"Calling Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard! They're not available?
Then how about just Dr. Howard The Duck?" C'mon, can't Galan draw ducks
that DON'T look like that feathered loser? And how did a hospital manage
to survive Robotnik's takeover of the planet? And why didn't the Knothole
crowd get the King there sooner, like they said they were going to at the
very end of "And One Shall Save Him" (Sonic #41),
instead of wasting time experimenting with power rings and Chaos Emeralds?
And most important of all, where did the good ducktor hire that nurse with
Farrah hair in the background of the opening panel?
Dr. Quack makes his opening borrowing not only Howard the Duck's look but Telly Savalas' mannerisms from the old "Kojak" series. This is never a good sign. In the hands of a lesser writer it's a way of saying to the reader: "I don't know what I'm doing with this character, I don't have a feel for his thoughts and emotions, so I'm going to superimpose someone else's identity on him, no matter how obscure the reference might be to the core audience, until I can come up with something." Of course, Ken Penders is one of the premier Sonic writers at Archie and he'd NEVER stoop to something like that. It would be as unforgivable as...oh, I don't know...as killing off one of the main characters to try to keep the readers off-guard. But I digress.
Anyway, the best Dr. Q can do is try some cell regeneration pyrotechnics and hope for the best. As with the power rings, there's no change; unlike the Chaos Emerald, the King hasn't gotten any worse. The doctor absents himself while the Knothole crowd holds vigil. Sonic's question at the bottom of page 3--Is the King aware of what's going on around him--isn't answered (sort of) until the bottom of page 5. No, the Canadian printers didn't screw up the colors again. The pseudo-sepia tone is their way of saying "Cue the flashback!" Galan tags in Spaziante and the scene shifts to...Sonic and Sally as a couple of kids a la "Blast To The Past." In fact, much of the flashback is faithful to the canon (which is more than can be said for Part Three of this story, but we'll get to that in due time). Anyway, watchers of the series know that Julian of the War Ministry was supposed to be overseeing the dismantling of that department; he, however, has other ideas. Changing his name to Ivo Robotnik, he stages a coup.
There are a few small deviations from the canon in the flashback. For one thing, Uncle Chuck is never credited with developing the Roboticizer (a project he abandoned when he realized that a roboticized Mobian's enhanced physical well-being would be undermined by a loss of free will; Julian simply stole the plans). In fact, Uncle Chuck gets no credit at all. Sally' nanny, Rosie, who puts in an appearance at the bottom of page , is somewhat off-model. And Julayla is somewhat more than somewhat off-model in her appearance on page 7! She bears NO RESEMBLANCE AT ALL to the Julayla who appeared in "In The Still Of The Night" (Sonic #18). Didn't Spaziante have access to #18 with its ELEVEN DIFFERENT DRAWINGS of Julayla's face? Didn't he think to ask Art Mawhinney if he possibly had a Julayla model sheet he could work from? Has Spaziante got something against cats? Still, even this lemon could have yielded some serious lemonade. If Sally's word balloon on the righthand side of page 7 had used the word "Mommy" instead of "Julayla" it would have made far more sense, would not have necessitated Spaziante's redrawing the panel, and would have given the fans something to talk about for months to come.
To kick off Part 2, Geoffrey St. John shows up for no other reason that to honk off Sonic; he doesn't even pretend to have any part to play in the story line other than to barge in looking
for Sally so she can have another pair of arms to rush to. Not that the dialogue is any help in the coherency department; it constitutes about three pages of verbal wheel-spinning during which the Quackster informs us that he studied under Drs. (Ben) Casey, (Marcus) Welby and Frankenstein (that's "Fronkensteen!"). After wading through this, we arrive at Sally's conclusion that something's "bothering" her father but she can't say what. The Quackmeister concurs that the King is in an unresponsive stupor. Actually, it's a cue for the next flashback, wherein he remembers Robotnik's takeover and his own exile into the Void/Zone of Silence. This particular bad trip causes him, stupefied though he is, to cry out. So Quackerino trots out the latest in the long line of Improbable-Looking Plot Devices. Let's see, we've had the Neuro-Overrider that looks like a calculator battery ("Steel-Belted Sally", #29) and the Zone Neturalizer that looks like a household bug bomb ("Heart of Darkness," #36). So is it any wonder that the Quackmeister's Electroencephalographic Memory Inducer looks like a glorified gumball machine? I didn't think so. Despite the stated dangers of this kind of mind meld (too bad the Quackmaster didn't study under Drs. McCoy, Crusher and Bashir), there's no shortage of volunteers to make the trip. Sonic wins the (very dubious) coin toss, he begins journeying into the King's head and any semblance that we've been following the Sonic canon sails right out the window.
Once more Sonic and the King encounter each other in space, only now the King has no trouble recognizing Sonic as Sir Charles' nephew. Sonic calls it a "wild, strange trip." That's "LONG, strange trip", Sonic, but I guess you aren't that much of a Deadhead. Before they can figure out how to get someplace recognizable, they confront the Warlord Kodos. You remember the Warlord Kodos, don't you? No? That's not surprising since there hasn't been word one about the dude since an offhand reference by Robotnik back in "Heart of Darkness." Kodos, who looks like Mobie the (yeah, right!) Cave Bear having a very VERY bad hair day, uses a huge battle ax to take a swing at the King. Sonic attempts a rescue and gets nowhere for who should appear but FEIST, some kind of giant skunk/badger/wolverine with glowing eyes. Hey, you can admit to being confused; we're all friends here. And the awkward placement of one of Sonic's word balloons in the middle panel of page 20 so that it can easily be mistaken for one of the King's word balloons doesn't help matters. Feist nukes Kodos, but before he can do anything to the King Sonic launches into some heavy (for him) dialogue; as he explains that Feist and everything else around them is just part of the King's memory, he starts using some pretty big words we're not used to hearing from Sonic, and he loses his hip argot completely. I suppose that all bets are off when you're roaming around inside someone else's head but in any other context this would be called "breaking character". Sonic briefs the King on current events and tells him he's got to struggle against the crystallization because "We need your experience and wisdom...But above all else, Sally needs her father." Yeah, to deliver her eulogy four issues from now! Sonic wakes up with a headache, the King's vital signs stabilize, and the blue dude misquotes Shakespeare's "Tempest". All in a day's work.
I don't suppose there could have been anything else to do with the story line to justify a return to the events of "Blast To The Past" without yet another shot at time travel. I got the point--that the King needed to begin healing from the inside after all these months--but Ken didn't make it easy. Some of the bits with Quack (who's an even bigger candidate for Worst New Character than either Kodos or Feist) were really expendable. So was Manny Galan's artwork. I have been browsing the newsstand copies of "Sonic Quest" and was pleasantly surprised to see the quality of Galan's artwork improve from Part 1 to Part 2; the artwork on Part 2, Page 10 is VERY impressive! It seemed like he was taking Spaziante lessons. So I was UNpleasantly surprised to see the quality of his artwork take a tumble here. Sally's emotions as she ran to Geoffrey in Part 2 were unrecognizable. It reminds me of the deadness of Kyle Hunter's art in "And One Shall Save Him" (#41) which marked a new low in the quality of Sonic comic art; heck, that one gave me a new appreciation for the work of Dave Manak! This story was marginally worth it, the artwork was definitely NOT worth it (pseudo-sepia is not a good color for Spaziante); the whole production was eclipsed by the Spaz splash page that preceded it all.
Sonic-Grams: Sorry, Fred, I DIDN'T enjoy "this little...concoction". As for his promise of a "roller-coaster ride" for Sonic #50: unless Ken's been teasing the lot of us and plans to resurrect Sally at the conclusion of "Endgame" it'll be a trip I'm going to make with a vast reluctance. Also a plug for Sonic #44: The Antisonic and the Antiknuckles come to Mobius. That's an angle I didn't think of when writing about the Antibunnie in my fanfic "When A Bunnie Meet A Bunnie" (available on finer Sonic Web pages). Betcha my Antisonic is more evil than yours; well, he's kinkier, anyway. Letters: Jacob and Jason Lower ask, among other things, about Sally's species. OK, people, it's clear that nobody's reading the FAQ File on this one and nobody's buying the line that she's a ground squirrel. We'll just have to wait until issue #47 in order to say once and for all whether she's a ground squirrel, a shot squirrel, a strangled squirrel....