Spaz/Harvo cover: A
little cluttered but a good design. Too bad someone seems to have gotten
training in Adobe Photoshop 4.0 or some such program recently and felt
compelled to use all the new tricks they're learning. The transparent
confetti is a nice touch but there's also a little too much use of the
gradient tool resulting in blurriness in the foreground and in Tails' party
favor or spinner or whatever. Dulcy suffered from the same problem on
the cover of #49; at the time,
I thought I just needed new glasses. And this must have been laid out
by a computer as well because the stair stepping around Amy Rose's eyes
is REALLY noticeable. As depressing as the subject matter of the cover
of #47 was, at least the lines were clean. Speaking of depressing,
Rotor appears to be contemplating his impending demotion along with that
of the rest of the secondary characters. Oh well, it's also his party
and he'll cry if he wants to. That's more emotion than Sonic got to show
through the whole of "Endgame", but never mind. And to all those who scoured
the preview media and could have sworn that was Hershey on the cover...GOTCHA!
Paul Castiglia admitted that they couldn't show the final cover
for #51 while the "Endgame" arc was still running, so in order to keep
the ending under wraps they submitted a dummy cover. And if you believed
it you now know WHY it's called a "dummy cover"...dummy! But Hershey DID
make the front cover after all...the INSIDE front cover. Paid for the
whole thing! At this rate, expect the next new regular character to be
Splash page: remember the good old days when you could actually SEE the splash pages? And you didn't have to fight your way through a jungle of text? Remember when they helped set the mood for the story (the most sublime example being the Spaz splash page in #43), rather than being mere wallpaper for someone's text? Do you remember? Because if you don't, they're just going to keep on doing things like this at Archie and it's really starting to get annoying!
Ordinarily, this is where the credits would appear. However, that
minor detail seems to have gotten past someone; there is NO sign ANYWHERE
of who is responsible for this story. The Sam Maxwell art style is unmistakable,
but the writer prefers to remain unknown (or simply blameless). Was the
Archie crew just so exhausted from working on "Endgame" that they forgot?
Or perhaps it's like the scene in "Continental Divide" where two of Chicago's
finest make sure they're not wearing their badges before they carry out
an alderman's orders and start pounding on the character played by John
Belushi. No badges, no badge numbers, no way of knowing who did the deed.
Well, I've done so much gabbing it looks like the party's already winding down. That's the trouble with living in the year 3235: they've forgotten how to party like it's 1999. Actually, the core Freedom Fighters have stepped away from the festivities to bestow a special medal of some sort on Sonic. Sonic is awakened later in the evening by Sally, who speaks of some kind of secret mission. Turns out the secret is that Sally's overdosed on the eye liner and is suddenly sporting a set of red contact lenses. Oh, and she also set up a Com-bot ambush. Sonic dodges the weapons fire and heads back for Knothole, while Sally morphs into a REALLY ugly-looking bot. Someone better lend Sam some stills from "Sonic's Nightmare"; at least in THAT one the Sally bot looked decent.
Tails suddenly arrives to airlift Sonic out of harm's way and to give him the old good news/bad news routine: the bad news is, "someone's taken over" for Robotnik and Sally was his first victim; the worst news is, we get subjected to a gratuitous Arnold impersonation from Tails (since we'll probably be up to our Maltese falcons in bogus Bogart impressions in next month's issue, consider this a warm-up exercise). An image of Uncle Chuck appears and disappears in front of Sonic, who then notices an approaching Buzzbomber and a Crab-whatever below (OK, so I don't know from the games; I'll admit it). That's the cue for Tails to come down with a case of red eye and to let his big bro down, literally! Sonic lands with a convincing THOOM that leaves an enormous crater and no sign of our hero. At least until we get to page 10 where we find Sonic burrowing away underground. He sees another manifestation of Uncle Chuck and reacts to it in the same way Dracula might react to a slice of garlic-crust pizza. Emerging near the "hot spring" he finds Bunnie, who's in a bad way: she appears to have blown a serious gasket, and she's even lost her accent. Nice design, very cute...until SHE starts in with the red eye thing. Let's see, Sally morphs, Sonic escapes; Tails morphs, Sonic escapes; Bunnie morphs...do I really have to finish the sentence? Even Sonic is getting bored by the repetition and starts yawning on the top of page 12. He comes across a power ring, but is unable to pull it out of the water. At least until Bunnie shows up, whereupon he uses it as a restraint and says: "You've got a ring for a straight-jacket! And I'm ghost!" Either I was on vacation when that phrase came into use, or else the writer and letterer suffered a communication breakdown.
Sonic finally makes it to Knothole, but while in the home stretch he runs into the Uncle Chuck image who's now speaking in tongues. A transcript: "Hikaske on hukenox am yoque! Keneg nid trembo, Sonic!" Yeah, and a "Klaatu borada nikto" to you, too, Unc!
Let's take a break. Fan art: ALL RIGHT!!! Major kudos to Hysteria for showing these amateurs how it's done! I REALLY like the drawing: looks like a bunch of characters played by furries over on HumanMuck. I saw the drawing on the Scatterstar Galactica Productions Website and wondered how it'd look colored in. Archie saved me the trouble; thanks. And the "Find Your Name..." page. Notice how most of the names in the left-hand column display the ages, and most of the ages appear to belong in the 10-13 range; think Archie's trying to tell us something?
Back to the action: Sonic arrives in Knothole, only to discover Robotnik (with Cluck, no less!) is part of the reception
committee. "Whoops apocalypse"? OK, find the "bad pun" in the following dialogue: "Ah, Sonic! I've waited for this moment a long time! I finally have Knothole...and now I've captured you, as well, despite your valiant efforts! How does it feel to have egg on your face?" Yeah, I couldn't find it, either. Maybe he meant to say "egg IN your face". Anyway, Robotnik tries convincing Sonic to give himself up since "all of your friends have seen the light", and it's glowing a dull red. The roboticized Mobians start chanting "Join us!" like stoned teenagers in a bad hippie movie or something. Sonic struggles with the prospect of Robotnik "overtaking" Knothole. Hold on, I know that should be "taking over", but the word play's not over yet. As he struggles between the situation and remembering the good times, everyone starts derezzing as Robotnik yells "Hanend du nagun?!" which sounds like he just realized that he's forgotten to schedule time at the sauna. There's an extreme close-up of Sonic's baby browns and...
We're back in Sonic's bedroom where it appears that Uncle Chuck is trying to jump-start his nephew's brain. Uncle Chuck is still suffering from dyslexia for he says "If you had said 'nightmare' you'd had been [instead of "you'd have been"] closer to the truth." He then explains that Sonic's medal "was booby- trapped with an artificial virus that threw you into a virtual-reality nightmare..." Which makes no sense at all if you know anything about computer viruses, REAL viruses, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, or dreaming, but it probably SOUNDS convincing if you're between the ages of 10 and 13. Sonic sums up the situation by saying: "What a kick in the pants that would be if Robotnik had scored from beyond the grave." Hey, Sonic, let's leave Robotnik's wardrobe AND his love life out of this, 'kay? But Uncle Chuck maintains that Robotnik "had nothing to do with this!"
Well, that's a cheap, ambiguous ending to this gratuitous little story. All that running around and we wind up with the Old Dream Ending -- the hack writer's best friend. No wonder the author insisted on anonymity! Maxwell's art is as uneven as ever, especially when drawing roboticized Mobians. Instead of looking menacing, they just look seedy. But that's hardly the most telling aspect of this story (which, according to the blurb for it in Knuckles #5, was written by Karl Bollers).
I don't know if we've ever been treated to a view of Sonic's bedroom before, but I consider the race car bed to be on a par with the line about "loose continuity" on the Sonic-Grams page in #49: a small detail that gives the game away -- in this case, an indicator of which direction the comic is headed.
One of the earliest questions I had to deal with when I began working on the Sonic FAQ File all those years ago was: "What are the ages of the characters?" Despite conflicting versions in the comics and the SatAM cartoon, Sonic's age was usually pegged at 15 in the comics and 16 in the cartoon. OK, we're safely talking mid-teens here, early high school. So let me ask you: What self-respecting high school-age guy would STILL BE SLEEPING IN A RACE CAR BED? Back in my high school, any kid in such a situation would have been pantsed by the Auto Shop punks and thrown into the girls' locker room on a regular basis. We're not exactly talking "role model behavior" here. Unless you DO still sleep in a race car bed, in which case you're more likely to be a pre-teen than a teen.
THAT is where Sonic appears to be heading. If you want to talk video games, let's talk "Space Ace", because it looks like Sonic is getting dosed with the Infanto Ray! It may be too soon to tell; SONIC: BRAVE NEW WORLD will be a better indicator. But it's beginning to appear that in the aftermath of the "Endgame" incident, Archie has decided to adjust their publishing to match their demographics. Ken Penders (in a post he sent out before leaving for the San Diego Comic Con) left the impression that therewas pretty much a balance in fan reaction of those who didn't want Sally to die and those who wanted Sally out of the picture (presumably so she wouldn't infect Sonic with cooties). So with Solomon-like wisdom the honchos at Archie have decided to cut the baby in half: Sonic seems destined to regress into a blue Tom Sawyer while Knuckles is busy with weightier matters (and if you've let your mind wander while meditating on the splash page for Knuckles #5 you get an idea of HOW weighty things could get!).
Speaking of Knuckles, Archie devoted FOUR FULL PAGES of this issue to advertisements for its different publications and other stuff -- everything from Archie digests to "romance novels" to fanny packs. And yet NOWHERE in ANY of the SIX DIFFERENT advertisements is there ANYTHING about subscribing to Knuckles! It's as if the title stopped with the "Dark Legion" miniseries. This is ridiculous! If I hadn't sent an e-mail to Paul Castiglia I'd still be waiting for an announcement that the "Lost Paradise" miniseriesis finally available. As it is, NOW I'm simply waiting for the "Lost Paradise" miniseries to get here one issue at a time.
Sonic-Grams: But they DO show a thumb-nail of the cover of Knuckles #6, as well as thumb-nails for "Brave New World" and Sonic #52. BTW, the picture of the cover of #52 as shown in the back of Knuckles #5 (which I browsed in a local store) is WAY better -- a black-and-white drawing of Sonic. Looks much more "film noir." If nothing else, I plan to scan it in at some point and add it to my Website, next to the link to my Sonic parody story, "My Quills Are Quick." But if the story in #52 is based in part on "Casablanca", why is Sonic dressed like Bogie in "The Maltese Falcon" or "The Big Sleep"? The only time Bogart wore the trenchcoat in "Casablanca" was when he was delivering those great lines to Ingrid Bergman on the tarmac: "If you're not on that plane...you'll regret it; maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life...We'll always have Paris...Where I'm going you can't follow, what I have to do you can't be any part of...I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world...Here's lookin' at you, kid." Sorry, got carried away there, but dang, that's WRITING!!! Somehow, it means more than having a 4-year-old write: "Dear Sonic, you are cool!" But we're slowly taking over, cyberfans! Green Gibbon gets his letter printed (paying homage to Yuji Naka), while Juan Lara gets credit for guessing the Disney ending. In any event, they write better than Freddy: "Tons of stuff is happening...A climaxing continuation...[hey, HEY!, I thought this was turning into a KIDS comic!]...he steps into a zone that must be seen for yourself...." I'll admit I've written lines like that, but it was usually 4:00 in the morning on a day that a term paper was due. Keneg nid trembo, Fred.