Sonic Universe #49 (April 2013)
Yardley!/Downer cover: It’s your basic brawl action with Mighty using a tank. As a baseball bat.
“All For One Part 4: Friends, Foes, and Family”
Story: Ian Flynn; Art: Tracy Yardley!; Ink: Jim Amash; Color: Matt Herms; Lettering: Jack Morelli; Assistant Editor: Vincent Lovallo; Editor: Paul Kaminski; Editor-in-Chief: Victor Gorelick; Family Therapist: Mike Pellerito; Sega Licensing reps: Anthony Gaccioni and Cindy Chau.
Let the dangerous games begin. The Chaotix are en route to the prisoner exchange, hoping that things don’t go sour before they take delivery of Mighty. The plan is that once they get Mighty they grab Matilda and hop a fast warp ring out of town.
Meanwhile, at Checkpoint Furry, Mighty is strapped into a rig that resembles the one Syndrome used to immobilize Mr. Incredible (and, later on, the wife and kiddies). Matilda suddenly shows up to tell the Baron “We’ve got company.” Jack is a little leery of the rig Mighty/Flex is in, but Baron Bo channels his inner Gaylord Ravenal and tells Jack he’s saving Flex as his river card in this hold’em game. But then Jack reveals himself to be the joker when it turns out that some of his armed Freedom Fighters are posing as Legion prisoners and they start shooting up the place. The Chaotix decide it’s time to cut to the chase.
Thanks to his great hearing, being a rabbit and all, Jack finally recognizes the “Famous Freedom Fighters” (No autographs, please) and decides to show his gratitude to them by turning them into roadkill. Vector has other ideas and demonstrates that Jack’s jeep needs new brakes.
Mighty tells the Baron to cut him loose since the fun and games are over. He even manages to sneak in a real groaner: “Don’t leave me hanging here!” Ray then glides in to second the motion. But Matilda moves to dismiss Ray and states that even if what Mighty says is true about their being siblings she just doesn’t feel it and would just as soon be left alone.
Well that is enough to transform Ray from a flying squirrel into a fighting squirrel. He launches into an impassioned explanation that even if she doesn’t care for Mighty, the feeling is far from mutual. He cites his own back story, then really pounds the ohana lecture home, which manages to ignite a spark of memory in Matilda. One of the Sand Blasters, a Road Runner recolor, conks Ray and prepares to use Mighty for target practice, which of course is the cue for Matilda’s big line: “Get away from my BROTHER!!” And she proceeds to knock him into the next county.
Jack decides it’s No More Mr. Nice Bunny time, and orders one of his minions to take out the Baron and Mighty with an artillery shell. In response, Matilda demonstrates her understanding of the way things are done in comic books by punching out the incoming artillery. Uh-oh, now they got Mighty mighty mad. He charges into the Freedom Fighter ranks and the inverse heroes beat feet. It takes both Vector and Espio to slow him down and the realization that he doesn’t know what happened to Matilda to change his attitude.
Later, after Bo delivers the inevitable “We’ve done all we can for her” line, Mighty dashes into Post-Op to find Matilda awake and alert, sort of, but her arm will be in the shop for a while. It looks like they’ve also fixed her facial muscles so she’s able to smile, although she may have managed that from the inside. Ray is then introduced as her new sorta-sibling and the atmosphere is all very moe and heartwarming.
Of course, Archie can’t have any of that. So the Baron steps in to say that because of the impending patch job to finish fixing her up, she’s not leaving with Mighty and the crew. Mighty is ready to defect at this point rather than be separated again, but Bo tells him “You know where to find us.” So with a sort of tearful farewell the Chaotix warp on home. It’s left up to Bo to hammer home the family theme one last time while the readers get to play “Who’s That Pokemon?”
HEAD: When I first saw Matilda in the “Thicker Than Water” two-parter, her flat affect made me think, in my mind’s ear, that she sounded like Tara Strong as the voice of Raven in “Teen Titans.” But when she delivers her big line in this story, I can’t help but hear Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley addressing the Brood Mare in “Aliens” as she gets ready to dish out some alien fu and keep Newt from becoming a fun-sized snack. You know the line. So I’m not going to say it. No. Just no.
Unlike the whole Mercia plot that launched this story arc and which was mostly just goofy, the second half of the arc is one of the tightest and strongest stories that by some miracle managed to get past Editorial. Yeah, there’s a lot of fight action but there’s also the family angle which anchored the plot admirably. There’s nothing abstract going on; I’ll have to admit that the “Loyalty” arc (S237-238) was not the easiest story to follow. That is not the case here.
It seems as if any story set in the greater Sand Blast City metropolitan area is going to involve the Freedom Fighters you love to hate, Jack Rabbit and his crew. They are self-preservation run amok, a law unto themselves. I guess they never got the memo that Freedom Fighters aren’t supposed to act that way.
And then there’s the very benign Legionnaire band under the direction of Baron Bo. Whereas most other Legion bosses are all crazy bad and spend half their time chewing up the scenery, Ian has gone out of his way to make Bo a Southern Gentleman. All he needs to do is trade in his duster and matching hat for a seersucker suit with a Colonel Sanders tie and you’ve got the whole picture. Of course it might be hard to keep a white suit clean out in the desert, and I don’t know if any of the Legion guys know how to make a decent mint julep. Still, there’s a maturity and composure about the Baron that transcends the over-the-top norm for comic book characters who shall remain nameless (*cough*XIV Battle Lord*cough). Makes me wish he had more face time in this book.
The Mighty-Matilda reunion will be discussed in the Heart section, of course. The only thing that could have improved this story arc would have been a rewrite of the Mercia segment, even if it meant shortening the arc to three issues. Let Marketing worry about filling in the 4th slot in subsequent reprints. Head Score: 10.
EYE: Great work by Tracy Yardley!, especially his page layouts when the action kicks in. He skews the panels but not to the extreme. The effect is a minor case of coffee nerves which perfectly accompanies Mighty throwing tanks around and Matilda punching out a high explosive shell. And in the last act when Matilda and Mighty are together, he knows enough to ease up and keep the focus where it belongs. While Steven Butler’s artwork in “Endangered Species Part 3” blunted the full force of Thrash’s revelation, Tracy Yardley! hits it just right. Eye Score: 10.
HEART: In case you missed it, there is a second possible brother-sister pairing in this book. On page  there’s an insert that I thought at first was another shot of the Baron. But this bunny has slightly different colored eyes as near as I can tell, and like Matilda has eyelashes have their own area code. So it’s either Bo’s sister or spouse, there’s no way to tell yet. Ian’s keeping her in the shadows, literally, as a loose continuity tease.
But back to the primary siblings. While the conversion of Matilda from “Leave me alone” to “Bring it on” was a little too abrupt, relying on a grand total of one memory, it’s still a very satisfying plot turn. It’s also a break with the Archie way of handling family interactions. Usually members of a family are like planets orbiting around something or someone else and not exactly interacting in a recognizable way. One of the first exceptions to that rule was when the Royals and then Sonic’s ‘rents told Naugus to go look for someone else to possess. They stuck together and became a wall against him. That seemed like a fluke at the time, but in this story arc we get some solid sibling chivalry.
That connection is at the heart of the Heart in this story, and Ian thankfully played it straight and not as a diversion on our way to the next fight scene. And despite Matilda ending up in the scratch and dent ward, Mighty’s quest is sorta-kinda over. He’s going to have to trust to the Baron’s good graces until he can relocate his cyborg sis. But it’s great that we’ve got a happy ending of sorts. So despite loose continuity and the mindless start of this arc, we actually cared that these two kids would get together and they did. Now if they can only survive the next temporal shift. Heart Score: 10.
SONIC SPIN: At least Paul gives props to Yardley!/Herms and the rest of the crew before settling back into sales mode.
FAN ART: While Heather draws Espio and Vector and Cross draws Espio, Sumeyye anticipates the climax of this story and shows the armadillo sibs “Reunited” and it feels so good. But Candi shows Mighty, Matilda and Ray as kids discovering that the grown-up world isn’t even going to make getting a drink of water easy for them. Very sweet.
OFF-PANEL: This cartoon reminds me of one Bill Mauldin drew for Stars and Stripes in World War 2. His American dogfaces, Willie and Joe, are walking down a road with one of them carrying a massive machine gun on one shoulder. Nearby a British soldier sitting among the debris of battle – a shell casing here, a wrecked jeep there, plenty of barbed wire strands – looks up to say “You blokes leave an awfully messy battlefield.”
MAIL: Only one letter, from Sean who wants to know what happened to Mighty’s parents (they’re dead), why the Sand Blast Freedom Fighters are all a bunch of butt-heads (“questionable tactics”), and gives Editorial an opening to pimp the next issue. As if the ad directly above wasn’t enough.