Sonic the Hedgehog #246 (April 2013)
Yardley!/Herms cover: a very dramatic, very effective close-up of Knuckles and Thrash locked in mortal combat, back-lit by an errant bolt of lightning. Very striking, very well done.
So why why why why WHY did they feel the need to have a footer featuring Sonic and Tails with the former making a stupid joke? It’s a great cover ruined by an inappropriate, not to mention superfluous, element. It reminds me of nothing so much as Peter Griffin ripping an ill-timed fart on “Family Guy.” Seriously, what the hell were they thinking when they put this together?
“Endangered Species Finale: One of a Kind”
Story: Ian Flynn; Art: Steven Butler; Ink: Terry Austin; Color: Matt Herms; Lettering: John E. Workman; Assistant Editor: Vincent Lovallo; Editor: Paul Kaminski; Editor-in-Chief: Victor Gorelick; Devil Dog Walker: Mike Pellerito; Sega Licensing reps: Anthony Gaccione and Cindy Chau.
Sonic, as you’ll recall, has just had his blue butt saved by Shard who shows up unannounced to recycle KrudKnux. In a plot twist straight out of Pavlov, Sonic, Tails and Amy see a metallic Sonic and go right into attack mode. While Shard is all “Excuse me for saving your quills,” KrudKnux pulls itself back together and captures the gang. He then goes all Borg and tells Shard “You will be assimilated.” He doesn’t say anything to Sonic and the other orgos because, let’s face it, what’s the point of threatening the heroes? Shard then tells Sonic “The enemy of your enemy is … this guy, so you think you can dial back the hostility?” The two then go drag racing, dragging KrudKnux behind them. As for Amy and Tails, they have to justify their existence in this story so Tails starts having a canid-to-canid conversation with the devil dogs.
But it’s been four pages since this story started and there needs to be some ass-kicking to please Editorial if not the pre-ado boy segment of the readership. So we cut to Downunda and the Knuckles vs. Thrash main event as they warp into town. But when Knuckles tosses Thrash through a house wall we discover that maybe Thrash was telling a little white one with the line about his being the last of his kind, though Granny Taz looks to be close to her expiration date. Anyway, Thrash brings out his gimmick long enough to get a head start and warp out of there with Knuckles close behind. Well, that killed two pages.
“Meanwhile” (like we couldn’t have figured it out for ourselves), we arrive near the end of Sonic’s interview with Shard, who continues to play it coy about his provenance. The most he lets himself say is that Uncle Chuck is involved. That appears to be good enough for Sonic so they head off to rejoin Tails and Amy Rose. When they get there, KrudKnux barely begins to get into brag mode when Tails initiates his plan: have the devil dogs attack KrudKnux. I’m surprised it worked that easily, since I know so few vegetarian canines. If Krudzu had been made out of bacon, we’d have a whole new story.
There follows two-and-a-half pages of Knuckles and Thrash engaged in additional ass-kicking before they warp to Angel Island and the Emerald shrine. Thrash manages to take a header through the warp ring but when Knuckles catches up to it and tries to follow, he gets a “CARRIER LOST” message for his trouble. There follows just about a full page of mindless chatter from the Chaotix as they happen to roll in. Knuckles finally boils over and tries to put his fist through the island, which gets the attention of the rest of the Chaotix.
KrudKnux isn’t finished yet, so Sonic, Amy, Tails, and Shard all take a swing at him and reduce him to a miniature version of Audrey II from “Little Shop of Horrors.” Shard then suggests he take the Krudzu into custody, have Uncle Chuck rework its DNA, and use it to deroboticize Sally. Sonic admits that they hadn’t figured out what to do with Sally once they catch up with her, and given Krudzu’s attitude I think they’re asking for trouble, but Tails settles for “It’s so crazy it just might work.” Amy Rose is reduced to feeling sorry for the echidnas and Knuckles, and Sonic tries to comfort her as a demonstration that he’s learned something in his time spent with Sally. As Shard heads back to base and the rest resume their slow-speed chase of the Death Egg, Silver makes a discovery that probably won’t make much difference but does constitute a cliffhanger.
HEAD: Ever since S20’s “Deadliest of the Species: Prologue” where Mike Kanterovich and Ken Penders showed Sally planting an explosive device and trying to get away accompanied only by the tick-tick-tick of the timer (a silent counting-down digital display would probably serve the purpose in these higher-tech times), I have been sensitized to the amount of talk there is in a comic book, much of it useless. Talk during fight scenes are especially aggravating; if the characters are really fighting and putting some effort into it, they shouldn’t have the breath to make idle conversation, let alone witty quips.
So I was impressed that Ian Flynn finally got around to proving in a big way that he gets paid by the page and not by the word. There was really nothing that could have been said between Knuckles and Thrash as they fought on. And on and on.
The downside of the Knuckles vs. Thrash brawl was that it was a bit too much. OK, they’re fighting, OK, they’re mad at each other with good reason. Unfortunately it went on for so long it began to feel interminable, like the heavy-handed racial allegory of “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” from the original “Star Trek.” Ian and Steven try to juice up the fight, which never really had the momentum shift from one fighter to the other, by shifting locales from Downunda-Tasmania (the real Tasmania is an island off the Australian coast) to the snowy wastes of Acropolis to the Floating Island, but it isn’t enough to inject any interest. And the fight ends with Thrash warping out of there, so Knuckles wins in a decision rather than by a knockout, technical or otherwise.
As much as I liked the wordless fight sequence until it got repetitive, I didn’t like the battle against KrudKnux which was, literally, a drag. You never got the sense that KrudKnuz was this unstoppable killing machine like Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees in the Halloween and Friday the 13th slasher film franchises, respectively. He gets to roar and talk trash and whip his vines around, but he doesn’t seem so much menacing as, let’s be honest, ridiculous. He just can’t get past his origins as Krudzu from the very first issue of the Sonic comic when he was pretty much played for laughs. And I’m still trying to wrap my mind around Tails getting the devil dogs to chomp him down to size. I could see it happening if they hung some T-bones from his tendrils, but canines are not noted for having vegetarian tendencies.
The denouement of the story, with Krudzu defeated only to be spirited back home to be a possible cure for Mecha-Sally, is just plain desperate, something Ian did to set up the next issue’s climax whether it makes sense or not (I vote for “not”). Head Score: 6.
EYE: Given the fact that Ian punctured all the word balloons in the fight scenes between Knuckles and Thrash, Steven Butler does the heavy lifting here, and does it well. He does show Thrash going hand-to-hand against Knuckles and not running his voice gimmick into the ground. He likewise does the work in two scenes which will be discussed below in the Heart section: the discovery of the Tasmanian matriarch (for lack of a better term) and Knuckles venting his rage at having lost Thrash as well as his homies. Whatever Archie is paying Steven Butler, he earned it in this outing. Eye Score: 10.
HEART: One of the major developments of this story arc is that Knuckles is declared to be the last echidna. This is a development that must have met with the approval of at least two people: Anthony Gaccione and Cindy Chau, because it brings the comic in line with Sega’s ideas.
Ever since Knuckles appeared in the games, there have been no other echidnas present. When Sega launched the first Sonic Adventure game, we understood why: Chaos destroyed the echidna civilization when he went on the rampage after Tikal’s father and his troops ran roughshod over the Chao on their way to seize the Master Emerald to use against other tribes. That’s why the only other echidna by story’s end is Tikal, a ghost from the past.
But it’s tough to do a comic book with a lone character, and Ken Penders, bless him, gave Knuckles friends, family, ancestors, and a back story with echidnas aplenty. This was back in the day before Sega had credited licensing reps involved with the comic’s creation; I wouldn’t be surprised if the Archie-Penders kerfuffle wasn’t in part a way to justify Sega’s presence.
Anyway, thanks to Thrash, Knuckles is right back where he started. And as far as having someone to keep him company, he’s stuck with the Sega-approved Chaotix. And this discovery leads to a very effective Heart moment.
Ian has the Chaotix enter just as Knux realizes he’s lost Thrash’s trail. Of course they’re all chatty and full of camaraderie and totally can’t sense what’s wrong with Knuckles until he finally loses it and lashes out and punches the island. It may be somewhat clichéd for the all-male Chaotix to be so emotionally clueless that they can’t sense something is wrong with Knuckles but it’s still an effective moment.
The discovery of the Tasmanian matriarch, on the other hand, is not as effective because it’s more problematic. The biggest problem is that it doesn’t square with Thrash’s self-description as the last of his kind. Despite the fact that she appears to be somewhere in the vicinity of death’s door, she’s surrounded by devil dogs who if Thrash is telling the truth would be calling her “Mom.” But she doesn’t get to do anything other than point a boney and accusing finger in Knuckles’s general direction before the fight resumes.
By the time this scene registers emotionally, unfortunately, we’re past thinking “Whoa, Thrash was telling the truth!” and into the swamps of “Now wait a minute!” Ian obviously can’t have it both ways: Thrash is the last Tasmanian whatever he is or he’s not. But that’s what Loose Continuity is for: to keep writers from painting themselves into a corner. In this case, the comic is on the verge of changing the subject in spectacular fashion.
With all this going on, Amy Rose’s showing sorrow for Knuckles and Bunnie and Antoine gets lost in the shuffle. Sonic’s response and his efforts to comfort Amy are typically male but it does show he’s grown since the old blue-dude-with-the-‘tude days. I suppose we should be thankful for that. Heart Score: 8.
SONIC SPIN: Paul Kaminski hopes you’ve enjoyed the destruction visited upon these characters, then descends into commercial mode.
FAN ART: Mindy has obviously worked long and hard on her drawing of Sonic, Shadow and Silver since it’s represented here by a photograph of the framed drawing. Joshua draws Sonic, Nick draws Amy, and Zachary needs to practice drawing character eyes; for a moment I thought he’d drawn the Tails Doll instead of Tails.
OFF-PANEL: See, this is why I think that dropping Krudzu into a Cuisinart and turning him into pesto is a better idea than the one Shard came up with.
SONIC-GRAMS: Blaze (no relation, I’m guessing) wants to know how old Bunnie and Antoine are (Editorial refuses to be more specific than “late teens” but they were apparently legal when they got married), wants to see classic Robotnik, and really really REALLY wants to see Sally restored (I second that emotion). Lucas wants Archie to e-mail him; I think he needs to be clear on the concept of “Letter to the Editor.” Count L. is told that Pat Spaziante will be doing the covers for the Sonic/Mega Man crossover series; swell, but it’s the story inside that concerns me.