Sonic the Hedgehog Issue #200   Leave a comment

SPOILERS AHEAD!  Just figured I’d get that out of the way.  Don’t come cryin’ to me if you want to read this without bein’ surprised.  It’s been out a week now, anyway, the grace period is over.

I’ve been a long time fan of Sonic’s comic. I can’t realistically say that I’ve been reading it from the beginning, my first issue was #6. Still, for a run of 16 years and 8 months, only missing the first half year seems like getting in pretty much on the gruond floor.  And while I’ve missed an issue here or there (largely during that period between the death of Dr. Robotnik and the rise of Dr. Eggman), I’ve been one of the most loyal readers.  After all, can you honestly say that Batman never had a bad storyline here and there?

Anyway, sticking with the comic through its good times and bad, I was all set for issue 200 to be a “bad.”  Why?  No real reason, just jaded comic reader cynicism.  Marvel and DC have been dropping the ball for me lately, and while they’ve had some outstanding stories, the general climate just seems like one of confusion, angst and overblown plots.

But my friends, I must tell you: Sonic the Hedgehog’s 200th issue did not disappoint me.  There were so many ways that this comic could have gone wrong, and it overcame each of them.

1) Confusing Plot: There are a lot of confusing plots out there in comics these days.  Take Final Crisis for instance: I personally enjoyed the “big picture” of Final Crisis and left it more or less satisfied, but you can’t deny that the main story felt incomplete and bizarre, like you were missing something (you were probably missing the many various tie-in issues that “weren’t necessary” but nonetheless helped to tie everything together.  Basically: either buy everything, or be willing to reread the central story a few times just to be sure that you’re clear on what’s going on.)  Sonic’s story the past half year or so has been remarkably clear and free of obstruction.  And there’s been a few things that could’ve brought abuot confusion: the invasion of Mobius by Moebius, Snively’s mysterious IM buddy (more on that later), Sally’s effective court martial at the hands of a former snubbed reserve Freedom Fighter, etc.  But the plot progression has been very lucid.  A new reader could have picked up just about any issue and understood roughly what was happening, and not because the plots were too simple, but because the plots were well presented.

2) Lousy Reveal: For a while now, Snively has been plotting behind Robotnik’s back regarding the arrival of a “new power” that he’s been expecting.  Now, I want to go on record here and say that I was all but positive that it was going to be the Iron Queen.  She wasn’t a huge villain during her relatively short earlier appearances, but I was sure it would be her because she’s the only notable villain from the comic who wasn’t an easily dealt with robot (Croctobot comes to mind), an easily dealt with flunky (any of Mammoth Mogul’s henchpeople or a certain Weasel come to mind), or an alien who wouldn’t be on Mobius.  Now, the cynic in me was half expecting her arrival to be the focal point of the issue, which would have robbed us of the Sonic/Robotnik fight they’ve been building to (and the majority of the action in this issue was a Final Boss Fight translated from game-format to comic format, and translated well if I may say so.)  The cynic in me was also expecting that instead of the Iron Queen it would’ve been either a completely new villain (which would’ve been stupid for a dramatic reveal like we’ve been building to) or an old villain who didn’t make sense (admit it, did anyone else have a fear that E.V.E. might have returned?  She would make an awesome villain, but there’d be no way to justify her return to Mobius, her return to evil, or her return to a state where Sonic would have a chance against her.)  Again, this dramatic reveal was well played and worth the wait.

3) Replay Mode: it didn’t occur to me until I was reading the issue, but one easy way that this could’ve gone wrong would have been if they’d just rehashed the basics of the fight from Sonic #50.  It is a good thing that they didn’t: this was an all new fight with all new stakes.  This wasn’t a fight for the freedom of Mobius (as Sonic put it, Dr. Robotnik barely had any control over the planet as he had to constantly struggle for it, a huge change from his near-total grasp over everything in the pre issue 50 days).  Plus in the end, Robotnik’s life wasn’t on the line.  Rather, his sanity was.  Seeing Robotnik’s mental break when he lost his big fight against Sonic was almost tragic, and it was clear that Sonic didn’t feel good about it.  He wanted Robotnik to be the stereotypical bad guy and say, “Grrr, you’ll rue the day you were born, hedgehog!  I’ll get you next time!  Next Tiiiiime!”  Instead, he witnessed the complete shattering of Robotnik’s mental faculties, self-respect and pride.  Sonic’s never really had a bad guy mentally fall apart on him like that, and I appreciated the genuine concern that Sonic had for someone who would have just as soon seen him dead.

Those are the big three ways that the issue could have gone wrong.  And it didn’t go wrong in any of those three ways.  Now, there were a few things that I thought could have been handled better, I should mention those to be fair…

First of all, why did Sonic and Sally leave Snively to “tend to” his uncle?  I could see Sonic doing that, but Sally?  She’s a tactical genius, and especially when armed with Nicole she doesn’t often make such huge military gaffes.  I mean, yes, it was clear that their primary enemy was vanquished.  Yes, the emotions of that time must have been overwhelming.  But why didn’t they cart Robotnik and Snively off in that fancy car of Rotor’s to face trial in Knothole?  Even if Robotnik wasn’t a threat, Snively has demonstrated many times (three, at the very least, and five if you count SatAM) that when Robotnik’s gone he’s more than willing to step up and fight the Freedom Fighters himself.  I suppose you could argue that his brief time spent with the Freedom Fighters might have earned him some trustable cred with them, but come on!  And not one of the Freedom Fighters questioned this?

My other problem with this episode was that Sonic and Robotnik both phrased things a bit awkwardly.  This is admittedly a problem for continuity buffs like me, but it needs pointing out.  Robotnik and Sonic were both acting like they were lifelong rivals during that fight, but that’s not the case.  This is the “new” Dr. Robotnik who came from an alternate dimension after conquering his own zone.  And Sonic and Robotnik both know this.  Why treat each other like the same hero and villain that they used to know when it’s been shown over and over that there are significant differences?  This might have been acceptible if that issue hadn’t come up once during the last hundred issues or so, but Sonic brought it up during the very last storyline when he begged Zonic the Zone Cop to come and arrest Eggman for a zone hopping violation.  It’s in the recent memory of the readers, so why not change the dialogue to reflect it?

Those two minor annoyances aside, it was a fine, fine issue.  I want to thank everyone who worked on this issue (nice seeing your covers as always, Spaz), and everyone who’s worked on the previous 199.  And then I want to thank everyone who worked on the issues 0-3 of the Sonic miniseries before the regular title started.  And everyone who worked on the 48 page specials, the Knuckles series, the various Knuckles mini-series, Sonic Universe, the Tails mini-series and the Princess Sally mini-series.  You all rock (oh, and for the record: you new editors are great and all, but Scott and Paul will always be The Editors in my mind.  Yes, even though they weren’t the first to fill the position.)

Anyway, there’s a lot of arguing and complaining between the various factions of Sonic fans.  And I’m sure there were some people out there who read the issue and didn’t like it.  But for what it’s worth, I’ve been a very satisfied customer.  And I can’t wait for the day six years and four months from now when Sonic’s comic officially becomes the longest comic of the Modern comic era.

Thanks again, everyone.  Keep it way past cool, and peace out!

-John

PS-I need to get a letter into Sonic Grams one of these days.

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