Review: Transformers Beast Wars Vol 1. Savage Landings

 Que the electric guitar riff!

Written by Erik Burnham, Art by Josh Burcham

IDW's Transformers comics used to be in my monthly pull. I don't have that much of a connection with the toys themselves, I had a couple as a kid but nothing special. I did stumble across The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, Transformers: Lost Light for its final 25 issues, and enjoyed it thoroughly. When IDW restarted its entire continuity in 2019 however I stopped reading. I checked out the first issue of this new continuity, which I even did a review for back when I still did single-issue reviews, but that didn't really do it for me. It was good, very good even, but it just didn't have that spark I was looking for. I flicked through some other books since then but nothing managed to light that spark for me. Until Beast Wars that is!

In celebration of the series' 25th anniversary, IDW launched a reboot, a retelling, of the original cartoon. It grabs the setup of the original story but puts its own spin on it by introducing new characters for example. Is it worth a read?

 Let's dive in.

As a returning Beast Wars fan, as someone familiar with the original Beast Wars cartoon, the story is very interesting. Issue 1 is fairly faithful to the pilot episode. It shows more or less the opening of the pilot while showing more of the Predacons and Maximals before their crash. Starting from issue 2 though, the story diverges. The outcome of Savage Landings is still the same as that of the pilot episode but the journey to it is different. This is either a good or a bad thing, depending on your viewpoint.

If you’re somewhat of a Beast Wars purist I can see you find the story to be inferior to the original. It is, on the whole, not as tight. Doesn’t have quite the same momentum as the original. The comics are also missing some of the originals ‘spark’ simply by the difference in medium. No voice acting means no Garry Chalk, no David Kaye and no Scott McNeil whose performances added a lot to make that original Beast Wars work. The action suffers from this as well. It isn’t bad but does leave something to be desired as I find it to be rather stiff even for a comic fight.

Even with these problems, which are far from egregious, I very much enjoyed Savage Landing. Even if not every decision lands the writing is still very good and the story is interesting. I like the new ideas that are brought to the table, big and small. The way Dinobot’s story plays out is an improvement over the original if you ask me. It’s given more time and fits his character much better. There´s also a lot of background setup going on here which, thankfully, doesn´t interfere with the story itself. It´s mostly done through the use of visual easter-eggs and references. A nice little thing for returning readers to get excited about.

Maximals, maximize!

And I must applaud Burnham for is his handling of the characters. One of the flaws of the original is how it tended to brush over certain characters. From the original line-up, Scorponok got buried by the depth and attention characters such as Megatron and Rattrap got while Terrorsaur didn’t get anything beyond being Starscream 2.0. The story doesn´t give either of them a big focus but in the panels, they are established rather well. I’m also very intrigued by newcomers Nyx & Skold. They are 2 Fembots created specifically for this new series. Per the newsletter segment that is included in the back of the individual issue releases, this was done to give the series some more female representation. The original only had 2 women during its entire run, both of whom took a while to even show up. They are this books biggest wild cards and I’m intrigued to see where their stories go.

I’ve already dabbled a little bit but there’s more to it than just the action sequences. The art is stylized. Every character in the book is based on an old Beast Wars, even Nyx and Skold are based on old toys though with adjustments, but it's far from a 1:1 look, unlike other Transformers books. It has lots of sharp lines, thick outlines and some extra lines here and there to give everything some detail. The colouring is rather grainy making for a style that I personally refer to as ‘sketchy’. It’s good stuff that allows for a lot of expression in the faces just not really my thing.

Conclusion

Transformers Beast Wars Savage Landing is a solid start. It has an interesting story, one that takes the Beast Wars basic but with enough new going on to make it a worthwhile investment. It has its stumbles but also does a lot right and even improves aspects of the original Beast Wars pilot and beyond. This new Beast Wars is worth your time, regardless if you're familiar with Transformers Beast Wars or not.

I do hope that this series will get the time, the number of issues, it needs to build itself up. The book reminds me very much of More than Meets the Eye in that it has a lot of potential but didn't quite hit its stride after a few issues. When it not only found that sweet spot but it could start paying off some of its teases and setups. If it gets this time we could see this series turn into an epic in and of itself.

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