Subtitled: "OK, We're Gonna Try Tying Together Some More Loose
Ends And Establish a Bridge Between The Sonic and Knuckles Comics." That's
also a summary of what passes for the plot. While everyone but Sonic and
Tails is busy with Mobitropolis Urban Renewal, Knuckles and Julie-Su (who
seems to have left her attitude back on the Floating Island, unfortunately)
arrive. This crossover visit is such a surprise that Ken and Art forget
to finish drawing in Bunnie's outfit on the top panel of page 2, and Karl
Bollers' coloring creates the illusion that Bunnie (viewed from the back)
is...TOPLESS! Now THAT's a continuity error I can live with!
We then get an exposition as to how Knuckles and Julie-Su got together, followed by an exposition from Sally that resolves the wasted "Knuckles' Quest" arc and hints at the heinous "Battle Royal." Somehow, after witnessing some major vulnerability from Sally in "Brave New World," I was prepared for something a little more heart-felt, a little more anguished, than her "Stupid sword!" comment at the bottom of page 3. It's left to Rotor to discover that the Sword was bogus (I STILL wonder how he draws these conclusions--I mean, did the incantation include a list of sword ingredients he could use for comparison, or what?). Sonic wonders whether the whole Sword story begun in Sonic #42 almost a YEAR ago(!)--the Sword was actually supposed to be used to locate the True Crown of the Acorn Kings in the Hall of Limbo, remember?--wasn't bogus. But it doesn't matter because it appears that Ken has dropped the whole plotline down the Memory Hole. And Ken and Kent Taylor went to all that trouble, too. Gee, ain't loose continuity wonderful?
Knuckles, understandably, takes a pass on serving another hitch in the service of the Princess and thus spares us fromhaving to endure "Knuckles' Quest II: Yet Another Ripoff of Magic: The Gathering'." Besides, he supplies his OWN exposition to explain why he's been a little busy on the Floating Island lately. When Sally hears that Knuckles has been having trouble relating to his long-lost mom, she suggests he and Sonic get together and start a support group.
After some ritual male bonding between Sonic and Knuckles which serves notice that those fight plots that used to be standard Sonic/Knuckles fare are officially a Thing of the Past, who should intervene but Jules (with whom, to the best of my knowledge, Sonic had yet to reconcile himself). Perhaps because he senses Sonic's presence as a threat, Jules is determined to assert his status as Alpha Male hedgehog. Rather than fight the young usurper, however, he goes the civilized route and proceeds to humiliate his son (who at the top of page 6 is laughing for no apparent reason). And since Jules forgot to bring along any baby pictures that show Sonic naked, he embarrasses Sonic by revealing his son's true name: FARNSWORTH P. JONES! Wait a minute, wrong franchise; that's Jughead's real name over in the Archie comics. To tell you the truth, I couldn't tell WHAT Sonic's "real" name is (the writing and layout were a little confusing at that point), and after so much discussion of it on the Net, I've only managed to remember the posts from the wise guys who assert that Sonic the Hedgehog's middle name is "The." Anyway, Antoine is tickled that the comic relief is being provided at someone else's expense for a change, and he runs off to spread the news with Sonic in pursuit. After doing the "bearer of parental wisdom" number to cement his Alpha status with Knuckles, they set off somewhere for dinner where Jules can smell the 30-weight simmering on the stove....
I WANTED to like this story, and there's quite a bit to like in the interactions of the characters. I can't fault Art Mawhinney's artwork (BTW, next time you slip and draw Bunnie topless, think we could actually see her from the FRONT?). Some loose ends get tied up, even if not satisfactorily. I WAS disappointed that we never got to see Jules' digs (presumably where dinner was held) and how Sonic related to his parents when he was on THEIR turf. Most of all, a PLOT would have been nice, even for a Six-Pack. I couldn't help but be reminded of Steve Martin's line from "Trains, Planes, and Automobiles": "When you tell a story, have a point; it makes it so much more interesting for the listener!" I trust that we're just about ready to get back to some STORY-TELLING around here.
One-and-a-half page ad for lip gloss that you presumably collect rather than actually use: "We do not test on animals... but we DO advertise in comic books that feature them!" Green Gibbon! manages to work in yet another appearance in the "Find Your Name In Print Half-Page."
Hello darkness, my old friend....Oops, wrong "Sounds of Silence".
Sonic and Sally survey Robotnik's old "laboratory" from a handy cliff -- nice to know that since #47 Sally isn't letting a fear of heights get to her. Yet she does mention the various problems she's up against and how she's "scared" [kudos to Jeff Powell for putting the word in lower case letters for effect]. There's WAY more talking going on here than in I'd have expected in an "action" comic, and a lot of it even makes sense! The last panel on page 2 is VERY well written: Sonic is supportive without being mushy, and it manages to get past the watchdogs at Sega. After letting Sally bend his pointed ear for several panels, an improbably-cloaked Geoffrey St. John appears on the scene. Maybe that's his autumn outfit; after all, Sally's buttoned up her vest for this one (something she's never done before) and Tails is conspicuous by his absence from this issue so maybe he's been in school the whole time. Geoffrey begins to speak of developments in Robotnik's old lab concerning the Zone of Silence when a convenient "Kuh-BOOM" interrupts him.
The three of them arrive at the lab to find that Rotor, Uncle Chuck, and Dr. Quack have been rendered unconscious. This sight so shocks Sally that Archie orders that her head be redrawn by Pat Spaziante until she can pull herself together. Seems that to take advantage of the open door policy between the Zone and Robotnik's lab, Naugus (full name: Ixis Naugus), the wizard whom Robotnik trapped there, has come back to Mobius. Accompanying him are the Warlord Kodos and a new player: Uma Arachnis. Boy, just when you thought that the ninja angle had been done to death! After a brief battle wherein Geoffrey gets to meet the business end of a set of nunchakus and where Naugus manages to shoot himself with his own wand (pages 7 and 8, if you don't believe me), the Mobians retreat to the King's bedroom.
The King then recaps his experience in the Zone by essentially dropping the past accounts of his being there (in "Heart of Darkness," #36; "And One Shall Save Him," #41; "The Dream Zone," #43; not to mention the TV ep "The Void") down the aforementioned Memory Hole. In THIS version, there are no DOOM imps or toads or suits of armor or time-shifting. There's no sound, either. He calls the effect "maddening"; maybe, but it didn't stop Beethoven from composing his 9th Symphony. This time around, Naugus allegedly saved him from falling into a black (plot) hole and the King in return bound himself to Naugus as his servant. Sally maintains that that contract is void (forgive the pun) because she was "appointed acting ruler." When did THAT happen? She was five years old when Robotnik took over, remember? Even if she HAD been designated heir-apparent, she still would have had a regent act as monarch until she had come of age, wich last time I looked was still two birthdays into the future.
Another explosion conveniently shoves aside these embarrassing questions as play is resumed. Despite the clean ax- head of Kodos, we're meant to think that two of the King's guards met a rather messy end on page 14. Sonic keeps Kodos busy while Sally and Geoffrey prevent Uma-san from turning the King into a sushi sampler. Naugus wants to end this so he turnes Kodos and Uma-san into crystal, thus rendering them indestructible. Gee, King, I guess there IS an upside to your condition, after all. Sonic, however, calls a halt to the proceedings and as much as dares Naugus to take his best shot. Naugus manages to turn Sonic's gloves, socks, and sneakers into crystal, but (as Sonic suspected) his bod was unaffected. Snatching the wand from Naugus (despite the fact that those crystal sneaks must get lousy traction!), he hurls it to the ground and it smashes (see frontispiece). Naugus and his two inanimate lackeys disappear and the story ends on the kind of unsettled note they were going for in "Reality Bytes" (#51).
Yeah, there was a WHOLE lotta talkin' goin' on here: Sally's speech in the beginning, the King's latest version of history, Sonic's confrontation with Naugus at the end. It never felt like it went on for too long, though, and I have to say I LIKED the ending with its overtones of "born an' bred in de briar patch" (if you have to ask, get to a library and check the catalogue for books by Joel Chandler Harris). The story was more successful than it was meant to be; it was a good one.
Too bad I needed to read it about six times, backwards AND forwards, to get a good idea of who was doing what when and to whom. Sam Maxwell's artwork has improved since his disastrous debut in "Battle Royal" but in some cases he still seems to be having problems: Sal's arms are way too long sometimes (in the first panel on page 2 it looks as if someone's grabbed them and tied them in a knot in front of her), and he sometimes doesn't seem to know when to stop drawing her muzzle (page 3, panel 2). The layout of page 17 ended up making the story more confusing than it already was: it appears Maxwell is learning all the WRONG moves from Spaziante about layout (it's no secret that Spaz's artwork can be...uh...non-linear to the extreme!). Not that the story didn't have good visual moments: Naugus' expression on the top of page 16 reminded me of the demon Chernobog from the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence of "Fantasia"; Sonic's gesture as he looked at his crystallized glove is perfect; and the way he helped Sally down from that rock in panel 2 of page 3 has a tenderness I'm not used to seeing in Sonic artwork.
Still, I can sense why this story was placed BEHIND the Six-Pack. If it would have run first, it would have completely screwed up the continuity of "Unfinished Business" where Sally is recounting the developments with her father. I guess I can't blame the G-Force for shuffling the stories around like that. I think everyone at Sonic Comics is suffering from a case of PESD (Post-Endgame Stress Disorder).
I can remember when there was actually ARTWORK on the Sonic Checklist. Now with the Knuckles line just about at full production capacity and more Specials on the way, the Checklist easily takes up a whole page with NO art. If this keeps up it will soon begin to resemble one of those Beanie Baby "Green Books."
That may also explain why there were NO Letters, Notes From The Net, or Fan Art this time around. Of course, this issue DID come out about 6 months after Sonic #47, and the G-Force may have been hard pressed to find a letter that DIDN'T have something to say about Sally's death or a piece of fan art that didn't show her lying dead in Sonic's arms or in Heaven with the angelic host. If you're reading this onine you KNOW what kind of reaction Sally's death engendered there! Instead we get teasers for "Sonic Firsts," Knuckles #7, Sonic #54, and the "NiGHTS" miniseries. Now, if you'll excuse me; Tails isn't the ONLY one around here with homework to do.