Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America
We’re back with another issue of The Excellent Eggman Escapades which should be the OFFICIAL title of this series if the villains’ story line continues to be such a big highlight of this series! Ever since Eggman came back to his senses and took the villain role once again, the series has improved significantly with a much more focused story line and an interesting new antagonist in the form of Doctor Starline. With his first fight against Sonic himself, can this new villain continue to impress along with everything else the bad guys are doing? Let’s find out!!
The issue begins with Sonic and Silver climbing a mountain which helpful little box informs us is FROZEN PEAK, but I can’t tell if it’s a pronoun or just a vague description of where they are. I mean sure, in a world where half the charactesr have a first name foled by THE SPECIES it wouldn’t be that hard of a leap for things to be named so bluntly (I’m guessing that would mean Sonic was chillaxing on HOT BEACH in the last issue), but it must be a nightmare for the Woodland Critter Cartographer Society. Why are we even up here in the first place? And why do neither of them have jackets? While the latter question will remain a mystery that’ll haunt me to the end of my days (does sonic have fur? IS HE ONLY FURY ON THE BLUE PARTS!?), the former is a lot easier to answer. Apparently SOMEBODY, not gonna name names, walked up to Silver, told him Eggman has a base on a mountain somewhere, and then disappeared without a trace. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like an A PLUS lead right there!
Well at the very least there IS an Eggman base on the mountain, but what the informant failed to mention is that a ticked off Metal Sonic is waiting for them and pounces once they’re within earshot of it. The same Metal Sonic by the way that Sonic set free in issue 12 instead of turning him over to the proper authorities for all the crimes he committed, but I guess we’re just gonna forget about that while these three play very aggressive tag in the woods. Silver manages to get the upper hand and stops Metal Sonic in his tracks, but this victory is short lived as Doctor Starline makes his presence known and warps the robotic menace out of reach. Oh, and spoiler alert; the warping informant who led Silver into a trap turns out to be the one guy we’ve seen so far who can open portals. SONIC SHOCK! Well now that the band’s all here it’s time to play some horribly violent music, and I must say that Starline continues to impress as a villain. Okay, his motivation still feels a bit underdeveloped (I’m ASSUMING his Eggman obsession is just an act but it’s not the most INTERESTING act to put on), but his presence is up there with Whisper as far as characters who not only fit into this world but feel like they could overshadow the preexisting characters if given the right story push; all of which by the way is helped immensely by a great design that’s perfectly realized through Tracy Yardley’s artwork and Leonardo Ito’s coloring.
While these four are hashing things out, Eggman is still conducting horrific experiments on small animals in case you thought they were gonna let up on him being an outright terrifying villain. I may sound like a broken record here (or like someone who’s padding out reviews of single issue comics), but the way the book has handled Robotnik has been stellar as he comes across as legitimately threatening which is more than can be said about ANY of his video game counterparts. The plan is still convoluted though and I’ve also found a brand new thing to complain about; namely how they’re drawing the roboticized creatures. In the Archie books, anyone who had been roboticized got VERY clearly mechanical bodies that were visually distinct from their flesh and blood former selves. Here though, because EVERYTHING has to look slick when portraying advanced technology, they just look like the creatures we saw only with a metallic sheen to them. No rivets, no gears, no LEDs; just red eyes and shiny fur.
It just lacks any sort of punch as it doesn’t FEEL like they’ve been changed all that much which was not the case with the Archie comics as it always felt like a big deal whenever they did a roboticization story line (pour one out for Uncle Chuck). I’ll give the story this though; they have plenty of chances to improve on this once they get to ACTUAL characters instead of these nameless creatures, and the issue is setting us up for just that the moment Rough & Tumble come bursting through the door demanding new weapons to attack Sonic with. Hopefully they don’t just make them shiny and red eyed (Tumble’s already got the latter) which would be a waste of such a great idea. Heck, maybe Tumble will think it’s worth becoming a mechanical abomination to get his tail back which will be that much more powerful a moment if the artwork can back it up.
Getting back to the mountain fight, there’s honestly not much to say about it. Starline uses his portals pretty effectively, but eventually Sonic and Silver get the upper hand and Starline starts to sing like a canary. He tells Silver that Eggman’s plans are in a vault inside which leaves just him and Sonic to have a little chat while Silver checks it out. OR DO THEY!? As it turns out, the good doctor is perhaps a bit smarter than anyone expected and tells Sonic he actually booby-trapped the vault to explode once Silver opened it which turns out to be a PRETTY good plan as Sonic rushes in after Silver; leaving Starline to escape as the building explodes. Well I say escape, but as it turns out Eggman is not too keen about the idea of Starline killing Sonic in an explosion and makes his feelings on the matter VERY clear.
Two things. First, they MIGHT be going a bit too far with Eggman’s villainy. Maybe it’s just me, but the strangling here feels a bit much; even beyond the evil experiments on the creatures. At least that can be contextualized as SUPER SCIENCE VILLAINY, while this is… well perhaps a bit too much on the REAL WORLD VIOLENCE end of things. I don’t know for sure how I feel about it, and it’s not a BIG problem; it’s just something that kind of caught me off guard when I first saw it. Second, while the series has done a great job of making Eggman a credible threat, it also has to twist itself into knots to justify him not just… well carpet bombing the crap out of Sonic if he can just do that. I get the whole push-pull dynamic between hero and villain can cause one or both parties to act irrationally, but it feels a bit awkward for him to come out and say it so bluntly. Now obviously Sonic and Silver managed to survive the explosion (though a story arc where Sonic is dead would be an interesting idea to say the least), but Silver didn’t leave the blast radius unscathed and is brought back to Restoration HQ to heal up while Sonic plans their next move. Amy is at HQ as well and suggests they go after one of Eggman’s old bases to see if they can use the tech in there to find his new location which I THINK was the plot of issue 8, but I’ll save my judgement until the next issue comes out. And so the issue ends with Sonic and Amy heading off on yet another mission together, though you’d think with Amy being the new leader that she’d have better things to do or would at least assign someone less busy to tag along. Oh well! I guess smashing up robots is how she unwinds! Some people like video games, cross stitch, or ASMR videos; others like bashing things with a hammer!
The book’s upward swing since starting the second story arc continues unabated, though I think a few cracks are starting to form when it comes to the Eggman half of the story and frankly we still haven’t advanced Sonic as a character much since the series began. Despite this being Eggman’s triumphant return, there hasn’t been a lot of urgency to his plan as it’s just his minions messing with Sonic as he fiddles with things in his lab, but this is clearly building up to something much bigger so hopefully we get an inkling of that in the next few issues. Similarly I’d like for Starline to have a bit more going on personality wise than just a super smug guy who likes Eggman, though once again I do believe they’re building up to something with him. Honestly the villain stuff is mostly just nit-picking every minuscule detail as we go along and I’m still very confident that the upcoming issues will continue to get better as their story develops, but then as that gets better it becomes more clear that the heroes aren’t really doing much on their own other than react to Eggman and spout off their one liners. Maybe this will be a Batman situation where the villains are more interesting than the hero which I guess is better than everyone being boring and I suspect that a lot of this is SEGA keeping a watchful eye on this series; lest things stray TOO far from the canon interpretation of these characters. I don’t really have a way to confirm if that’s true (we do know that SEGA has thrown their weight around with the Archie Comic whenever they strayed a bit), but in any case my hope is that the hero side of things will soon catch up to the superb villain stuff we’ve been getting for the last few issues.