Sonic: Imposter Syndrome as well as Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America
Comic book continuity is a truly terrifying thing and probably why all those Marvel characters are much more popular in movies and TV shows than they are in the comics themselves. I’m been following IDW’s Sonic the Hedgehog series since it launched, and even I find myself having trouble keeping up with everything. Granted, there’s a much smaller ecosystem for keeping in the loop of individual comic issues than for blockbuster movies, but I didn’t realize there was a new mini-series out until fairly recently; and don’t even get me started on that 30th Anniversary thing! Clearly, there are some changes I need to make in how I keep up to date on these things, but regardless of all that we’ve got a new set of stories set in the Sonic the Hedgehog universe and to be honest, I’ll take any break from the lackluster Forest Fire storyline that IDW is willing to give me! Is this the start of an exciting new chapter in the growing Sonic Universe, or are we drifting too far away from what makes the series work in the first place? Let’s find out!!
The issue begins with Starline making another one of his video logs as he explains that his grand scheme is finally coming to fruition! For months’ worth of issues, Starline has been taking steps and making moves that have slowly been moving him towards some sort of goal that we could only have speculated on before now. That all changed after he bootlegged that code from Belle a few issues ago, and now we get to see that his ultimate plan was… knock-off Sonic and Tails clones! Sure, we already have Metal Sonic, and I’m pretty sure that Tails Doll is around somewhere, but this is good ol’ Archie Comics cheesiness and for how short a time we have to get to know them, I think they did a GREAT job here introducing the characters and giving them well-defined personalities; particularly Surge the Tenrec who… actually, she kind of looks familiar doesn’t she?
Despite making a pretty valiant effort a few years ago, my knowledge of the Archie-verse is still pretty lacking, but anyone with even a passing familiarity to it may see quite a resemblance between this green Sonic knockoff with an edgy attitude and ANOTHER green Sonic knockoff with an edgy attitude, and their names are exactly two letters away from being the same. PERHAPS Ian Flynn is recycling some ideas here, but the fact is that those comics are not just over but getting harder and harder to find; thanks, Comixology! Still, even if she’s something of a knockoff, I think it’s already working quite well as they gave her a really interesting and fun character, and I enjoy her unique design. I could probably do without the puffy pants, but everything else about her projects a very insecure and hammy version of “90s cool” that is perfect for someone who’s supposed to be an inferior counterpart to Sonic. The other character, Kitsunami the Fennec, is not as interesting as he’s pretty blatantly just a sad version of Tails, but where this guy lacks for an interesting personality, he more than makes up for in his strained relationship with Surge. He’s overly invested in her approval while she takes him entirely for granted, which… I mean I guess you could argue that’s the usual Hero/Sidekick dynamic brought to its logical conclusion. It’s even sadder because he seems to know it himself as half his appearances in this issue have him hanging his head in sad resignation as Surge yells about whatever is annoying her at that minute.
Beyond the introductions of these two, the rest of the issue is finding out their role in recent events and sowing the seeds of future conflicts. Starline’s plan seems to be some complicated Manchurian Candidate gambit (or I guess the Syndrome Plan for all your Pixar fans) where they will commit crimes and create chaos from the shadows before coming forward as the heroes to solve it. They’re definitely starting small with traffic accidents and an unsuccessful attempt to break into Tails’ house, but their biggest attempt is definitely starting the forest fire that we’re still working through in the main comics. The final issue in that arc doesn’t come out for another month, but there was very little doubt that they were gonna ultimately handle that and learn a few lessons along the way; all of which is to the consternation of Starline who isn’t happy that his greatest creations are still being outclassed by Sonic’s friends.
This is where the issue goes from a solid issue to something great as Starline lays out the next step of their plan which is to test them against Eggman by doing… I don’t know, something with a computer. It hardly matters because what makes this part of the book so good is the utter depths of cruelty that we get to see bubble up from beneath Starline’s urbane exterior. Surge is not happy about having to do another covert mission when she really just wants to go out there and fight Sonic; all the while Kitsunami is just miserable off to the side and trying not to make Surge any more volatile. It suddenly dawns on the both of them that they have no idea why they are like this. Why does Surge want to destroy Sonic? Why does Kistunami stick around despite how unhappy this all makes them? Before they can follow that thread of logic too far, Starline uses his Hypnosis Glove to put them both to sleep which we DID see him use earlier in the issue when they were getting too volatile during one of the tests, but the level of control he exerts on them, even over their own THOUGHTS, is pretty chilling to see! To make matters worse, the effect of the Hypnosis Glove effectively allows him to gaslight the two of them; spinning a scenario that DID NOT HAPPEN so that the two stay in line. It’s on this despicable and dour note that the issue comes to an end, and I’m already anxious to see what happens next!
The only problem with this issue is that I wanted even more of it; especially with the cover all but promising us some sort of confrontation between Surge and Sonic. We don’t get that here and the issue is more about exposition than setups and payoffs, but the groundwork they’re laying here is fascinating! Starline has been one of the best characters that the IDW comic series has brought to the Sonic universe, and the fact that SEGA seems pretty intent on keeping the comics separate from the games themselves (outside of the occasional mobile cash grab) only makes it sadder to see what has passed for Sonic game stories in recent years. I mean yes, the whole Archie thing blew up in their face, but stagnation is the surest path to irrelevancy, and it’s clear that Ian Flynn and co are willing to push the boundaries of what you expect from this series in interesting and exciting ways! I really hope that they didn’t use up all their good ideas in this one issue and we’re actually building towards something amazing; especially since the conclusion of this mini-arc seems to coincide with the fiftieth issue of the main series. Wait, we’re at fifty issues already!? How much of it was wasted on the Zombot arc!?