As the Operators prepare to operate on the still-conscious Helpless, V’lmann ventures back into the habitat to find B’tay. Can he possibly still be alive? Find out in All Against All #3 from Image Comics!
ALL AGAINST ALL #3
Writer: Alex Paknadel
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Editor: Chris Ryall
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: February 8, 2023
Previously in All Against All: Long ago B’tay released a human, nicknamed “Helpless,” into the habitat. Now General Cov’n is upset because two Operators who entered that habitat are missing. Perhaps Helpless is not as weak as they thought. Cov’n insists on investigating and B’tay cannot resist going with him. We learn the war continues with no end in sight. They see one of the missing Operators. V’lmann, operating a drone, flies in for a closer look. Helpless has set up a trap and calls in the wolves for assistance. B’tay realizes this is Helpless’ work, and that Cov’n will not stop until he finds the human. Then B’tay is struck down, and his body is destroyed!
HOW SENTIENT IS THIS HUMAN?
All Against All #3 opens with a flashback to an important day in V’lmann’s life, the day she gets her first body. In her natural form, she is a small thing, all eyes and tentacles, angry that her mother is not there. She lashes out at B’tay and cuts him. He throws her down toward her body. To the tiny creature, it seems so big, a lonely prison as well as a body.
Back in the present, V’lmann is feeling alone again. The captured Helpless is bound to an operating table and she is about to make the first incision, an incision in a body that is alien to her. No one knows the best place to start. She cannot help but think about her father and whether this is really what he would have wanted.
And what of B’tay? He no longer has his body, but he lives. A wolf comes to examine the carnage, and B’tay jumps on its face. He uses a sharp appendage to cut into the wolf’s body so he can connect to its brain. This is how the Operators first were able to take over bodies, to leave the oceans, to rise to power. But to connect with the wolf is to become flooded with its hormones and its instincts. B’tay struggles to remain in control, to use its body and senses to explore yet not get lost.
V’lmann makes her first incision. Helpless makes a noise and opens his eyes. She realizes he is not sedated. Her friend D’oge says that is the point; how can they establish a baseline for pain if they don’t know when he feels it. V’lmann cannot continue. This draws the attention of Cov’n. After the adventures in the habitat, he is feeling tired. V’lmann reminds him that the habitat has stronger gravity. She wonders if B’tay could still be alive. Cov’n wonders why the fact that the monster felt pain made her stop cutting into it. He leaves her alone, returning to the vivisection that D’oge will take over. Alone, V’lmann cannot resist returning to the habitat to search for her father.
B’tay dreams of the time when V’lmann was very tiny and when his wife, Pn’chin was dying. He awakens to find himself no longer in the wolf. A predatory bird grabbed him. He strikes out and it drops him into the swamp.
Cov’n is fascinated by Helpless. The human is such a savage beast, but something in its eyes makes it look like it could understand. Helpless spits in his face. Cov’n urges D’oge to get on with it. He only needs the brain and the spinal column. He turns away, exhausted, but even as he goes, he realizes what the shift in gravity means. Being used to higher gravity means that out here, Helpless is relatively even stronger. Before anyone can sedate him further, he breaks free, strikes down D’oge’s body, and pulls the Operator out.
B’tay takes over the body of an alligator and plods out on land. He struggles to find himself and sees Pn’chin on the shore. With effort, he recognizes her. She shows him where the alligator’s eggs have been smashed open. He recognizes that the babies are gone, and the fury of the alligator leads him to attack the lizard raiding the nest. V’lmann, tracking her father, is surprised as a lizard runs past her.
A NEURAL PARASITE
The art of All Against All #3 continues to bring an alien culture to life. I particularly liked the flashbacks to V’lmann’s youth. Not only does this show us how far they have come in making bodies for themselves which have let them explore far beyond their home biome, but it gives us the idea that family ties and affection are as real for the Operators as they are for us humans. Tiny V’lmann is as adorable as she is cranky and we as readers cannot help but identify with her even as we understand how different she is from us.
B’tay’s experiences are more primal. These beings that resemble jellies did not rise to the level of galactic war passively. They have long been able to survive by taking over other creatures. But the biology that allows them to do this makes them vulnerable a creature’s own instincts. I like following B’tay through multiple iterations, dealing with the heady emotions of hunger, of the desire to fight, as he struggles to maintain control of the body and himself within the body. Generations of living in carefully built bodies has left the Operators with unusual vulnerabilities.
BOTTOM LINE: A CRUCIAL MISCALCULATION
All Against All #3 is top-notch sci-fi that pits aliens against the unsuspected wiliness of a human while, through the Operators, it is a cautionary tale about our own inhumanity.
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All Against All #3
The human known as “Helpless” may not be as helpless as the Operators believe.
No love for the designer. Dang. Great review nonetheless!