Sonic the Hedgehog and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Archie Comics and Sega of America
Boy it’s been a while, hasn’t it? What with the NEW Sonic the Hedgehog comics coming out, I haven’t had much time to look back at the series that started it all! That changes right now (at least for the time being) as we’ve got two more issues of the Archie series to look at! With the new books fresh in my mind, how do these classic issues compare with what we’ve been getting recently? Let’s find out!!
Issue 19 (February 1995)
Now this one’s a bit of a doozy as it’s the first issue in the series to have a SINGLE storyline instead of being broken up into vignettes which is an interesting change of pace and they certainly packed it with enough content to stretch the story out that long; not to mention continuity callbacks which I feel are only going to become more common as the series goes along. So then! Back in issue 11, Sonic used something called the COSMIC INTERSTATE in an attempt to shave time off of his commute but instead ended up going to a mirror universe with EVIL Sonic. At the beginning of THIS issue, one of those Cosmic Interstate portals opens up and spits out a Terminator knock-off who is here to warn us all of impending doom!
Okay, so what’s The Hog-inator’s reason for bum rushing Sonic Prime’s dimension in the first place? Well it turns out that in HIS world, Dr. Robotnik captured all the Freedom Fighters and turned into badass half robo-abominations for… some reason, and for his troubles they ended up USING their new cybernetic enhancements to overthrow Robotnik’s regime. Not his brightest moment to be sure, but it gave him the brilliant idea of using that same process to turn him into a FULL robot, which… I thought he already was? I mean he’s called ROBOTNIK and his whole deal is robots and pollution to turn the world entirely mechanical so I always thought he was a robot already, but I guess he’s now a SUPER robot and is now a threat to not just his own dimension but everyone else’s as well. The Hog-inator is the last survivor after this Uber Robotnik (who is referred to in the book as Robo-Robotnik) utterly decimated the Freedom Fighters and needs Sonic Prime’s help to stop him before it’s too late! Now I’m SURE that good ol’ Sonic Prime can kick Robo-Robotnik’s sorry metal butt from here to Dimension X, but why should he put in that much effort when the Hog-inator just gave him a brilliant plan!?
That’s right! Within a single page (because Sonic is quick like that), he managed to collect a boat load of Sonics from other dimensions for the expressed purpose of protecting themselves from authoritarian rule. What’ I’m saying is that Rick and Morty COMPLETELY ripped off a children’s comic from the early nineties, and the comparisons with The Citadel don’t even end there! Out of nowhere their little club gets attacked by said authoritarians, i.e. Robo-Robotnik shows up, but the hogs are able to beat him back with a little help from… ROBOTNIK!? Yes, that’s right! Robotnik Prime isn’t too keen on this NEW Robotnik horning in on his territory so he and Sonic Prime (along with the other Sonics) set up a tentative truce! SONIC SHOCK!! Not only that, but Robotnik apparently knows what Robo-Robotnik is truly after which is some sort of hidden weapon located somewhere in the Cosmic Interstate, so if they want to stop Robo-Robotnik once and for all they’ll need to find it first. Hm… this is starting to sound familiar too. Oh well! I’m sure it’s nothing! What’s actually SOMETHING though is what Robo-Robotnik has up his Robo-sleeve to derail this little scavenger hunt before they stop his evil machinations! You see, Sonic may have gotten all the backup he could hope for, but there are still forces in the universe that can throw a wrench into all of that.
Now for those of you who don’t know, this is EVIL Sonic from the parallel universe where everyone is apparently self-aware that they are mustache twirling mirror-mirror counterparts but since there are infinite universe I doubt this guy would be particularly unique. Like… shouldn’t Robo-Robotnik be gathering just as many evil counterpart Sonics as Sonic Prime did for Gimmick Sonics? If this guy IS unique in his villainy it at least somewhat confirming that OUR Sonic is Sonic Prime, but regardless he is here to be a jerk for the sake of it which makes him a very effective blunt instrument for our roboticized tyrant. Before we get to that however, we need to check in on Sonic Team who have just entered THE NEUTRAL ZONE (a part of the superhighway that is conveniently in Black and White so no one has to pay to color in all those extra Sonics) and are on the lookout for the hidden weapon! Oh there it is! And it’s… the Infinity Gauntlet! Huh.
Yeah, Sonic is no stranger to spoofing other comic books, but this is boarding on copyright infringement and PROBABLY at least five percent of the reason these books have been scrubbed from all digital storefronts. Anyway, we’re gonna start rushing through the rest of the issue since we’ve now covered most of the interesting stuff and the rest of it is just kind of boilerplate comic book drama. Evil Sonic shows up just as Sonic Prime and company find the gauntlet and manages to cause enough of a distraction for Robo-Robotnik to snatch it out from under them which means he can UNLEASH THE POWER OF THIS ULTIMATE WEAPON UPON THE MULTIVERSE! And that all powerful weapon is… a glove that turns into a giant robot. Huh. I mean considering how many robots are already in the series, making one extra tall doesn’t seem to be much to write home about (especially since Sonic Prime has already taken out mechanical monstrosities of similar size in previous issues), but it certainly has everyone else frazzled as Sonic Team scrambles to come up with a plan to stop it. Oh, I know! How about they all hit it AT THE SAME TIME! That should work, right!?
And with that, the greatest threat in the multiverse has been vanquished! Robo-Rotnik’s severed head is being… dealt with by The Hog-inator, and even Robotnik Prime has been prematurely plot-blocked as he planned on scavenging the pieces for himself before being reminded that he’s surrounded by about a hundred hedgehogs in various wacky outfits. Instead, the various parts of the giant robot have been handed to each of the hedgehogs and spread across the multiverse (I guess it doesn’t revert back to a glove when defeated), and with that the issue comes to a close with the day saved yet again and one last awful dad joke from Sonic!
I think the series has a ways to go still if it wants to be taken seriously in the ways that it SEEMS to want to (big continuity driven story with references to past issues and high concept situations), but this is definitely heading in the right direction. The story certainly has the scale to require a full issue to tell it, but things still feel rather flippant and lacking in gravitas. We’ve got characters traveling through dimensions, multiple alternate universe versions of our hero, and even the Infinity Gauntlet to make this feel like the most important quest Sonic has ever been on, and yet the final battle barely even seems to be a minor incontinence for the guy despite the weapon supposedly being one of the most powerful in the universe. Maybe selling the threat would have required TWO issues to tell, but even for its faults it’s still an interesting story and one of the more memorable up to this point!
Issue 20 (March 1995)
The issue begins with Sonic and Sally on a top secret mission to destroy Robotnik’s latest EVIL machine of doom which is some sort of anti-matter device. It’s probably safe to assume that Robotnik isn’t creating such a device for medical purpose or to possibly create a new fuel source but instead as an overly convoluted DEATH BEAM, so sending in the two most competent members of the Freedom Fighters was probably a wise move; that is if ONE of them can stay on target for more than five minutes!
Well who didn’t see THAT coming? Hotshot over here thought he’d just waltz in and plant a bomb on the dude’s Anti-Matter MacGuffin without him even noticing, but instead it was one big trap to… actually, what was the plan here? As far as I can tell, Robotnik’s big gotcha moment is locking the door behind Sonic in a room full of robots, but it’s not like the guy hasn’t gotten out of this exact same situation dozens of times before! On top of that, Robotnik STILL used the actual anti-matter weapon as bait which you’d think is something he would have made a decoy for! True, he admits that it didn’t quite work yet, but that’s still a lot of R&D funding going to a shiny and easily breakable paperweight, or even worse a rather unstable bit mad science technology! Case in point, as Sonic is getting surrounded by Robotnik’s Swat-Bots, Sonic throws his bomb at the device hoping to create a distraction while he kicks in the door, but instead Sonic ends up tripping on his way out and is caught in the explosion as the bomb goes off as well as the anti-matter machine which, shock of all shocks, was rather unstable even in its half-finished state! The blast is strong enough to destroy the facility, though miraculously Sally manages to survive and make it back to the Freedom Fighters. Sonic on the other hand is not so lucky and seems to have turned into a ghost which either means he has unfinished business in the mortal world or he needs to find someone to possess who is worthy of his WAY PAST COOL skills!
Okay, I hate to cut the suspense here early, but we find out rather quickly that Sonic is NOT actually dead and is instead feeling the effects of… anti-matter I guess, and is temporarily invisible, inaudible, and can even pass through certain objects. Well that’s certainly lucky I guess, but it’s not gonna mean much to become corporeal in a few hours when the rest of the Freedom Fighters will surely be brutally murdered in a desperate siege on Robotropolis to avenge their fallen hero’s death, so Sonic has to think quickly if he’s to have a home to go back to once the effects have worn off. If only there was some way to use his ghostly powers for good while he still has them!!
Sonic manages to crash the plane with his GHOST HANDS (i.e. grabbing the steering wheel while still invisible) and even convinces Robotnik that he’s an actual ghost. Soon after both he and Snively have run for the hills, the remaining effects of the anti-matter explosion wear off (that’s convenient!) and he gets to come back to life for all his bestest buddies! Of course this minor success is merely temporary as Snively soon finds out that Sonic is in fact NOT a vengeful spirit from the afterlife, but when you’re facing down a fascists dictatorship with only a dozen or so woodland critters on your side, you take your victories where you can find them!
Yeah… this story was nothing all that great. I’m mostly reminded of Rockin’ the Bot back in issue 15 which also had an overly convoluted premise just to tell yet another story of Sonic thwarting that dastardly Robotnick, and while it makes for an eye catching cover (I guess that would be the analog version of clickbait) it feels rather cheap to promise something as dramatic as THE DEATH OF SONIC only for it to not be true and tell a mediocre story in the process. Really, the only part of this comic that’s all that interesting is the B story at the end where we get a preview of the upcoming Princess Sally three part mini-series as well as an introduction to one of the more notable characters in the Archie Comics canon; Geoffrey St. John.
Now I don’t know EVERYTHING about this character, but I do know that he’ll be showing up a few times throughout the series and is more or less a romantic rival for Sonic in a live triangle with Sally; an aspect of this sprawling storyline that I find rather odd considering the one thing I DO know about Geoffrey St. John is that he’s married. Eh, maybe that happens AFTER all this Twilight style love tension. For now though, his introduction is rather straightforward as Sally is on a solo mission to blow up one of Robotnik’s labs (what is it with this issue having so many bombs!?) but runs into Geoffrey in the process who is ALSO a Freedom Fighter but for a faction that Sally has no knowledge of known as the Rebel Underground; an elite group of fighters who work in the shadows and are still fiercely loyal to the royal family that Robotnik overthrew. Ergo, he’s quite the effective ally for Sally… OR IS HE!? I guess we’ll have to find out more next time when I cover the three issue Princess Sally mini-series! Other than this character introduction, the issue is rather disposable. It feels like they have a stack of stories they brainstormed in one caffeine fueled weekend and are peppering them throughout the more organic stories that actually advance the lore and create engaging scenarios, and trust me; we are FAR from done with these! If issue 19 benefited from anything, it’s that they didn’t have room to put any secondary nonsense into it which will hopefully be the rule rather than the exception as the series goes along.