Sonic the Hedgehog (the comic book series) and all the images you see in this recap are owned by IDW and SEGA of America
Apologies for this one being as late as it is. I was out of town when the issue came out and all I got out of the trip was a lousy case of Strep Throat that’s left me sick and exhausted for well over a week now. Still, you can’t keep a Sonic fan down for long! Whether it’s illness, delays, or crappy games, we always come back for more; which is the operative word here because they went all out and made this an extra lengthy issue to fit in everything they wanted for the big celebration! Does this double-sized issue live up to the months of hype surrounding it, or will it land with an extra loud thud now that they’ve made it twice as long? Let’s find out!!
The issue begins where the last one left off as our heroes race to Eggman’s capital city as its being sieged by Dr. Starline and his two protégés Surge and Kitsunami. From here the story breaks down into three fights as Eggman comes back to take out Starline, Surge catches Sonic by surprise and drags him to a fight for survival, and Tails is left befuddled to deal with the sad fox with water powers and a particularly sinister look in his eyes. We’ll tackle these fights one at a time starting with Eggman and Starline which I consider to be the best of three as both characters are really allowed to stretch their muscles and give us a clash of personalities worth getting invested in. The biggest problem with these two is that, despite some solid characterization and a few ingenious plots here and there, they feel a bit underwhelming as threats and can lean too hard into goofy territory when they have to fend off the furry brigade and the unstoppable power of friendship. Here, the winner is going to be determined not by Main Character Powers or the heart of a champion, but by who can last the longest without dying as the two try to smash each other to bits with giant robots! What I found particularly satisfying about this (even more so than the giant robots) is the depths of Eggman’s ego as he would rather risk destroying everything than have any aspect of it not under his supreme authority and Starline (despite being the one who kidnapped and brainwashed two innocent critters) ends up sounding like the reasonable one.
The brawl eventually gets decided when Starline releases the full power of his Tri-Core and smashes Eggman’s robot to bits; not because Starline has defeated Eggman, which is what he believes in the moments after the broken metal remains fall around him, but because in doing so Starline has used up his trump card and is left with nothing more to defend himself with. His super hypno-glove turns out to be ineffective as well since the one thing Eggman is good at is making Rick-style nonsense technology and has goggles to counteract the effect which leaves Starline in a straight-up fist fight with a guy twice his size. Needless to say that it does not go well and Starline is thoroughly defeated without an exit strategy in sight. Frankly, I don’t like the mind-break trope as it feels like a simplistic way to defang a character, and I don’t think Starline would give up like this. He’s been rejected by Eggman and had plans blow up in his face before without devolving into a blubbering mess, and I don’t see why he wouldn’t just use this as yet another learning opportunity and fight another day, or at the very least go down swinging.
So that’s how Starline took an “L”, but how does Surge and Sonic’s matchup compare? Well for me it didn’t resonate as well given that Surge’s motivations are pretty circuitous, but there’s a lot of passion and fire in her offense that makes the matchup interesting. I wish that Sonic had a bit more invested in this though as he approaches this like every other fight when in fact we know there’s more going on here. Then again, I do appreciate that they take the time to iron out his philosophy and that Sonic gives Surge enough room to get an understanding of him before they kick things into high gear. I have my issues with some of the morality in this series, especially given that there are victims who might have something to say before Sonic lets these villains go, but it does make for an interesting clash here as Surge is not some misled fool going about things without understanding them. A well-informed character making a dubious choice is far more engaging than someone who doesn’t know what they are doing, so even with both sides of this having what I’d call “naive” motivations, they are at least well explored in the context of this fight.
The two go back and forth with the endless ferocity of two speedsters with chips on their shoulders, but Surge’s inexperience eventually costs her the match as she nearly falls down a giant hole. Sonic tries to pull her back up as is the custom of The Good Guy, only to be zapped by her electricity in a last-minute burst of spite and falls to her presumed death. At the very end of the fight, there’s a line from Sonic that shows at least something of a dark side within him which I found somewhat interesting. His philosophy of giving everyone chance after chance to turn to the good side is something that even he can acknowledge breaks down when there’s a clear goal that he’s striving for. He wants the world to be a better place, but it can’t be that way as long as he gives those who want the world to be worse just as much room to do what they want as everyone else. Perhaps this is meant to be a parallel to Eggman who has come to the same understanding and decided to embrace the cruelty of a perfectly run world, but then I’m probably thinking too hard about a book that is nominally aimed at pre-teens. Still, it was an interesting moment if nothing else and I’m hopeful that Surge’s eventual return will give the writers another chance to address the issue.
That’s two defeats for the villains which only leaves us with the wildcard of the bunch as Kitsunami goes up against Tails. Unfortunately, I found this to be the most disappointing as they don’t really go as far as I was expecting them to with his character, and the whole thing feels a lot more restrained than it should be. Kitsunami was shown in previous issues to have the power to overcome pretty much anything if pushed hard enough, and so you’d think that would manifest into some significant game-changing moment, even winning the fight against Tails, but it’s more like an extra testy debate than anything else.
Tails tries to talk down Kitsunami but he’s intent on stopping Sonic for the sake of Surge. It doesn’t take long though for him to run out of water which Tails quickly takes advantage of and that’s all she wrote. The most dangerous member of the group goes down like a punk because he didn’t refill his water jug. Pretty disappointing if you ask me given the buildup, but I guess they can kick his more sinister sendoff for a later issue given that he’s the only one that seems to have survived this ordeal.
So to wrap things up, Eggman beat Starline and left him for dead in his collapsing fortress, Sonic beat Surge and left her for dead in the bottom of a pit, and Tails beat Kitsunami who hasn’t been left for dead but certainly has the look of someone who wishes he was. Not what I’d call a great showing for the new guys, but at least we got some decent action out of them and a few nice character moments here and there. While all that carnage was happening, Belle was fixing up Metal Sonic who obviously went back to Eggman, but she seems to have gained some sort of control over at least a few of the Badniks and is now riding a warthog go-kart thingy. It’s a little unclear what’s going on there, but she at least got to say her goodbye to Eggman/Tinker and is ready to get the heck out of here. Too bad that’s not in the cards because, despite this place being in ruins and our heroes having just finished a giant fight, Eggman has to throw in one last spiteful swipe at them and sends an army of low-level chumps to attack right as the issue comes to an end.
The problem with this issue is that two out of the three battles feel half finished. It makes sense in the way the story is constructed for Tails and Sonic to have no proper investment in this fight, but that ends up undercutting the weight of it; especially since both the “villains” in this story suffer decisive losses. For Kitsunami and Surge, it’s the culmination of their entire existence and the moment where they either win the fight to find the happiness they seek or suffer defeat and watch their dreams shatter before them. For Tails and Sonic, it might as well be Tuesday. In what is supposed to be a landmark issue, it doesn’t feel like we’ve truly upended the status quo and that we’re right back where we started; complete with the clichéd cliffhanger of Sonic and pals being surrounded by Badniks. The actual fights and the big emotional moments within them are still fantastic and make this one of the better issues of the series. However, the ending cannot help but bring it down due to its refusal to leave our heroes with lasting consequences and to deviate from the Sonic Comic formula. I’m sure Flynn and co will give us another set of new and interesting characters in the next few months to build another arc around and I’ll be excited to see that, but until they can really start to experiment with the Sonic stuff in this Sonic series, it’s never gonna quite live up to its potential.