Wednesday, 27 July 2016

A Long Look At Sonic the Comic 1-100 Part 8: Disaster!*

2016 is Sonic the Hedgehog’s 25th Anniversary and I’ve been around since (almost) the start, in celebration of Sonic lasting so long I’m going to be posting a Long Look At Sonic the Comic issues 1 to 100, my favourite time period on one of my favourite comics and one of my favourite things about one of my favourite things – that’d be the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise- and this is that Long Look At. 

< Part 7

The Disaster is upon us. I am so excited to be re-reading this story. The Sonic strips covered here make up the Sonic & Knuckles adaptation (with one filler) and I’m trying not to hype the story too much in case anyone is reading these posts and wants to read the story so let’s just get on with it.

Day of the Death Egg (Sonic strip, issue 45)
Quick Summary: The Death Egg is launched. In the Emerald Hill Zone Tails and Sonic are fighting badniks, Sonic encounters a new badnik: Rhinobot but defeats him easily wishing for a more challenging threat from Robotnik, then the sky goes dark, the Death Egg has blocked out the sun. Its lasers wreck a portion of the Emerald Hill Zone in one blast and Eggman calls for them to bring him Sonic, who was already on his way anyway. Tails rushes headlong at the Death Egg – and is disintegrated. Calling Eggman a murderer Sonic goes to attack the ship, but the rotund dictator sets the lasers on a wide setting and destroys the entire zone, Sonic with it; with see his gloves and trademark shoes being burnt off him as he’s caught in the black. Cut to the Launch Base Zone, it was, thankfully, only a simulation of Grimer’s, the Death Egg has received its missing main thruster and in a few weeks the Death Egg will launch for real.

This was a fucking Valentine’s Day issue! The cover has a smiling Sonic head with hearts all over the background! But inside is one of if not the most disturbing fake-outs I’ve read, and I’ve read literally thousands of comics. This book is for the under tens, and Kitching kills both main characters on-panel, there is no indication that this is a simulation (well there might be, the dialogue is a little stilted and some random Badniks appear instead of Emerald Hill Zone Badniks, but that’s pretty subtle, especially for 6 year olds) until you’ve read the gruesome deaths of Sonic and Tails. I want to know how many kids read this and were terrified, I was, but I was a gullible little child with no genre savvy at all, I want to know how many intelligent children read this and shat their pants. This story is virtually perfect, made even more so by emotionally scarring 90s children.

Issue 46’s Sonic strip is The Big Con, it’s by Lew Stringer, seems to be an inventory story (as Eggman is still based in the Special Zone) and makes little sense, it is however drawn by Rob Corona, who turns in some brilliantly atmospheric art, I believe that this is a terrible thing happening in a rainy factory zone, well done Rob. Basically hordes of Mobians are being forced to go a ‘convention’ in honour of Dr Robotnik and he’s even dressing up for it, but there is no convention, there isn’t even a fake convention, the ‘convention centre’ is just filled with arms that put you in Badniks, Sonic shows up (still as Bob Beaky, not Bob Beaky: Ringmaster, more clues this is an inventory story), loses his patience in line, drops a statue on the convention centre, Eggman hates that hedgehog. Again I repeat my question from Doctor Sun – WHY? Why the convention ruse? Why if it’s a ruse is Eggman dressing up for it when he knows there’s no convention, just rain and a huge factory? The amount of troopers used to control the line would be enough to round up this amount of people and just heard them into a badnik processing factory, Eggman can do that, he runs the fucking planet – in fact you could just rewrite the dialogue, remove all references to the convention ruse and the story would make sense. I have a feeling Stringer was bored at a convention one day. Back to the good shit:

Mystery of the Sandopolis Zone (Sonic strips, issues 47-48)
Quick Summary: Sonic arrives on the Floating Island; specifically the Sandopolis Zone (Sonic & Knuckles), as it allows a good view of the Death Egg he’s intending to take out. While getting attacked by a Sandworm he meets up with an unhappy Knuckles and continuity gets a little hazy, and then Knuckles get even more unhappy because Captain Plunder has arrived. Plunder raises the Lost Pyramid of Sandopolis, basically the second act of the Sandopolis Zone in the game, using an old map he’s had for ages but never took seriously until Robotnik revealed the Floating Island was real. While Sonic and Knuckles deal with the Guardian - well while Sonic does what you did when the first faced that particular sub-boss and just spin attacks it to no avail, Knuckles lures it into quick-sand and gets rid of it – Plunder and crew sneak off to the Pyramid and find the treasures within. Knuckles seems oddly calm when the lights go out, turns out he knew about the curse of the place all along, and the Hyudoros manifest and chase Plunder and co out. Knuckles breaks a seal, lets the sand in and takes Sonic to the surface as the pyramid returns to the sands, this time for good. 

You know what, I’m starting to notice a trend with Kitching – he does love shoehorning in his own characters in adaptations, this is the second adaptation that’s had Captain Plunder, and he’s used the Marxios twice too. Still at least here (and with Carnival Night Conspiracy) the original characters serve a purpose in explaining why and how something from the games happened (in S&K the pyramid rises seemingly because it realises you need a second act to play through). Plus it’s really good to see so many things from the actual zone appear, even the handle Plunder pulls to reach the tomb is based on the one in the game that turns the lights back on, the Hyudoros aren’t named but manifest exactly how they do in the game and look terrifying and the Stone Guardian is dispatched exactly the way you have to defeat him in the game. Better than all that is that it all feels like a story is being told, not just a series of moments from a game is being shown to you, so I can forgive the Plunder, in fact maybe even praise his appearance a little, as it’s his bad pirating that turns things from a series of events into a story by giving us a reason for everything to happen and providing a narrative, Penders should have taken notes, this is how you shoe horn in an original character.  

I would have liked the story to have been three parts though, the ending feels a little rushed, it would have been nice to have had an issue for the Stone Guardian and then an issue for the escape, I would also have liked a panel in part 2 showing Sonic getting down from the pyramid after part 1’s funny cliffhanger, in part 2 he’s just on the ground again. I know he’s super-fast and probably just ran down but I would have liked to have been shown that, if only so it doesn’t look like a continuity error.

ghost racism?
Countdown to Disaster (Sonic strips, issues 49-50)
Quick Summary: The Death Egg is fixed, now all it needs is a power source – the Master Emerald; Robotnik dispatches an unseen Badnik to retrieve it. below Sonic & Knuckles come up under the Death Egg via the Larva Reef Zone only to be attacked by Eggrobos, while boiling them to death with lava Knuckles thinks of something bad, so the two rush to the Hidden Palace. There they find it’s been ransacked and the culprit, and the Emerald, are just leaving: the unseen Badnik was Metallix – the Metal Sonic! A next generation model and curiously he says he’s part of an elite brotherhood of badniks, hmm. Metallix wants revenge for his fallen brother and leaves the Master Emerald on a teleporter in the Sky Sanctuary Zone to beat the shit out of Sonic & Knuckles, Knuckles is knocked out, and Sonic isn’t powerful enough, or fast enough, to stand up against his metal doppleganger. Fortuitously a blow from Metal Sonic knocks the blue blur straight onto the Master Emerald – and Super Sonic is unleashed; Metallix may be a match for Sonic, but the chaos demon demolishes him, and then wails on Knuckles too. While he’s doing this, Eggman teleports the Master Emerald to the Death Egg, with Sonic back to normal the Sky Sanctuary Zone is falling apart now the Master Emerald’s power isn’t here to keep it together, and there’s a sound approaching, a sound like thunder.

They were making jokes about this then!
There’s a lot of luck in this story, Sonic is luckily hit onto the Master Emerald that luckily was on a teleporter; the latter I can excuse as Metallix was obviously teleporting back to the Death Egg via the Sky Sanctuary Zone (which is how the teleporters on Sonic & Knuckles work, one only goes to another, and then you have to use another to move to another etc) but come on Nigel, you couldn’t have had Sonic make a mad dash for the emerald instead? It wouldn’t have taken any more panels. That aside this story is good shit, the art is superb, and there’s some really nice little touches that elevate it, make it a great adaptation and better a great adaptation that ties perfectly in with the comic book’s universe – the Eggrobos are directly linked to Robotnik (he can see through and talk through them) making them seem more than just a regular badnik, Kitching ties the merged emeralds in with the Super Emeralds of S&K and even explains the size difference between the two (this is how the emeralds should look, they were drained of most of their power on Mobius when Sonic had them), Metallix is now based off of Mecha Sonic from Sonic & Knuckles, we get hints at the upcoming Brotherhood of Metallix trilogy, really the only gripe when it comes to this as an adaptation is that the Larva Reef Zone isn’t mentioned by name (and you don’t actually face Eggrobos in that Zone, but they do come out of the Death Egg so that’s accurate). And there’s some great dialogue and captions, this is my favourite:

Disaster! (Sonic strips, issues 51-53)
It’s time for one awesome thing after another, it’s time for the Disaster. Quick-ish Summary: The Death Egg is active and the Sky Sanctuary is little more than one lone crumbling pillar, Knuckles is able to glide with Sonic on his back but they’re left sitting ducks for a fresh wave of Eggrobos. Sonic is no-one’s sitting duck though and breaks into the Death Egg by bouncing from one Eggrobo to another, inventing the Homing Attack half a decade early, Knuckles returns to the Floating Island, he has a plan. On the Death Egg Sonic is lost, luckily the ship’s security system – the Spikebonkers – turn up, Sonic makes fun of their ridiculous and ‘lets them take him to Eggman’ (read: gets overpowered). In an old chamber Knuckles fires up some ancient machinery and…the Floating Island begins to move? Knuckles is coming for Robotnik. Speaking of egg-shaped overlords, he’s gloating to Sonic and targets the disintegrator beams on the Emerald Hill Zone, Sonic tries to get to the Master Emerald in the 10 seconds it’ll take to warm up, but it looks like just once he’s too slow, then a huge beam hits the Death Egg – Knuckles is attacking the ship with a fucking island, holy shit, I love this writer. As the Floating Island and the Death Egg have a shoot-out (and I squee) Sonic retrieves the Mater Emerald but gets himself and said emerald knocked out of a window, luckily he remains calm and steals an Egg robo’s rocket back and rides it to the surface, sonic has never been cooler than he is right now. Eggman bails out and the Death Egg goes down, but Robotnik’s not about to quit yet and jumps Sonic in the Kyodai Eggman Robo. Sonic has had enough and savagely beats the Death Egg Robot’s successor to pieces, accidentally causing it to fall form the island, Eggman has enough thruster to survive though, and swears to destroy the Emerald Hill Zone. Knuckles arrives having exhausted his awesome points for the story and wants his emerald back please, Sonic says sure, but he wants a favour, the story ends with the Emerald Hill Zone being completely evacuated to the Mushroom Hill Zone.

Disaster is excellent. It really is one awesome moment after another, there are no plot holes, everything feels like it makes sense, the Floating Island is a fitting choice to take down the Death Egg, especially after it’s been hyped as being unbeatable by conventional means (and Sonic), it’s also the end to the stories started way back in the 1994 Sonic Super Special (almost exactly a year’s worth of comics) so it needed to be something epic, and epic it was. I don’t know exactly why Kitching chose the Island Attacks finale over the space battle of Sonic & Knuckles (because it’s way cooler maybe?), but either ending also needed to be epic, and Kitching and Elson succeeded, with the Death Egg’s defeat being the comics first two-page spread. I suppose you could argue that the Floating Island being able to move and having a death ray is a bit of an arse-pull, and I’d accept that argument, especially as it’s no longer powered by the Master Emerald (though it does still have the Super Emeralds powering it, which is, presumably, slowing it’s decent) but it’s such an awesome reveal and I personally think it makes sense that when the Echidnas lifted the island they gave it defences and a way to steer it (the Sonic Adventure origin for Angel Island isn’t quite used in this universe). I say Disaster is excellent, it’s good on its own, but preceded by Countdown, Mystery and the excellent prologue Day of the Death Egg it makes up perhaps the finest of the series’ epics, there are another contenders for that crown in fans eyes, and fittingly one such story was teased in this, The Brotherhood of Metallix are coming, starting with the Knuckles strip that begins in the very issue this story ends: ‘Total Chaotix’. But I’m saving that for the part after next, mostly to give it the focus it deserves but partly because the Sonic strips during that story’s run aren’t remotely important (though they are far from terrible) and I need a focal point for that part.    

Next Part: Everything that happened while this was happening!

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