Where's Drift? What happened to him after his disgraced exit from the Lost Light so long ago? Drift has taken on the role of wandering soldier, but how far will he travel before his past catches up to him? Written by Shane McCarthy, pencils by Guido Guidi, inks by Stephen Baskerville, and colors by John-Paul Bove.
After being stripped of his status as an Autobot after accepting full responsibility for Overlord being placed on the Lost Light, a disaffected Drift fights alone to protect the native life of a planet recently occupied by a small band of rogue Decepticons. Easily overpowering Grit and his hapless subordinates, Drift intends to turn his prisoners over to the Galactic Council, much to Grit's horror. But upon landing at the Council outpost, Drift is greeted by Ratchet, who has come to bring him home, Drift's name having been cleared in the time since he left. Discussions of Drift's homecoming are put on hold however, when Grit's troopers reveal another world being held by Decepticon forces...
In one paragraph I've summarized at least half the issue. I could finish it without even completing a second paragraph. Part of this is thanks to a use of action scenes with minimal dialogue which take up somewhere around half the issue's length. On its own that wouldn't necessarily be bad, but doing that you need to have a very strong core of story for the issue to carry the action sequences. And this doesn't. See, the other reason the summary could be so concise is that the story presented for this issue is basically the solicitation blurb inflated. Drift is going it alone, until Ratchet shows up to bring him back. Add some really stiff conflict because Drift doesn't want to go, and you're there. The worse part is Drift has justification for not wanting to go back. He was put in a position by authority figures within the faction he adopted to take the fall for something he was not himself responsible for. He was MADE responsible for it, and he had to accept consequences to protect one of the conspirators. There's a lot of basis there, he has reason to resent the idea of the Autobots given who did what leading to Drift's isolation. But the way the story runs, Drift comes off less like the victim that he is and more like a child who's angry because someone wants him to stop playing and come inside. So far the entire point of what Drift's situation is has been missed, and it's a huge bungle to not even allude to that side of things at this point. Besides that, Ratchet and Drift had an interesting dynamic to their relationship which made the idea of a miniseries focusing on the two of them on their own adventure really appealing. But in practice Ratchet's role could have been filled by basically anyone here. There's exactly one point in this issue, a single exchange that even tries to represent that fact, but it's so cookie-cutter that it just feels out of place. I hope that it changes with the next issue, but right now my confidence in this story has already eroded considerably.
Now let's talk about what went right. The same team that brought the back half of Regeneration One is back together for the art, and it's great! With half the issue being action-focused, having an artist that can handle that is super-important, and Guido did not disappoint. The sequences read smoothly, and there was only one spot where things looked a little off, until I realized that Drift's leg was tucked up underneath him and then the shot made sense. The issue is carried on the strength of the art, Guido's pencils laying out great scenes and shots, Baskerville's inks bringing up the details, and Bove doing some great touches in the coloring. A detail I especially liked was Drift being a subtle off-white, which lends a bit to where the character is at these days. He's fighting on dirty, dusty planets, traveling from one place to the next and fighting wherever he has to, and he's not taking any care for his own upkeep. It's much clearer when Ratchet arrives and is much whiter. Drift needs a car wash, and it says so much about the point he's gotten to that he's discolored and clearly doesn't care to do anything about it. This much is brought across in what color Drift is, while the dialogue couldn't squeeze anything good out of him. There are other signs of Drift's disrepair in the linework, so it all ties together, but the just a bit off coloring is the best sell for the idea.
This issue also has a big share of side characters, and while some may be generics, I've been able to pick out a few individuals that are based on toys - Micromasters in particular. Of course they're not so Micro, but we have Grit as mentioned already, and Vanquish also makes an appearance. Which miiiight be a continuity snag since Vanquish and Fireshot were seen in a vision of the products of other Metrotitans out on colony worlds during the Windblade miniseries, and those worlds probably haven't talked to Cybertron in a while. Hellbat appears also, and there's a wealth of background characters that have toy details drawn on and leads me to believe they're based on existing individuals, but I've been unable to work out who they all are at this point. But it's one of the highlights of Guido doing art to get semi-obscure things dropped in, and Micromaster Combiners are probably still a bit on the obscure side. Thanks to his style that incorporates toy detailing even as far as screws and pegs sometimes it was easy to figure out that some characters appearing were Micromasters, but specific identities was more of a challenge!
For covers, we get a nice Alex Milne character shot as the regular edition. The subscription variant is a blank for an artist sketch, and the best of the one you won't get - the retailer incentive Anniversary cover. An "Artist Edition" cover, this is a pencil-lines piece with Drift and Ratchet being shot at from all sides while Ratchet blames Drift for their situation. And in this single image and a half a sentence I'm given more of the character interaction I expected than the rest of the book manages to successfully give. It's regrettable this cover isn't more widely available - it'd make a great main cover and coveys a little more than the technically good but somewhat generic Milne art cover.
|Date||November 24th 2014|
|Score||(6 out of 10)|
|Link||Drift: Empire Of Stone #1 Preview Pages|