The inevitable conclusion! Will Drift's alliance with Gigatron be enough to survive the stone army and stop Hellbat's scheme? Will Grit finally get revenge and prove himself a real Decepticon again? Will anything be learned from this experience and referred to again in the future? Probably not. Drift: Empire Of Stone part 4, written by Shane McCarthy, breakdowns by Guido Guidi, pencils (pages 5-10) by Marcelo Ferreira, finishes by Stephen Baskerville, with colors by John-Paul Bove.
Drift, Ratchet, and Grit rush to the stone army chamber joined by Gigatron and some of his troops to stop Hellbat and take back control over the stone warriors. While Gigatron's power proves beneficial in reaching their destination, the alliance is short-lived as Gigatron seeks to assume control of the army for himself once he's done away with Hellbat. Drift, Ratchet and Grit are left to carry out the mission to ensure that no one can ever use the army again.
Drift's internal monologue: "Gigatron betrayed us almost immediately. Somehow I feel like this was my fault."
Hellbat's whole plan hinges on this army of animate stone figures to conquer and destroy any world he wishes, but it seems like there's a distinct flaw in that. Actually there's probably several, but one presents itself pretty obviously: Those stone guys break kind of easily. When there is an advantage of numbers as is the case here they're dangerous since they can presumably swarm faster than they can be smashed, but looking at the bigger picture these aren't the most resilient troops. And as would typically be the case in a set up like this, their durability is directly proportional to how much the plot needs them to hold up against. Gigatron can smash through the regular ones pretty easily, but a larger one that otherwise should be presumed to be made of the same base material withstands much more. But in general the entire thing falls apart when you stop and think about it at all. These things could steam roll a planet of small, unsophisticated organics, but if you land them on a world with any decent military capacity, cannons and tanks and missiles will reduce these to rubble pretty quick. And if you throw them at something even better equipped you wouldn't get nearly as far. On the one hand I want to say that this is symptomatic of Hellbat's insanity, but Gigatron has been all about this army, and even Drift seems convinced it's a significant, and immediate threat in general. There's too much offering importance and support of their threat to handwave it as someone being written as intentionally deluded. That only leaves us with the writer giving the concept no thought at all. The motivating force of the whole story, the premise the book is named after and the device that drives the story forward all come down to an inherently flawed concept. Drift and Ratchet could have left and brought back reinforcements to flatten the site from orbit - well out of reach of the stone soldiers and probably done so long before Hellbat had decided he'd accomplished enough to openly oppose Gigatron and get his plans moving. If anything it was Drift's insistence and opening of the stone army's chamber that pushed Hellbat's timeline up. I want to say the entire exercise ends up proving itself pointless, but I can't go quite that far. If left alone the army would have eventually been started up and put in to use, but Drift being there and doing what he did accelerated the problem and caused the clear and present danger that he wanted to stop. As I consider this and look back through this story it's ...I don't know if I want to call it bad writing, but it's contrived. It's walking the line between creating a situation that could not proceed if the main characters didn't just happen to be there right then and something that's an inevitable outcome that we're just cutting off before it gets there anyway. But for as little happens narratively and how much time it took to get through this, the entire miniseries has been a work of decompression. The same story could have been easily told in just two issues and it would have presented at a better pace and not made the flaws of the story so evident by giving so much time and room to notice and consider them.
It seems as though deadlines were a problem as the miniseries went along. There was an indication with Guido's credit changing to "layouts", and now with issue four bringing in an extra artist to cover a few pages. While keeping the same inker and colorist helps smooth the edges, there's a distinct transition in the affected pages. It's not as jarring as some of the shifts that happened in, say, Dark Cybertron along the way, but the difference in styles is pretty apparent. After having most of the story go along with Guido and Stephen Baskerville working together to bring in a consistent look and feel, it's regrettable that it was necessary to hand off some of the work at the end and be left with the style clash. But outside of that segment, there was some cool stuff going on. A panel of dragon mode Gigatron flying over the army as seen from behind was really nice looking. Drift and Gigatron clashing swords was also rendered nicely, giving a lot of weight and presence to Gigatron towering over Drift. It gives something an inconsistency to their scale - Gigatron is huge all the time, but it seems rather exaggerated here. The stone legion bearing down on Gigatron was done well, and towards the end what I'll call a "special effects shot" and a sunset panel that I don't want to give more context to so I don't get in spoiler territory also came off well. Those last two in particular are a credit to John-Paul Bove for lighting them up and bringing them to life with skilled coloring. I want to say again, as I have been throughout the miniseries, this team has done a lot to keep a positive quality to each issue. I've seen some complaints that the visual style their collaboration produces is somehow wrong or out of place, but I feel very much that without each of their particular talents and the wonderful way they come together and make something greater, it's taken something that could have been a total write off and at least gives it worthwhile and often attractive visuals. Guido Guidi, Stephen Baskerville, and John-Paul Bove, you guys are the real heroes on this title, and I look forward to seeing your next project working together!
Our cover roundup is a quick one. The main cover by our regular art team features a portrait ofrift Team Drift: Drift, Ratchet, Gigatron and Grit, reflecting their alliance that lasts for all of twenty-two seconds. It's a cool image, though, and I enjoy how it cements Grit being part of the team even as much as he doesn't want that association all the way through the story. The subscription cover is the second half of the Sarah Stone piece from issue 3, this being the Drift side with arm going off the edge where it falls on Ratchet's cover. So now I want a do-over Drift miniseries with art done by Sarah Stone and written by (almost) literally anyone else.
It's been a long, boring road through this story. I can't say that I feel like I got anything of particular value out of it either. Maybe if down the line we see Grit again, having learned something from his experience and trying to make himself a new life as the Lost Light crosses his path - or better still, the Scavengers. Maybe if that can happen, I can look back and say that Drift: Empire of Stone did something worth while.
|Date||February 23rd 2015|
|Score||(3 out of 10)|
|Link||Drift: Empire of Stone #4 Preview Pages|