Review: Sonic Boom vol. 1

It's hit and miss. My very first reaction is to laugh at some jokes and gag at others, the jokes that flop, well; they flop hard. My lips turn into an icy blue grimace, and my eyes roll back into my skull, and I can see my brain. The groaners are bad, and the laughers are okay, I suppose, enough to receive at least a B in clown college. Yet my entire perspective changed the moment I asked myself how my younger kid-self would have liked it. Honestly, I would have laughed my chubby little ass off. Seeing as I am an adult, as long as you pronounce adult with an elongated 'u' and throw up air quotes as you say it, whenever I see a character referring to the “secret seasoning sauce that will destroy the world”, I immediately start seeking the closest, hardest surface to slam my head against. But if I'm being fair, that's not the worst joke in the world; it's just corny. I remember twists on established media, like the Sonic Boom's first issue titling itself “Issue One of... erm, well, One!” would split my sides before I realized that 90% of comedians in the world don't have jokes besides twisting established formula.

sonic-boom-vol-1The point I'm trying to get at is that it's for kids, and honestly, for a kid's comic it's pretty damn good. I'd probably still prefer something like Tyson Hesse's 'Sonic Mega Drive', but that's because I've been into old video games ever since I started playing them. To the kids who want more Sonic in their life and were left bitterly disappointed by the Wii U game, this is an honestly valiant effort with a writing staff that's clearly not too worried about the critical reception, so long as it strikes a chord with children. There are only so many distinct scenarios in which blatantly ignoring the reception of critics is a good idea, but all of them include a stalwart confidence in your work and this just happens to be one of those occasions.

So what did adult-me think of it? Couldn't tell you, honestly, because I spent my reading time in a state of strange bliss, taking myself back to reading the comics of my youth: filler material with bad jokes and effervescently colorful pictures. What did kid-me think of it?

Even as a child, I knew what it meant to kill a joke and Sonic Boom has a bad habit of doing exactly that. This trade paperback features the same mecha for our heroes to fight for every issue and the fact that this is the case is supposed to be a joke. I know it's supposed to be a joke because it's referenced as a joke in every single issue multiple times. There are a few more “one too many” repetitions in Sonic Boom, but for the most part, it's, again, pretty harmless.

The one aspect of these comics that genuinely does the series harm is the character of Sticks the Badger who is written in the same way that a 15-year-old girl might write Invader Zim if asked to create a GIR-centric episode. Sticks is a character who, at the best of times, spouts ridiculous, half-baked non-sequiturs with little to no relevance to anything but her own played-for-laughs paranoia about conspiracy theories and, at the worst of times, expects those non-sequiturs to be taken seriously.

I cannot imagine a child who actually enjoys this character nor have I ever met one. Cloudcuckoolanders like GIR and Pinky from Pinky and The Brain work because they're treated as bumbling morons incapable of doing any actual good or deserving of any respect and the moments in which they do act competently in any way is treated as a surprise and is otherwise unexpected. That role in this comic is already taken up perfectly well by the new incarnation of Knuckles the Hedgehog, so the only job that Sticks has in this story is to say random stuff about the Illuminati and the aforementioned 'Secret Seasoning Sauce' at extremely inappropriate times and pray to God that it's actually funny, which it never ever is.

Stealing the show, as always, is Dr. Eggman, who has been such a delight in every single piece of media he's ever appeared in that explaining his qualities must be something of a redundancy at this point. He's secretly sensitive, bumbling, delightfully ambitious, even regarding ultimately doomed plans, and his whole character is infused with the sort of perfectly balanced cynicism that comes with being the only adult character with adult dreams and adult fears in a cast full of children. Think Stu Pickles or Randy Marsh.

All in all, it's a damn good offering in terms of kid's comics, the polar opposite to the lackluster showing given by The Amazing World of Gumball Grab Bag 2016. It's bright, exciting, fresh and it doesn't treat children like idiots. It's dragged down by its tendency to overuse jokes and it suffers from perhaps the most insufferable character ever introduced to the Sonic franchise ever.

Yes, including Charmy the Bee.

Give it a second thought if you're an adult, seriously, but if your kid's interested, it wouldn't be a total waste of money.

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Sonic Boom vol. 1 Writer: Ian Flynn Artist: Evan Stanley, Jennifer Hernandez Publisher: Archie Comics Price: $12.99 Format: TPB; Print/Digital


Review: Sonic Universe #88

Sonic Universe #88 is the second part of Knuckles and Amy's quest to rebuild the shattered Master Emerald, which Knuckles has been charged with guarding. This quest happens to coincide with Team Darks' (Shadow, Rouge, and Omega) mission to find an alien menace called Eclipse. Things open up with our heroes in various predicaments, and none of them are any fun. Shadow and Knuckles are arguing with another Echidna named Nixus about various coincidences, Amy and Rouge are endanger of being swallowed by cave crystals, and Omega is under the influence of a dark force, pitting him against his friends. So yeah, pretty action packed issue we've had here.

Sonic Universe #88One good thing about these kinds of comics is that you already kind of have their voices in your head which really helps out a writer when doing dialogue for them. It also helps because, having played with these characters in several video games it's cool to see them in what feels a more "natural" setting. In the past, I've kind of laughed at the idea that Shadow is just edgy Sonic, (who himself is edgier than his original appearance).

In Sonic Universe, things I might have laughed at in the game from characters in terms of dialogue feel more in-character. Like, there's no way this could be played up for a laugh. It's just how they are. In addition, I also feel like there's more character to play with. Whereas in the games, Knuckles has always come across as pretty one-dimensional, with Sonic receiving the most, if any, character development.

Here, Knuckles actually gets to play a character impacted by his environment and the people around him. Plus, it’s cool to see an addition to the Mobius lore. Which makes me wonder why this isn’t called “Mobius Universe?” Or simply “Mobius.” Sonic hasn’t even appeared in this story, but that’s a tiny gripe.

Never read the series before, but honestly, I feel this was a solid place to hop on. The art was very well done, by Jim Amash, and Ian Flynn provided perfectly in-character dialogue. Which feels weird to say because I already feel like I know the characters so well! Point being, I had no issues with the writing here. The little tidbits included at the end were really just the icing on the cake. Loved this book and can’t wait for more!

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Sonic Universe #88 Writer: Ian Flynn Artist: Jim Amash Publisher: Archie Comics Price: $3.99 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital


Review: Sonic: Mega Drive

Sonic is one mess of a property. Once the face of a genuine competitor in the video game field, the franchise now spirals on the edge of complete bankruptcy, reinventing itself to try and claw into gaming relevance so desperately that the series actually manages to bury what few strong entries it produces under blockbuster failures. But travel back in time before Shadow's twin Desert Eagles, before Boom Knuckle's infinite jump, and before Sonic kissed Lacey Chabert. Sonic was a brightly colored franchise featuring an aesthetic all its own with a cast of appealing well-designed characters. Sonic: Mega Drive takes us back there, both in story and art, a charming bit of reminiscing that won't save the Hedgehog from being meme fodder but might appeal to nostalgic gamers from a different time. The story is as bare bones as one of Sonic's original platformers. Dr. Robotnik is collecting themed MacGuffin's called 'Ancient Gears' to power a superweapon, and Sonic has to foil his plan. Author Ian Flynn keeps the story minimal and light, emphasizing light period appropriate (and occasionally self-aware) comedy. In the best way, the comic captures the tone of 90's platformer SonicMegaDrive_01adventures, not updating the tone or humor to fit more in line with what readers expect from today's licensed comics. It's breezy and light, a casual read that won't grab hold of you but hits all of its marks regardless.

The real star of the book is the art. The lines by Tyson Hesse are some of the best I've seen in a Sonic comic, not to mention all-ages video game adaptations period. Rich with character expression, perfectly composed, and with energetic action, Hesse nails the tone while not being so beholden to being on-model that he can't illustrate with his own personal flair. If I didn't know better I would have credited the art to a Japanese artist, as the manga inspired lines are so natural feeling you wouldn't guess that a Western cartoonist was responsible for them. Add on top of that Matt Herms vibrant colors, perfectly balanced and sharp, but with a faint watercolor texturing, and you have one of the best looking books of the month.

Sonic: Mega Drive isn't a game-changing story, but it is stand-out example of how licensed comics should be done. It's respectful to the property and the era it recalls, puts genuine talent on illustrating it, and never tries to do too much. It reminds you how fun that era of gaming could be, nostalgia without the sense of irony, cynicism, or questionable expertise that I have come to associate with the marketing trend. I would read more of this. I would read more by this team doing something else. Sonic hasn't been this fun or good looking in ages, and maybe Sega could take some pointers from this classy and entertaining direction.

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Sonic Mega Drive
Writer: Ian Flynn
Artist: Tyson Hesse
Colorist: Matt Herms
Publisher: Archie Comics
Price: $3.99
Format: One-Shot; Print/Digital