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
We’re back with another issue of one of the many Sonic mini-series that IDW has put out since they started the main series! For the most part, they’ve proven to be fertile ground to test new ideas and get a tad bit daring with things that perhaps wouldn’t fly as well with the SEGA branded characters, and so far this series has proven to be no exception to that rule! After such a fantastic first issue, can they hope to follow it up with something just as good; or perhaps even better!? Let’s find out!!
The issue begins with the “final test” that Dr. Starline alluded to at the end of the last issue; the one that he had to use his Hypnotic Glove Powers to convince Surge and Kitsunami to go along with. Still, the not-so-good Doctor is perhaps overestimating his ability to control the situation as Surge has been difficult to control and this mission doesn’t exactly play to her strengths. The three are infiltrating an Eggman base to take it over with as little fuss as possible which means Starline is going to upload a bug in the mainframe that will somehow give him full control of the base while the other two take out the comms tower to prevent an alert from being sent to Eggman. Of course, having one of your facilities go offline seems about as suspicious as a blaring an alarm would be, but who even knows what Eggman pays attention to on a day-to-day basis? Heck, he’s probably still playing around with his VR headset from the last time we saw him! What this mini-series has done so well is to explore both Surge and Kitsunami as genuinely flawed characters that don’t feel limited by the brand. I can’t say exactly how stringent SEGA has been with the content of the IDW books, but it definitely feels like the original characters have much more room to emote and feel negative emotions which is far more compelling than Sonic’s usual TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL attitude. Surge is both sympathetic and despicable as her entire existence is just to be a tool for Starline but she lashes out at Kitsunami who is just as trapped as she is. It makes the journey more interesting if a character already has flaws that simply switching sides wouldn’t fix and at this point, it could easily go either way whether she and Kit will stay evil or eventually see the light.
Despite Kitsunami having a name that’s VERY awkward to say (the character page at the front of the comic says he goes by Kit but no one in this issue refers to him as such), it’s hard not to like him either as he also comes into his own over the course of this issue. Unlike Surge, he’s not made to be in charge or to prioritize himself over his partner, which makes him more obedient but also leaves him hampered with insecurity and doubt. The one time his emotions are allowed to take over is when he fears that Surge has been seriously injured, and we get to see the full extent of his power when unshackled by his pre-programmed restraint. It’s an impressively realized scene and is one of the more exciting moments of rage-driven action since Whisper was tracking down Mimic, but is also frightening given how easily he can be swayed to use that power given the right emotional trigger.
And of course, we cannot forget about the mastermind behind all of this; the ever impressive and devious Dr. Starline. It’s impressive to see how much mileage the writers have gotten out of a pretty straightforward motivation, and his heartless manipulation of these two might be his most devious scheme yet; including the one where he kidnapped Belle and started poking at her brain for sadness triggers. With the simple yet highly motivating goal of supplanting his hero Dr. Eggman, he can effortlessly justify any action he wishes to take no matter how many broken bones and broken hearts he leaves in his wake. He seemingly goes through life without any tangible connections to the world around him or the people in it; save for his obsession for Dr. Eggman, but even that ends up being fuel for his bad behavior instead of in any way inhibiting it. In truth, the only thing that has kept him from achieving his terrible goals has been his own hubris as he spends as much time basking in his own brilliance as he does coming up with schemes, and if that character flaw ever sorts itself out, well it’d be frightening to imagine and exactly the kind of story arc I’d love to see!
Despite the huge personality flaws of everyone involved that lead to some complications throughout the mission, it does eventually sort itself out and as far as we can tell, Eggman is none the wiser as to what’s going on at one of his remote outposts. Starline is somewhat wary that Surge was able to keep on track given the wear and tear she’s clearly endured, but in a show of genuine sympathy, she convinces Starline that everything went as planned and that Kitsunami should get credit for how well he kept up his side of the mission. She could have easily thrown him under the bus, which is clearly what Kitsunami was expecting to happen, but it’s clear that Surge has more going for her than the gruff exterior she works so hard to maintain. However, she does have something of an ulterior motive here as she’s very suspicious of the Doctor and keeping him happy means keeping him away from her and Kitsunami who need to plan their next move. They may have some holes in their memory but that doesn’t make them fools, and the issue comes to an end with the two of them planning what could very well be their big rebellion against Doctor Starline!
What’s really compelling about this mini-series is the genuinely flawed nature of its characters and how the plot works because of those flaws; not just around them. It highlights a big problem I had with the Camping story arc as well as the main series in general which is a lack of teeth when it comes to characterization and conflict. It doesn’t have to be anything extreme (we certainly don’t want another Zombot arc), but there should be a way for these characters to work with each other’s flaws instead of around them. The Camping story arc brought several characters together who were not in a great place, but it felt almost patronizing how obviously they were not getting along because of their own baggage and how effortlessly they came together when they had worked through their issues. Surge and Kitsunami are flawed and even dangerous characters, but that doesn’t stop them from forming a bond and caring for one another despite how unhealthy the relationship is. Now all that said this is a complaint coming from a guy who has just turned thirty and is reading comic books about funny woodland creatures aimed at children. No matter how old the franchise is, they are the target audience, and perhaps asking for a deeper sense of nuance in the characterizations might be missing the point. Perhaps leaving the slightly more challenging material to the mini-series instead of the main book is a deliberate choice, but whatever the decision making is over at IDW, I think they’ve really knocked it out of the park with this and I can’t wait to see where we go from here!