Arc Review: “Inside Job” (Sonic Universe #29-32)

septiembre 27, 2011 at 12:52 am (Comic Books, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Publisher: Archie Comics

Script: Ian Flynn

Pencils: Tracy Yardley!

Inks: Jim Amash

Colors: Steve Downer

Covers: Tracy Yardley!

Recommended Audiences: People who like prison break-out movies but thinks prison break-out movies are too violent.

The first thing that  Ian Flynn did when he took over as writer for the then-floundering Sonic the Hedgehog title was take one of the series’ oldest characters, Evil-Sonic–who for years had been an inert character with no direction or purpose beyond starring in lack-luster mistaken identity plots–and turned him into Scourge, the star of “Inside Job”. Initially a character who was just exactly what it says on the tin—an evil version of Sonic from an evil version of Mobius, with the leather jackets to prove it—Flynn turned that on its head and found some interesting character beats, as Scourge began tackling the question of what, exactly, it meant for him to be merely a copy of another character, and began forging his own identity (and forcing his comrades to do the same), culminating in an extended story arc which resulted in his defeat and incarceration.

Which brings us to “Inside Job” (a.k.a. “Scourge: Lock-Down”): Scourge has been incarcerated in Zone Jail–“a prison to hold the baddest of the bad across all dimensions”–for some time, and has been broken by the experience, as he is continuously tormented by fellow inmates and by the prison administration itself. Whereas before he was “King” Scourge, self-styled ruler of an entire world, he now counts only with only two professional doormats—ex-demigods Verti-Cal and Horizon-Al—as the closest things to friends. The plot begins when the Destructix, a group of mercenaries Scourge occasionally associated with, and who are now being led by Scourge’s girlfriend Fiona Fox, get themselves imprisoned in order to break Scourge out—but only if he can prove that he is worthy to lead them.

Taken by itself, this could have made for a cool two-part story. However, Flynn takes it a step further, by using the set-up as a springboard for developing the Destructix. Originally created in 1996 as a quirky mini-boss squad for would-be Big Bad Mammoth Mongul (introduced in that same story), they, like Scourge, had been coasting on inertia until Flynn got their hands on them, slowly turning them into the Sonic Universe’s version of DC’s Secret Six, as conceived by Gail Simone—characters who have been broken to the point of amorality, who stay together because they can’t stay with anybody else. Despite the rather drastic difference in tone, the concept works really well. In this arc Flynn, after years of assorted hints,  finally defines their respective origins, tying their existence into the greater Sonicverse, and giving them a sense of cohesion they’ve never really had before.

(A moment of silence for Secret Six. You are missed.)

A lot of what makes this arc shine is the sheer amount of fan service, in the form of sweet, sweet continuity porn. From the unexpected return of Verti-Cal and Horizont-Al, whose only appearance of note was all the way back in Sonic the Hedgehog #2, to cameos by characters from the games and even from outside the Sonic-verse. However, the fan-service is not allowed to overwhelm the actual story, which still manages to retain its tight focus, which is appreciated.

Pencils are, as usual, by Tracy Yardley!, which means they are fantastic. Particular credit must be given for the work involved in designing all the various extras, most of which are new, but who managed to look both distinctive and stylistically cohesive, something the book has struggled with the past. Also important to note is the fantastic design for the Zone Prison itself. Part of the gimmick of the interdimensional nexus where the story is set is that gravity works differently for visitors, meaning that they face the worlds ninety degrees from the way its native inhabitants (such as all the prison employees) see it, and Yardley! plays it to the hilt, designing a set that works both ways, something that I’m betting must have taken a lot of hours to layout properly and deserves major props. Inking and coloring, as usual, do a great job of complementing the pencils.

“Inside Job” if memory serves, is the first full-length story in the Sonicverse to star a villain. Given how it turned out, I have absolutely no objection to seeing more.

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