Sonic the Hedgehog #242 (December 2012)
Yardley!/Herms cover: anyone who saw the cover of Sonic Universe #45 may be feeling a bit of déjà vu looking at this cover because a number of the elements of that cover are back again: smirking hedgehog, cute Tails, Eggman acting nasty. There are also some superfluous characters who’ll get cut in due time.
OK, why do they have an introduction page for a stand-alone story? And who wrote this thing? This isn’t going to go well.
Story: Ian Flynn; Art: Jamal Peppers; Ink: Terry Austin; Color: Matt Herms; Lettering: John E. Workman; Assistant Editor: Vincent Lovallo; Editor: Paul Kaminski; Editor-in-Chief: Victor Gorelick; Doping Inspector: Mike Pellerito; Sega Licensing reps: Aaron Webber, Anthony Gaccione and Cindy Chau
Tails is early showing up to an empty stadium, and when Sonic shows up he immediately zones out from looking at the Olympic logo. Welcome to page one. Sonic then acts like a total sports noob confusing gold rings with gold medals.
And we then cut to an unconvincingly disguised Eggman, Orbot and Cubot slamming home the plot with all the subtlety of a javelin in the eye.
Then the fun and games really begin as the Chaotix (Vector, Charmy and Espio) are trapped in the scull they’re rowing. At the hammer throw, Knuckles is cuffed, Silver is knocked out when his hammer explodes, and Big’s hammer hits him with knock-out gas. On the track, meanwhile, Rouge, Amy Rose and Blaze are zapped somewhere by transporters disguised as hurdles.
We then cut to the only three spectators in the stands, apparently: Cream, Cheese and Marine. Their only purpose for being here: to warn Sonic about this mess. As for Sonic, he’s also on the field watching as Tails and Shadow are devoured by caterkillers doing their sand worm impersonation from “Dune.”
Now Eggman takes off his disguise and goes into exposition mode: the whole point of this exercise is to capture Sonic’s friends and then Sonic himself. It all comes down to one-on-one action, Sonic vs. (yawn) Metal Sonic.
This leads to a two-page splash/sports montage of Sonic vs. Metal. In all fairness there are some cute touches: Sonic running rings around Metal on the basketball court, Sonic sweating the prospect of swimming (Does anyone else remember that Sonic is supposed to be a non-swimmer?), Metal performing with the aerial silk. But the strain is taking its toll on Sonic as they move into the 100m dash, which ordinarily would be Sonic’s best event. So what’s a hog to do?
Send out for a deus ex machina! Without any explanation whatsoever as to how it’s supposed to work, Sonic merely touches the Olympic logo and voila (French being one of the official languages of the Olympic organization), he’s recharged.
After that it’s a foregone conclusion that Sonic beats Metal and frees everybody else lucky enough to sit this one out, at which point Eggman forgets about his scheme all together. “No way I’m waiting four years to do it again,” Sonic says. Fortunately for him, and unfortunately for us, the Winter Games are only two years away.
HEAD: The Olympic movement, dedicated “to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practised [sic] in accordance with Olympism and its values,” as it says at the International Olympic Committee Web site, is governed by the IOC headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland. The Olympic flag is the five interlocking rings on a white field. Period. What’s featured throughout this comic is one of the logos of the United States Olympic Committee, which is usually an American flag surmounting the Olympic rings. I know this is an American comic book but it still felt needlessly chauvinistic.
The chauvinism on display is not only crass, it’s wrong with regard to the outcome. In the 100 meter dash, Sonic’s final event, Jamaica took gold and silver in the London Olympics of 2012 and the US took the bronze. In Beijing in 2008 Jamaica took gold, Trinidad took silver and the US took bronze. In Athens in 2004, the US took gold and bronze while Portugal took silver. You get the idea. The US may be good but we do not own the Olympics, and only someone with a comic book mentality would think otherwise.
It’s not that “the Sonic crew at the Olympics” doesn’t have entertainment possibilities; the aerial silk, which is the name for the ribbon used in floor gymnastics, would have driven Blaze crazy. Big would have done the weights with no problem, but his own weight would have made the parallel bars interesting. But it doesn’t matter because Ian’s gambit here was to summarily dispose of everyone but Sonic in order to set up a Sonic vs. Metal competition. You all remember that routine; it dates to when 8-bit dinosaurs such as Donkey Kong and Pac-Man roamed the earth.
Not only does this bit have more white hairs than I do, but we get one of the clunkiest deus ex machinas I’ve ever seen used to resolve the plot. OK, Sonic and gold rings, I get it. But how does that work with the Olympic logo? It never has before and it’s safe to say it never will again. But Ian needed to give Sonic a cheap win, and they don’t come any cheaper than this. While “Racing for the Stars” (SU45) was maddeningly simplistic, this is simply tired. Head Score: 3.
EYE: Jamal Peppers has to carry such weight as there is here, and he doesn’t do a half-bad job. Then again, Sonic and Metal Sonic isn’t that tough of an assignment. I hate to sound like a broken record but once again we have good art in the service of a weak story. Eye Score: 7.
HEART: Seeing the allusions to gymnastics reminded me of the one character who would have been right at home in those events: Sally. She had the gymnastic chops built into her character going back to the animated “Sonic the Hedgehog,” and it gave her a way to hold her own and to match Sonic’s raw speed with refined style. That’s partially why the two of them worked so well together! Yeah, I miss her; she could have been a game changer in this sorry excuse for a story. Heart Score: n/a.
Story: Ian Flynn; Art: Jamal Peppers; Ink: Terry Austin; Color: Matt Herms; Lettering: John E. Workman
We get three pages of what’s become the same old same old: Sonic, Tails, Amy Rose and T-Pup versus a number of Egg SWATs mid-air. A spin dash here, a PIKO there, and missiles all around; that’s how you kill three pages.
It’s also how we segue into two pages of Nicole re-establishing contact with Knuckles on Angel Island using equipment that’s seen better days. The purpose? Ten-letter word beginning with E-X-P-O and ending with T-I-O-N. Cutting through the haze of a fragmented tape loop, Remington reports that the echidna homeland is under attack from the Death Egg/Dark Egg. Despite Knuckles’s issues with his homies, this is all the set-up he needs to be involved, and all that we’re going to get.
HEAD: This is a 5-pager, of which 3 pages are pretty much useless. OK, maybe two pages. About the only thing new brought to the party after yet another aerial dogfight between the Tails Tornado and some Egg SWATs is that the echidna home world took a beating. The following two pages have Knuckles and Nicole and a guest appearance by the voice of Remington, and most of it is an attempt to bring the noobs up to speed on Knuckles’s relations with the echidnas.
It used to be simpler because there were no other echidnas other than Knuckles. There certainly weren’t any in “Sonic & Knuckles” and in the first “Sonic Adventure” game it was safe to assume that the echidna civilization was wiped out by Chaos-zilla. We learned this from Tikal, the ghostly survivor of a lost civilization.
Ken Penders changed all that in the Knuckles spin-off line which ran from 1996-1999 where he pretty much created an echidna civilization out of whole cloth. He also gave Knuckles a hot girlfriend, the violet-eyed butt-kicking Julie-Su. Knuckles also had parents who were separated, which was a stab at relevance in this comic.
But those days are gone. Ken and Archie parted company under not-at-all-amicable circumstances. It seemed that Ken wanted to do something with the echidna characters he created on his own, to which Archie strongly objected. That pretty much reinforced my decision not to quit my day job and try to write for Archie Comics. If I ever worked for Archie and was told I could never do anything on my own, even for free, like a “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” fanfic, my next submission to Archie would be “Smell you later!” Besides, I like the health coverage I got now. I have to wonder whether Ken was even paying attention when Archie screwed over long-time flagship artist Dan DeCarlo before he died. DeCarlo’s sin: wanting credit for creating Josie and the Pussycats ahead of the release of the crappy movie about them in 2001.
But back to the story, or what’s trying to pass for one. It’s all set-up to coming events and a way to get Knuckles back into the picture. Fair enough. Still, it’s nothing that needed five pages out of the budget, and it’s so larded down with conversation in the back half that I’d have trouble believing that anybody was left waiting breathlessly for the next exciting installment. On top of that, Mecha-Sally has disappeared, Naugus-occupying Geoff has disappeared, and waiting in the wings are Thrash and even, Heaven help us, Mega-Man. I’d accuse this story line of aimless wandering since the Eggman reality reset, but I’m afraid that Ian’s sense of aim has totally failed him. It may take some kind of cheap deus ex machina on the order of the one in “Olympic Trials” to making this story recognizable again. All we can do now is sit back and watch the comic hit the narrative wall. Head Score: 2.
EYE: See above; with no real narrative point, Jamal Peppers again does the heavy lifting in a story that doesn’t really tell a story but merely alludes to stories to come. Eye: 8.
HEART: What passes for Heart in this story is Knuckles ruminating about the plot and his role in it: “My people – the last of my kind – the ones I failed … I’m the Guardian, they need my help….”
Enough already! Ian might as well have submitted the pitch for this story instead of this weak tea of a script and spared us having to deal with Knuckles the Ramblin’ Guy. He says all his lines but we never feel what he’s supposed to be going through. Perhaps if Ian had trashed the tired aerial dogfight and slowed the pace so that the 5 pages were all about Knuckles and Nicole, we might have had some actual character development in this story instead of three pages of turkey and two pages of stuffing. Heart Score: 2.
SONIC-SPIN: Paul Kaminski achieves his purpose with this column: it’s become a commercial with thumbnails.
FAN ART: Brandon draws two Sonics, which I assume is a reference to Sonic Generations; Daisy draws Silver … I think, it’s a very pale drawing but then so is Silver; Wyatt gives us giant Sonic, Knuckles, a derpy Tails and little animals; and Elizabeth draws Blaze.
OFF-PANEL: Kudos to Jon for the 5-ring layout. As for the plot, it’s already been done. In fact, it’s ten years old. On “King of the Hill.” The episode named “Torch Song Hillogy.” Where it’s Hank who snuffs the Olympic torch, only he blames his pride for his downfall and not a creepy voyeuristic Eggman peeking out of the bushes.
SONIC-GRAMS: A whole TWO letters this time; how generous. Editorial tells Patrick that the latest Metal Sonic has been rebuilt half a dozen times. You’d think that one of the stories involving them would have worked. Joey wants to draw Sonic and wonders if Archie will publish a How To Draw Characters Whom We Don’t Own book; yeah, like that’s gonna happen. The kid’s better off practicing his skills by doing copies of video game cover art.