Sonic The Hedgehog #59 Review by Dan Drazen
"The People's Princess"
Mike Gallagher And Ken Penders(W)
Art Mawhinney And Manny Galán(A)
Spaz/Whoever cover. Tails looks disgruntled and Sonic suffers from deja vu being inside a TV set. Remember, he's Been There Done That Changed The Channel during "The Last Game Cartridge Hero." As for Horizont-Al and Vertic-Al [I know I didn't get the names right, so what?], given the junk food surrounding them I'd say they're riding a sizable caffeine and sugar buzz. And did they HAVE to upstage Sonic and Tails with their brawling?
No matter how hard we try to forget the Ultimate Annihilator (one of the loosest of the loose ends from "Endgame") it keeps coming back to haunt us. Sonic and Tails see a shiny domelike thing on the horizon after having parked their plane. Even Sonic admits that this is going to be "bizarre" and he ought to know: he's Been There Done That Wore The Zoot Suit in "The Discovery Zone" (#52). Common sense says "stay away" but editorial says "Let's check it out!"
Sure enough, the closer they get the greater the gravitational attraction (or whatever) and they're sucked inside. Once in the dome, they discover that the law of gravity has been repealed. What might have been an occasion for a nice tribute to M. C. Escher instead looks like a REALLY REALLY BAD example of Website wallpaper. Sonic only just realizes where they are when he's blasted off his sneakers by...
I'll spare you Al and Al's exposition, but suffice it to say that their former life of benign surrealism was seriously affected by the Ultimate Annihilator. I have NO idea whatsoever how X-Axis and Y-Axis learned about the Ultimate Annihilator, but it reduced Pinky and The Brainless to primitive one-celled beings. Apparently these weren't brain cells, because Tweedledum and Tweedledumber re- evolved into a couple of mecha. So Pot and Pan were busy blasting each other when Sonic and Tails showed up, followed closely by the Find Your Name page.
Beans and Franks decide to enslave the minds of Sonic and Tails and deck them out in battle gear so Fold and Staple can duke it out by proxy. Yes, just when you thought the creative types at Sonic had outgrown them we get four pages of FIGHT SCENES! Tails wears one of those circles around his head that makes it look like he's recovering from spinal surgery. And just as Sonic entangles Tails's tails in a "doomerang" and is about to deliver the coup de grace...
We break for Fan Art. Remember what I said earlier about Ken and Fred wanting to hear from fans about what they'd like to see in the comic? May I humbly suggest that the management at Archie Comics take a good long look at Rachel Tschauder's drawing of Sonic popping the question to Sally? Criminy, sometimes I think nobody at Archie reads their own comic book! And Justin Lee has contributed a wonderfully moody drawing of King Max all wrapped up in himself (looking a lot like Rodin's statue of Balzac) while a nicely silhouetted Sally sheds a tear in the background.
Back at the Zone, Sonic has gone into spin and looks like he's about to split Tails down the middle. This apparently is enough to un-enslave Tails's mind: "S-Sonic...I thought w-we were friends!" At the mention of the F-word, Sonic's mind is likewise un-enslaved and Art Mawhinney gives us a nice Kodak moment. It's not as heartfelt as the embrace between Sonic and Uncle Chuck near the end of "Running To Stand Still" (#54) but it's still WAY better than that arm's length excuse for a hug at the end of "The Big Goodbye" (#50). The rule about physical contact would seem to be: unless you're fighting someone, Uncle Chuck yes, Tails yes, Sally not if you can possibly help it. One of these days I'm going to have to look at a map of New York and see how close Mamaroneck is to Fire Island.
This little lovefest displeases Cash and Carry, who were hoping for a fight to the death (preferably someone else's). "Our power in this zone is absolute!" Al (or is that Al?) protests. Yeah, well, talk to Mammoth Mogul about how much weight "absolute" or "limitless power" carries in this comic book. "The purity of true friendship can cut through anything," Tails declares, sounding like a fortune cookie that was written by a Care Bear. Sonic's request for an explanation is rebuffed: Kaka and Mamie already explained it on pages 5-6 and they don't want to repeat themselves. Tails comes on as the voice of reason and, with all the sagacity of whoever censors these stories from Sega, Corn and Holio decide they'd rather blast each other to pieces. This time their firepower is enough to...
OK, in Mike Galagher's "Crash of the Titans" (Super Sonic v. Hyper Knuckles Special), when Super Sonic collided with Hyper Knuckles it was sufficient to collapse the zone. In Mike Gallagher's "Sonic Blast" (Sonic Blast special), the awakening of the giant Flickie idol was enough to start a chain reaction that ended up collapsing the zone. Guess what happens here? Go on, you'll never...gee...that's right. You're pretty good at this. We pause now for some bourgeois legalities:
Notice is hereby served on Mike Gallagher not to write any more stories culminating in the collapse of a zone as that plot device has officially been Run Into The Ground. Your cooperation is appreciated.
Anyway, Sonic and Tails are thrown clear while the fate of Bene and Lokai (I'll explain that one in a minute, don't worry) remains undetermined.
Sonic fan Mark Lungo called this story "Sonic and Tails in 'The Gamesters of Triskelion'" and I honestly can't improve on that description. "Gamesters" was an episode of the original Star Trek series where Kirk and the gang are forced to fight each other against their will for the amusement of an alien race. If they don't go along they get zapped by these Pavlovian collars that induce pain. It's either that or they have to read Sonic #33. The story also reminded me of another Star Trek ep, "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" where a black-and-white alien, Bene, fights a white-and-black alien, Lokai, pretty much "like forever and ever," to quote Tails. Mike Gallagher managed to avoid that episode's heavy-handed preachiness about race relations, but he also failed to come up with a plausible explanation as to how A1 and A2 knew about the Ultimate Asininity and its effects on their zone. I never got to see the dim-witted duo in their first appearance, but if their zone was REALLY so devoid of natural law and order they might have been capable of some nicely Pythonesque touches of anarchy--think WackyLand on "Tiny Toons." I don't know whose decision it was to render them as humorless hunks of hardware, but it didn't seem to help the story. Sixteen pages and a fight later, Sonic and Tails are right back where they started from.
Which is the worst thing that can happen in a story. Unless the hero(es) arrive at the last page with a major change in their circumstances or with an altered view of their world or themselves, was the trip really necessary? What makes a story memorable isn't necessarily that it's humorous or dramatic, but what happens to the players. In this one, there's a valiant attempt at this as the friendship between Sonic and Tails survives the manipulations of Ham and Eggs. There's a good story in here somewhere, and it really didn't need Butt and Munch to clutter it up. Mawhinney does his best to swim upstream -- you GOTTA like the last panel on page 12 -- but Sonic as an armored "mindless thrall" won't give Metal Sonic any sleepless nights. All in all, it could have used some tweaking.
Backup Story: Yes, it's not one but TWO story logos: one for "Tales of the Freedom Fighters" and one for "Princess Sally." Looks like she'll be working steady for the foreseeable future. Beats pushing up daisies.
Sally either wrapped up the rebuilding of Mobitropolis early or else her idea of R&R is to go skydiving. Personally, I agree with Steven Wright on the subject: "I see no reason to get out of a plane while it's working." But Sally takes the plunge along with Hershey, Lupe, Rotor, Hamlin, and a newcomer named Erik (a horse morph). She looks like she's enjoying herself, and it's not like she hasn't done this before: she's Been There Done That Pulled The Ripcord in "Go Ahead, Mecha My Day" (Sonic #25). But her mid-air reverie is cut short as she lands: "Unfortunately I have to come down to Earth sometime." I was a little put off by the use of the E-word. I STILL think Mobius is a different planet from Earth, but that's just me. A young bear-like Mobian (I can only guess from the ears) complements Sally on her performance and invites her and her friends for vittles. They take him up on his offer as soon as they round up a couple stray members (and BOY, would I like to know what was talked about over dinner; come to think of it, I wish we'd seen the dinner party between the Freedom Fighters, Sonic's folks, and Knuckles and Julie-Su in "Unfinished Business" (#53)). By the time the group gets back to Mobitropolis at nightfall, Rosie invites Sally in for a nightcap while unbeknownst to her, King Max and Geoffrey have something else in mind.
Not a whole lot happens in this story plotwise, but it's a good mood piece. Sally's field trip didn't feel contrived or seriously out of character, and it was a suitable counterpoint to the story's sinister climax. Sally comes off as a very open and affable person, which is more than I can say for Max and Geoff. Manny Galan is showing vast improvement as a Sally artist, and he does justice to Hershey, Rosie and Lupe (I especially liked Lupe's pose at the top of page 5). About the only problem I have with the story (and it may be on its way to being rectified in future installments) is the conspicuous absence of Sonic from Sally's thoughts. The readers don't have any such trouble (go back to the Fan Art section). I don't expect Sally to go around singing the Mobian equivalent of "My Heart Will Go On" but I'd like to think that she bestows a thought or two on Sonic now and then. Maybe his name came up during dinner, I don't know. In any event, it's a good set-up: let's see what the next installment brings.
Overall Rating: Rings
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