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.

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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-

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…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.