IDW Publishing "Drift" #1 Comic Book Review
Cover Price: $3.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Publishing Date: September 8, 2010
Written by: Shane McCarthy
Art by: Alex Milne
Colors by: Josh Perez
Letters by: Chris Mowry
Editor: Denton J. Tipton
Consulting Editor: Andy Schmidt
Long ago, a desperate battle raged on Cybertron. Led by the Decepticon Deadlock, a group of Decepticons including Skyjack and Road Pig are slowly decimating a team of Autobots led by Sunstreaker. As Sunstreaker signals the retreat, the Autobots take several more losses before escaping. Deadlock is happy with his victory, but the other Decepticons are not as thrilled. A soldier points out that their commander (named Turmoil) told them not to attack and he promises to report him. Deadlock's response is to destroy that soldier and tries to incite a mutiny against Turmoil. Instead, he istaken back to the ship as a prisoner and held for execution! However, just as Turmoil tries to blast him, Deadlock kicks his weapon away and manages to initiate the ship's lockdown protocols and escape in a pod. With the lockdown, the Decepticons are unable to track the escaped Deadlock.
Deadlock's pod crashes into a nearby planet. He recalls his time on Cybertron as a lost beggar on the streets. He is firm in his belief that his way is the way to victory. Searching for a way off the planet, he finds a city! He is about to act when a mysterious hooded and cloaked figure approaches him. He tries to attack but the figure easily dodges all his attacks. Calling himself "Wing", the stranger tells him that he is a friend. Deadlock explains that he is trying to find a way off the planet. Wing points out that the city below has slave traders, and that he is trying to free the slaves. If Deadlock helps him, he tells him he can take the ship and get the slaves off the planet with him. Wing explains that he cannot leave this world. When he tells Deadlock that helping someone else is a good thing, Deadlock dismisses that as the weak talk of an Autobot.
Still, the two agree and their strike begins. They attack and one of the slavers manages to get off a fireblast that destroys Wing's cloak, revealing him to be Cybertronian! Deadlock calls him an Autobot, but Wing tells him he is not an Autobot at all. Wing asks Deadlock for his name, and he only responds "Drift", a name that he once held in the distant past.
When the two strike, they get to the slaves but an alarm goes off. Deadlock (now Drift) heads to the ship, but is ambushed by a brutish alien. He is slammed into the ground with such force his armor is broken and he is put into Stasis Lock. The slavers recognize him as a Decepticon right before he blacks out.
When Drift awakens, he finds himself surrounded by Cybertronians of similar design to Wing. He is safe and fully repaired and in a new body to boot. He is agitated and jumps out of bed, demanding explanations. When he steps out, he sees a sight that stuns him. As Wing joins him, he welcomes him to the new Crystal City!
The tradition of introducing "non-toy" characters in comic book fiction for the Transformers goes back decades. In the Marvel comic book series, many characters were introduced that quickly disappeared after an issue or two (Ferak, Scrounge and Rotorbolt) but few rise to prominance in the way Drift has. Through, admittedly a rather strong push by IDW to market this character as the "kewl Autobot du jour", Drift has risen to prominance and even managed to become a cool action figure. With all this attention, I confess I've been a bit mystified as so far all that I've seen is that he uses blade weapons, was a Decepticon and acts really cool under pressure. That's not a lot to go on so it's cool to finally get his real background.
As I read this issue, something in the back of my brain kept saying "I've read this story somewhere before." and that's not an accusation of plagiarism. Rather, it's an acknowledgement that Drift's tale is one of redemption that has been done in many pieces of fiction before. A once evil character changes their ways and then is taken on a mission to serve good. The circumstances vary, but the idea is the same. Redemption is a powerful device in storytelling here, and it's nice to see Drift's road down this path. For some reason, at the mome the story of the 90's show "Xena: Warrior Princess" comes to mind, where she once led a powerful army and committed many evils before going "good" (let's not get into how much I despise the show's ending though). Deadlock being kicked out of the Decepticons, his escape to become a loner are all reminscent of Xena's expulsion from her own army and then going off to do good.
The joy of this tale is that we see this doesn't happen overnight. It's not as typical as "Deadlock hates Turmoil so he seeks revenge to kill him and becomes good on the way.". Instead, he's nowhere near ready to do good yet by the end of this issue and I think that's fantastic. He's been a bloodthirsty Decepticon warrior for a while now, let him continue to be that I say! If this mini-series is to take us over an arc, the first issue is way too quick to show us his softy, gooey side.
The character of Wing intrigues me, and I'm happy to say that since I was worried he'd be used as a generic "The guy got killed and I owe him for XYZ" motivation (and he still might, but at least we get to know him first). His statement about being "alone" despite being part of the great new Cyrstal City collective is interesting and I'm looking to see how that plays into Drift's turn into an Autobot.
While Drift does not make his dramatic change into an Autobot here, the story moves along at a steady and exciting pace. Action sequences are mingled in that grab your interest and then you get some character moments before some more action occurs. It's a nicely balanced mix that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Alex Milne is one of the strongest artists in IDW's roster of Transformers artists. This issue was a visual feast for any comic book fan, but to a long time fan there were tons of cameos by characters from the Generation 2 era of Transformers that were a joy to see. Among the characters that appeared were Dreadwing, Smokescreen, Road Pig, Skyjack, Gobots, Talon, Electro and Eagle Eye. I don't think I've seen this many G2 era characters in one issue of a comic since, well, the Marvel Generation 2 comic! One very notable cameo is Metalhawk, one of the lead characters from the Japanese "Masterforce" series, appearing here looking almost exactly like how he appeared in the animated series. This leads to a fun game of playing "Spot the cameo character" and I enjoyed playing it. It is a testament to the artwork (both pencils and colors) that even though many of these characters are in their Cybertronian forms, they are still clearly recognizable.
One of the other factors I enjoy with the artwork is the ability of Milne to give Transformers facs that emote well. Sometimes it's easy to just make Transformers heads sort of generic looking blocky things or toss a faceplate on with little expression. Here, Milne makes it a point to convey emotion as much as possible. Drift/Deadlock is either angry or defiant in almost every scene we see him in but in his flashback we see a defeated and afraid Transformer. When he sees Crystal City, his shock and astonishment is almost a relief to see since he has tried to play it so cool and calm for most of the issue.
A lot of credit is due for the design of Crystal City itself. It's a powerful page when we see a vibrant, functional Cybertronian city, especially after seeing a dead Cybertron in so many other Transformers related comics. The color work is particularly brilliant in that page which offers a wonderful contrast to the desaturated and depressed looking flashback to Cybertron.
Strong artwork, a compelling intorduction and a boat load of cameos make this a fun introduction to Drift's tale. Definitely worth a read.