Remembering the past so you won’t have to, it’s
THE 2012 SONIC THE HEDGEHOG COMIC BEST/WORST LIST
When the continuity has been affected by a cataclysmic game-changer, how do you top that? Based on the contents of Sonic comics #233-244 and Sonic Universe #36-47, the answer is: you can’t. The comics delivered stories that mostly settled into the formulaic and mediocre. There was nothing as disastrous as there was during the 2001 run of the comics, but the high points last year were few and far between, as if Ian was saving his strength for whatever’s coming in S250. So let’s wave bye-bye to the comics in the rearview mirror.
BEST COVER STORY: “Remember the Fallen,” Sonic #235
When the comic hands you a lemon, go with the tart factor. Ian managed to write a decent story about the death of Antoine; the catch is, Antoine didn’t die (more on that later). But the way everyone carries on you’d think that Antoine got turned into roadkill in the previous issue. The character reactions are authentic and complex, a rare combination in this book. Tails, for instance, tries to hold it together by burying himself in his work but breaks down and is comforted by his father, who acts paternal toward him for the first time since he was brought into this book. Sonic has a more typical male reaction: unemotional until Silver barges in with his latest conspiracy theory. There’s a lot that can be ignored in this story, like all of Silver’s business, but what’s left is perfect.
WORST COVER STORY: “Endangered Species Part 2”, S244
At first I was going to cheap it out and go with the most insubstantial of the stories, “Racing for the Stars” in SU45, just another game flog with no story line and a foregone conclusion for a climax. But “Endangered Species Part 2” is even lower than that. Here’s a story where Ian couldn’t figure out how to portray the central event: Thrash getting the echidna population to disappear via a warp ring. So he doesn’t even try to explain it; instead he turns the story line into a game of 3-card monty by cutting back and forth in time to try to divert the attention of the readers from the gaping plot hole. This isn’t just bad writing; it’s a disgrace. An English teacher wouldn’t have flunked this story; they would have drawn and quartered it and flunked the pieces.
BEST BACK STORY: N/A
This is the real endangered species. This past year only 6 back stories appeared in Sonic the Hedgehog and none in Sonic Universe. And those six stories weren’t anything to blog about. In the best of them, S233’s “From the Shadows,” the first two pages hold out a lot of promise concerning the Acorn family but it was more about exposition than honest emotion. And then Harvey Who takes the spotlight and amps up the exposition. Honestly, that’s as good as it got.
WORST BACK STORY: “Dark Hearts,” S234
Of course, it could always be worse, and it was. “Dark Hearts” was another expositionfest, only this time Eggman and Naugus were the divas belting out their respective arias. There’s nothing worse than back story from a villain; a writer has to work twice as hard to make the readers care, and in this case Ian Flynn was trying to tell a back story with both hands tied behind his back after having blown up Antoine. Even if this story had something interesting to say, which is didn’t, it added nothing to the story line. Ian should have given the five pages over to the cover story, “Unthinkable,” and worked harder on the Head and Heart content of that story. Archie Comics should do us all a favor and keep this one out of any reprints and compilations; five pages of ads wouldn’t be as big of a waste of trees.
BEST STORY ARC: “Scrambled,” SU37-40
It took a while to get to the payoff, and the Hope interlude turned out to be useless filler to get the arc to 4 issues, but this was a welcome break in a year of Ian writing variations on the same plot over and over. The worm finally turns and Snively gives notice to Eggman before running off to be reunited with Regina, the only character in this book who showed anything approaching affection for him, if only for selfish and cynical reasons. And kudos to Ian for the 1-2 punch surprise ending: not only does he kick Regina upstairs to run one of the more remote outposts of the empire, but we find out in the end that Snively has met with a fate more cruel than I would have given Eggman credit for. I almost felt sorry for the little twerp.
WORST STORY ARC: Heroes,” S239-240
This is where Ian set the pattern for much of the year’s stories. Sonic and his team follow a homing device attached to the Death Egg, they get diverted by activity on the ground, and Sally and the Egg-SWATs slip away before they can accomplish much of anything, leaving Sonic and pals to clean up after the bad guys. Ian changed the settings and the crises on the ground, but he continued to spin variations on this theme. Just plain depressing.
BEST COVER ART: S236
The moment I saw this, I knew that no other cover could touch it. Instead of a complex group picture or a fight scene, we have a lone Sonic rendered in half-tone dots. It’s a retro throw-back to the earlier days of the comic medium, with classic propaganda poster overtones. Tracy Yardley! kept it simple and it works.
WORST COVER ART: S241
Again, I didn’t go the easy route and designate the generic covers of S239 or S240 as the worst; the Greg Horn covers looked like video game box art. The award goes to the team of Yardley!, Austin, Herms and Pena. It’s a picture of most of the major players, good and bad, playing to the camera and serving no real purpose. It’s not bad art but it’s just pointless nothing.
BEST STORY ART: Evan Stanley, “From The Shadows,” S233
If this story which earned the Worst Back Story designation had any saving grace, it was the artwork and coloring of Evan Stanley. It’s done mainly in golden browns, harmonizing the interiors with the furries themselves. The opening sequence with the Acorn family has the warmth of a Rembrandt, and contrasts (or contradicts) the impending upheaval they’re about to endure. I’m sorry she didn’t do more work for the comic last year.
WORST STORY ART: Tracy Yardley!, “Heart to Heart,” S237
Any two-character story is asking for trouble. Not only is the prospect of wall-to-wall dialogue an invitation to boredom if handled incorrectly, but the artist finds his options limited and usually ends up making the scene really stagey. That’s about the best I can say for Tracy Yardley!’s portrayal of the Mina-Nicole gabfest. The use of a computer terminal to display Nicole’s dialogue seemed appropriate but dull, and I found myself wishing that Tracy had figured out a way to show Nicole in some manner. But then when he did show Nicole her facial expressions were just wrong. This is no “Naugus Games” by any means but I was left feeling it really needed to be done over.
BEST NEW CHARACTER: Shard
One of the problems with this comic can be summed up in the title of Jean Kerr’s book which refers to a child’s complaint about being cast as Adam in a Sunday school pageant: “The snake has all the lines.” In this case, the villains have all the attitude. Even Sonic has had to dial it back lately. That’s why Shard, whose back story is handled in S238’s “Foundation Work,” is a refreshing change. Shard brings a good dose of snark back to the hero side even if he does overwork the “I’m glad I’m not organic” bit when there are perils to the air supply. It’s still more personality than a lot of characters have shown who have simply fallen back on auto-pilot when it comes to personality; yeah, I’m talking to you, Rotor.
WORST NEW CHARACTER: Tails Doll
Given the development of the Tails Doll from an unlockable playable to a fan fetish item denoting horror, I was sorry to see it make an appearance in the comic. My worst fears were confirmed when it was reduced to a prop that shows up in the story when something horrible needs to happen, does that horrible something, then is promptly forgotten. It’s not a character at all, really; it’s a convenient excuse for Ian to make things happen arbitrarily. It’s like Larry the Jinx Lynx only more pointless.
BEST DIALOGUE: “I no longer desire to destroy Sonic. Much.” Sonic Universe 38, “Scrambled Part 2”
WORST DIALOGUE: “Great balls of cholesterol!” S234, “Dark Hearts”
BEST IDEA: Vale’s Bones
Even though it turned out to be just another McGuffin, this could have turned out to be a real game changer, especially if Naugus didn’t have the whole story on what they were supposed to do. The very concept has some magic and mystery to it, and Ian could easily have added some back story to heighten the interest or at least insert an element of doubt as to whether the ritual would unlock forces Naugus couldn’t control. As it turned out, it would have been for nothing but this is a case of a good idea killed by this book’s poverty of imagination.
WORST IDEA: Antoine lives.
I did some research on how bombs actually kill people. Turns out they work in two ways. The blast itself can generate sufficient force to flatten out someone’s internal organs, thus puncturing a lung by driving it into the rib cage. And then there’s the shrapnel; as the Boston Marathon bombs demonstrated, it doesn’t even have to be pointy. Even beebees and ball bearings can act like buck shot if they’ve got enough force behind them (where force is equal to mass times acceleration). That’s why the EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) suits that were shown in “The Hurt Locker” are built to deal with both the force of the blast and flying shrapnel.
Yes, I know this is a comic book and that they generally play fast and loose with physics. But having Antoine survive something as up-close and personal as having him draped over a Metal Sonic and then having it explode is just too outrageous. And it brings home the outrageous nature of the death cheat, which has become a steady state in this comic. Since we now know that [Non-Spoiler Alert] Ian resorted to yet another space-time shift to segue into the Sonic/Mega Man crossover, there’s no reason Antoine couldn’t have died from the explosion only to live again when the Mega Man arc was done. As long as Sally is supposed to get a makeover anyway, they can take the continuity and do any damned thing they want with it until they finally realize that cheating is wrong, swear off death cheats, and take writing this book seriously. I’ll say it once again: this comic doesn’t have to be realistic but it does have to be plausible. There’s a difference.