After he and Ratchet are taken prisoner by the Decepticon Gigatron, Drift is given a chance to win their freedom - by rejoining Gigatron as a Decepticon and leading him to a hidden army Drift discovered long ago. Drift: Empire of Stone #2, written by Shane McCarthy, breakdowns by Guido Guidi, finishes by Stephen Baskerville, and colors by John-Paul Bove.
Long ago, Deadlock and Turmoil find themselves crashed on an unknown planet, but they're not alone, as Deadlock discovers a stone citadel inhabited by mysterious entities. In the present, Gigatron stands before Drift and Ratchet in the same fortress, demanding Drift join him and help him unleash the power of an army hidden within the structure so they can use it to go forth and conquer once again in the Decepticon name.
Everything wrong with Gigatron as a character all conveniently collected in a single page.
So there is at least a reason for Gigatron to have a crew on this planet, based in a castle in the middle of a lifeless desert, but that's about as far as we get. Gigatron is extremely flat, his presented motivations lacking any kind of depth or complexity that would help make you care. In one sense this could be justified by needing a character whose sole purpose in the story is to make Drift turn, except that there's no sign that Drift would ever truly go back to being Deadlock which makes writing Gigatron this way pointless. Another possible out is that Gigatron is meant to be seen as being absurdly single-minded and unable to consider or comprehend anything that falls outside that one, narrow vision. But whether that's intent or not, it's bad character writing. The issue seems to make a case for something along that line being the truth, but it comes off like the minimum amount of effort required was put towards setting that up. In a short span Gigatron both refuses to acknowledge that "Deadlock" has really stopped being a Decepticon, and won't accept that the war has in any way changed, nevermind having kind of ended a couple years ago. Gigatron looks like he's locked in one period of time and lacks the capacity to cope with or adapt to changes in his world. And the thing is, if this was being developed and explored properly it would be really interesting. A story of a Decepticon warlord that once stood in some regard who is now reduced to a misfit crew on a world of dust because he's so intent on one goal and holding on to the old ways that he's lost everything he ever had. There's a great story to tell just in that before you even involve Drift. Except that's not what we're being told. All we're being told is that this Gigatron embodies the worst hallmarks of a Saturday morning cartoon villain, and it's a far cry from the level of character writing we've been taught to expect from IDW's Transformers titles.
There's only bits and pieces of interesting writing to be found. Grit has a little bit, and there is a decent scene with one of his fellow Micromasters in Gigatron's employ, and Hellbat has a part near the end which I'm hoping so very much builds in to some greater depth for ...well, any of the characters in this title. There is potential being dangled here, but I'm losing confidence that it will have a pay off. Instead the attention is on the plot device for this miniseries, the mysterious army that once guarded the stone fortress. And with this issue it feels like the story barely needs Drift. The flashback at the start ties him in through an experience when he was a Decepticon, but... did we even need that? Jumping off from the end of the first issue, this could easily have been a character struggle with Gigatron trying to push Drift back to being a Decepticon and serving under him again. You might need something underlying that to let the situation develop, but that'd be a background element while the focus stays on Drift being pushed from both sides by Ratchet and Gigatron, and perhaps using Grit to remind Drift of his own journey away from the Decepticons. There's so much here, such a solid road this could have taken, but we're halfway through now and none of that is being presented and it's basically too late to start down that path now. I can still hope for a change for the better in the remaining two issues, but there's only so much that could happen in the time remaining.
The art side remains solid. Team ReGeneration One is still firing strong. I think Baskerville's inks over Guido's lines might be a little heavy in places, but it still works really well. Guido gives a good show of action sequences and conveys motion really well. He's giving us great looking closeups on important characters, and gets the chance to do some large, wide shots that look equally fantastic. There's not a lot I can say about the art that I didn't already last time, because the effort is very consistent between issues. What you get out of this is lots of very well structured panels with great layout of the individual shots. Bove's colors stay on the same track, though I did find the flashback to have a little bit different look to it, maybe as a result of the characters both being largely black or very dark grey giving them a cleaner, smoother look to the finish on the colors. Whether a happy accident or intentionally modifying the coloring a little bit, it acts as a good way to distinguish the timeframes. Another point of distinction brought in both the coloring and the lineart and inking is the representation of Drift, Ratchet and Grit being more distressed than Gigatron's crew. It's a good point of detail given that Gigatron and company would be more likely to have access to maintenance, while Drift has been neglecting himself and Ratchet and Grit have both been through a good bit of action. I like how it's represented across the levels of art, with the lines and inks indicating more weathering and the colors being less clean and even on the three of them while the Decepticons all start out looking much more pristine.
It feels to me like a bad indicator that the solicitation blurbs for this miniseries are so far all just saying pretty much the same thing just with variations to the wording, with the ad for the third issue maintaining that pattern. The first issue is justified in its blurb, and the second being a loose variation on the same idea was just a bit questionable, but the third one now saying effectively the same thing in yet another instance of rewording the same thought is just bad. Is there really so little substance to the story that even the writer can't find anything to offer in the preview except to restate the underlying plot concept again and again? I hope the preview blurb for issue 4 will finally say something new...
|Date||December 15th 2014|
|Score||(5 out of 10)|
|Link||Drift: Empire of Stone #2 Preview Pages|