Drift: Empire of Stone #4 Preview and Review!
Written by: Shane McCarthy
Breakdowns by: Guido Guidi
Pencils pages 5-10 by: Marcelo Ferreira
Finishes by: Stephen Baskerville
Colors by: John-Paul Bove
Letters by: Tom B. Long
Editor: John Barber
To stop the nihilistic Hellbat from using the
Rock Lord stone army to murder pretty much everything, Drift and Ratchet team up with Grit and Gigatron! Victory will be determined by who lives through the battle! It’s tough to summarize big final battle issues without giving away spoilery details, and the fight begins on the first panel.
So just to start out, I’m now firmly convinced that this is indeed meant to be an 80s-style retro adventure romp. I can’t say why without spoilers, but trust me that you’ll know the moment when you see it. This is somewhat gratifying in that it explains a lot about the book on every level, but also bothersome because if the “throwback” story had been well-done I wouldn’t be asking the question until the last issue. It also doesn’t do a lot to mitigate the art, which quite frankly would have been pretty ugly even back in the 80s. It’s just not a good look and I’d be perfectly happy to have this art team that I know can do amazing work never revisit it.
So with things all wrapped up, what did I think? Well, it was okay. As I said in the review of the previous issue, I think this is a story that will read better in one sitting. At its core I feel the story is a fun little adventure movie, not a serial. It’s not that it’s bad, not at all, but there’s nothing really meaty here either. Unfortunately, our titular hero is to blame for said lack of meat. For all his pontificating about his place in the universe, Drift… just pontificates. His inner monologue and his actions never seem to gel and I don’t really believe this internal struggle he keeps talking about is actually happening.
The external struggle is similarly unbelievable. Hellbat and the stone army just never feel like a credible threat. They have overwhelming numbers, but… so what? Individually the stone soldiers aren’t that tough and we’re not given any reason to believe they can make it off a planet that has nothing living on it. Drift says a lot of people will die unless Hellbat is stopped right then, but it sure seems like no one is in danger but them. Why can’t they take off and have the place nuked from orbit?
Gigatron is similarly problematic. We’re clearly supposed to believe he’s a badass, but a lot of that potential is wrapped up in his former incarnation in Car Robots/Robots in Disguise. We “know” he has six or even ten forms, but this guy never uses them. We “know” he’s a reasonably competent strategist, but this guy seems content to sit on his butt trusting that Hellbat hadn’t discovered the stone army that was right down the hall. His brilliant plan was… to do pretty much what Hellbat was going to do with them. Why doesn’t he just go along with Hellbat? Why is Hellbat going to the effort of betraying Gigatron when they have fundamentally the same plan? I really don’t know.
I maintain that Ratchet could have been any of a hundred different characters without changing a single thing in the story. I get the feeling a generic role was written and Ratchet was slotted into it because Roberts said he could spare the character for a bit.
Grit is without a doubt the standout highlight of the series. Every panel and line with him was a joy. My only true complaint about him is that he’s supposed to be the big dumb comic relief, but he all too often seems to be the smartest guy in the room. If it were intentional it would be hilarious. Well, more hilarious.
Ultimately, this book felt like it had a lot of near misses and didn’t quite succeed at any of the things it tried to do. I think it’s worth a read, and it has just enough going for it that re-reading it down the road should be fun. However, despite a solicit that promises this story will change everything forever I don’t get the impression that it will mean much to the overall narrative of the IDW Transformers universe. I can’t say that I’m terribly bothered by that.
Favorite Line: “You turn against your own kind and for what?!” “You’re not… my… kind.”–Vanquish and Grit, possibly making an oblique Micromaster Combiner joke.