That’s right! We’re doing another four issue recap! Mostly because there’s little substance to any of the issues we’ll be covering today, but also because I’m kinda anxious to get the real meat of this series and for it to take itself a bit more seriously. Not in the grim dark sort of way (we are SO far from running into Shadow and Tails Doll) but for them to cut back on the puns and for the stories to have the SEMBLANCE of an ongoing arc. Issue sixteen isn’t quite there yet, but that’s certainly a turning point in a lot of ways so I want to get there as soon as possible damn it! Anyway, let’s get started!!
Issue 12 (July 1994)
So right off the bat we have one of the least interesting stories from the books so far; ALMOST as bad as when they tried to do A Christmas Carol. You wouldn’t think it from the initial premise though! Seems like a GREAT idea for a story, but its squandered on, what else? Lame jokes and half-baked ideas! Sonic does his usual Sonic thing of making Doctor Robotnik’s life a living hell, but this latest ass kicking seems to have jogged something in the robo bastard as he comes up with an ingenious plan! He’ll send Sonic back in time! OF COURSE! IT’S SO OBVIOUS, RIGHT!?
Remember when they did the same thing in the last issue and made it SOMEWHAT interesting? Yeah, not here. Dude just goes back to the time of the dinosaurs and meets the Modern Stone Age Family version of the Freedom Fighters. I mean… I GUESS there’s an interesting idea in that the fight between Robotnik’s family and these EXACT SAME six or so families of animals has continued from generation to generation, renewing itself as some sort balancing of the cosmic scales (a la The Matrix), but then I’m somewhat disinclined to believe that that was their sincere intention when they end up doing THIS with it.
Eventually Sonic is transported back to the future by the Freedom Fighters who raided Robotnik’s headquarters and took his time machine. Well if it’s THAT easy, why the HELL is this war not over yet!? Not to mention the fact that the good guys NOW have a time machine at their disposal, though chances are they won’t ever use it because forcing THIS unimaginative and dull as dishwater story into something resembling continuity would be a cruel and unusual punishment on the fans. The next two stories pretty much blur together as they’re essentially the same plot only retold with a different guest character. The first story involves a grumpy bald eagle whom Sonic befriends and ends up being saved by once Robotnik unleashes his latest dastardly scheme. CAN YOU FEEL THE EXCITEMENT!?
The next story is about a DIFFERENT animal (this time a Lynx) that Sonic befriends and ends up being saved by once Robotnik unleashes his latest dastardly scheme. I was more annoyed at this story though because at least the Eagle one was rather straightforward. This sad sack of a Lynx has some sort of Bad Luck deal going on for no reason and it just kind of resolves itself by the end. You know who’s really unlucky? ME! Because I had to read this!
Yeah, this issue is easily one of the most skippable in the entire series. It’s not funny or clever enough to work as standalone stories, and it adds nothing to the lore save for an excuse to use a time machine later if the series is so inclined to do so. Good thing we’re moving onto the next one because I’m already forgetting that this even existed!
Issue 13 (August 1994)
While the last one was from beginning to end an obvious piece of filler fluff, this one comes off a bit better but sadly is almost as disposable. It’s a shame considering the first story is the introduction of Knuckles the Echidna into the comic books which SHOULD be a momentous occasion but instead it’s just bafflingly inept.
Now admittedly the writers didn’t have a whole lot to go off of considering this is based on the third Sonic the Hedgehog game and all of the genesis era entries in that franchise were rather light on plot. Not only that, but trying to merge the two COMPLETELY different conceptualizations of these characters and the worlds they inhabit together (the comic’s story about freedom fighters and the games having a heavy focus on things like rings and Chaos Emeralds) has always been awkward in these comics, so MAYBE it’s worth giving this story a little bit of slack because of it. On second thought… no. Even WITH all that, there’s simply not enough meat here to give Knuckles introductory story any sort of dramatic heft and he simply comes off as a total idiot for trusting Doctor Robotnik who IMMEDIATELY betrays him in the most obvious of ways. On top of that, the artist REALLY didn’t seem to know how to draw Knuckles, so we can’t even say this comic LOOKS good despite its ridiculously sloppy story.
It all eventually works itself out as Knuckles finds out who the REAL bad guy is (HE’S THE ONE WITH THE GLOWING RED EYES) and helps Sonic to get the Chaos Emerald back; ensuring that the status quo is maintained and that that no consequences come about from any of this! Look, I’m sure that Knuckles turns out to be much more compelling later on (he even gets his own comic book series), but his introduction here is just a chore to get through and really unnecessary if you know even the slightest bit about the video games. Moving on to the next story, we’ve actually got something that works reasonably well, but still feels rather undercooked considering what they COULD have done with it. It seems that The Freedom Fighters have caught wind of Robotnik’s latest scheme which is some sort of orbiting death ray that he’ll be launching into space very soon. In order to stop such a weapon of mass destruction, the Freedom Fighters have to sneak aboard and fly it themselves! That’s right! It’s Sonic the Hedgehog… IN SPACE!!
Well alright then! So far so good! Sure, it’s a bit weird that we’re just jumping into outer space all willy-nilly (you’d think something THAT monumental would have a bit more buildup), but it’s always fun to see what can be done with such an extreme change in setting! Sadly, they don’t really do anything different here and this story could have just as easily taken place on Earth. First of all, they aren’t REALLY in space all that long as they crash land on a moon not long after take-off which is where the rest of the story takes place, though we DO get an interesting detail that planet Mobius has like a hundred freaking moons orbiting it. Seems excessive to me, but it certainly makes it easier for them to find a place to crash land. Once on the new planet, which still has an atmosphere but one that is a lot thinner, the group tries to escape Robotnik who’s been hot on their trail in his BACKUP space weapon and nearly annihilates them on this distant planet. Of course he gets foiled once again, but this time for a disappointingly stupid reason. They added a new character trait for Robotnik that’s never really been brought up until now where he’s SO narcissistic that he can’t help but fall in love with anything that looks like him, and Sonic takes advantage of this fatal flaw.
I mean I GUESS it’s not hard to believe that megalomaniacal dictator would ALSO have an obsession with himself, but for their first foray into space, it’s just disappointing that they didn’t do anything better with it. That’s basically this issue in a nutshell, by the way. We’ve got some REALLY cool stuff to work with (even more so than the time travel in the last issue) but the writers dropped the ball pretty hard; turning Knuckles into a poorly drawn blithering idiot and having their first space adventure feel disappointingly average. Oh well. It can only go uphill from here… right?
Issue 14 (September 1994)
When you think of Miles “Tails” Prowler, at least since the games went to 3D, one of his key defining characteristics is his intelligence. Sure it varies from game to game, but he’s usually portrayed as one of the smartest, if not THE smartest, characters in this world. When I first started the main story in this issue, I thought that they were going to explore that and possibly even give it a proper origin. That’s NOT what ends up happening though which is KIND of a relief considering how terrible this story is and therefore can easily be forgotten. It starts out with Tails feeling left out of the war effort and wants to go with Sonic to face Robotnik head on. I don’t think that’s true considering how often he’s right in the middle of the action in the OTHER issues of this comic, but I think this was something much more prominent in the SatAM cartoon so I’ll let it pass. Anyway, when Sonic dumps a menial task on him to handle on his own (watch Rotor’s garden) he proves that he can’t even do THAT properly as he eats a fruit on one of those plants that he REALLY wasn’t supposed to.
As with any story about someone getting smart, they just HAVE to become extremely arrogant as well because heaven forbid we ACTUALLY show intelligence as anything other than a tool of the elite! Because working class people and people with great degrees of empathy, compassion, and understanding, can’t ALSO be smart! Ugh… whatever. Tails ends up facing down Robitnick right as his lair (he’s SO smart that he got through all his traps) but at that exact moment the effects of the brain food he ate wears off and Sonic has to come back in to rescue him. Don’t worry though! He eventually gets back in everyone’s good graces by humiliating Antoine later, so all is right with the world! PLEASE LET US CONTINUE TO THE NEXT STORY!!
Well… no. We’ve actually got something interesting in between this story and the next one which is a contest where the artists included three panels with blank text bubbles for fans to fill in and mail to Archie comics. The three winners would get some swag from the Sonic Comic team as well as their entries printed in issue 23, so let’s keep an eye out for THAT once we get there!
Now as sad as it is to admit, the information about the contest is actually the best part of this issue because the story that follows is just as bad, if not worse, than the Tails story. Robotnik has decided that the way to win against the Freedom Fighters is start by taking out the women on the team. Yup. We’re going full Battle of the Sexes here…
Alright, so I guess it’s not the WORST idea to try and give the women a chance at the spotlight and I do genuinely like both of these characters when they are written well (particularly Sally who’s the only Freedom Fighter with any semblance of a backstory), but the way this part of the issue tries to go about it feels like half-assed pandering more than anything else which can almost be as offensive as straight up misogyny because… well it practically IS that. Let’s start with Robotnik’s master plan to capture them which is incredibly stereotypical and feels like a lame Andrew Dice Clay bit. He sets up a fake mall that will SURELY draw them in with amazing savings because that’s what chicks are into I guess, and while I can see that being an idea that a BAD GUY would come up with… the problem is that IT WORKS! Sally and Bunnie fall for it! WHAT!?
How does that even make sense!? Aren’t they in the middle of a totalitarian regime that has more or less wiped out all organic life in the major metropolitan areas? ISN’T THAT THE WHOLE REASON THEY’RE LIVING UNDERGROUND!? Yet they saw a shiny new mall spring up out of nowhere and thought it was all good? Nothing about this is setting off any alarms in these revolutionary fighters’ heads? Now the two of them end up breaking out rather easily once they’re captured, proving once and for all the women shouldn’t be underestimated, but none of that justifies HOW they ended up in the villians clutches and only further cements the idea that the writers didn’t actually care about the story and just wanted to score some progressive brownie points. If you’re still not convinced, we’ll be getting to some Sally centric stories in issues 17 and 18 that are a great counterbalance to what they do here, so we’ll no doubt be picking this topic back up again soon enough. For now though, the reason this story fails is NOT because it has a bad message (women are just as capable as men) but because of how poorly they tried to tell it and the gendered stereotypes that are baked into the humor.
The first issue was worthless and the second was DISAPPOINTINGLY worthless, but this one legitimately pissed me off. It’s just bad across the board with the first story turning one of the more likable characters in the series into a pompous jerk for the most cliché and obnoxious of reasons (SMART PEOPLE ARE MEANIE PANTS!) and the second one simply failing to understand what the hell its doing and ends up doing more harm than good. We’ve still got one more of these, so let’s just get it over with.
Issue 15 (October 1994)
Is it an improvement? Sure, I guess… mostly because there’s ONE story in here that’s actually decent, but the other two are the same sub par crap we’ve had to deal with for the last two issues. The first one is an overly complicated mess that feels like one of those game tie-in stories (look for these power ups in the next Sonic game!), but without an actual game to connect it to. Sonic saves a frog from being crushed by a log (in a bog) and the frog is apparently magical and can give Sonic super powers in the form of three one-time use energy balls; giving him strength, elasticity, and higher jumps.
Why the frog couldn’t use his magic powers to save himself from the tree is a mystery, but maybe it was some sort of cosmic test in search of the true champion of Mobius. It was either that or have him pull out a magic sword, and we know how well THAT would have turned out! Sonic, seemingly nonplussed at the prospect of having MORE powers, gives the glowing rocks to Tails as good luck charms but IMMEDIATELY takes them back once Robotnik comes at them with a giant bug-mobile. It’s admittedly a rather intimidating foe to face, but Sonic has certainly faced his share of robots in the past WITHOUT magic rocks, and furthermore he’s forgotten which ones do which. Needless to say this leads to some death defying hijinks.
Sonic eventually saves the day with his magic crystals and the Freedom Fighters live on to fight another day. Yippee. I’m sure Robotnik will have something else to throw at them next week, but this time Sonic will be able to handle it without the jewels because of reasons. Anyway, what’s next? Well the story after that involves the Freedom Fighters standing outside Rotor’s door and wondering what newfangled invention he’s secretly working on in there and it’s about as exciting as you’d imagine. Nothing much to note in this story, but I DO like this bit of catty interplay between Sonic and Sally.
Turns out he was inventing the thermos… so that’s a thing. Egh… is there STILL more to this? Well yes actually, and it turns out they were saving the best for last. The story begins with Robotnik coming up with yet another amazing plan which involves exploiting Bunnie Rabbot’s biggest weakness to destroy her once and for all! What is that weakness you may ask? No, it’s not radioactive carrots or a poor sense of direction (she REALLY should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque); it’s the fact that she’s more machine than rabbit which therefore makes her susceptible to giant magnets!
I’m not sure why they didn’t bother to have a contingency plan in case the ONE hedgehog who always ruins their plans shows up (seriously, how has this guy managed to stay in power this long?), but sure enough said hedgehog does and comes up with a MASTERFUL plan to stop his nemesis! MAKE HIM TURN AROUND!! Yeah, that’s it. Robotnik gets distracted by Sonic, turns the magnet-bot around to face him, and ends up uprooting his own metal city in the process; releasing his hold on Bunnie and burying himself in trash. This wasn’t the most interesting story we’ve gotten in the last few issues, but it at least acknowledges an actual weakness of one of the protagonists (Bunnie’s situation as a half robot and half animal and the fact that she’s the only freedom fighter to make it out of Robotnik’s robotization process with their mind intact) which doesn’t happen all that often and could end up leading to some interesting stories down the road. Then again, Rotor made her metal parts non-magnetic so I guess that particular weakness being used for a plot line that’s no longer on the table. Great…
So what have we learned from all this? Not much from my estimation considering the inconsequential nature of this run of comics, but then I doubt there’s ANY book out there that hasn’t had its weak stretches and hopefully it’ll only get better from here. Spoiler alert, the immediate future of this series looks very bright!