Sonic Universe #46 (January 2013)

     Yardley!/Downer cover: The Chaotix, or what’s left of them, doing their thing. Espio demonstrates his shuriken skills, Charmy points at us, and Vector takes a flying leap at us; all signs that Tracy Yardley! has been watching too many 3D movies. Most of the time, it’s about as useless as, well, as it is here.



     “All For One, Part 1: Picking Up The Trail”

     Story: Ian Flynn; Art: Tracy Yardley!; Ink: Jim Amash; Color: Matt Herms; Lettering: Jack Morelli; Editorial Assistant: Vincent Lovallo; Editor: Paul Kaminski; Editor-in-Chief: Victor Gorelick; Barred in Avon: Mike Pellerito; Sega Licensing reps: Anthony Gaccione and Cindy Chau


     The Chaotix find themselves in Deerwood Forest in Mercia, the Sonicverse’s British knockoff. They do their bit for international relations by roughing up some of the locals. That’s the cue for the Action, as some more locals arrive escorted by GOONS (Giants for Offensive Occupation and Nullification), which is seriously unnatural even for this comic and reminds me of all those skull-deadening acronyms used in “Codename: Kids Next Door.” For the duration, I’m going to call them Gorts because they look a lot like Gort the robot from the classic sci-fi film “The Day The Earth Stood Still.” The 1951 film, not the 2008 remake. Anyway, the Action is the cue for the More Action.

     Enter the Robin Hood knockoffs. There’s Bow Sparrow, Alan Quail, Munch Rat, Friar Buck, and Thorn the Lop. More about this motley crew later. All you need to know right now is they’re the good guys so they win.

     Once the fighting starts, the talking begins, unfortunately. We get a dollop of exposition about the situation in Mercia, then Charmy asks about Mighty and Ray, at which point Bow suggests a change of venue.

     Cut to Deerwood Forest, which could be the Great Forest or the Forest of Endor for all we know. Anyway, we’re about to plunge into a stunning 7-and-a-half pages of exposition, with occasional breaks for the chorus, so you might want to grab a snack or go to the bathroom now while you have the chance. Everybody ready? Strap in and hang on:

     Ray and Mighty have been looking for Mighty’s sister, Matilda, since the tail end of the Iron Dominion story arc. That was, like, three years ago our time. Welcome to Loose Continuity where the rules are non-existent and the passage of time doesn’t mean anything. Anyway, M and R had been sending messages through to the gang back home by Warp Ring, though I’m pretty sure SKYPE would have been a better idea. The last letter they received said they were in Mercia, which is confirmed by Rob o’ the Nest … er, Bow Sparrow.

     The Mercians then supply some back story. Seems Mighty and his family were exiled from Mercia by what appears to be King Rob o’ the Hedge’s father; the narrative line is a little crooked here and the archaic touches to the narration don’t help, so I speak under correction. Long story a bit shorter, Mighty’s reaction was pretty much “Bygones.”

     Buck, acting more like a clerical than a cleric, had spirited away the kingdom’s archives when Eggman came to town. Mighty used the records to trace Matilda’s whereabouts, first to an orphanage and then to her roboticization relatively five years ago (comic book time). Espio interrupts the back story to suggest hacking into the Eggnet to learn more, which would involve breaking into the castle. Never trust a ninja to do a hacker’s job.

     But back to the back story. R and M had had the same idea, but on the eve of the op Eggman’s forces started wasting the forest. It takes the Mercians two pages of singing that never would have passed an audition for “Spamalot” to get to the point where the Mercians stay behind to cover Ray and Mighty as they head for the castle. End of back story.

     So now comes the Third Act: Impregnating the Impregnable Castle. The Chaotix figure on logging onto the Eggnet while freeing any prisoners they find along the way. The break-in itself takes two pages, as does the final scene where we see that Lord Hood is aware of what’s going on and is looking forward to re-enacting the torture scene from ”The Princess Bride.”


     HEAD: Seven-plus pages to set up a two-page action sequence? Seriously? Yea, verily, yea, with a hey-nonny-nonny and a hot-cha-cha.

     I know Ian had a lot of back story to shoehorn in here, but seven pages? OK, it seems longer because of the comic relief breaks for singing. Unfortunately, the whole Mercian Freedom Fighters bit works about as well as Robin Hood: Men in Tights which seems like the more likely inspiration for this bit than the actual Robin Hood legend.

     It’s not as if these characters are breaking new ground. They were all part of Rob o’ the Hedge’s gang when they were known as (gag me) the Krazy Kritter Freedom Fighters.

These characters date back to 1998’s "Friendly Rogues and Foul Villains" by Ken Penders and Clayton Emery but here they don’t bring much to the party. A far better goof on the Robin Hood legend was the “Q-Pid” episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (my favorite bit: Worf’s tribute to John Belushi’s Bluto from “Animal House.” But I digress).
      The pacing is seriously off-balance. Ian invests so much time (I tried not to use the phrase “wastes time” but there it is) on the Deerwood Forest song and dance that he doesn’t have much left when it comes to the break-in at the castle which, at two pages, feels rushed. I know the dialogue has been pared back to a base minimum and I’m grateful, but with one more page at Ian’s disposal it could have been better. And it’s not as if the music would have been missed. The story gets to where it’s going but I would have asked MapQuest for an alternate route. Head Score: 7.
      EYE: Tracy Yardley! really gets to cut loose here, especially when it comes to the page layouts. The use of the parchment scrolls was very effective, as was the muted coloring by Matt Herms, but the musical interludes were overdone IMO. Eye Score: 10.
      HEART: This is an oddly Heartless installment. Since there’s so much back story to fill in there’s very little chance to connect with the material emotionally. When the singing’s over, Vector’s tribute to the selflessness of Ray and Mighty is the closest to a Heart moment that we get, and in the spirit of the sequence it feels more like a comic relief moment. I can only hope things pick up when and if they catch up to Ray and Mighty. Heart Score: 3.
      SONIC SPIN: As much as I wanted to see some traction on the Ray and Mighty front, Paul’s attempt to pump up the hype (“Sounds like a groovy mystery on our hands. Zoinks!”) really shows its ago. Paul Kaminski should ease up on the Scooby Do references and maybe watch some “Adventure Time” and learn from the show’s playful use of the English language if he wants to connect better with the target audience. It’s not that math.
      FAN ART: Merci to Jean-Francois for showing the Chaotix living the life aquatic. Sidney brings us Sonic, Shadow, and their respective rides. And I hate to admit it but Sadie’s drawing has me stumped. Who are the characters and what’s the word on the helicopter? If anyone can help, e-mail me please.
      FAN FUNNIES: Will Simon apparently believes one old joke deserves another. It works in an elementary sort of way, and has worked ever since it was introduced in a British music hall routine in 1913. Yes, that’s how far back the banana peel bit goes.
      OFF-PANEL: This actually works because there’s really only one gag here and it’s milked for all it’s worth. Espio doesn’t do a slow burn so much as a “My parade is getting rained on.” Makes me wonder how those three got to Deerwood Forest; Charmy and Vector probably had trouble getting out of the parking lot.
      FAN MAIL: Lacking ads, we get a whopping FOUR letters this time around. J.R. liked the team-up of Sonic with other Sega characters and wants to see an entire arc instead of just a one-shot. It would probably work with the right characters; some of them are too obscure and one-dimensional. And at the moment, they’re gearing up to team Sonic with Mega-Man. Brian just gives a shout-out. Joey, whose fan days date back to the Enerjak 2.0 saga, sets up Paul to pimp back issue reprints. And Amadeus from Singapore wants to be the Number One Fan. There’s a lot of competition for the top slot, kid.