This omnibus contains the two mini-series; "The War Within" and "War Within: The Dark Ages", originally produced by Dreamwave. Story wise, it ends on a hanging note that was partially continued in "War Within: The Age of Wrath". Because the company went out of business, "The Age of Wrath" was never finished and can only be found in individual issues. If you're lucky.
But don't let that stop you from enjoying this comic!
Based off of G1 (the original cartoon and toyline, not the 2007 live action movies), it's set on Cybertron, long before the Transformers brought their war to Earth.
The war between the Autobots and the Decepticons has wrecked havoc to the surface of their planet, leveling cities and leaving countless dead. Sentinel Prime, the Autobot's leader and only hope against Megatron, has been slain. As the council turns to a seemingly simple archivist to become their new Prime, many among the Autobot forces are skeptical; will this Prime be able to end the war decisively? Will he finally put aside endless thinking and hesitating for action?
But the newly dubbed Optimus Prime has doubts of his own -- like is this world even worth the cost of life to keep it? If the Decepticons want it so much, why not leave it to them and find a new place to live? As one can imagine, this doesn't go over too well. Meanwhile in the Decepticon army, Megatron's plans for the planet of Cybertron are far deeper and more nefarious than the Autobots could imagine. He's planned for every contingency -- save treachery in own ranks.
Soon, Megatron and Optimus will find themselves looking "within"; both inside themselves, and within Cybertron itself, where lie the secrets of the very existence of their race.
Probably best enjoyed by someone already familiar with the Transformers franchise. Characters jump randomly into the story without clear introduction or act in ways that only make sense if you already know their personalities (granted, this is no help in the case of a few new characters). There's also a lot of Easter Eggs for the devoted Transformer fan. A newbie could still enjoy it, but may get lost or miss out on a lot.
That aside, it's a good story overall. Clever dialogue, a nice mix of drama and action and hints of humor. Fun and exciting! Key characters, like Optimus, Grimlock, Megatron, and Starscream get some great character-development and it's a delight to see their motivations unfold. The story tackles some pretty serious questions and moral issues, even if it doesn't get the space needed to really explore them. It's also internally consistent; stuff makes sense and useful skills don't appear out of nowhere to further the plot and then vanish again.
THE GOOD -- Very detailed and dynamic. There is a definite Japanese manga influence, but there are no Pokemon here. The backgrounds are simply stunning, showing Cybertron for the vivid, alien world it's supposed to be. Panels have depth and movement and action is easy to follow. For the most part, characters are nicely expressive, which is tough for people like Optimus and Grimlock and their lack of mouths.
I'm in love with the coloring styles. Two different styles show up in the course of the story; the first is bright and almost cartoony, but with a healthy mix of darker tones and texture to keep it from being obnoxious; the second is very much like watercolors on textured paper. As someone who's tired of the usual CG style of flat coloring with Shiny Highlights all over the place, this was a treat.
THE BAD: Megatron needs to go on a diet. Like seriously, all the characters have these ridiculous marshmallow arms and legs, with tiiiny torsos and huge racks - I mean, bumpers. It's especially glaring when an attempt at dynamic perspective or foreshortening results in Optimus's shin looking bigger than his entire body. It's distracting from the otherwise good layouts. Character expressiveness falls apart in the second story, "The Dark Ages", becoming more exaggerated and hammy. The supposedly cool-under-pressure Prowl, for one, spends a inordinate amount of time looking like he's screaming in mortal terror.
THE BOOK ITSELF:
As other reviewers have noted, there are some flaws in the book printing. The binding isn't strong enough for it's size/number of pages and the plastic coating on the cover can form cracks. My copy has ripples in it even, ugh. The interior art bleeds into the binding in several cases, which is extremely frustrating for panels that span two pages.
Otherwise, the pages are made of nice, heavy card-stock and the colors are reproduced brilliantly.