Sonic The Hedgehog #57 Review by Dan Drazen
"Back To Basics: or, The History Device"
Karl Bollers(W)
Art Mawhinney(A)
Cover: Fuselage by Spaz and Harvo, afterburner by J. D. Ray and Heroic Age. At least, that's how it looked through my bifocals AND a magnifier. Hey, I'm 46 years old; it comes with the territory. Note the celestial Sally's reaction to Sonic's departure on this cover, because you WON'T find it on the inside. And I CAN'T look at this cover without thinking of what might have been: Sally in Heaven, singing with the Choir Invisible. As it turned out, Sally's in Mobitropolis and singing the chorus from Chumbawamba's "Tubthumping" instead: "I get knocked down/But I get up again/They're never gonna keep me down!" [Repeat ad nauseum]. I've set up a visual counterpart on the "Sally: Dead or Alive" portion of my Sonic Website as a kind of coda to the whole affair.

What can you say about a five-year-old comic continuity that died?

OK, maybe that's a bit strong, but after this installment the changes will be happening fast and furious. Just read the "Once a virtual paradise" page past the boilerplate opening paragraph. Having been brought up to speed plot-wise up to and including developments from Sonic #56 and the Return Of The King special, it states that Sonic is going to blow this pop stand. It's all supposed to be noble, an attempt to put a positive spin on Ken Penders' original vision of Sonic leaving Knothole to avenge Sally's demise. Now, though, he's leaving in order to seek out Naugus and any other villains who may be skulking about. I've got no problem with that premise, but get down to the sentence: "Excited about taking the high road to adventure with his buddy Tails, Sonic packs with all the exuberance of a little boy...."

And you might feel like cancelling your subscription at that point. The sea-change signalled in "Reality Bytes" (#51), which showed Sonic sleeping in a kid's race car bed, has come to pass. In a total surrender to the core audience of preadolescent boys, Sonic is being turned INTO a preadolescent boy. Having Sonic the Hedgehog act like a Mobian Luke Skywalker would have been far too grim a prospect, but is it really such an improvement to turn him into Tom Sawyer with quills instead? Those of us who came to Sonic fandom via the Saturday morning television series have gotten used to thinking of Sonic as a sixteen-year-old. Archie, apparently, thinks they've got more than enough teenagers cluttering up Riverdale already. Sonic, not to put too fine a point on it, has been editorially emasculated by Archie Comics and his scrotum is probably hanging on Richard Goldwater's office wall.

The splash page that opens this story shows Sonic packing, and who's seated next to him? Amy Rose and THEN Princess Sally. What does THAT tell you? Then Rotor walks in with the episode's gimmick supreme: a device that's supposed to help Sonic see the future. Alternatively referred to as a "doohickey" and a "thingamajig," Sonic straps it on his head. BTW, Art Mawhinney shows an overhead view of Sonic's bed on page 2--it's still a race car bed but it's now a widebody, i.e., a double bed. Knowing Archie, it probably got low mileage IF you know what I mean AND I think some of you do.

It turns out that the thinkamahickey is the aforementioned "history device," which it wouldn't surprise me to learn is a technical term for those episodes of television shows (usually sitcoms) which consist mostly of clips from previous episodes laced together with varying degrees of editorial finesse. So this story is mostly a recap of the issues that have gone before.

It's not a COMPLETE recap, by any means. But herewith is a table of the way we were:

62"Run, Sally, Run" (original #1)
63"Why Ask Spy" (original #3)
64"Meet Me At The Corner of Hedgehog and Vine" (#1)
65"You Bet My Life" (#1)
71"Triple Trouble" (#2)
72"Vertigo a Go Go" (#2)
73The Bomb Bugs Me" (#3)
74-5"Rabbot Deployment (#3)
76"Lizard of Odd" (#4)
81"Lizard of Odd" (#4)
82"Chomp On THIS, Chump!" (#5)
83-4"The Spin Doctor" (#6)
91"Uncle Chuck's Treasure" (#7)
92"Bot's All, Folks!" (#8)
93"A Little Music Goes A Long Way" (#8)
94"Pseudo-Sonic" (#9)
101-2"What's The Point?" (#9)
103"Revenge of the Nerbs" (#10)
104"The Good, The Bad, and The Hedgehog" (#11)
105"Beat The Clock" (#11)
106"A Timely Arrival" (#12)
111"Bold-Headed Eagle" (#12)
112"The Lynx is a Jinx" (#12)
113"This Island Hedgehog" (#13)
114"Space In Your Face" (#13)
115"Tails' Taste of Power" (#14)
116"Rockin' the Bot" (#15)
121"Animal Magnetism" (#15)
122"Sonic Under Glass" (#16)
123"Gorilla Warfare, or The Apes of Wrath" (#17)
124"Wedding Bell Blues" (#18)
125"Sally's Quest" (#17-18, In Your Face special)
126"Night of a Thousand Sonics" (#19)
131"Night of a Thousand Sonics" (#19)
132"That's The Spirit" (#20)
133"Three Phases of E.V.E." (#21)
134-5"The Return" (#22)
136"Ivo Robotnik, Freedom Fighter" (#23)
141"When Hedgehogs Collide" (#24)
142"Go Ahead, Mecha My Day" (#25)
143"Panic in the Sky" (Sonic and Knuckles special)
144"Way, Way Past Cool" (#26)
145"Triple Trouble" (Game Gear Adaptation special)
146"A Scrambled Hedgehog" (#27)
151"Saturday Night's Alright For A Fight" (#28)
152"Steel-Belted Sally" (#29)
153"Crash of the Titans" (Super Sonic v. Hyper Knuckles special)
154"The Return of Uncle Chuck" (#30)
155"A Robot Rides The Rails" (#31)
156"Blast From The Past" (#32)
161"To Bot or Not To Bot" (#34)
162"Ring of Truth" (#35)
163"Heart of Darkness" (#36)
164"The Fall of Robotropolis (#37)
165"The Rise of Robotropolis--The Fall of Sonic" (#38)
166"Rage Against The Machine" (#39)
171-2"Mecha Madness" (Mecha Madness special)
173"Court Martial" (#40)
174"And One Shall Save Him" (#41)
175-6"Sonic Quest: The Death Egg Saga" (miniseries)
181"Sonic Quest: The Death Egg Saga" (miniseries)
182"In Every Kingdom There Must Exist A Little Chaos" (#42)
183"The Dream Zone" (#43)
184"Black and Blue and Red All Over" (#44)
185"Guerilla Thriller" (#45)
186"Endgame: Taking The Fall" (#47)
191"Endgame: Taking The Fall" (#47)
192"Endgame: Escape From The Floating Island" (#49)
193-5"Endgame: The Big Goodbye" (#50)
196"Reality Bytes" (#51)
201"Discovery Zone" (#52)
202"Sounds of Silence" (#53)
203"Monkey Madness" (#55)
204"Immortality is Forever--Life is Finite" (#56)
205"Return of the King" (Return of the King special)

Not that Sonic's memory is perfect. The Antisonic's gang didn't really appear in "The Good, The Bad, and the Hedgehog" except in one panel as part of an exposition; they only showed up later to mix it up with the Knothole gang in "When Hedgehogs Collide." And the events in "The Return" took place in an alternative future where Sonic and Sally were not only older, but parents!

And of course like the song says, "what's too painful to remember we simply choose to forget." As a result, there's no sign of such embarrassments as "Let's Get Small" or "Sonic Shot" (both #33) or "The Last Game Cartridge Hero" (Sonic Live special) or "Battle Royal" (Battle Royal special). And since this is Sonic's memory that's being probed, we are spared any reminders of what happened in the lives of the supporting players: no mention is made of "Deadliest of the Species" (Princess Sally miniseries) or Rotor's "Tundra Road" arc (#31-32) or Tails' miniseries "Southern Crossover" and its set-ups, "Sumbersible Rehearsal" (Game Gear Adaptation) and "Growing Pains" (#28-29). However, there's also no sign of one of the better recent stories, "Running To Stand Still" (#54), either. Maybe it would be too embarrassing to suggest that the Sonic continuity could have taken another turn than the one it's about to take. Forget it; let's skip over to page 21 unless you want to linger a while longer on Art Mawhinney's artistic revisionism. Not that that's a complaint: his drawings for "Wedding Bell Blues" (#18) and "That's The Spirit" (#20) are a definite improvement over the Dave Manak originals. Unfortunately, when it comes time to redraw Sonic and Sally embracing at the end of "The Big Goodbye" he sticks with the Spaziante party line and keeps the couple at arm's length from each other. That bummed me out at least as much as Sonic was bummed out when the thingamahoozit shorted out and blew up. So let's get on to page 21 and...the rest of the story (or at least such story as Karl Bollers had to work with).

Karl has two bits of business left and because he obeys Sega's dictates the handling of the two loose ends fails to live up to their potential. In the first, Sonic tries to connect with his roboticized parents (about whom we continue to know next to nothing). I can't say it's all that emotionally satisfying, but Sonic's been out of practice relating to grown-ups. It doesn t help that Sonic's word balloon on page 22 panel 5 is misdirected so that it looks like his mom is speaking. That kind of sloppiness was disgusting enough...

But the second bit started out with more promise. It's Sonic and Sally's parting, and at first Karl strikes just the right note of adolescent awkwardness in the face of some pretty big emotions. But the suits' iron rule prevails as Sally bestows on Sonic the same kind of a "short kiss type thing" (to quote Ruby Echidna's famed "Endlame") he gave her in "The Big Goodbye." For his part, Sonic gives her a bunch of flowers, looking more like a schoolboy than ever (get used to it, people--that's the future you're looking at). They don't even BOTHER to attempt an embrace, even at arm's length!

Rating: Ring

This SHOULD have been a defining moment for the characters, and not just the Blue Blur! Sonic leaving his parents, Sally, and Uncle Chuck, Tails leaving Sally and Bunnie...I don't care how water-logged it could have gotten, those stories (if handled well) could have blown every single useless flashback frame off the page! Even Sonic taking one last verbal shot at Antoine would have been good for a couple frames if not an entire page! Instead, we get NO sense that, as I like to put it, anything is going on behind the eyes of any of the characters. We hear the dialogue and see them going through the motions but there isn't ONE OUNCE OF EMOTIONAL HONESTY in the entire 24-page STORY!! Sonic and Sally may as well have known each other for only a couple of hours rather than for eleven YEARS as spelled out in the old continuity and implied in all that history that Sonic has just reviewed. But the hearts of the characters are a closed book to us because preadolescent boys aren't into "mush." So the ONLY old comrade of Sonic and Tails who's permitted to shed a tear at their departure is a greatly- reduced Dulcy as she watches Sonic, Tails, and the old continuity fly off into the sunset. We get no plot whatsoever; just Karl Bollers thrashing around because it's difficult to write when you're wearing a straitjacket. To paraphrase another Sonic fan, Kulok, and his commentary on this issue:

I didn't laugh,
I didn't cry,
But I sure did kiss $1.75 goodbye.

It's going to be hard to knock this one out of contention for Worst Story of 1998.