Hellbat exposits the depths of his villainous nefarity before ordering the deaths of Ratchet, Drift, and the late-arriving Grit in the chamber of the dormant stone army! Drift: Empire of Stone #3, written by Shane McCarthy, breakdowns by Guido Guidi, finishes by Stephen Baskerville, colors by John-Paul Bove.
In the holding room for the stone army, Hellbat explains to Drift and Ratchet that he'd found this place almost as soon as Gigatron's expedition landed, and Hellbat has been hiding it from the extremely gullible Decepticon in order to gain control of the army for himself. Killing Autobot and Decepticon alike for parts to force the stone beings to function, Hellbat is confident he nearly has enough to overthrow Gigatron - as soon as he gets the last few components he needs from the bodies of Rathcet and Drift!
Well, if we take Drift as a stand-in for Shane McCarthy, then yes, Ratchet is probably right.
As ever, story content is distressingly light. The pages of exposition given at the start is about the best density of plot information offered yet in this miniseries, and save for the use of Cybertronian body parts to make things work, it was all things easily figured out before this issue arrived. The remainder of the issue is an inflated fight sequence that doesn't particularly accomplish anything but to show yet again how determined Drift is to not let Grit die even when Grit is being a complete idiot and practically asking to get killed. That's not really a bad character trait to be trying to save someone from themselves, and maybe - just maybe - it's supposed to give some insight to Drift who needs to be saved from himself right now before his personal quest destroys him. If not here and now, then soon enough. A character looking for a heroic death and being talked out of it is a well worn story trope, and if written well can be a fine starting point. But if that is the intent it isn't being handled well. There's not enough depth to anything to sell it strongly. Every issue so far feels like it's giving the minimum necessary effort for story and then filling out the rest with fight scenes to hit the pagecount. It's not very interesting, and with each issue that passes I find myself caring less and less about whatever resolution lies ahead. For instance, there is all of *one* good Drift/Ratchet moment right at the start, which is cut across two pages, and then that's it. Grit is trying to be somebody, and under other circumstances I think he could be growing in to someone interesting, but right now he only accomplishes being a cardboard cutout enemy-of-my-enemy. By contrast, in two issues of More Than Meets The Eye we had a whole team of characters introduced and played to strong enough effect that they've stuck in the minds of readers for years despite having only one brief reappearance since. In six months, is anyone going to remember or care about the Grit we met in this book?
Guido and Stephen Baskerville give a good show with the art, and while John-Paul Bove's colors can seem a little overly intense in some places, are largely put to good effect with their vibrance. As is typical at this point, the fight scenes that dominate the issue are laid out well and can be followed easily. If anything is going to be done right, I guess that's a good choice. I don't like that there's more than a few panels that are probably larger than they need to be, or some full page images that as they were executed could probably have taken less space, but I'm inclined to think that's a fault of the script and not something being done by the art team. There is some benefit to the big images, giving our artists a great chance to show off in character shots and neat situation setups, but it contributes to the overall decompressed feeling of the story - even if called for by the script, padding is padding. However, I particularly liked Gigatron's appearance near the end which managed to do well at capturing a certain feel from the Car Robots animation which really kind of clicked with me. The layout of that was a nice choice and matched style with what it was going for really well, plus being followed up by a really cool shot tied it together and made it feel like Gigatron's presence hasn't been a complete waste after all. Sure, another character could have reached the same ends, but I doubt it would have looked so great in the process!
A quick pair of covers will finish us up for this month. The main cover is by Guido and John-Paul Bove, showing Drift and Gigatron facing each other down. I really like this for showing the combination of Guido's lines by themselves with Bove's colors which has a cleaner, tighter look than the interior art. Baskerville's art contributions seem to be necessary to make sure deadlines are met, but going by this I think we might have lost out on something that would have really stood out visually if the circumstances had been a bit different.
The second cover is a subscription edition by Sarah Stone, which seems to be a split image between this issue and presumably the finale next month. This half focuses on Ratchet, with Drift only barely present with an arm in frame. It's a pretty good portrait of Ratchet, although while she catches the design details, I don't think her take on the MTMTE Ratchet design ends up looking quite right.
|Date||January 26th 2015|
|Score||(4 out of 10)|
|Link||Drift: Empire of Stone #3 Preview Pages|
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