Sonic the Hedgehog #241 (November 2012)
Yardley!/Austin/Herms/Pena cover: This isn’t a comic book cover. It looks more like the layout for a poster that Archie could sell at the next New York Comic Con, if they cared about selling anything other than tarted-up back issues. You’ve got the major heroes and a scattering of villains tucked in the background. Of course there’s still plenty of room for other characters if you think of this as a landscape layout instead of a portrait. And it’s not too hard to think of other characters to plug in: Elias’s family for openers, Bunnie (gone AWOL), Antoine (not dead yet), and Sonic’s parents. And Sally.
She may have been completely pushed to the side at this point so that we don’t even have Mecha-Sally to deal with in this issue’s story, but that doesn’t make the comic any better as a result. I can’t help but think that not having Sally to deal with is a part of what’s upped the lameness factor here. Granted there is one decent twist coming up in this story, but then the comic goes on a storytelling hiatus. I don’t know what the hell the heroes have to smile about.
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; Multiple Personalities Wrangler: Mike Pellerito; Sega Licensing Reps: Anthony Gaccione and Cindy Chau.
For like the umpteenth time since S225, Sonic, Tails and Amy Rose are in pursuit of the Death Egg 2.0. On the aforementioned Death Egg, the Eggman is trolling the cargo hold for inspiration. While he doesn’t find the Alien lurking in the shadows he does find a sprig of Krudzu which gives him an idea.
At this point we cut away to Naugus, whose condition is worsening along with Geoff’s attitude. The guff he’s taking from the voices in his head isn’t helping matters any. But Naugus needs to pull himself together to attend to the swearing-in of Isabella Mongoose as the new member of the Council who’s filling Rotor’s vacant and rather ample seat. She hits the ground running by proposing that Nicole be reinstated. Naugus vehemently objects but he’s sandbagged by other members of the Council as well as by his own body, whereupon he excuses himself to go to the little wizard’s room.
And now for the question nobody’s ever asked: what do you get when you cross a krudzu with a giant metal Sonic? I don’t know either, but Sonic and the gang are looking at it.
Naugus, meanwhile, has just been told that he’s going to be featured on “Cribz” so he needs to find a new crib for his wizard homies. His first stop is at an upscale property that’s seen better days: Max Acorn. Naugus’s suggestion of a crystal rehab, however, is vetoed by the Royals.
Next stop is the duplex of Jules and Bernie. He tries to give them a sales pitch based on Bunnie’s transformation but both of them decline the offer.
So now’s a good time to cut away to a fight scene. As formidable as the krudzu creature appears, all it takes is one brief action sequence that lands it in a nearby body of water to destroy it. I can see why it wasn’t featured on the cover; that is one pathetic villain.
No point hanging around, so we cut back to the coliseum. You remember the coliseum; Bunnie and Antoine were married there before Archie screwed them over. Anyway, Naugus is there because Mina and her band are doing another concert. Having mined the potential for fear and paranoia in her previous concert, this one gets all hippie-dippy at the outset and is going to be about “love, understanding and forgiveness,” and then she gives a shout-out to Nicole, which Naugus doesn’t appreciate.
Turns out he doesn’t have to do anything about bringing down the vibe because the Tails Doll has crashed the venue and does his Larry Lynx impersonation by … well, it’s not clear what exactly happens except that the towers on stage begin coming apart, which is a cue for Rotor and his team to make the save. While Geoff guesses that this was Naugus’s work and then realizes he was wrong, Mina gives a shout-out to her opening act, Team Freedom, before going into a bring-back-Nicole rant. Near as I can tell, nobody in the audience bothers to yell “Shut up and play something!”
Back in the throne room, Geoff goes public with his second thoughts to Naugus. Apparently he’s done a 180-degree turn since the aborted Vale incantation and shows signs of regretting the whole Ixis Order/spy game. Rather than Naugus following up on his suggestion of doing a face turn, Naugus decides that as down-market as Geoff might be he’s about the only thing available in this housing market. So Geoff becomes Naugus’s new crib.
The following day, Nicole is being welcomed back by the Council (again, as with the business of the Constitution, nobody else seems to be present and it’s not even being carried on C-SPAN) when Geoff upstages the proceedings by announcing that Naugus is ready to join Sirius Black on the other side of the curtain. He then paves the way for Nicole to make a deal with the devil; the catch, of course, is that he’s the devil.
Oh, and Eggman has already destroyed Albion.
HEAD: Terrific! Something impressive finally happens in this comic (Naugus possessing Geoff) and we get ready to cut away from the story arc. And for no good reason. Yes, the next story will be a Sonic At The Olympics no-brainer where he manages to beat Eggman’s latest Metal Sonic despite this story ending with Eggy having the upper hand. From a story standpoint this makes no sense! But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I knew that Geoff had run through his good will with Naugus in the “Unsung Heroes” story arc (SU 41-44). Naugus may be psychotic but he’s no fool. He’s been aiming verbal barbs at Geoff throughout the story and Geoff finally unloads on the old coot toward the end. As I said before, if Naugus were half the villain Voldemort proved to be, Geoff would have been destroyed. Instead, kudos to Ian for coming up with the idea of Naugus hiding where nobody would think to look for him. Now if he can just keep the freeloaders in his attic from making too much noise.
Otherwise, this story is pretty pedestrian. Eggman brings out a formidable-looking villain which turns out to be a pushover. Nicole is dragged back into the story so fast it made my head spin. Compared to the job Mina’s band did turning the people against her/it, this particular volte face is speedier than Sonic himself. Small wonder that Ian decides to cut to the chase and doesn’t even give Mina a chance to make her musical case unplugged.
Of course Ian has other items on his agenda, specifically having Naugus checking the real estate market and getting shot down by the Royals and Sonic’s family before he gets a chance to get around to talking closing costs. On the plus side, that was pretty effective.
On the minus side is the Tails Doll. He showed up, caused damage, and then just sat there adding nothing else to the story. But he’s different from Larry Lynx because … come to think of it, how is he different from Larry Lynx? Just like Larry, he shows up when needed, does what Ian needs him to do, then goes limp and useless. Sounds a lot like Larry’s character to me. I was beginning to think that Larry is only in the continuity as a prop; the Tails Doll is a prop, a Larry clone. And lose the SCHLURP sound effect; it worked in the tea party set-up but not here.
Isabella is cute but seemed to have no function other than introducing the Bring Back Nicole resolution. Other than that, she’s another cipher, a character thrown into the deep end and not even expected to do one lap of the pool. Is she related to Mina? Or is that too stereotyped? And if so, couldn’t that have been shoehorned into the story somehow? It would give Mina’s return to the stage a bit more context. As for what could have been sacrificed, the entire battle with the krudbot could have been dropped out of the comic with nobody the wiser. I know Ian is supposed to deliver Action and More Action, but these fights are getting Pointless and More Pointless, except as a way for Eggman and Ian to buy some time. The one decent idea of Naugus possessing Geoff is lost in a crowd of useless ones. Head Score: 6.
EYE: Butler’s artwork is good, particularly the side-shot of Naugus on page , but the business with Mina and the band on stage getting disrupted by the Tails Doll … I can only attribute it to confused writing so that Steve didn’t have anything to work with. He just needed to visually put the band in peril so Team Freedom could make the save. Eye Score: 10.
HEART: It’s interesting that there are a few Heart moments here, but one of them is done twice.
It’s worth noting that, for both King Max and Jules, when they refuse to strike a deal with Naugus they have help from their wives. And I mean that in a good way.
All along I’ve been lamenting that the comic has been either neglecting or mishandling the families of the main characters while fixating on the characters themselves. Here, the comic manages to get it right. Whereas Max can’t marshal much of an argument (though he cuts to the “No” quick enough), Queen Alicia is there to make the case. As for Jules and Bernie, they double-team Naugus from the get-go. That kind of teamwork happens a lot in marriages, and even if Ian just needed to have the characters get to “No,” it’s nice to see that Ian went against the grain to some extent and actually showed some family action when and where it counted. The rest of the story may have depended on camaraderie between the heroes and the wary mistrust that’s been fermenting between Naugus and Geoff, but this was real and the comic could use more of it.
The lesson, of course, comes too late for Geoff himself. I’ve waited for years, literally since his character was introduced as a low-rent James Bond, to warm up to him somehow. It never happened, and his creator, Ken Penders, never seemed to be in any hurry to make it happen. Even when Geoff eventually tied the knot with Hershey, or when Hershey was pronounced dead rather than have her death depicted in the comic, or when Geoff could have visited the site on Angel Island where his father died in the line of duty while ferrying the infant Elias to the royal compound in the “Forbidden Zone” arc in the Knuckles comic, the writers never gave Geoff any Heart moments.
Duplicitous and untrustworthy, Geoff played the natural lackey for Naugus even if it was all in the service of his own agenda. He could never have been a Snively clone, nor was he a Norrin Radd type, Radd being the inhabitant of the planet Zenn-La who sold his soul to Galactus to spare his home world at the cost of becoming the Silver Surfer. Thus he was doomed to make his way from planet to planet announcing “Galactus will be with you momentarily, so let me tell you about the Chef’s Special: he’s the chef and you’re the special.”
The question now is, can Geoff break free from Naugus’s influence and at what cost? There have been precious few character deaths in this comic and far too many death cheats. Should Geoff buy the farm it will prove to be redemptive for Geoff and a fitting punishment for Naugus to become a homeless spirit. It could also represent yet one more blown opportunity for this comic to do the right thing, so I’m not holding out hope. Heart Score: 8.
SONIC SPIN: Paul spotlights the Naugus possession of Geoff, but then breaks down and starts flogging some “special treats” that add nothing to the story line that’s been in place since S225.
FAN ART: We have Sonic by Kayla, Sonic with villains by Nickolas, Team Secret by Benjamin, and models of the Wisps from Sonic Colors (or “Sonic Colours” if you’re in Canada or the U.K.) by Caleb. And for those who, like myself, are suffering from Sally deprivation, Christopher provides a stunning antidote.
OFF-PANEL: And you thought only dogs played poker.
SONIC GRAMS: And AGAIN there’s room for only one letter: Hannah blames the pressures of high school for her three-year lapse of following the comics, though now that she’s starting college she’s catching up. She also gives every indication of being a Sally fan. So we know what’s driving the fan base, and it ain’t Naugus’s pretty face.