Friday, February 16, 2018


“JEENA” | “BLOODY RALLY” | “9mm VS. 40mm” | “FAMILY” | “SWEET HOME”
Presented by Kenichi Sonoda
Translation: Dana Lewis & Toren Smith | Lettering and Retouch: Studio Cutie

As I noted last week, we’re in my favorite stretch of GUNSMITH CATS, as Kenichi Sonoda sets aside his overarching plotline, drops the mob politics and creepy sex stuff, and simply gives us a couple of fun, one-and-done story arcs. And while I like last week’s story quite a bit as the first half of GUNSMITH CATS’ highest point, this storyline is easily my bar-none favorite portion of the saga.

We begin with Rally and May on a stakeout — TV kids’ personality Mister Smart, already estranged from his family over child abuse charges, is wanted for skipping out on a parking ticket. Things begin to escalate quickly, though, when Smart apparently kidnaps his daughter Jeena and a high-speed chase ensues involving Smart, Rally, and a Hummer driven by Riff-Raff and occupied by armed men named Sharko and Borgnine.

The plot thickens when Borgnine plants a bomb on Jeena which must receive a periodic reset code, lest it explode, killing her. This ensures Smart’s participation in Borgnine’s plot to steal a large sum of drug money from the local syndicate. Of course the plan goes sour when Rally shows up, leading to an eventual showdown at the home of Mister Smart’s ex, once he realizes “Borgnine” is actually the woman's divorce attorney (with whom she’d had an affair prior to the separation and who she used to trump up the false child abuse charges against her ex-husband) in disguise.

Way back when I first got into GUNSMITH CATS, this arc was the then-current storyline being reprinted in monthly comic book format by Dark Horse — so I’ll admit to some degree of nostalgia when I call it my favorite. But there’s way more to it than just that. As noted above, Sonoda sets aside most of his fetishes for the duration of the arc, which is appreciated (there are still small bits here and there, but nothing major), and the story is perfectly paced with a legitimate surprise ending.

Further, pretty much everybody has a moment to shine in this one. There have been a few storylines since Sonoda rounded out his full core cast to include Rally, May, Ken, Becky, and Misty, but aside from Rally, they’ve pretty much all dropped off the map for extended chunks of the story. That’s not the case here. Rally, of course, is the heroine and leads the charge, initially going after Smart, then tackling Sharko and Borgnine.

But beyond her, we have Becky providing valuable intel as usual, Ken locking himself in a basement and manually entering the reset code into Jeena’s collar every hour as he carefully removes the explosives, and diminutive May dressing up as Jeena to run around with the girl’s friends, acting as a decoy to avert Borgnine’s suspicion. Which means that Rally needs a different sidekick for this story, so Misty steps into that role, riding shotgun with her in the Shelby Mustang on the search for Smart and the bad guys.

And most importantly, this arc gives us our first real look into Rally’s history and motivations. We learn, through flashbacks and exposition, that she grew up a “daddy’s girl” and learned to shoot from her father against her mother’s wishes. Her dad was a champion-caliber marksman, and also apparently a failed author, who opened a gun shop to make ends meet — and one day while he was out, the shop was robbed and Rally’s mother, who just happened to be there to serve divorce papers, was killed in the process. Three years later, Rally’s dad declared he had a lead on who had killed his wife and left to follow it, never to be seen again. Per Rally, he initially sent her money now and then, but eventually that stopped as well.

Admittedly, this creates some issues with the timeline. Rally explains all this stuff to May as if it’s the distant past, but she also says her dad’s departure was two years earlier. Thing is, May was seventeen when GUNSMITH CATS started, and as recently as in this story, she’s said to be nineteen. Now yes, maybe the story started in the eleventh month of her being seventeen, but even so — since May’s never met Rally’s dad, she and Rally must have crossed paths after he left. But the early chapters make it clear they’ve known each other for quite a while, so it just doesn’t add up very well.

In any case, though, it’s great to finally know Rally’s “secret origin”. She is, after all, the series’ main protagonist, and up until now her past has been a complete blank. We know a lot — I’d argue too much — about May’s past, but until this point, nearly three-quarters of the way through GUNSMITH CATS’ original run, we knew nothing about Rally. We understood who she was; Sonoda did an excellent job of fleshing out her personality and her personal code — but we now know where she came from.

And, as it turns out, all this background material on Rally will come into play in a big way as we move into the series’ final segment, beginning next week… almost like Sonoda planned it that way!

1 comment:

  1. This arc feels very, very early 90s action movie to me, which makes it a win automatically for me. Gunsmith Cats was already pretty cinematic, but this whole set up felt like it spun straight out of Hollywood around 1993-1994 or so when "Die Hard on a (blank)" was the pitch going around Hollywood.

    Plus we back away from the honestly forced creepy sex stuff to boot!