IDW Publishing: "Drift: Empire of Stone" Issue #2 Comic Book Review
Title: "Empire of Stone" Part Two
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publishing Date: December 17, 2014
Writer: Shane McCarthy
Art by: Guido Guidi
Inks by: Stephen Baskerville
Colors by: John-Paul Bove
Letters by: Tom B. Long
Editor: John Barber
Centuries ago, the Decepticons Deadlock and Turmoil crsh land on a planet. When they manage to get out of their ship, they find a giant stone fortress!
In the present, Gigatron explains his plan to tear the system apart and rebuild it with the Decepticon military. He refuses to believe the war is over, and keeps referencing Drift by his old "Deadlock" name. He also explains that he needs an army - and Drift can tell him where it is! Drift agrees to do so when Ratchet is threatened. At first Gigatron is more than happy to let them go, but eventually everyone gets into a scuffle resulting in Hellbat taking the trio of Ratchet, Drift and Grit to holding cells. Ratchet tries to trick the guard into letting them escape - but he lets them out on his own since he's friends with Grit! The group manages to get to the chamber where this "army" is stored but someone has already been there! They see the soldiers being outfitted with new technology, and just then Hellbat appears with Decepticon guards!
The way this issue began reminded me of an old James Bond movie, where the villain captures his nemesis and then explains his elaborate plan for victory. It's a fun way to have Gigatron explain himself and indeed, his plan to build an army isn't totally crazy (I myself used a very similar premise for my Botcon 2005 comic book). What conqueror doesn't have an army on hand? I do enjoy how despite having a force of Decepticons and this impressive fortress, Gigatron's plans quickly fall apart.
Unlike the Bond films of old, Drift and Ratchet don't break out because of some elaborate plan or gadget. Instead it's something quite simple: friendship between warriors. The beauty of this is that it's the friendship between two Decepticons. A bit of background: Grit and Knockout were both "Micromaster Combiners" in Generation One, Transformers who each formed half of a vehicle. These little guys could be switched and swapped so you could have say, the back of a tanker truck attached to the front of a rescue vehicle. Grit and Knockout were two halves of a construction type vehicle, so when I saw Knockout I really hoped this G1 influence would carry over into their characterizations and I was not disappointed. They don't combine or anything in this issue, but seeing Knockout acknowledge their friendship and help his old friend was cool to see. We're so used to seeing Decepticons as just bad guys out for themselves and it's nice to be reminded that they can be much more than that.
Focusing on Gigatron for a moment, I kind of dig how he's not exactly a deep thinker. Sure he's big and powerful looking and usually we associate these types of Decepticons with being smart and having some grand plan. Gigatron however seems laser focused on getting his army set up and occasionally putting someone (like Megatron) down. In a funny way this makes me like him more. Another cackling villain would be boring. A big dude who has his own vision, who believes he knows being "Decepticons" more than Megatron himself is fun. He also seems to recognize his limits, thanking Hellbat for saving him from his own temper.
Like the last issue, this issue is full of references to "Generation One". While most of the references from the last issue focused on "Victory", this issue spread out its influences. Aside from the Grit/Knockout link, characters like "Chuffer" (a G1 Transformer who appeared in one issue of the UK comic book), Jallguar (another "Victory" character), Chameleon (another G1 comic book character) all appeared - or more accurately characters who are colored like those characters appear when Hellbat is on the ground after being hit by Grit.
From an art perspective, I appreciate the way Ratchet and Drift look progressively more beat up as the issue goes along. It shows their fighting and actions have consequences. Even if limbs aren't flying off or holes aren't being blown into them, they have dings and dents all over them and it gives a great texture to the characters. The color work helps enhance the "damaged" look of the characters, complete with bold lines and shadowing that add to the uneven appearance of the metal skin on the Autobots.
I also dig the design of the Stone Warriors. Their bulky look with glowing glyphs separates them from the look of the Transformers around them, making them look extra alien. It is also rather creepy seeing the various wires and tubes stuck into their bodies, and while I know they're essentially mindless drones, I couldn't help but feel a bit bad for them.
If I were to have one complaint about this issue, it would be pacing. The pages where the Autobots attempt to escape feels a tad too drawn out. I feel like the entire sequence could have been two pages, but instead wound up being twice that. In that respect I was happy to see some really good art (especially Gigatron crashing through stone columns to get to the Autobots) even if the pacing was off. Otherwise, this issue does a fun job of providing humor, action and homages to G1.