Sonic Universe #45 (December 2012)
Before we get to the cover art, let’s look at the issue number: #45. This is a stand-alone story, a break in the continuity. This also assures Archie that the 4-issue arc pattern will reappear for issues 46-49, which leaves issue 50 either as another stand-alone or as the first issue of another 4-issue series. Once again, Archie falls back on numerology.
As for the Tracy Yardley!-Steve Downer cover, this looks like so many covers that have gone before: the smirking hedgehog, the angry villain, and the supporting fox. And tucked up on top are the first of four (count ‘em, 4!) roll calls of the guest characters in the Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed game. Because they aren’t being shy about this being an “exclusive Sega game tie-in issue!” We have characters from “Super Monkey Ball,” “Jet Set Radio,” “Skies of Arcadia, and … seems like we have a token human on the field: NASCAR racer Danica Patrick.
“Racing For The Stars”
Story: Ian Flynn; Art: Tracy Yardley!; Ink: Jim Amash; Color: Steve Downer; Lettering: Jack Morelli; Editor: Paul Kaminski; Assistant Editor: Vincent Lovallo; Editor-in-Chief: Victor Gorelick; Grease Monkey: Mike Pellerito; Sega Licensing reps: Aaron Weber (debut), Anthony Gaccione and Cindy Chau.
The occasion is the second annual Sega All Star Racer Grand Prix; don’t worry if you missed the first one. The contestants are (almost) all characters from other Sega games, and not necessarily racing games, either. The fact that one of the contestants, Beat from “Jet Set Radio,” used inline skates instead of a car in his game tells you something about the level of expertise of the racers. If you haven’t heard of “Jet Set Radio,” you’re probably too young to remember the Dreamcast platform.
The level of maturity, meanwhile, is represented by Aiai from Super Monkey Ball whose car design is inspired by a bunch of bananas. His dialogue, meanwhile, is inspired by the pre-adolescent demographic this comic line shoots for: “I’m so excited! I had so much fun last time! Eek! Eek!” Gag me.
Beat’s car, which doesn’t have a name, looks like a monster on the order of Godzilla swallowed Detroit and then threw up. It looks vaguely like an ATV, which is fitting for a race game that will take place on land, water and air. Beat then talks some trash to Danica Patrick, who as I write this in February 2013 has just qualified for the pole position in this year’s Daytona 500. So yeah, she can handle herself as she tells Beat.
Tails, meanwhile, is talking up Vyse the air pirate from “Skies of Arcadia,” a Dreamcast RPG. Too bad his car looks so conventional; had anyone remembered the gameplay of “Skies” with its Jules Verne imagery, Tracy could have given him something a bit more steampunk. I don’t know if anybody would have noticed, however. Besides, he probably had to bow to whatever the games team designed, and whatever the three Sega Licensing reps are enforcing.
The next two pages consist mainly of Eggman arriving and talking smack to everyone. This is followed by a 2-page splash of Sonic arriving “fashionably late.” And we get one page featuring the noise, the countdown, and the start of the race.
The race itself takes the next 11 pages and is pretty unremarkable: Eggman cheats like crazy by firing rockets and acting like he’s driving a bumper car at a carnival. Sonic bumps into cars, too, but in order to set things right somehow or other. Beat reverts to form and tags Eggman’s crate in motion. Vyse deflects rockets with his sabres; yeah, good luck with that in real life. Speaking of real life, Danica Patrick is conspicuous by her absence during the fun and games except for one panel on the next to last page of the race, and then we only see her car. Aiai gets lines in this race, and half of his dialog is punctuated by “Eek eek!” and “Ook okk!” Eggman gets bumped off the track as everyone else crosses the finish line. Since this story is so lame not even the racers were paying attention to who was running ahead, they agree to keep at it, with Eggman nipping at their heels. If you care, you can restage the whole thing on X-Box, Wii, PS3, PSVita, or DS.
HEAD: I hate game flogs like this. From a narrative standpoint nothing has been brought to the party. As I’ve said before, a story like this runs in the comic not because there’s a story that needs telling but because there’s a game that needs selling.
This is, for all the trappings of something legitimate, just another souped-up karting game. I’m sorry but there’s no way to take Aiai’s clown car with anything like seriousness. Then again we have a driver in this race whose previous racing experience consisted of inline skating. Sonic Adventure 2 featured a fair amount of grinding and Sonic and Shadow didn’t even have to wear inline skates!
As with most weaponized racing games, even this crappy little exercise is exempt from obeying Newton’s Third Law of Motion. I’m thinking of Eggman firing all those missiles. And don’t even think about how they’re supposed to be targeted; my guess is, Ian didn’t think about it, either. Neither did Sega if that’s a part of the game.
The scene of Vyse batting them away with his swords trumps the rockets themselves in ridiculousness. I’m sorry but I was totally spoiled by an episode of “Mythbusters” where they explained how a rocket-propelled grenade actually works. They penetrate their target by exuding molten copper – molten copper! – before the explosive charge itself goes off. But Mamaroneck, like Hollywood and Washington, D.C., thinks it can safely ignore inconvenient realities. Beat tagging Eggman’s car is just as improbable, and don’t even get me started on Tails slapping Eggman’s car with his tails! And of course the ending here is foreordained; even if Sonic doesn’t win, Eggman has to lose. Too bad this story doesn’t get beyond the basic race; the further along you go, you end up with guest drivers such as Wreck-It Ralph, NiGHTS, and Joe Musashi. And there’s got to be a kitchen sink in there somewhere.
In the past, game flogs were relegated to back stories where at 5 pages in length they really couldn’t do much damage. They were also usually written as set-ups for the game story line; prequels, if you will. This tries to tell the story of the game which, being a karting game, has no story. Another waste of trees. Head Score: 1.
EYE: Props to Tracy Yardley! for doing a decent job with Danica Patrick. Everything else … I suppose if you actually care about this grab bag of a story you can form your own opinion. Eye Score: 8.
HEART: You’re kidding, right? Heart Score: n/a
SONIC SPIN: When the title is taken from the Sonic X theme song, you know you can skip the rest.
FAN ART: Molly-Ann gives us Tails, Saara gives us Sonic with anime eyes, and Desiree provides a non-lethal Tails Doll.
FAN FUNNIES: Billy sends Sonic to the barberbot, with predictable results.
OFF PANEL: Sonic reruns the race without the benefit of a car, and with predictable results.
FAN MAIL … I’m sorry, I can’t deal with this issue any more. Worst of the year.