Sonic Universe #44 (November 2012)

     Yardley!/Amash/Herms cover: Team Secret battles FiendFire Naugus, which come to think of it sounds like the name of an action figure. Larry gets a taste of his own bad karma. It’s an impressive scene overall, but of course it doesn’t play that way on the inside. I hate when that happens.



     “Unsung Heroes Part 4: Fight the Power”

     Story: Ian Flynn; Art; Tracy Yardley!; Ink: Jim Amash; Color: Steve Downer; Lettering: Jack Morelli; Editorial Assistant: Vincent Lovallo; Editor: Paul Kaminski; Editor-in-Chief: Victor Gorelick; The Spy Who Loved Me: Mike Pellerito; SEGA Licensing Reps: Anthony Gaccione and Cindy Chau.


     It’s conjurin’ time!

     Naugus is throwing Vale’s bones into the jade stewpot while Sorcerer’s Apprentice Geoff assists with all the enthusiasm of someone undergoing root canal work. Up on the surface, Larry is throwing bad karma around and the first casualty is the lock on Royal Military HQ. You’d think with a facility that vital they’d hire a nocturnal animal as a guard in the lobby and he could just lean on the pushbar to open the door.

     Back below, Naugus is still firing up his hoodoo when the Not Larrys bust in and body slam him.  And each of them is equipped with their own text box ID for the benefit of the newbies who just discovered this title. While they keep Geoff and Naugus busy, Elias sows weapons of mass destruction along their path. “I don’t know where the director got all of these explosives, but right now, I don’t care!” Yeah, rehearse that line for when the Mobian Council Intelligence Committee starts asking questions about this op.

     But back to the Action and More Action.  Naugus discovers that some of his elemental tricks aren’t going to work on Shard, so he asks Geoff to pass him his Chaos Emerald staff. Silver, though, gets in Naugus’s face, but not too much, and blocks the pass.

     Meanwhile, Rotor has showed up to jimmy the lock on the building. The next problem is they can’t find the Constitution they’re supposed to ratify, as the Council shows all the professionalism of the Coalition Provisional Authority during the American occupation of Iraq.

     There follows three pages of Action and More Action and not a whole lot of dialogue to get in the way.

     Back up in chambers it’s Cream to the rescue as she produces the errant document which had fallen behind a desk. The next issue is Naugus’s absence, but before they can do anything about it the lights go out.

     Silver and Naugus are still mixing it up when Naugus uses fire to suck the oxygen out of the room as Silver reaches for his head. I think I’d grab my chest, but I’m not a hedgehog from the future. Anyway, Shard makes the save and finally gets the notion to smash the pot with Vale’s bones in them. “You should have done that from the start,” Geoff helpfully observes, though if they had done that Ian would have had seven pages to fill. The SFF then cut out of there and detonate the explosives. Naugus is caught by some falling rocks but Geoff decides not to make the save and walks away. Naugus still has it in him to block off the SFF’s escape route, but Shard takes care of that while making his umpteenth I’m Glad I’m Not Organic crack.

     Naugus then turns his wrath on the detained Geoff who does some fast talking about how to put the best face on things from a public relations standpoint. And with a face like Naugus’s he needs all the help he can get. Geoff is spared but you have to assume that the well is pretty much poisoned by this time.

     We then get a page representing how Elias, Larry and Shard(?) have to keep their heroics on the down low for the greater good. It’s a play to inject a bit of Heart into this story, but only a bit. We finish it off with two pages of Harvey and Silver serving up a plate of red herring to cleanse the palate; I’d have chosen a nice sorbet myself.



     HEAD: And so the new Constitution never gets voted on and it turned out to be a MacGuffin: something to drive the plot but also something about which Ian doesn’t have to think too hard because it doesn’t make any real difference. Same with Vale’s bones since the incantation never gets delivered.

     It’s too bad that the Vale’s bones plot point turned out to be a MacGuffin as well.  I honestly thought that it could have been a game changer, something that Naugus would have tried only to have it go horribly wrong so that everybody in the chamber would have been in trouble, Larry’s vend-a-karma notwithstanding. It would have been a welcome break from the clichéd good guy-bad guy fight that Ian gave us. Then again, clichés are the heart and soul of writing for comic books!

     The travails of the Council members as they pretty much fall over themselves trying to get the Constitution ratified … at night … without any kind of audience of Mobian citizens to witness this historic event … quickly turns into the kind of slapstick that helped kill vaudeville. One more MacGuffin we really didn’t need. And since we had Shard in this story, the comic relief was superfluous at best.

     As tired as the story has gotten at the end, the characters aren’t much better. The wolf twins and Elias can all be described as Lawful-Good which is what passes for personality here. Shard is a Chaotic-Good by virtue of his being a Metal Sonic rebuild. Larry ought to have been a Neutral-Chaotic but Ian keeps the bad luck flowing in only one direction so he’s a Chaotic-Good by default.

     That pretty much leaves Naugus and Geoff. Naugus is Chaotic-Evil personified. That just leaves Geoff who, no matter how Ian tries spinning him, is still Neutral-Evil at heart. He’s so neutral, in fact, that anything he says and does is automatically suspect. His explanation of Hershey’s death was so couched in euphemism that you never believe he cared for her. It reminded me of a scene from a James Bond movie where he says of an off-screen shag of one of the Bond girls in the film, “That was for King and country.” In short, Ian short-changed this story in the character department, stocking it with stereotypes without a shred of believability. And when you do that, all the Action and More Action in the world won’t make the story worth anything, especially when it plays so phony with the script by making everything worthwhile a MacGuffin. Head Score: 3.

     EYE: As usual, Tracy Yardley! appears to take this material more seriously than Ian and his work gives it the weight that keeps it from turning to dust and blowing away. Eye Score: 10.

     HEART: Since Ian can’t be bothered to generate believable characters at this point, all he can think to generate any kind of Heart is to make us feel sorry for them. Most of them, anyway.

     In a variation of the Men In Black gambit, we’re supposed to believe that Team Secret is just that, the best-kept secret on Mobius. That’s nonsense in the case of Elias, who supposedly can’t even be square with King Max, and Heaven only knows how many secrets the old guy trafficked in over the life of this comic. Note that Elias is shown with his so-called parents; he was raised by echidnas who then handed him off to the Sommersbys. We don’t see him with Meg and the baby, which tells me that Meg’s as much up in Elias’s business as Mary Jane eventually was in Peter Parker’s/Spiderman’s.

     The deal with Larry is just a cheap way to give him a life outside of his one personality trait of being a bad luck machine, and it’s not much of a life. He’s shown looking wistfully on at a group of Mobians from his perch in a tree as he feels sorry for himself; he’ll be feeling something more intense in about two seconds when the bow breaks because of his back luck. At least it ought to if Ian is being anywhere near honest about his abilities.

     That leaves Shard, the lamest attempt at feeling sorry for any of the SFF. Why is he even doing this to himself? Wouldn’t he just take himself offline until needed? Or failing that, why not keep company with Uncle Chuck and Sonic’s rents? If he’s supposed to be an expression of a Metal Sonic which has the personality traits of the real deal, I’d think that Jules and Bernie might welcome his presence while Sonic is out of town going through the same basic plot in different locations.

     It seems as if, having worked so hard at making us care about Sally’s fate, the comic has become emotionally exhausted. Action is about all that the comic can trade in. Even the video games themselves generated some kind of emotional interest, especially Sonic Adventure 2. Maybe I’m going through Sally withdrawl, I don’t know, but it really feels like the comic is going nowhere and is taking its sweet time getting there. Heart Score: 2.



     SONIC SPIN: “Mission accomplished!” No. Just no. Not even going there. Google it yourselves if you can’t even remember from ten years ago.


     FAN ART: Rachel and Beau submit Silver solo artwork while Benjamin gives us Team Secret in outfits that seem more appropriate for Jamaican bobsledders, but that’s not Ben’s problem.


     FAN FUNNIES: Joshua gives us some slango humor. I understand that most Aussies don’t beat the word “Mate” to death the way Geoff does in this comic.


     OFF PANEL: Larry and Eggman reprise “Who’s On First?” I’m surprised that it took this long for Ian and Jon to riff on this.


     FAN MAIL: one letter from Caryn, who wonders why more girls aren’t fans of the book. She also wants to write for the comic. Paul maintains that there’s a lot of competition out there, but honestly I can’t remember the last time someone other than Ian Flynn had a story published in this comic. That’s not competition, that’s a monopoly.