Transformers: The War Within Omnibus
Written by Simon Furman
Illustrated by Don Figueroa & Elaine To and Andrew Wildman & Erik Sander with Rob Armstrong
Colored by Rob Ruffolo, David Cheung, Elliot Kravchik, Matt Huphaldt, Espen Grundetjern, Alan Wang and Rami Sunga
Lettered by Dreamer Design and Benjamin Lee
Published by IDW
Many people, probably most people, who read this site grew up on superheroes and superhero comics. I didn’t. The occasional contact with superheroes, via the erratic comic book or childhood cartoons such as SuperFriends, did little to fire the imagination of young Michael Lorah. When it comes to nostalgia for the adventurism of my childhood, nothing impacted more deeply than a cartoon series about giant robots who turned into cars smashing the bejeezus out of other giant robots that turned into … well, other stuff.
I’m not, by nature, much of a nostalgist, and have only rarely dabbled in Transformers comics as an adult. When nostalgic curiosity rears its head, however, I’m glad to find options at my local library.
Transformers: The War Within Omnibus compiles two six-issue miniseries originally published by Dreamwave Productions, now collected by IDW. (A third War Within series was begun by Dreamwave, but never concluded due to the company’s bankruptcy and collapse.)
The first half of the book details Optimus Prime’s first days as leader of the Autobots, using the title to indicate Prime’s own internal conflict over the necessity of war. The second storyline, with Optimus and Decepticon commander Megatron both assumed dead, finds the Autobot and Decepticon factions splintered into many subgroupings, and a resuscitated pre-historical robot called The Fallen pitting them against one another for his own ends.
Each story possesses some charms, but neither is compelling reading unless the reader brings some attachment to the characters and concepts. Writer Simon Furman offers only shallow insight into Optimus Prime’s preference to avoid war with the Decepticons, and storylines involving other players – notably the Transformers’ equivalent of Wolverine, Grimlock, a major presence in both halves of The War Within – tend to dominate the narrative without supporting the theme fully.
The second story, subtitled The Dark Ages, struggles to find focus. The splintered factions of Autobots and Decepticons pull in too many directions, and The Fallen’s plan requires too much back story information that I gleaned only after reading Wikipedia articles after finishing the book itself. Neither the concept of Primus nor the reason for the four apparently arbitrarily chosen robots used in The Fallen’s plot are explained in even the most elusive terms in The War Within.
The plots of both halves of the book move quickly and build to largely logical finales, despite the perfunctory character work that precludes much emotional investment in the outcome.
Current Transformers illustrator Don Figueroa handles the pencil art in the first story; long-time Transformers artist Andrew Wildman deals with the latter. Both artists create strong character designs, bulky war machines whose alternate forms present in the robotic form, yet neither artist displays much affinity for the most basic nuances of visual storytelling. A sequence of Optimus Prime ambushing Soundwave and the Insecticons lacks any perspective indicating why the villains believe they have the hero trapped, nor any indication how Prime has managed to get behind them.
In short, Transformers: The War Within Omnibus provides little beyond an exercise in revisiting childhood favorites. Nostalgia has a place, however, and fortunately the occasional foray into youthful comforts can be assuaged at your local library.