In the Reverse Universe, Ken Penders Writes YOU

So. It’s time.

After 10 issues (not including a four-issue miniseries) largely dominated by the incessant punniness of Mike Gallagher, we have reached a turning point in the series. The comic has a few issues where, looking back, it changes irrevocably, and though Issue 11 might seem a bit inauspicious to be one, there is one indisputable fact here.

This is the first issue Ken Penders writes.

Ken Penders is the second of four head writers the comic has had over the years. Over time, he would come to shape the direction and tone of the comic to an enormous degree; he was pretty much entirely responsible for the Knuckles spinoff series that lasted 32 issues, creating a vast and expansive mythology for such a bare-bones character. He had big ideas – he was the brains behind Endgame and the chief engineer of many of the comic’s most notable moments.

Today, he is mostly known for his lawsuits against Archie Comics and Sega, and his incredulous attempts at reviving aspects of the Knuckles franchise for his own profit. This has soured many people on Ken’s older work, perhaps deservedly so, perhaps not. He’s become a very divisive figure in the Sonic community, to the degree where fans seem forced into the dichotomy of “defending him” or “making fun of him.”

I don’t really intend to bring up the lawsuit, its implications, or Ken’s attitude about the whole thing. There are a million places on the internet you can read and discuss that sort of thing. I will try to keep any criticisms I have of Ken Penders to his writing, since that’s what this blog is all about.

And I’m warning you guys upfront: I will have a lot of criticisms of Ken Penders’s writing. But we’ll get to them in due time. For now, at least, let’s talk about this milestone issue, and meet a character who, years later, would become something completely different.

“Then again, why pass up one uppity hedgehog for another?” -Dr. Eggman

“The Good, the Bad, and the Hedgehog!”
Writers: Mike Kanterovich and Ken Penders
Penciler: Dave Manak
Inker:
Art Mawhinney
Letterer:
Bill Yoshida
Colorist and Production:
Barry Grossman

Of note: Ken had a cowriter, Mike Kanterovich, during his early issues. I don’t really know how the writing duties were divided up between them so I won’t pretend to guess, but this issue does have some Ken Penders hallmarks all the same.

So Robotnik is polluting some river with a giant factory. The team (minus Sonic and, of course, Bunnie – I’m just gonna start calling them the Failure Four, since all they do is blunder around, get captured, and wait for Sonic) is just kinda watching as the “toxic slop” drenches the water. If only there were a competent Freedom Fighter here! Fortunately, Sally has her “super secret Sonic signal watch” in true Jimmy Olsen style. Sonic, after beating up Scratch and Grounder (!!), gets the memo and decides to take a shortcut through the Cosmic Interstate, a pathway to all zones. In the past, zones had been mainly used to refer to different places on Mobius, as in the games. Here, however, Ken and Mike seem to be using the term to mean dimensions or parallel universes. This unfortunate double meaning continues even today. What a proud tradition. Sonic also quotes the Beatles on the way in. This will not be the last time this happens in this story.

The hedgehog misses the last turn onto Mobius and, in a panel with no fewer than four Beatles references (this is almost definitely a Ken Penders thing, since they keep cropping up in his later solo stories), Sonic doubles back and finally ends up on Mobius.

…OR DOES HE

Sonic passes by what appears to be Robotropolis (covered in shadow once again), but something seems different. He runs by the Knothole tree stump and ends up at a giant building towering over the forest that’s labeled as a veterinary clinic. And this is what he sees upon entering:

A version of Robotnik that actually has a real doctorate? GADZOOKS

Robotnik(?) orders his waiting room of cute and cuddly animals to basically maim Sonic, but he dashes out of a top-story window and somehow runs along the edge of the building to the ground. He also has a wonderful line of dialogue: “That window… could possibly… have been placed… for a timely escape!” WHAT. That’s another Ken Penders staple: really bad, stilted, nobody-would-ever-talk-like-this dialogue. And as Sonic runs away, he runs face first into probably the biggest Base Breaker in the franchise.

…no, not Sally!

The ancient Greeks once said “know thyself,” but I bet they were never on the Cosmic Interstate!

So Sonic and Sco… er, Evil Sonic, run circles around each other trying to get to the bottom of the situation. Evil Sonic gets wise to the sitch and draws Sonic a useless diagram on a page of filler before explaining that Sonic’s wound up in the “reverse universe,” where the Freedom Fighters are the oppressors and “kindly ol’ Doc Robotnik is left picking up the pieces.” So wait, does Evil Sonic know about Mobius Prime? Why would it be called the reverse universe if he didn’t? Weird.

I see the Suppression Squad has not yet been fleshed out beyond biker gang/leather fetishists, except for Evil Tails, who apparently thinks he’s a knight. GET THIS FLEETWAY OUT OF MY ARCHIE

Evil Sonic has a great (and by great I mean hilariously terrible) villain monologue about Robotnik: “Oooh, how I dislike him! And when Sonic the Hedgehog dislikes someone, he stays disliked! One of these days, me and the boys are gonna topple his tower of healing once and for all!” I hope you weren’t expecting Evil Sonic to actually become a credible threat for the next 150 issues. Sonic tries to skedaddle out of this joint, but Evil Sonic has other ideas…

…no, fangirls, not those ideas!

As the Freedom Fighters just… sit there and watch the river overflow (and Rotor actually tries to eat the sludge ewwww guy really), the Sonics embark on a race across Mobius, which isn’t so much a race as it is Evil Sonic being enamored with the fact that somebody can finally keep up with him. He also makes another Beatles reference, so that’s… six? In ten pages? Sonic gets the bright idea to head back to the ol’ tower of healing where the cuddly animals punk the crap out of Evil Sonic. Man this guy is a chump.

Man, even reverse-Robotnik isn’t capable of smiling in a way that isn’t a horrible evil grimace. How does this guy stay in business?

After a few clever lines and signs (“To: Phantom Zone” “All phantoms must pay toll”), the only competent Freedom Fighter in the vicinity arrives with a hybrid Beatles/Rolling Stones reference (pushing the envelope here) and a “super scooper” of reverse-Robotnik’s that sucks up the sludge and saves the day. Sally calls him one of a kind and Sonic’s like YOU AIN’T EVEN KNOW BOUT MY MULTIPLE SELVES LADY

And that’s that. Evil Sonic will show up periodically, and each time he will be treated as the joke he rightfully is. Until, of course, Ian Flynn takes over. But that’s a long time from now.

“Beat the Clock!”
The perpetrators of this story remain at large, but I’m guessing it’s still Mike and Ken at least.

And now we have a… Coconuts-centered story?!? Well I never. This pleases me greatly.

Coconuts has kidnapped the Failure Four and has delusions of taking Sonic down himself, independently of Robotnik! That’s why we love Coconuts – bot’s got ambition. Sally puts on her incredulous face, which greatly resembles a carp (thank you, A Moment of Archie Sonic – check out this great “bad Archie Sonic art” blog if you haven’t already: http://amomentofarchiesonic.tumblr.com/). Turns out Coconuts is really just doing it to move up on Robotnik’s “hit parade,” where the badniks are ranked by how long they’ve lasted in fights against Sonic.

I always figured Cluck was just Robotnik’s pet chicken thing. And even he’s done better than Coconuts!

The current champion is Bat Brain, who somehow lasted 37 seconds, more than double the second-place record (held by Grounder). Sally calls him “nuts,” but he reminds her with a manic grin that, no, his name is “Coconuts.” See, Evil Sonic – this is how a two-bit villain does a good crazy monologue. Just needs more YOU SILLY GIRL and we’ll be gold.

Sonic himself has to deal with Coconuts’s master plan – a NEVER-ENDING MAZE that naturally the readers can attempt to navigate Sonic through. This is around the point where Sally stops talking smack and starts realizing this badnik might actually make a monkey out of her. I don’t really get why Coconuts is holding the Failure Four hostage with bombs if all he wants to do is outlast Sonic, but hey, guess you always need a contingency plan. Rotor then poses a really awkward question to Sally that fuels the shipping I’ve been subtly watching for a few issues: where does everybody rank on her top ten list? TAILS GET THAT LOOK OFF YOUR FACE, YOU ARE LIKE FIVE YEARS OLD. But Sally cops out and says that Sonic takes up the entire list like the glory (hedge)hog he is.

Speaking of which, Sonic arrives in the nick of time (I guess the kids were able to navigate through the deadly maze filled with quicksand and Caterkillers), saves everybody, and leaves Coconuts to get his explosive ending. The “Secret HQ” (that’s the sign outside the building they were in – don’t ask me) barely has a dent in it though, and the Swatbot standing next to Coconuts isn’t even fazed! I guess Coconuts got some cheap knockoff dynamite. He then ends the story with like three puns in one panel as Mike and Ken try really hard to make up for lost time.

Some notable Sonic-Grams:

  • More Bunnie fanmail! Plus some fanart from earlier. I’m sure they’ll get the hint eventually… right?
  • A reader really enjoyed the Christmas Carol adaptation and says it was based on his favorite movie, Scrooged! Mercifully, the editor corrects him.
  • Somebody asks if there’s gonna be a Sonic 4. Well, sure there is HOPE YOU CAN WAIT TWENTY YEARS
  • The unending deluge of Spinball fanmail continues for some ungodly reason.
  • And the best one of the day, a letter that needs to be reposted in its entirety:

“Dear Sonic,

‘What is your favorite sport? Do you have a hobby? How old are you? Please make Robotnik’s head fall off. Please tell him he has a big butt. Do you like to rock & roll? I have about 3 dollars. How much money do you have?”

I can’t make fun of this. It’s too adorable.

“Food for Thought – or – You Are What You Eat!”
Writers: Mike Kanterovich and Ken Penders
Penciler and Inker: Art Mawhinney

Yes, that’s right – a triple feature! Also what, are we Rocky and Bullwinkle now with the double titles?

It’s Sonic’s birthday! The first of like twelve in the comic. And yet you don’t look a day over 15, Sonic. He makes himself a special birthday gift – a giant stack of chili dogs that promptly gives him indigestion. Hey, it beats getting another tie.

Sonic then has a dream sequence in which…

…y’know, I can’t even do this story justice in words, so I’ll just post some pictures.

Okay that’s enough of that. So Sonic wakes up and basically resolves never to eat anything again as Sally and Tails FREAK HIM THE HELL OUT by wishing him a happy birthday.

Seriously look at this. This is not the face of a man who enjoys his birthday.

So naturally they get him a plate of chili dogs, and naturally he reneges on his newfound no-food diet and eats them all. Maaaaaaybe we should stick to two stories an issue, guys. >_>

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Robotnik Started Making Trouble in My Nerberhood

Alright, here’s how I think the story pitch for this issue went: “Hey, nerds are funny, right? Like, kids who read comic books like making fun of nerds, so it’ll be funny if we do a story that makes fun of them. Except we won’t actually have them do anything nerdy. They’ll just wear typical nerdy clothing – glasses, pocket protectors, you know. Oh and they’ll be completely unpleasant and socially maladjusted people, so I guess that’s kinda nerdy. But yeah – and here’s the big punchline, I hope you’re ready – their name totally sounds like ‘nerds.’ That way people totally get the joke we’re making. ISN’T THAT HILARIOUS????”

Yeah, it’s pretty bad when that’s the only facet of your joke – that the characters’ names sound like something funny. Whoops.

You too can take home your very own collectible Sonic for the low, low price of forfeiting your existence to a lifetime of robo-slavery! Act now and you’ll also receive a blender!

Revenge of the Nerbs!
Writer: Angelo DeCesare
Penciler:
Dave Manak
Inker:
Art Mawhinney
Letterer:
Bill Yoshida
Colorist (and Production):
Barry Grossman

The Freedom Fighters are attempting to siphon electrical power from one of Robotnik’s underground cables (which, again, you’d think he could easily trace), so Sonic is using his speed to prematurely detonate landmines. “Must you make a game of everything?” Sally nags, even though you gotta figure she knows he’s gonna be fine. She’s the princess – it’s her job to nag. As Rotor digs around near some cables, the gang gets trapped by an ELECTRIC FORCE FIELD. Guess Robotnik really doesn’t like moochers! Sonic muses that he can’t break the field with a sonic spin and seems to forget that he can just burrow through the ground. Why does he always forget thi- oh god what the hell is that thing

The Nerb is so frightening that Tails loses all the color in his stomach.

So the gang gets taken to the NERBERHOOD. There are pens and calculators strewn all over the ground here (GET IT DO YOU GET THE JOKE YET). The Nerb King explains that his people don’t exactly fraternize with surface-dwellers, but he blames them all for mucking up the underground air and water with RECKLESS BUILDING. This is obviously Robotnik’s doing (guess they didn’t check the “Made in Robotropolis” tags) but they don’t particularly care; when Sonic suggests they join forces, they get summarily kicked out of the Nerberhood. But who will they call for tech support now???

They blunder around the caverns for hours (and somehow don’t die of suffocation) before coming to a door to the “Mobius Sewer System” (ughhhhh naaaaaaames). Sonic says he knows it leads to the surface because he “used to play down here when [he] was a kid!”

Let that sink in a bit.

Sonic hears screaming (can’t be Sally’s EEK this time, she’s right next to him) and runs off to investigate, instructing everyone else to wait by the horrible-smelling sewer. Turns out it’s Robotnik piloting a giant robot excavator and giggling about how he loves his toy. Guess he doesn’t have anything better to do since he’s taken over the planet. Sonic sees three Nerbs trapped in a literal UNDERGROUND CAGE (not like the fake one from the Original Mini-Series) and one of them yells “Let us out of here… but don’t talk to us!” which is absolutely hilarious. Friggin’ basement-dwelling Nerbs.

Robotnik blunders around, unintentionally freeing the Nerbs (who now look totally different from the prior page) somehow, and they still don’t want to come with Sonic because he’s an outsider. Sonic just scoops them into a damn wheelbarrow and dashes off, deposting them in the busom of his team before running away again. Oh, that Sonic! There’s also an editor’s note about keeping Nerbs as pets, which is a little weird.

So Sonic makes his way through the winding sewer pipes (which he totally remembers because he totally used to play down here as a kid which, ignoring the blatant continuity problem, is just twenty kinds of disgustingly inappropriate) and finds what he’s looking for: a door to the “Mobius River” ARE WE INCAPABLE OF NAMING ANYTHING CREATIVELY HERE

Our hero opens the gate with his MIGHTIEST BUZZSAW SPIN and then, as he tries to outrun the river, ends up killing the cameo appearance.

I think Sonic and the Ninja Turtles would get along pretty well. They could bond over chili dogs, pizza, and lame 90s catchphrases. At least they could if they weren’t about to be killed by an oncoming tsunami.

But wait! Sonic can’t outrun the rapidly approaching water torrents! Has our hedgehog finally met his match in speed? This potential existential crisis is not addressed; instead, he tries a SUPER SONIC SPIN (are they making things up now) which allows him to burrow up through the dirt, saving him. Sonic escapes safe and sound, but the entire city of Robotropolis (yes, the entire city) gets lifted into the air by a geyser. It’s worth noting that the comic staff still doesn’t know what Robotropolis is supposed to look like; it’s shrouded in silhouette here.

So Sonic completely saved the day, and we get the punchline to this awful joke.

And at last, Rotor is home among his people.

It’s easy to have this kind of ironic appreciation of the Nerbs, because they are quite probably the absolute worst idea to come out of the comic’s early days. And that’s saying a lot! Just browse the older reviews to see what I mean; there were so many bad concepts back in these days. (I would, however, say there are worse things the book’s done since then…) Anyway, word on the street is that when Ian Flynn took over writing duties, Jon “Dubs” Gray kept pestering him about bringing back the Nerbs… and now, years later, they have returned to the continuity. I have faith that Ian will stay true to what made the Nerbs such a time-honored part of the Sonic canon.

Truer words were never spoken.

Twan with the Wind
Writer: Angelo DeCesare
Penciler: Art Mawhinney
Everyone else: Who knows?

Some notable firsts in this story: Art Mawhinney joins the team as a penciler (I believe Mr. Mawhinney was a storyboard artist for SatAM; he also inked the first story in this issue), Antoine finally develops a French accent, and Robotropolis starts approximately resembling something like the cartoon. Only took them fourteen issues!

So Antoine is taking the gang for a ride in his whimsical hot air balloon. He claims that he was once “head of balloons” for the king, who, in a brief dream bubble, looks like Sally with a white beard and crown. He also insists that the balloon can be a “beeeg help” in the fight against Robotnik. …yeah, not seeing it, Twan. I am seeing you make up for lost time with that accent, though!

Predictably, two Buzzbombers fly along and puncture their dreams, hopes, and balloon. I like how they don’t even care about capturing them – they just kinda bully the team a bit and then fly away. Everybody (except Tails, who just looks confused) is peeved with Antoine for his awful balloon idea, even Bunnie, who just yells BAG IT, SUGAH, which is really funny to me for some reason. Also Rotor once again looks perfectly calm what is WITH that guy.

CUT TO Robotropolis, looking all metallic and shiny. Robotnik is berating the Buzzbombers for their wonderful tactical maneuver of just letting the Freedom Fighters go. He wonders why they were out and about, but fear not – Snively has his trusty “Freedom Fighter Fact Finder,” which reveals it’s time for the annual Freedom Fighter picnic. Snively also has Sally and Bunnie’s measurements in there, which Robotnik has DEFINITELY NEVER LOOKED AT.

Art definitely draws Robotnik differently from the Scott Shaw!/Dave Manak mold; his face is much more angular, which fits the SatAM character design a bit more. Couldn’t seem to quite get Snively right just yet, though.

Chibi-Snively’s Fact Finder lists the date as “6431” and the place as “Mobius Pond” AUGHHHH

Meanwhile Antoine is saddened by the fact that he let everyone down; Tails, ever the optimist, replies that “At least you let us down in a nice tree!” Ant decides to skip the picnic and work on repairing his balloon to prove he’s not useless. Or at least as useless.

Predictably, the picnic is attacked by the nefarious Buzzbombers, who knock Sonic’s mashed potatoes onto his head!!!! And in comes Robotnik wit-

um

…right. Anyway Antoine shows up with his balloon and actually… saves the day, somehow. He dumps a bucket of mud onto the Buzzbombers, drops sand bags full of explosives onto the Swatbots (which causes them to run away in fear uhh), and somehow manages to pick up Robotnik by the cape and dump him in the nearby lake. Sheesh! That balloon is hax.

The story ends with Antoine doing what he does best.

Tails looks adorable here. So does Bunnie. So does ROTOR.

Sonic-Grams brings us a request for more Bunnie (which doesn’t even have an editorial response for it; how telling), a fan who suggests a character named Freddie, who’s a fox like Tails except “a bit chubbier, and not as cute,” an inquiry about how much Tails weighs (weird), a fervent request for more Spinball (yes, really), and a Sonic response that just has to be seen to be believed.

I guess the Fleetway version of Sonic was rubbing off on the Archie version. That fox is such a pixel brain.

The Betty Butterfly Variety Hour

Before Metal Sonic came around (and around and around and around), Robotnik tried another robotic duplicate, one that pretty much nobody but (surprise, surprise) Mike Gallagher cared about. I hear there was a character with the same name in an episode of the slapstick cartoon, but he was rather different in design; given how badly Archie was kept out of the loop in these early years, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was a total coincidence. Ladies and gentlebots, let’s give it up for PSEUDO-SONIC (uhhh).

Featuring: "Sonic of Two Worlds!" A spectacular story that is sure to become a classic!

Pseudo-Sonic!
Writer: Mike Gallagher
Penciler: Dave Manak
Inker: Henry Scarpelli
Letterer: Bill Yoshida
Colorist: Barry Grossman

So Robotnik’s been doing his research. “I know everything about you!” he yells to the poster of Sonic, which has as its only visible categories “Name” (Sonic the Hedgehog – where’s the Maurice?) and “Location” (Great Forest; ace deduction on that one, Ivo). He’s used this massive amount of completely helpful information to build Pseudo-Sonic, who basically looks like a clunkier version of the later Sonic robots, with absolutely no streamlining. Obviously Robotnik isn’t concerned about aesthetics! Pseudo shows off that he can run as fast as Sonic (which he… does not actually do at any other point in this story) and that he has a bit of a “bug problem.” Hopefully the Terminate-Nator isn’t around.

Soon after, Sonic leaves the HIDDEN TREE STUMP TO THE HIDDEN AREA OF KNOTHOLE VILLAGE, which is being guarded by Antoine, who is standing directly over it. You’d think there would be more surreptitious ways of concealing an entrance to your hidden base than having the guard on duty stand on top of it. “Hey, what are you hiding over there?” “Zut alors! Eet is just your normal tree stump. I do ze standing here when I am thinking in my brains, non?” Honestly though by this point you could drive a Death Egg through the plot hole that is Knothole’s location, and we’re less than 15 issues in.

Anyway, Sonic’s even more of a jerk than usual to Antoine, and he speeds off without telling anyone where he’s headed – why, he’s off to pick flowers for Sally, of course! What a guy. Any princess would sure be lucky to have passive-aggressive romantic tension with a hedgehog like that. As Sonic chills in the random meadow (mercifully not called “Mobius Meadow”), who should show up but our dear old friend, one of the greatest characters of the entire comic’s run.

I’m talking, of course, about Tommy Turtle.

Er… wait, no, it’s this random thing.

Butterflies can't understand ground Mobian concepts like "hideously allergic to poison sumac" and "introduction sequences that aren't horribly awkward". WHAT!

Betty Butterfly acts all familiar with Sonic (and later in this issue, the rest of the team) despite never showing up before, never being formally introduced, and – rather humorously – never showing up again. Basically she’s a plot device to tell Sonic he just wandered into poison sumac and to tell the Freedom Fighters that Sonic just wandered into poison sumac. It’s wouldn’t surprise me if people seem to remember her more than Pseudo-Sonic just for the sheer comedic value.

So OUR DEAR OLD FRIEND BETTY BUTTERFLY chills out with Swollen Sonic (who looks like a pinata) as Pseudo-Sonic basically gets let into Knothole by Antoine because it’s almost time for curfew (“Gesundheit!”). What a clever plan. Hey, it’s more than Metal Sonic ever seems to accomplish!

Inside Knothole, Bunnie is locking up her hair salon for no reason, since apparently nobody else but the six Freedom Fighters live in Knothole. Boome-excuse me, ROTOR (the name badge he was wearing reminded me) says Antoine and Sonic are late, and as Sonic arrives Tails decides to audition for a Tex Avery cartoon.

That's Tails's face when he runs off a cliff, looks down, and waves goodbye to the camera.

He also prepares to defend himself with a broom, which is kind of cute and hilarious. Something I also noticed here: Sally kinda runs to Rotor’s side in defense. They’ve been portrayed in earlier issues as having a unique relationship: remember in the Original Mini-Series, when Sally did her dumb Royal Proclamation that involved going on a mission to sabotage the portable robot-robomaker-that-makes-robots-WHILE-U-WAIT? She explicitly lied about this to everyone… except Rotor. You could argue that she needed him to design the special shoes for the mission, but in these early issues I’ve seen the two of them interacting probably more than any other non-Sonic duo, even Sally and Antoine, which is actually kind of a plot point. I’m not saying there’s any romantic potential there necessarily, just that there seems to be a foundation of trust that the others don’t seem to have. Curious.

Anyway, Robotnik has Pseudo on a monitor, which… is somehow able to look at both Pseudo and the Freedom Fighters. Is this a weird camera thing? If Robotnik can just follow along with Pseudo’s movements, why does he need Pseudo to send him the coordinates? Nobody else seems to care, maybe because Antoine is too busy giving the funniest excuse for anything in the history of ever:

Rotor, being the most fourth-wall-aware of the bunch, only looks concerned over the potential for abusing the artist. Also, nice little touch with having Pseudo tap his foot like Sonic.

Pseudo prepares to send him the coordinates to Knothole (ugh) which he prepares to write down on a memo pad because apparently he’s not a technological genius or anything (???).

BUT WAIT

IT’S

TAILS??????

You thought Sonic was gonna save the day and end up tangling with his robotic doppelganger? Naw, this is Tails’s time to shine, and he singlehandedly manages to disable Pseudo with a technique Sonic taught him. Raise your hand if you thought it wouldn’t involve running in circles. (I hope none of you have your hands raised.)

MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE MEADOW, Sonic is crawling out of the sumac patch and it’s daytime again for some reason despite Antoine saying it was getting dark out because it was almost time for curfew (“Gesundheit!”). Robotnik, however, has “triangulated the approximate area of Pseudo-Sonic’s last call” and shows up, ready to dine on hedgehog soup. As Rotor makes the incredible observation that Pseudo was built by Robotnik (guess that’s why he gets scientist pay), Betty Butterfly just barges into Knothole and tells them Sonic is in great danger !!!!! You know what else is in danger, Betty? My willing suspension of disbelief that you somehow got into this supposedly secret base and… okay, forget it, I’m just gonna drive myself crazy. >_>

Robotnik shoots this burst of flame from his Egg Mobile that ends up hitting pretty much inches from Sonic’s feet… while Sonic is just sitting there. So Robotnik didn’t just attend an academy for inept dictators, he went to the Imperial Stormtrooper School of Marksmanship as well. Good to know. He’s about to finish Sonic off but then we actually get to see everyone’s favorite sassy, Southern, pissed-off rabbit in action! Bunnie blows up Robotnik’s ship with one blast from ARM CANNON FINGERS (nice modification), does this weird bunny hop thing, lifts him up and then flies with him back to Robotropolis, hurling him into a factory. There’s also some actual continuity (!) – Robotnik’s never met Bunnie before and he reacts accordingly… well, except for last issue, when she was in the abandoned concert hall with the rest of the team. But this is the first time he’s seen her up close. Guess he’s not used to anyone other than Sonic being a threat!

Now that Robotnik’s been routed, Bunnie (who looks like she’s come down with a bad case of the Off-Models) shoots something else from her ARM CANNON FINGERS – some sort of disgusting ointment for Sonic’s rash from her “Aunt Lulumae.” (Wonder if that’s Beauregard’s wife.) Rotor then gets snarky again and makes fun of Sonic (“Aw, nothin’ much happens without you around!”) and Sonic completely misses the joke. And they put Pseudo’s remains in a trash can outside the hidden tree stump as he begs readers to write in for another appearance. And I weep.

Honestly though? Not a bad story. It was nice seeing the other members of the crew do something – Tails and Bunnie actually got to save the day, early Rotor is always a treat, and Antoine had that great line. Dave Manak’s art was a little funky though – as I said earlier, Bunnie’s hair kept looking strange and it threw off her model, Sonic looked very chubby the entire time, and Robotnik’s teeth rivaled Julia Roberts’s.

As far as Pseudo-Sonic goes, there’s probably a reason we didn’t see him again until Mike Gallagher forced him back into the story, and that’s because he did absolutely nothing. Seriously – guy shows up, walks into Knothole, prepares to broadcast the coordinates, and then loses. That’s it! Universalamander did more. Termite-Nator did more. Hell, that giant Burrobot Sonic and Bunnie fought did more! Pseudo’s a neat piece of Archie Sonic history, but that’s pretty much where he belongs.

What’s the Point?
Writer: Angelo DeCesare
Penciler: Dave Manak
Inker: Henry Scarpelli
That’s it for the listed credits!

Okay so it’s Sally’s birthday, and Sonic doesn’t have a present for her! This is particularly funny because the story doesn’t ever say that Sonic doesn’t have a present for her, but he’s running around before the party picking flowers and doesn’t have anything else planned once they get ruined due to his EXTREME SPEED. It’s like they don’t want you to see how bad a friend Sonic is.

But the answer falls out of the sky! Literally. It’s a bird. A “Mobian needle bird… half bird, half porcupine!” I have no idea how that works. We’ll say XORDA GENE BOMB and be done with it. Sonic sees the little dude’s wing is injured, gets him some berries (“Just remember that the black one is my nose!”), names him Thorny, and decides to give him to Sally as a replacement present. “She’ll be so happy!”

Cut to the obligatory next-page gag where Sally is not happy, citing all the times Robotnik’s used pets to almost infiltrate Knothole. To make matters even worse, Thorny starts eating Sally’s needleberry cake! She probably got that recipe from Modern Princess Magazine, too. Rotor offers to bake “another cake” (SEE????) but Sally runs off to pick berries, which will help blow off some stream. She then gets caught by a giant hideous tree robot, which Robotnik just randomly planted (DOHOHO) there. God why is everyone in this comic such an idiot.

Sonic, having stashed Thorny away safely, hears the EEK (“That was Sally’s EEK!”) and speeds off to her rescue… but not before this:

It would be pretty 'tree'sonous to not find this funny.

And suddenly the entire story becomes worthwhile.

I’m not even gonna bother summarizing the rest of this in detail, since you can probably figure out what happens – Thorny comes back to save the day because his wing randomly healed due to UNEXPLAINED PLOT and Sally ends up accepting him as an honorary member of the team. I guess he colored in that page and mailed it to Archie! As you can probably guess, Thorny never shows up again, lounging around with Betty Butterfly in the pile of “characters even Ian Flynn won’t touch.” Then again, who knows with that guy. He could probably do an OAK-K job of it if he wanted.

Sonic-Grams has a funny moment: when someone asks where is Mobius is, the editorial staff responds with “Mobius is a planet at an unspecified point in space.” Translation WE HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA

Botman Begins

All the past reviews have been filled to the brim with weird humor, inconsistent continuity, and all manner of conundrums, not the least of which is how many Darth Vaders villains are. But I will tell you this, all five people who check this blog:

If you choose to read any early issue, make it this one.

What is about to ensue is the most ludicrous, over-the-top malarkey this side of an Animaniacs episode. It goes so far over the edge that it… well, have you heard the term “refuge in audacity”? This is basically “refuge in preposterousness.” You have been warned… and encouraged.

A gun on an Archie cover? Well I never.

“Bot’s All, Folks!”
Writer: Mike Gallagher
Penciler: Dave Manak
Inker: Jon D’Agostino
Letterer: Bill Yoshida
Colorist: Barry Grossman

The fourth wall had just reassembled itself after Super Sonic came into existence by way of a Genesis controller in issue 4. But then a Swatbot caught Crabmeat reading Sonic comic books, and it all came crashing down again. Robotnik is OUTRAGED (with a giant WHAT? speech bubble), probably because they don’t make Robotnik comic books, and he prepares to send Crabmeat to the spare parts departme- er, separator. Crabmeat tries to get out of this one (with puppy dog eyes no less!) by saying that he was researching potential super-powered robots to help Robotnik defeat Sonic. Robotnik gives the idea serious consideration before tossing both Crabmeat and the Swatbot into the spare parts machine. Get it? It’s funny because sentient robots aren’t people.

Days later, the dictator prepares to cut down the forest and build a toxic dumping pond – oh wait, sorry, an “inefficient, unlicensed, outdated” toxic dumping pond. But is it profitable? That’s my question. Sonic predictably shows up to ruin Ivo’s fun… but Robotnik actually saw it coming! WHAT? He shines a flashlight into the sky that throws up a silhouette of his face, and who should appear but…

Botman is a cowardly and superstitious bot.

Botman kicks Sonic and withstands the hedgehog running into him at 250 miles per hour; Sonic and Botman then tussle briefly before Botman gains the upper hand, standing victoriously over Sonic’s cross-eyed, prone body. In the middle of all that, Robotnik provides the camerabot with some filming advice, proclaiming that “I like being a power-hungry tyrant… but what I really want to do is direct!”

I can’t help but feel that, as hilarious as the concept of Botman is, there were missed opportunities with this, given how eminently parody-friendly Batman’s character is. This was in the mid-90s and DC was trying all this random grim and gritty junk, so there’s that. Plus the 60s Batman TV show could have amounted to some excellent in-jokes… sure, kids wouldn’t get them, but when has that ever stopped Mike Gallagher before? Ah well.

So Robotnik does a jig (and I’m pretty sure he breaks like three Robotnik Rules in the process) and Botman keels over, his chest emblem now reading YOUR AD HERE and TILT. It seems that Sonic took Botman apart pretty handily instead of being defeated by him, and that he just posed the empty husk to drive Robotnik batty. Oh, that wascawwy hedgehog!

But Robotnik’s not done yet! He still has all of Crabmeat’s comics (despite this being a totally different Crabmeat bot) and prepares to unleash the vicious and devastating WOLVERINE bot. But “it seems there’s been a slight communications glitch”… and this is what we get instead:

It's a rare condition, this day and age.

Fun fact: there is, somewhere on Archie’s Sonic blog on their official site,  a piece of fanart for the Sonic vs. Villains contest that features Wolvurkel. And it is GLORIOUS.

Robotnik then cranks it up to eleven with the SPAWNMOWER, which is just what it sounds like – it’s a giant Spawn with a lawnmower for its lower half. Like Botman, this doesn’t seem to have much to do with the actual character so much as it is a visual gag. Still, they find time to cram in a bunch of puns – Sonic says “Holy Toddledo” when the Spawnmower shows up, he pushes it out to the “McFar Lane” (both are references to Spawn’s creator, Todd McFarlane) and, upon shoving it over a cliff, says “This character’s really over the edge!”

Sonic defeats some more crappy superhero bots and then prepares to go for the fat man himself, but he slips on some spilled oil and Robotnik escapes… by riding on Crabmeat. This image is so hilarious by itself I kinda want to make it my desktop background.

The lowercase, no-punctuation 'oi' kills me every time.

Back at Knothole, Rotor snarks that all the comic in-jokes will make this issue highly collectible, and the fourth wall gets shattered to the farthest reaches of the universe.

BOTS

R

HOTS

A Little Sonic Goes a Long Way!
Writer: Mike Gallagher
Penciler: Dave Manak
Inker: Jon D’Agostino

This story is significantly less exciting and hilarious than the previous one. The Freedom Fighters are just kinda standing around listening to Sonic playing guitar. One of the musical notes goes on an odyssey towards Robotropolis, where it lands in Robotnik’s ear, who promptly freaks the hell out. Maybe Sonic was playing Brokencyde or something. Snively (!!) comes in to say that he’s invented something (!!!!): a size reducer that… reduces things in size. But it only lasts for ONE HOUR. That’s five whole minutes in comic book time! But for Robotnik, it’s enough time.

Of note: the map Robotnik looks at places the Forbidden Zone in between the Great Forest and Robotropolis. But wait, you ask yourself, isn’t the Great Forest basically right outside the city, as shown in prior issues? Congrats! You’re paying attention more than the editorial staff was. Of course, the Forbidden Zone later gets moved around even more, so eh.

The Freedom Fighters head towards the abandoned concert hall to find more instruments to play with. Bunnie makes the obligatory over-the-heads-of-readers pun of the issue when she says she wants to play cymbals and a saxophone:

Sadly, Bunnie was unable to perform with the rest of the Freedom Fighters due to a wardrobe malfunction. (She didn't seem to mind, though!)

As soon as they enter, Robotnik shrinks them with Snively’s device, because he knew where they were thanks to the “Freedom Fighter Finder,” which he says works when they leave the Great Forest. That’s pretty handy. The rest of the team proves themselves to be useless and pretty much gives up (including Bunnie, who could probably lift Robotnik’s vacuum thing by herself), but Robotnik only has eyes for Sonic. After some trickery, Robotnik’s mobile robo-maker is destroyed, but he whips out a handheld version that sucks up Sonic. Just as he’s about to press the button, he’s distracted by the other FFs actually doing something – flinging musical bits at him. It’s enough of a distraction that the shrinkage (lol) wears off, because it’s been an hour. Riiiiiight.

Robotnik is outnumbered (and, as Antoine points out, “almost outweighed”), but he signals for an army of Badniks to arrive in a few minutes. So what do the Freedom Fighters do in response? The one thing Robotnik can’t stand.

I find the image of Tails playing the tuba hilarious.

After Robotnik flees from music poisoning, Rotor finds the shrinker and ships the Badniks back to Robotropolis as a small favor to him. Get it? SMALL FAVOR DOHOHOHO THAT’S RICH

Sonic-Grams is notable this issue because… well, remember in Issue 2, when the story invited people to color in a particular panel, and if you did you’d get recognized as an “official freedom fighter”? The comic had been regularly printing the names of people who did that every issue since. In this issue though, Sonic himself (!!) shows up and says that, hey, it’s great that you guys love coloring, but why not do some fanart and we’ll publish that instead?

And thus, a proud tradition was born.

God bless you, fanart. (And may Aurora look down upon you with kindness, Bryan S.)

Robotnik Is a Big Fan of Cosplay

Sonic's not usually a fan of James Joyce, but he heard Ulysses was "way past cool."

Uncle Chuck’s Treasure!
Writer: Angelo DeCesare
Penciler: Dave Manak
Inker: Jon D’Agostino
Letterer: Bill Yoshida
Colorist: Barry Grossman

The story begins as Tails gives his first inclination of being mechanically gifted: he’s built a seesaw! (Hey, we all gotta start somewhere.) Rotor (not Boomer!) then gives his most recent inclination of being fat, as he jumps onto it and sends poor Tails through the ceiling in a quick bit of slapstick. As the fox falls down, Rotor tries to catch him, but Sonic does the job for him. What a glory-seeker.

Something falls out of the hole Tails’s head created in the ceiling: it’s a map Uncle Chuck made to his “greatest treasure.” I don’t know why Uncle Chuck has a map buried in Knothole – the only backstory we’ve gotten so far concerning him is blatantly non-canon by today’s standards, and the current backstory (he was roboticized early into Robotnik’s rule) doesn’t allow for the map to be there either. So I guess this is one of those stories that kinda happened, but not quite the way they describe it. Continuity is hard. =(

"Sonic, why did your voice change when you said my name?"

The Freedom Fighters are ambivalent about the treasure being worthwhile, since money doesn’t have any value since Robotnik took over and presumably started paying his Badniks in motor oil and female Swatbots with short shorts. Sonic is quick to point out that Uncle Chuck was “our greatest inventor” (which again implies he was one of the Freedom Fighters) and that this treasure might be something they can use to defeat Robotnik. Or maybe it’s a bunch of baseball cards. Only one way to find out!

The treasure is buried at “Mobius Natural Park,” which is – like last issue’s Mt. Mobius – a really stupid name, given that Mobius is the name of the entire planet. The implication is that this is the only national/natural/naturological park in the world, maybe. Either way it’s a toxic wasteland now, as the gang finds out once they arrive and see that Robotnik’s been using it to dump his waste (eww). They follow the map and make it to the X, only to find that Robotnik has been tailing them to get his hands on the gold doubloons.

They decide to split up, which naturally means that Sonic has to rescue all of them separately. The hedgehog ruminates that none of the Freedom Fighters will last long in the toxic environment. I guess Robotnik’s immune because he lives in a big ol’ polluted city. Plus the guy’s probably part-machine anyway – he sweats motor oil and eats candy with oil in it in the second story. Either he’s a cyborg or he’s what that burgeoning robofurry fan from Issue 5 is going to turn into in thirty years.

Sonic actually does something kinda clever as he saves everybody – instead of pulling a Captain Planet and fighting the pollution around him, he works with it, getting Swatbots caught in sticky ooze (which leads to the wonderful line “Ooze responsible for this?”) and disintegrating a Burrobot’s drill with a waste barrel. This is the first time we really get a hint as to how the Freedom Fighters operate effectively – they work within Robotnik’s terms but tweak them to their benefit.

Anyway, they dig up the treasure, but Robotnik escapes with it before they can open it. Turns out Uncle Chuck was a sentimentalist – his greatest treasure was a bronzed pair of Sonic’s baby shoes. Dawwwww.

Sorceress in Distress
The culprits for this story remain at large.

It’s time for the annual “Fright Night party”! What, they can celebrate Christmas but not Halloween? Sonic’s a shrub of poison ivy, Sally’s a sorceress, Antoine’s a devil (ZUT ALORS), Tails is a two-tailed Ixis Wizard (aka skunk), and Rotor wins the prize for “I just didn’t care” and goes dressed as a bad report card, which basically means he’s wearing a sandwich board with writing on it. As usual, the main five Freedom Fighters are the only ones present (I guess they’re in preparation for the party and not actually there?) and Bunnie’s nowhere to be found. The early stories are really unclear about this – are the Freedom Fighters the only ones who live in Knothole? That wouldn’t make sense, but we never really see anyone else.

Sally finds all this conversation about other people unsettling and leaves to acquire a pointy stick to complete her costume. She orders Sonic and Antoine to stay behind, saying she can take care of herself. Raise your hands if you know what’s going to happen next!

Sally's on Team Jacob, just so you know.

Still in her sorceress outfit, Sally finds the perfect stick and seemingly makes a rock fly into the air – in actuality, it’s beneath a geyser, but nobody knows this. I say “nobody” because there’s somebody else watching – Robotnik has beheld the scene on his FOREST VIEWER and declares himself to be smitten with this powerful being.

"At last, I can make the ref give Sonic a penalty and get a free-throw, clinching my victory as the buzzer sounds! At least... I think that's how you play basketball. I'm much too comedically obese to have any idea how the game works."

Sally legitimately thinks her stick thing is magic and keeps trying it on a log. She’s been gone for a while – I hope they didn’t start the party without her or OH GOD ROBOTNIK JUST SHOWED UP TO COURT HER

“I will not waste time speaking of my emotions… since I do not have any!” Sally is overwhelmed by his gifts of deadly plants, oil-filled candy and awful poetry; furthermore, she knows that Robotnik doesn’t recognize her and that if she doesn’t play along, she’s done for. So she just kinda stammers out an excuse, and Robotnik drags her along to start their “spectacular but practical wedding ceremony” (that line makes me laugh). Sonic, who knew full well that Sally couldn’t be trusted to not get into trouble, follows discreetly.

So Robotnik and Sally the Sorceress are on stage with Robotnik’s WED-O-MATIC computer (I’m assuming it does nuptials WHILE U WAIT), and Robotnik asks to see a demonstration of her magical powers. Sally is completely incapable of thinking of any way out of this situation. She had the entire time Robotnik carried her to Robotropolis plus however long it took to build the WED-O-MATIC to think of something, and all she can do is stammer and gulp. When Sally fans look back on her great moments as a tactical leader, I’m assuming they skip this issue. >_>

BUT WAIT

IT’S

SONIC

Proving that speedsters are really broken in terms of powers, Sonic uses a “warp speed spin” to… make himself invisible. I know the Flash can vibrate his molecules through walls, so I guess Sonic can surely make himself invisible by… uh… running in a circle really fast? If this were a modern comic book from Marvel or DC they’d probably try to justify this with some pseudo-science malarkey about particles and matter and accelerating principles of gravity. In Sonic the Hedgehog #7, published by Archie Comics, our logic is “Let’s do it to it!”

Of course, it’s up to you which of these approaches is better.

INVISIBLE TORNADO SONIC makes a mess of the wedding and spirits Sally away to safety. Once they return to the Great Forest, Sally gets all tsundere on Sonic.

Baka the Hedgehog.

(I-It’s not like she wanted him to follow her or anything…)

Okay, Christmas-Themed Dream Flashbacks Are the Worst Kinds of Dreams and Flashbacks

So we have our first official adaptation of a game in the comic! (I use the term “adaptation” loosely here.) No, it’s not Sonic 3 – it’s Sonic Spinball! You know, the game where you controlled Sonic and basically went through weird pseudo-pinball stages. Kinda creative level design at points, too. I’m sure this won’t be that bad… right?

>_>

Hey now, Donkey Kong can go through like twenty different climates with that thing on! Quit complaining!

The Spin Doctor
Writer: Michael Gallagher
Penciler: Dave Manak
Inker: Henry Scarpelli
Letterer: Dan Nakrosis
Colorist: Barry Grossman

The Freedom Fighters (whose heads look bigger than usual on the first page) have taken a page from the Doctor Robotnik Compendium of Horribly Thought Out Plans (DRCoHTOP) and are just charging at Robotnik’s factory, which… I guess is Robotropolis? I don’t know. They can’t even keep the shape of the Greak Oak Slide straight; how can they handle an entire city? Robotnik isn’t even there to congratulate them on reaching his level of terribleness; he’s fled to the active volcano at Mt. Mobius, which is the equivalent to us having a place named “Earth City.” Sonic sees the note that Robotnik’s left to tell them where he’s gone to and naturally rushes off without the other Freedom Fighters.

Sonic arrives outside the “Veg-O-Fortress”, surrounded by lava that looks like mud and completely white sky. There’s a bumper behind him that pushes him into the lava, where he basically pulls a Mario and just clutches his butt in pain for a few seconds.

The lava's not really doing anything to Sonic - he's just agitated that the sky keeps changing color. HOT SOUP

Robotnik watches Sonic on a monitor, ruminating that Sonic will never survive his fortress and that once he fails, he can use the “Veg-O-Converter” to roboticize the entire planet. That is… the extent of his plans. He relocated to an active volcano, setting up elaborate traps and prisons, and even left a sign for Sonic to follow him there. To what end? What is the purpose of this? Obviously he was peeved that the Freedom Fighters tried to one-up him on the Stupid Plan Scale, so he concocted an even more impossibly stupid plan!!! Either way, I’m going to consult the DRCoHTOP, probably under a chapter about building fortresses inside deadly areas, and then get back to you.

Okay, I don't know a lot about architectural planning, but Robotnik probably shouldn't put random fires next to the containers of hazardous materials. I also like how "Rexxon" is just kinda hanging out at an awkward angle, like he was photoshopped into the page. WHAT ARE YOU DOING DAVE MANAK

Sonic meets some robots and destroys them, and everybody tosses around words like ‘boss’ and ‘the next level.’ I’m surprised Robotnik didn’t cackle while telling Sonic he’d get a Game Over. We have two pointless panels where Sonic meets some escaped kangaroos who tell him to watch out for some enemies. Mike Gallagher, in true Mike Gallagher fashion, would actually bring these kangaroos back 34 issues later for no discernible reason. Sonic then finds the captive Mobians (which includes a funny, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gag about the noise a giraffe makes) and then Robotnik ejects him from the volcano. Tails grabs him and they leave.

And that is the last time we ever visit the Veg-O-Fortress.

I guess Sonic might have gone back to free everybody at some point (the kangaroos got free on their own), but how are we supposed to know that? We’re “treated” to one of those pleading editorial notes at the end about how the readers should write in if they want to see more Spinball action. I guess nobody did! Sucks to be those random Mobians. Poor unintelligible giraffe.

This story also happens to be the most poorly drawn one yet. Dave Manak seems really off his game here (see my comment about everybody’s big heads), but the real culprit is Barry Grossman’s coloring. The lava is a dull brownish orange, the sky is pale white (and also alternating blue and pink), the toxic waste was a boring pink, etc. It seems like they had basically 10 colors to choose from and didn’t bother with details because, hey, who cares about Sonic Spinball?

Sonic’s Christmas Carol!
Writer: Angelo DeCesare
Penciler: Dave Manak
Inker: Henry Scarpelli
Everything Else: Anonymous

I remember reading a discussion on Ian Flynn’s message board the other day about how it must have been weird starting the Sonic comic, since there was virtually nothing to work with in the way of supplementary material, and the stuff that was out there was contradictory. So I guess the creative team just tried a bunch of random stuff and saw what – if anything – stuck. Things like the general concept of the Freedom Fighters vs. Robotnik and the broad cast personality outlines have endured, but almost everything else has been thrown to the wayside. Some of it’s been embraced in modern times (Badniks, the AoStH cast, the concept of “Freedom HQ”), either due to retro appeal or legitimate fan demand. And some of it’s just been discarded completely – we don’t hear anything about the FREEDOM EMERALDS or Uncle Chuck raising Robotnik or the Veg-O-Fortress. But the big thing to keep in mind here is that they were, for the most part, trying new stuff and seeing what worked.

And then we have a version of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.

I think it’s a requirement for every kid-centered franchise to do some adaptation of A Christmas Carol. We have Disney, we have the Muppets, I saw a crappy Looney Tunes one last year. There’s a big 40-part series on jimhillmedia.com that goes into detail about tons of adaptations (I’d link to it but the search engine doesn’t seem to be working). Mister Magoo has one. A large part of the appeal of these adaptations (and adaptations in general) is seeing familiar characters in unfamiliar situations – we all know Bugs and Daffy’s personalities, but watching them transplanted into a new scenario is neat. It’s a big reason fanfic is so popular.

Bearing all this in mind, this is how the Sonic the Hedgehog comic book adapted A Christmas Carol. Robotnik is “Scrooge-Robotnik,” who plans to eventually turn every living being on the planet into a robot. His only employee we see is Rotor (not Boomer!) Cratchit, who is also one of the Freedom Fighters opposing Robotnik’s rule (???). Scrooge-Robotnik’s old business partner is “Jacob Snarley” (aka Snively in his first pseudo-appearance). Sonic is all three ghosts and one of the Freedom Fighters simultaneously; he’s also the one having the dream, not Robotnik, and he wakes up just to wish everybody a Merry Christmas.

This is the most legitimately evil Robotnik's been yet, so naturally it's a Christmas-themed dream flashback adaptation sequence.

I find something curious in all of this. It’s not the total lack of effort here – sure, this is a completely irrelevant story where they don’t even let the supposed protagonist (Scrooge-Robotnik) learn anything at the end. What I find curious is that there was all this new stuff they could have tried. Think about it – imagine you’re dealing with a totally hot new property, where you’re given a basic framework to work with but the specifics are left to you. So, ten issues in, doesn’t it make a little more sense that they’d do something more creative than just throwing the characters into a half-baked rendition of A Christmas Carol?!?

The previous stories weren’t A-plus efforts and have varied in quality, but at least they were indicative of the creative team trying to place Sonic and buddies (hey-o) in new and/or entertaining situations. We shouldn’t be getting filler like this ten issues into the comic’s run. I guess they figured that they didn’t need to worry about it, since – like I said in an earlier review – nobody was even sure how long the comic would last. Still, looking back, it’s a shame that not more was done with the early potential the book held.

The only other thing of note from this issue is that, yes, you read correctly – Boomer is now Rotor. The editors basically say in Sonic-Grams that “Surely you’ve noticed that Boomer isn’t called that in the show? Yeah, we noticed too.” That’s kind of an important detail! It’s not the first time Archie won’t be a high priority when it comes to being in the know – just wait till the Sonic Adventure adaptation! (For whatever reason though, Sally’s coloring wouldn’t be corrected for quite some time. My guess is the editorial staff just thought she looked better in pink and figured the comic would be canceled before anyone would notice!)

Tails Wins the Gold Medal at Being Worthless

Before Mario and his ludicrously agile fat butt came along, Sonic already had an Olympic competition! Find out more – in this VERY ISSUE BE THERRRRRRRRE

Setting your own logo on fire is actually an act of vandalism in seventeen states.

Olympic Trials and Errors” (note how the title on the cover and the title in the actual comic don’t match)
Writer: Angelo DeCesare
Penciler: Dave Manak
Inker: Jon D’Agostino
Letterer: Dan Nakrosis
Colorist: Barry Grossman

New writer on the block! Angelo Decesare (or maybe DeCesare; Google gives me both results and the comic credits are in all caps) isn’t as prolific a writer as Mike Gallagher, but he pitched in a few stories in the pre-Endgame era. From what I remember, they’re in the same vein as Mike’s but a little more reserved and well-organized; I might be proven wrong as I review more stories, though. At least this one is more reserved and well-organized!

Sonic is playing baseball with himself while Tails watches. This is a hilarious concept to me – Sonic is just hitting balls and using his speed to catch them before they land, and Tails is watching and smiling and going “That’s why he’s my sports hero!” It might be better if he actually, y’know, let you play, Tails. It’s like the fox knows how useless he is, so he just takes any opportunity to brush shoulders with somebody competent and runs with it. Speaking of running with it, Sonic runs into a wall. This is the third issue in a row somebody has run into a wall. What.

…okay, in Sonic’s defense, he wasn’t watching where he was going. On the other hand, the thing he ran into was a huge stadium with an ugly Robotnik face painted all over it, and Sonic and Tails both act like they’ve never seen it before. There’s a Swatbot just hanging out by the entrance, and he relays a message to Sonic and Tails: Robotnik wants to challenge the Freedom Fighters to the Robotropolis Olympic Games. If they can win at least one out of four events, Robotnik will return Mobius to normal. If they lose, they become robots. There is absolutely nothing fishy about this at all – Sonic is fully aware it’s a trap, but he insists the team do it because he thinks he’s that amazing and he’ll win every event himself.

"Dammit kid, didn't I -just- say I was going to do everything myself? Why don't you watch me run in circles for an hour or something; what a treat that'll be for ya."

So Antoine basically tells Tails the truth: he’s useless and can’t do anything. The kid is saddened and goes off and nobody goes to comfort him. Sonic calls after him and Sally gives Antoine a shove. That’s it. What a great family environment! Not that Tails needs it; he perks up in the very next panel, having realized that he can make a sculpture of Sonic once he wins. He’s a trooper alright!

They arrive the next morning at the stadium, and Robotnik asks a Swatbot if he went through with the plan – to steal Sonic’s “special sneakers” and replace them with “special, look-alike, energy-draining sneakers” Robotnik came up with. It’s weird – they keep hinting throughout this story that Sonic gets his speed directly from his sneakers, but they never come out and say it; the only thing special about them is the fact that they don’t burn out. The Swatbot threw the sneakers in the trash. This is a trivial detail that will never come up again.

Sonic prepares to do a few warm-up laps as the team (minus Tails) cheers him on from the sidelines; Boomer’s even waving a little ‘S’ flag. But with a mighty ZZUNK, Sonic’s energy is drained. Antoine… actually starts acting cowardly, which is kinda neat, given that he’s mostly just been a doofus in these first issues and not an outright coward. Robotnik prepares the “portable robot making machine,” and… y’know, I can’t keep coming up with all these half-baked jokes on all the different names they’ve given the roboticizer. There’s been at least three of them! (names, not jokes)

But wait! Sally says the rest of the team will compete in Sonic’s place. This… goes about as well as you’d expect it to.

I have absolutely no idea what this trollface bunny is supposed to be. He was on the cover of the first issue too!

Meanwhile, Tails is scrounging around in the trash since THAT’S WHERE HE BELONGS. Okay, he’s just looking for pieces of scrap metal for Sonic’s sculpture, but instead he finds…

…wait for it…

………………

…………………………………………..the FREEDOM EMERALDS

!!
(okay what do you think he actually finds)

Antoine is racing Robotnik’s fastest Buzzbomber and is obviously losing. Luckily, Sonic reappears, ZZUNK-free, and creates a cloud of dust so intense that Buzzbomber actually runs backwards, costing him the race. I don’t know how Antoine wasn’t affected by this, especially given that the Buzzbomber was right at the finish line, but hey. Robotnik orders them to be robot-machine-makerized anyway, but Sonic destroys the machine and the bad guys flee in terror (including trollface bunny, who just kinda flops around awkwardly).

Story karma is actually in effect at the end here: Tails’s running ends up saving the day, and Antoine the blowhard ends up passed out from the race. This is another issue where somebody other than Sonic gets to do something (in this case Tails), but it was still basically just helping Sonic save the day. WHERE IS BUNNIE WE WANT BUNNIE

Chomp on This, Chump!
Another unlisted story. Sounds like the usual suspects from the first story though.

Boomer is excited! Why is Boomer excited? Because:

  1. He found an ad for a nifty ant farm in a magazine
  2. He doesn’t have to eat Sally’s inedible pancake batter, which could probably break somebody’s skull

Nobody else seems to care about this ant farm, but Boomer is undeterred, and he’ll spend whatever the Mobian equivalent of money is (I still don’t think we know) ordering one. Sonic makes a crack about how boring it is, and Boomer just responds with “Very funny, Sonic! I’m going to mail my order form right away!” with this goofy smile on his face. Haters gonna hate; Boomers gonna boom.

I guess he uses Knothole as a shipping address. This would be bad enough on its own, but guess who’s actually sending the ant farm out? That’s right – it’s all a scam by Robotnik! This is at least the third or fourth time he’s learned about Knothole in nine issues. It’s right there on the envelope. ajfjkpjdslkslksfdlnjsljm

In lighter news, Robotnik makes the Swatbot holding the package wear a mailman’s cap. Such attention to detail is truly breathtaking.

Back at the secret entrance to Knothole Village (which is even labeled as such by a text box… they’re just rubbing it in our faces now, aren’t they), Boomer goes to open his ant farm, but surprise! It’s a termite. Specifically, a “Termite-Nator,” which eats anything made of wood or paper, and the more it eats, the bigger it grows. This has bad implications for the Freedom Fighters’ hiding place of the Great Forest. Now Robotnik’s sinister plan is revealed! Surely he doesn’t just have the location already or anything.

The Termite-Nator eats their entire collection of furniture (ouch) and books (not MODERN PRINCESS MAGAZINE?!?) but Sally can’t bear to part with her favorite cookbook. Sonic then gets inspired: he recreates her awful pancake batter and uses it to weld the Termite-Nator’s jaws shut. Boomer then looks at the sticker on its back that says “Made in Robotropolis.” Is Robotnik even trying? At any rate, the robot gets shipped back to the city, reprogrammed to eat metal instead. Hilarity ensues. Or something.

There’s actually some funny filler here:

This time it wasn't Sally's cooking! Sonic's just an idiot.

Sonic-Grams has two pages! Highlights include:

  • New editors Victor Gorelick and Paul Castiglia trying really, really hard (“Remember, always BRAKE for BLUE Hedgehogs” what)
  • The matter of Sonic’s max speed is decided once and for all: “In the time it takes the read this, Sonic can visit all the planets in the universe (even the ones we don’t know about yet) and still be home for dinner!” welp
  • Some kid makes his mom bring a comic he forgot to camp
  • Mario being compared to Robotnik in what I guess is an in-universe version of Godwin’s Law
  • Action figures and trading cards “on the way”… did we ever get these for Archie?

The best – the absolute best – has to be this letter, which I will type in full:

“Dear Crabmeat,
You’re my favorite Badnik. I think Dr. Robotnik should treat you better. Do you have a best friend? If you do, who is he? I’m 8 years old. How old are you? Does Robotnik make any girl crabs?

Zach Abram
St. Charles, MO.”

Writing in to villains isn’t too bad – Robotnik gets a few letters from time to time. It’s the ending of this letter that’s awkward. Zach Abram wants to ask a female version of Crabmeat on a date. He’s a burgeoning robot furry. It’s kind of awkwardly adorable.