really as much about the story as I can reveal to you without ruining it, because the story is simple even by Transformers standards. It thrashes anything Micheal Bay may produce, but that doesn’t mean it’s Shakespeare. At its best, The Ascending is a massive battle scene played out over four issues- which seems to be Furman’s foray. It’s an awesome battle scene, don’t get me wrong, but if you’re looking for depth in storyline, I suggest you go somewhere else.

The story’s biggest strength is its massive cast of characters: toy-only characters like Wolfang, B’boom and Snarl appear alongside lesser-known Japanese characters like Lio Convoy, Big Convoy and Longrack. Unfortunately, this cast is also the books biggest weakness; Furman seems so caught-up in trying to include as many characters as possible that he develops none of them in the process. As such, when a character dies, you don’t really care. There are some forty-something others to barrack for.

The art in The Ascending is pretty standard fare. Bright colours bring out the best in characters and Figueroa seems to have a real talent for using lighting and shadow in a way that emphasises dramatic moments. But by far the best thing about the art is seeing all of those characters on the page in a wild flurry of action. Unlike the TV show, this feels like a real beast WAR with multiple casualties and all the horror to boot.

I think the trick to enjoying The Ascending is to treat it like a nostalgic romp; a nice moment where you can temporarily revisit your childhood and experience the excitement of a favourite cartoon from the 90s. The Ascending gets four out of five robotic toys.


+ Lots of characters to look at.

+Great action.

+Nostalgia value through the roof.

-Fairly shallow.

-Next to no character development.

Alternate Pick: Beast Wars: The Gathering

If you can find it; good on you. You may be less confused than if you start on the second volume.

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