Helpless lays waste to the ship and Cov’n demands a prototype body to use to go after him. Is all of B’tay’s work on the verge of being destroyed? Find out in All Against All #4 from Image Comics!
ALL AGAINST ALL #4
Writer: Alex Paknadel
Artist: Caspar Wijngaard
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Editor: Chris Ryall
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: March 15, 2023
Previously in All Against All: V’lmann is about to make the first incision on Helpless. She wonders if this is what her father would have wanted. She makes an incision and Helpless opens his eyes. She realizes he is not sedated, and she cannot continue. Cov’n, exhausted after the events in the habitat, has D’oge take over the vivisection and V’lmann goes to the habitat. In the habitat, B’tay may not have his body, but he is still alive. He reverts to the old ways – when a wolf examines the carnage, B’tay jumps on its face and uses a sharp appendage to connect directly to its brain. The danger is that he is also flooded with its hormones and instincts. Cov’n is fascinated by Helpless but reminds D’oge that he only needs the brain and spinal column. But the lower gravity here means Helpless is relatively stronger and he overcomes D’oge. B’tay swaps animal bodies, controlling an alligator. He sees someone by the alligator’s nest and attacks, unable to realize it is his own daughter.
DESPERATE TIMES, DESPERATE MEASURES
As All Against All #4 opens, Helpless methodically goes through the ship. General Cov’n is furious and blames this all on B’tay. One of his men announces they have a clear route to the docking bay just before Helpless kills him. Cov’n urges his men to kill the human, and another one dies. Cov’n retreats to the lab and orders the man there to get him a prototype body. There is only one, and the technician warns him there are no safeguards. The body will pull him all the way in. But that is what Cov’n wants. If Helpless is smart enough to outthink them, he wants to be able to think like the human.
B’tay, still with the alligator, struggles with a storm of emotions and the desperate need to remember something. He runs toward V’lmann again, who recognizes him and tries to talk with him. He is in too deep, and she leaves her body to glide to the alligator. Even face to face she does not register with him, and she uses her blade to connect to the creature’s brain. B’tay breaks loose and recognizes her.
The general gazes at the body he is about to enter. It is that of a large gorilla. The tech warns him it will be difficult to control. He may have some adjustments to do. Cov’n is confident that his training and discipline will allow him to master it. He enters the body. The tech asks if he is okay. Cov’n, with newfound strength, slams him into a wall, thanks him, and runs off.
V’lmann transfers her father into the corpse of one of their own bodies, something with just enough cerebrospinal fluid that she can get him out. He realizes he bit off one of his daughter’s arms. They talk about his work. He watched Helpless for years. He could not protect him from the dangers of the habitat, but he could protect him from their own people. In a way, Helpless is B’tay’s son. He wonders where he is. V’lmann tells him that after he ripped him apart, he was captured and taken out to the ship.
B’tay realizes the danger all his people are in. They need to get back, but V’lmann is getting tired in the higher gravity. As they rest for a moment, Helpless runs in as though fleeing something.
WITHOUT THE VENEER OF CIVILIZATION
The art of All Against All #4 is brutal. Helpless is fighting for his life and fighting to destroy those he sees as his tormentors. The only weapons he has are his strength and his intelligence. B’tay has been observing him for all these years, but perhaps Helpless has been making his own observations. He uses his strength to destroy their bodies, but he also realizes where the actual Operator is seated, and he pulls them out to kill them too. They shoot at him, but their weapons do not slow him down that much. For many of the Operators, it is as though they are the horror story characters who are doomed to die.
The use of color is fascinating to me. The palettes are muted, sometimes all the way into pastel. Often the only strong color we see is red, either directly the red of blood, or indirectly a red background symbolizing anger and aggression. In a tale of survival, pastel pages feel incongruous, even dreamlike. I think they fit with the habitat. We now know that it is a closed system that is dying. The browns and greens we see feel like the murkiness of decay. The blues and purples of the Operators’ ship and world give me the sense that we are seeing it through their eyes, which are not like ours.
BOTTOM LINE: CONNECTIONS AND CONFLICT
All Against All #4 is a tangled web of survival and empathy. For better or for worse, B’tay has made a connection to Helpless, perhaps at the cost of his own people. But when it comes to life, which is the right choice to make?
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All Against All #4
In the lower gravity of the ship, Helpless is not so helpless!