Ian Flynn’s story arcs in Sonic Universe have always been very hit or miss. From fun epics like “The Tails Adventure” and “Team Treasure Tango” to mediocre or awful dreck (IMHO) like “The Silver Saga” and “30 Years Later”, the quality of the stories can vary greatly. Of course, part of this is subjective depending partially on whether it features a favorite character or not as that can affect your enjoyment of the book.
That said, “Chaotix Quest” has personally become my absolute favorite arc so far. Not just because it was a well told story featuring one of my favorite Sonic trios, but every element was done to perfection. It balances action, drama, humor and emotions in a way I haven’t seen a story do in a long time. Where any gripes I had were the just the slightest of nitpicks. Keep reading to find out why I loved this story so much.
THE STORY (Skip down if you’ve already read the book.)
Here’s the backstory. For reasons that are too long to go into here, at one point Espio was forced to betray his friends in order to serve his clan. When he came back he confessed that he was originally a spy for his clan and told all he knew about the Chaotix deepest secrets including the fact that Mighty’s long lost sister was still alive. With this information, Mighty set off with this best bud Ray, whom he considers his little brother (they have an even stronger bond than Sonic and Tails) and set off to find his missing sister.
The Chaotix quest begins with the main three Chaotix that we know from the games (Vector, Charmy Bee and Espio) looking for clues to Mighty and Ray’s whereabouts as Mighty stopped sending them letters and returned the warp ring he was using. They start their search in the Deerwood forest of Mercia where they come across the Mercian Freedom Fighters. Basically, they are Rob-o The Hedge’s Merry Men but because of the legal issues Archie is having with former writer Ken Penders, Rob-o is replaced by this loveable group. They include the archer and leader Bow Sparrow, Alan Quail the fighting minstrel, Munch Rat who fights and bites, Friar Buck who’s a peace lover, but not so much he won’t lay a trap for an enemy (unlike that lousy hippie Emu Guru) and lady warrior Thorn the Lop (a lop-eared rabbit). After helping them defeat some local Eggman flunkies, they make fast friends.
The Mercian’s tell the Chaotix that Mighty and Ray have been by and Alan tells of their adventures with them through song. Ending every part with “And a-hey nonny-nonny!” They also explained that in recent days, Eggman’s army has taken over the king’s castle along with the Mercian villain, Lord Hood (a Cobra) who has made himself the new king. The Chaotix agree to help them free the Mercian citizens trapped there while they look up more info on Mighty and Ray using the villain’s database. That was just the first issue! Phew! I gotta wrap this up quicker. Anyway, in the second issue everything goes pretty much according to plan, They get the citizens out of there, they find out that Mighty and Ray are in the Oil Ocean refinery (which you may remember from Sonic #217) and they go back to Deerwood Forest for a big celebration before saying their goodbyes.
While the first two issues deal with the Chaotix adventures in Mercia, the last two issues take place at the Oil Ocean Refinery. If you’ve read previous issues of STH, you know there’s a war in that area, one where the villains and heroes are not so clear. You see, Eggman has a Dark-Egg Legion stationed there led by Bunnie De’Collette’s uncle, Beauregard AKA “The Baron”. Him and his group are basically good people that are forced into helping Eggman in order to survive. Meanwhile on the other end we have the so-called freedom fighters, the Sandblasters. Evil parodies of the Looney Tunes led by the ruthless Jack Rabbit (who has a strong resemblance to Bugs Bunny), they tend to bully and torture their enemies in the name of “good”. It’s an interesting concept in that it shows that what’s right and wrong isn’t always what’s moral.
Issue 48 starts with the Chaotix already in a fight with the Sandblasters and they easily get their butts handed to them. Fortunately, Mighty’s nearby and tells Jack that they work under him. Mighty is undercover as “Flex” while Ray is known around Jack’s base as “Jitters” (due to his stuttering). They both have new costumes as well (Ray’s new look is great and finally shows that he has arm flaps like a flying squirrel should). He manages to get them away from Jack for a while and explains his situation. Basically, he found out that his missing sister is working for the Baron. He went undercover as Flex to find out information and figure out a way to Eggman’s base to see his sis. Mighty decides to have himself captured. He humorously does so by attacking a tank, ripping out the top, yanking out the driver and asking him very politely to capture him.
He ends up in front of the Baron. He explains himself and tells his story about his long lost sister. Baron orders the guards to quicky get Mighty’s sister, Matilda. Mighty runs over and hugs Matilda, but she pushes him away. The Baron explains to Matilda that this is her brother, but she doesn’t believe it. She then tells of her past. A past of living alone as a infant with only food and shelter, when she became robotized and how the Baron rescued her and brought her with the rest to the oil refinery. She shows no emotion towards Mighty. The years have made her cold and emotionless. She refuses to believe that Mighty is her brother and goes so far as to tell him “you mean nothing to me”. Ouch. This hits poor Mighty pretty hard, but Baron pulls him back on his feet. He tells Mighty he makes her as happy and safe as he can here and that they’ll do a prisoner exchange to bring him back to his friends tomorrow. Mighty says nothing as he’s too heart broken. Baron gets word to Jack about the prisoner exchange, but Jack has other plans in mind. He wants the Dark Egg Legion out of the way once and for all and he’s gonna set up a trap to get the job done.
So what happens in #49? Does all heck break loose? Does Ray give a very touching speech? Does Mighty’s sister finally accept him as her brother? Do the Chaotix save the day? Is that Bunnie’s silhouette in the background? The answer to all of those is yes and more, but you’d do yourself an injustice by not picking up these last four issues. I don’t want to spoil the whole thing here, so hurry up and get to your local comic shop before they’re all gone.
There’s was too much I liked in this particular saga to just wrap up in a few paragraphs, so instead, I’ll give you my top five reasons why this arc kicks so much butt.
#5. Charmy Bee not acting mentally ill anymore
After that horrible retcon to make Charmy more like his 6-year old Sega counterpart by giving him brain damage (Stay tuned for a top five of the most messed up things Archie comics has done to Charmy. You won’t believe it.), they’ve finally got it to a place where it doesn’t seem odd or weird. Charmy can keep up with the others, is still a strong fighter and riffs on Vector and Espio when given the opportunity. Also, while he does act a lot more like a kid than an adult now, they don’t write him like he’s mentally ill with Vector and Espio giving each other glances when he says something odd. It took a while for this retcon to not seem horribly wrong, but it’s at a good place now. Well, until he returns home and learns his girlfriend Saffron is gone. It sucks to be Charmy Bee.
#4. Ian makes the best out of a bad situation
Look at that non-final cover on the right. Notice who’s on there who wasn’t in the story? Well, I already mentioned it in the review earlier but yes, Rob-O the Hedge was originally to be a big part of the first half of the Chaotix story. But Archie’s current legal issues with Ken Penders are having a bit of an effect on the Sonic books lately and Archie is no longer using any characters used by Ken Penders for the time being. This includes not only Rob-O and his wife and child, but also any and all echidnas whose name is not Knuckles. However, unlike the unfortunate mess that ended up happening with “Endangered Species” (Nuckles87 will have a separate review up for that soon), Ian was able to work around it very well using Rob-O’s band of merry men, the Mercain Fredom Fighters. Not only was the cast very likeable, but Ian made it very believable that Rob-O could be gone and away. So while we lose one loveable character, he’s replaced with five new ones.
#3. Jack and the Sandblasters
What makes a great villain? A great villain is not loved, but despised for all the right reasons. Jack and his crew are absolute scum and what makes it even worse is that they are Freedom Fighters. They technically represent the good guys while bullying others and treating them like dirt. Especially Jack. He’s so ruthless that he’ll fire on a group of children if it means getting his victory. That just makes you hate him even more. I knew Ian did a great job writing him when I went to other Sonic forums and read the fan reaction. They really hated Jack Rabbit. Not because he was written poorly, but because he was such a rotten scumbag.
#2. The pacing
A great story always keeps the narrative flowing at a good pace. At the beginning of this story, we already start out with the Chaotix beating the tar out of some of Eggman’s goons before being introduced to the Mercian Freedom Fighters. Not only that, but when we get to a part where the Mercain’s give a lot of backstory, it is done in song by the minstrel which keeps things entertaining.
#1. It’s heart
At the end of the day, this is a story about family. Not just Mighty’s family with Matilda and Ray, but the Chaotix themselves. As a team, they haven’t seemed as tight knit as they do in this arc. From Vector getting over his grudges with Espio and comforting a crying Ray to Espio’s promise to watch over Charmy. This group has been together for so long that they’ve become a family themselves and it shows.
Then there’s Mighty. A more warm hearted and loving character you will not find in the Sonic comics. Not just with his kinship with Ray or his love of his sister Matilda, but he bestows virtues that most only say they have. When Bow Sparrow tells Mighty that it was his king’s father who expelled his parents and broke apart his family long ago, he did not get angry with them or wish to seek revenge, but gave him a hug instead and joined the group for a short while.
This is the opposite of what Matilda has been since her first appearance back in Sonic #217. Cold and devoid of emotion, Matilda seemed as lifeless as her robotic piston arms. It took Ray’s tear jerking speech to bring her out of her emotional coma. She then fought for her brother to the point of getting injured. It did get a wee bit mushy in the end, but the amount of emotion shown in this story was better than I’ve seen in recent years. Even then, some of those are kind of that forced weepy moments that don’t always work well. This one felt a lot more genuine.
The Chaotix Quest has everything a well told story should, loveable characters, great pacing, plenty of action, humor and a lot of emotion. Ian Flynn does a terrific job with these characters while Tracy Yardley puts in some of his best work yet. The Mercian Freedom Fighters look like they could easily fit in a Sonic game and the way he shows emotion on the characters faces are some of the best I’ve seen. Outside of the first half feeling fairly separate from the second, it was very hard for me to find any nit-picks about the story. For fans of the Chaotix and Sonic fans in general, it’s an absolute must have. Highly recommended.