THIS review’s title isn’t really a statement about what happens in “Transformers Drift: Empire of Stone” # 3. Quite the contrary; more stuff happens in this issue that an any other previous issue of the mini-series.
After Hellbat reveals that he has control over the titular stone warriors, Drift, Grit and Ratchet are in the fight of their lives when attacked by the stone soldiers. It turns out that Hellbat had gained control over the stone warriors by transplanting parts from captured Transformers. All this Hellbat did under the nose of his Decepticon boss Gigatron, who had been futilely searching for the same stone warriors. It turns out that Hellbat is really Hellbat-sh_t crazy and wants use the empire of stone to destroy, in his words, everything. “What is the point of us,” Hellbat monologues. “Kill. Our own kind. Others… That is why we’re here. Machines of war, of death.”
The back story is that Drift, under his former name the Decepticon Deadlock, and his partner in crime Turmoil, had discovered the empire of stone previously and killed all the peaceful monks who had been protecting the stone warriors. “I kind of feel like this is all my fault,” Drift says, referring to both what happened in the past and the present.
In the middle of the fight, Drift manages to lead the stone warriors away to Gigatron’s throne room and reveals Hellbat’s duplicity. Gagtron singehandedly disposes of the stone warriors chasing Drift. Drift then says: “What is going to happen is you and I joining forces… We’re both going to put an end to (Hellbat’s) madness forever.”
That’s a lot of action and plot for one issue and it is welcome development for the plodding mini-series, setting up the fact that there is all to play for in the final series.
Now back to that title. “Nothing much” is the answer to this question: What does “Empire of Stone” have to do with the Transformers’ ongoing story. Nothing much. And that’s the problem with this mini-series. After it’s over, it’s like it never happened.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy Drift as a character and like the toys made in his image; I don’t agree with the idea that he’s just fan service with an alt mode. But his previous two mini-series, both written by Shane McCarthy, who writes this one, had greater weight towards telling readers who Drift is. “Empire of Stone” feels like Drift doing more Drift-y stuff. But nothing of consequence can possibly happen in this mini. They’re certainly not going to kill Ratchet. If they try to kill Drift here, he will most likely be revived in another series, most likely James Roberts’ “Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye,” where Drift was featured as part of the Lost Light crew before leaving. In that series, Drift was an excellent cast member, proving himself to be the odd man out but vocal and deadly.
Those are qualities which have been exaggerated to the point of saturation in “Empire of Stone.” If there’s anyone who faces the prospect of being deactivated permanently here it’s the surprisingly well-written Decepticon Micromaster Grit (sorry, dude, it’s the truth) though having him keep Drift company in the future seems like something I’d like to read.
It’s also worth mentioning that artist Guido Guidi’s proportions in this issue are even more out of whack than usual. That being said, I’m looking forward to the ending of the series because I’d like to see Drift go out and do something else. His being stuck on the planet with the empire of stone with crank Ratchet, whacko Hellbat and pompous Gigatron just isn’t much fun. Perhaps the mini’s most damning quality is the fact that, despite the buildup, nothing surprising has happened, even in the last two issues, where Hellbat betrays his boss and Drift makes a deal with his enemy. You could see all of it coming.
Even with one more issue to go, you kind of get the feeling what Drift will be doing after “Empire of Stone.” It starts with the letter A and sounds like “gotobots.” And that may be the best thing to happen to Drift in a long time.
Next: More Than Meets the Eye” # 37.