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 even MORE Sonic the Hedgehog, because I guess it wasn’t enough to get that terrible trailer; they had to release not one but TWO issues of the comic two days later! Not only that but the one we’ll be looking at today is an Annual which is a series of short stories that is twice as long as a standard issue, and if that wasn’t enough there’s ANOTHER issue coming out next week! That’s about four issues worth of comics in only two weeks which is great for most people out there, but now I’ve quadrupled my workload all at once! If you have any tiny violins in your immediate vicinity I would recommend playing a sad song for me and my misfortunes. ANYWAY! Does the first Annual of the IDW series manage to knock it out of the park, or does the short story format (reminiscent of the early Sonic Archie comics) end up hampering their ability to tell decent stories? Let’s find out!!
Our first story begins with what I can only assume is a preview of the Tangle/Whisper miniseries as the latter visits the former in her home town. I can only ASSUME this is the same village as the one from issue 4, but they don’t bother to clarify this in the story itself, and I guess I COULD take this time to once again say how nice it’d be if they would establish some key locations to make the world feel real and to give some degree of stakes to Eggman’s rampant destruction, but I’m pretty sure I’ve already beaten that dead horse a few times already. That, and they do a good job fleshing out the interplay between Tangle and Whisper so I guess I can’t complain too much when they’re at least giving me that.
The duo pal around the quaint little hamlet for a bit before winding up at a rock museum which Tangle’s Passive Brunette FriendTM owns and operates. Her name is Crystal and she’s a beetle, though whether she’s known as Crystal The Beetle is somewhat unclear but this is not the time and place to rehash that conversation; this is where we look at shiny rocks! Boy, are they shiny! Probably valuable too! I sure hope that no one tries to steal them!
Yeah, so there are a few gaps in my Sonic Knowledge and I haven’t the foggiest idea what these characters’ whole “deal” is other than they’re in the Sonic Rider games. I mean I guess they’d have to be bad guys in those considering they’re straight up pulling a smash and grab in broad daylight which I guess requires a certain amount of guts, but I question what kind of market is out there for shiny rocks; let alone an illegitimate one. I mean shouldn’t these three be off winning races or something instead of pulling off petty crimes for what can only be rather paltry rewards? Then again, I guess when your primary form of transportation is a GIANT BLIMP that certainly requires a huge amount of fuel and maintenance, you’ve gotta take what you can get; and no, I don’t know if the giant blimp is part of their extended lore. Said blimp by the way is where these three ((Jet the Hawk, Wave the Swallow, and Storm the Albatross) run to once they’ve stolen everything, knocked Whisper over with their hover boars, and inadvertently kidnapped Crystal along the way. Naturally Whisper and Tangle give chase and manage to make it inside the spectacular flying machine which is double impressive since neither of them can fly, and this is where things actually get a bit interesting. Up until this point it’s been pretty standard hero stuff that could where you could have easily replaced these two with Sonic and the birds with robo-baddies, but there’s a bit of a swerve here as none of the birds are willing to actually face the two in honorable combat. Heck, even when Jet tries to save face by challenging them to a race instead which is where I thought this was going, Wave just chews him out and calls him a fool before they just let Crystal go and Tangle sneaks off with their loot. Sure we PROBABLY wasn’t enough room in the issue to let an actual fight or a race play out, but I kind of like the interplay here and the fact that we’re not completely burying this group as bad guys; especially when the book has enough really good and interesting ones already.
The next story doesn’t have as much going on but is fine in its short format. Sonic and Tails are testing out a new jet feature on the Tornado when they spot one of Eggman’s robots carrying off resistance supplies and they have to catch up with it in order to take it back. Nothing much to talk about here, but I do want to point out one odd moment. The do indeed manage to catch up to the robot and blow it up, but for whatever reason they did so over an active lava flow. Now where I thought this was going is that they’d admit they screwed up and lost the supplies but at least destroyed the robot. Nope! Right after the crate falls in the lava Tails says he’ll phone someone from the resistance to go pick it up. Oh, okay! Yeah, send some hapless volunteer to row a paddle boat out to the volcano to pick up this box! I’m sure it’s not already destroyed or that the poor sap will die of fume inhalation along the way!
The next story is another one on the lighter side, but where the last one was a quick action scene this one is a short character piece. Blaze is out looking for Silver and eventually finds him trying to start a garden. Sounds simple enough, but I can’t figure out why he would do it in the middle of a destroyed city instead of, you know… the forest? Blaze figures out rather quickly that trying to make something grow in a landscape covered with gunpowder and machinery isn’t the most ideal of locations, but she manages to clear the area using her fire powers which has the added benefit of giving them plenty of ash for fertilizer and eventually things start to grow in the once blighted area! Yay for urban agriculture!
We’ve got two more stories left and this next one is much more substantive than the last two; not to mention that it’s a pleasant surprise to see them focus on Rough & Tumble of all characters! Then again, that kind of confirms this is outside of any semblance of the current continuity since, you know… they aren’t dead. ANYWAY, Rough & Tumble are not trying to take over the world or beat up Sonic; rather they’re just looking for some treasure in… Eggman’s pyramid? Oh jeez, is this a reference to that one Sonic game that’s SUPREMELY overrated? Well whatever, at least Rough & Tumble are a lot of fun here as they’ve got personality and comedic timing instead of generic bad guy bluster which is why I wrote them off when they first showed up, but this along with their more recent appearances have really done a lot to make them endearing. Okay, I’m a bit confused as to why Tumble has basically turned into a Curly style childish coward archetype when he’s never acted like that before, but it’s still fun to see these two stooges work off of each other.
They avoid various traps by the skin of their teeth and eventually run into Rouge who JUST SO HAPPENS TO BE THERE AS WELL and is also looking for whatever treasures or tech that Eggman left behind when he abandoned this pyramid. I’m still confused about that point though because so far nothing about this pyramid seems in any way connected to Eggman; it just seems like your typical Adventure PyramidTM with rusted and archaic traps. We’ll get back to that once we’re at the end of the story, but for now the trio (who are decidedly NOT working together) manage to run into a giant golem and have to avoid getting smashed to pieces by its giant stone fists. Oddly enough, Rough & Tumble manage to be competent for once and overcomes the giant magical creature in a blaze of violent glory, but the victory is short lived as Rouge approaches them looking somewhat worse for wear.
Naturally the sight of a mummy manages to scare them witless (never mind that they JUST defeated a giant monster) and the two flee for the nearest exit; abandoning their quest for treasure and leaving nothing but a trail of terrified urine behind. But wait! It turns out this was all a ruse by Rouge who is NOT in fact a mummy but were just trying to scare them away as well as hope they will spread rumors about just how haunted this place is so no one else will come. And WHY would she want to do something like that you may ask? Well while Rough & Tumble were busy dispatching of the golem, she managed to find a civilization of… some sort of animal (maybe Meerkats?) who are living peacefully in the abandoned pyramid, and… want to be left alone I guess? Oh, and they also have a room full of treasure that they aren’t doing anything with and just let Rouge have for driving off those two. Okay… so Eggman abandoned this base of operations which doesn’t have ANY technology in it (we’ve seen his abandoned bases before and they ALWAYS had computers in them) and a bunch of cats move in who want to just close themselves off from the world yet decided to stay in a rather conspicuous location that would almost certainly get the attention of those seeking Eggman resources or treasure in general. IN order to counter this they… actually don’t do anything (no one says that the golem was of their making) and they aren’t even hoarding the treasure in the first place since they’re willing to part with it so easily. I mean why don’t they just dump the treasure outside and let whoever wants it take it so there’d be no reason for someone to go in and explore it? Furthermore, how is this little scheme with Rouge supposed to work? Assuming that telling people there’s a haunted pyramid will actually turn people away rather than draw them even more towards it, they knew that Rouge was the mummy so when she shows up somewhere else, well that’ll give up the ghost, won’t it!? I don’t know, it was certainly fun to see Rough & Tumble play it up for laughs and seeing Rouge is always a bonus, but this story just kind of falls apart at the end which frankly MIGHT be an endorsement for it considering my one suggestion would be to give it even more pages. If they had fleshed it out a bit and given this hidden civilization a little more time to explain who they are there might have been a bit more dramatic heft to it, but as it stands the whole thing ends up being about on par with that one story about the Nerbs.
Just one more story to go and hey, I can even relate THIS one to the Archie comics as well! Remember that rather mediocre story about Tails going to the Sonic Fan Convention? Okay, it’s not quite a convention, but there IS a Sonic Fan Club and secondary character (Tangle) does make an appearance at the end. I don’t know, this one feels even less substantive than the one that was just about flying a plane; mostly because the characters who are in most of the story are not characters we’ve seen before, are not even given proper names, and there’s no indication that they will come back in a future issue. The only thing worth noting here are the odd cameos to western animation including one character wearing Steven Universe’s iconic shirt and a character who looks VERY close to Dot from Animaniacs.
This issue was fine. It doesn’t really build on anything that’s already been established, but the two longer stories did a decent job of fleshing out their respective characters a bit which I would say is a decent enough trade off. I’m still hoping that at some point they figure out that THE WORLD needs to be expanded in order to make the characters’ actions feel important (what exactly are they fighting for if we don’t even know what’s at stake?) but maybe an annual isn’t the place to do that. I mean the Archie comics did it for sure, but if I keep comparing them to the IDW books I’ll never be fully satisfied. It’s rather disposable though, especially since one of the highlights of the book feels like a preview of what we can already go and see in the first Tangle/Whisper issue that was released the same day as this, so it might be worth waiting for the price to drop on this or for it to be collected in a trade before checking it out. Then again, can we EVER have enough Tangle and Whisper? Well probably if this mini-series doesn’t go well, but let’s try to stay optimistic!!
Tangle and Whisper – Issue 0
We have an addendum here! Yes, I was originally planning on reviewing this issue all on its own, but as it turns out they weren’t kidding around calling this a preview issue. I thought it would be a story in its own right that would lead into whatever the first issue of this mini-series would be, but sadly my hopes were just too darn high to be reasonably met as this is just four pages long and I’m guessing it’s just the first few pages of the first issue. I guess we’ll find out once they actually do release that first issue in July, but until then let’s take a quick look at what’s here! Now if the goal of this was to get the readers hyped for the series itself, well it certainly does that because the story in here is ACTUALLY pretty good! Tangle is back in her home town which they confirm here is in fact the same town from issue 4, and she’s trying to deal with life after having such a grand adventure with Sonic and his friends. She confides in her friend Crystal that the slower pace of peacetime is making her a bit antsy; plus her girlfriend Blaze hasn’t called yet and which is a bit disappointing.
I’m glad that they’re at least acknowledging SOME sort of consequence for the events of the previous issues, and the idea of this character having been changed by the adventures she’s been on is certainly something I’d love to see played out in future issues. Too much of the IDW series feels insubstantial which once again goes back to the paper thin world building up to this point, and while I don’t want to delve TOO far into conspiracy territory, it’s been the non-SEGA characters that have been getting the brunt of character development. Tangle and Whisper are fantastic and grow with every issue they show up in, Rough & Tumble managed to go from obnoxious to endearing in an impressively short amount of time, and while Doctor Starline is somewhat clichéd as a Smart Villain, it genuinely feels like he’s a ticking time bomb that will pay off greatly once the time comes. As far as I know, none of the specifics of the license agreement between SEGA and IDW have been released, but from what we know about the contracts with Archie, SEGA kept a pretty tight leash on certain aspects of its main character. We’ll have to see if any similar restrictions will play out as the series goes along, but it definitely feels like they writers have much more freedom with their OCs than anyone with Brand Name Recognition. Anyway, we should probably end this little word padding rant and get to the end of the issue which is just around the corner. Crystal and Tangle continue to chat for a bit before there are loud noises outside and Crystal is worried that the birds from the Annual have come back to wreak havoc. First, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the Annual will come back to play since those characters were introduced in it, but what a nice little scheme there to give away THIS issue for free and tell the reader that the FULL experience in that book you can buy right over there! I applaud your gumption, IDW! Second, it turns out the bird have given their group a PHENOMENAL name that Crystal somehow knows. Are you ready for this? They are called… THE BABYLON ROUGES! WHAT!?
I HAD to look this up to see if this was canon, and sure enough it is! Right there on the Sonic Wiki is an entry on THE BABYLON ROGUES! I would have gone with something like Birds of War or A Murder of Foes, but apparently they’re a secret organization that’s existed for thousands of years to seek treasure and… do other stuff; much like the Assassins in Assassins Creed I guess. Seriously, I just thought they liked to race on hover board, but apparently I have to go and play those Sonic Rider games to get the full scope of this phenomenal lore! Anyway, before I get sidetracked for like the fifth time when talking about a story told on a mere four pages, Tangle goes out there to see what’s going on and it’s NOT in fact THE BABYLON ROGUES, but is actually Whisper who is taking shots at Sonic the Hedgehog! SONIC SHOCK!!
And that’s it! After four pages we’re told to wait for issue one and the remaining ten pages of this are just a recap of the comic up to this point! I mean for what I paid for it, which is nothing (and I didn’t even realize it was free before it popped up in my queue), it certainly gave me more of what I wanted out of this character and made me a little bit more excited for the full series once it comes out! That series by the way better have at least one issue dedicated to Tangle trying to ask Blaze out on a date! I’m officially dubbing this ship Blangle and you can’t stop me!!