Captured in enemy territory, the Maximal Nyx must fight her way out of the Predacon base. Erik Burnham and Josh Burcham continue the story of Maximals vs. Predacons in Transformers: Beast Wars #3, and after some struggles in the earlier issues, this series finally seems to have found its footing.
Beast Wars #3 opens in the Predacon Base, the Darksyde, where Megatron commands Tarantulas to torture the Maximal Nyx. While the mad scientist is all too willing to begin experimenting on Nyx, the Predacon warrior Dinobot finds the idea of torturing an opponent to be dishonorable. Fans of the show know what to expect, but I appreciate the way Erik Burnham paces Dinobot’s turn here. This isn’t an immediate villain-to-hero moment, as Dinobot slowly grows more and more disgusted by his comrades, resulting in him giving Nyx an opportunity to flee while still not joining the Maximals. One of the problems with the earlier issues is that it felt like Burnham and Burcham were rushing to get all the pieces in play for a series that ran 52 episodes. Here, things are slowed down, which allows for more natural characterization and more room for the action.
Part of this is achieved by the fact that Beast Wars #3 doesn’t spend much time with the rest of the Maximals. There’s a three page interlude towards the middle of the book that sees how Nyx’s absence is affecting the rest of the team. None of them know quite what has happened, and while Rattrap is nonchalant about it, Cheetor and Optimus Primal butt heads. Burnham plays with the earlier idea that Primal is a newer leader, not quite sure of his own decisions, but still needing to take a firm hand with his crew. It’s an interesting change from the show, and it helps expand the character interplay between Optimus and Rhinox, who is Optimus’ mentor. Even without the dialogue, the story comes through in Josh Burcham’s artwork. You can see Rattrap’s attitude in the way he lounges and leans on every part of the ship, always talking out of the side of his mouth. And the way Cheetor starts the discussion with his hands on his hips, and then progresses to leaning across the table to yell at Optimus, before finally walking away disheartened. The body language sells the characters and the story.
This expressionism carries over into the fight scene that closes out the comic as Dinobot fights against his former allies after freeing Nyx. Dinobot dispatches Terrorsaur and Waspinator easily, with Burcham depicting both with aghast expressions as they realize just how overmatched they are. But the real fight begins when Dinobot faces off against Skold, who was created for this series. While readers haven’t gotten to know Skold quite as well as the other newcomer, Nyx, Burnham and Burcham reveal her character in this fight. Not only is she a passionate warrior, she is a capable one, dodging Dinobot’s attacks and countering with her own.
Letterer Jake M. Wood does a great job using the word balloons to help sell the flow of combat in tandem with Josh Burcham’s art. A highlight moment in the fight is when Dinobot transforms while moving backwards. Burcham uses a blurred effect in the artwork to convey Dinobot’s movement. Normally that effect is used to convey a character moving forward in the panel, towards the reader, with the less in-focus drawings taking place deeper in the frame, helping to show off a character’s speed. Here, Dinobot is blurred in the front of the frame and clearer towards the back, selling the idea that Dinobot is an experienced fighter capable of fighting off the back foot as well as the front. The dynamic between the two fighters is quickly established and the fight ends in such a way that will leave readers eager to see them meet again.
While the first two issues of the series were a little overeager to get to world building, Beast Wars #3 has a stronger sense of pacing. Both Josh Burcham and Erik Burnham seem to have found their groove with this issue. The emphasis on Dinobot helps ground the issue and let the readers get to know the characters in a way that previous issues had lacked, and the story is better for it.
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