Review: IDW’s Sonic the Hedgehog #4

Review: IDW’s Sonic the Hedgehog #4

by April 26, 2018

The first month of IDW’s Sonic comics comes to a close with the introduction of a brilliant new character and the return of two fan favorites.

Having a whole month full of comics to read has been nothing but a gift. IDW’s crack at Sonic comics has been wildly successful, with successful sell-outs demanding reprints for every issue thus far. With the month coming to a close, issue 4 delivers a second straight issue packed full of exposition and new faces. The post-Forces arc is on a roll, now, and I can safely say that I’m strapped in for wherever Ian Flynn and company plan to bring us next.

After having liberated a town from two skunk mercenaries with Knuckles, Sonic continues his journey to figure out who’s organizing the groups of Badniks he took down with Amy and Tails. Previous issues have teased us with the presence of a mysterious “man in a chair,” sending out squads of Badniks to test the mettle of Sonic and the Resistance. Issue 4 finds Sonic encountering yet another organized squadron, this time led by a giant Motobug; luckily, he’s offered help from dimensional hopping princess and expert firebender Blaze the Cat along with stretchy-tailed newcomer Tangle the Lemur. It’s a really wonderful issue overall, featuring a great interplay between the three heroes and an exciting battle that leans on the strengths of Blaze and Tangle in a great way.

Image: IDW

Going into this week’s issue, Tangle was my character-to-watch, and I’m excited to say I’ve basically fallen in love with her immediately. I’ve loved her design since the minute I saw her. Here, she plays a good partner to Sonic and Blaze–she’s very much inexperienced but excited to be a part of the team. She reminds me of the kind of character we grew to know in the Shattered World Crisis. She’s street smart, she’s quick on her feet, and her powers give her a unique sense of presence, akin to the many characters Sonic relied on to help him put the globe back together. Using the tail as a slingshot/catapult is a really good way to show off what she adds to the team. After this appearance, I’m very hopeful that she’ll be a regular part of Sonic’s team in this universe. In lieu of the Freedom Fighters’ absence, however long it may be, I have faith that the IDW team can develop new characters like Tangle to make Sonic’s little Resistance feel like a big ol’ family in a way that’s unique to the comics.

In addition, I think pairing Tangle alongside Blaze was a smart move. Many readers who are coming into this series right after Forces and other recent titles may not recognize Blaze, and Blaze’s origin story is, let’s face it, deeply confusing. Throwing Tangle into the mix gives Sonic a perfectly good excuse to explain what Blaze’s deal is. Tangle’s surprised reaction at her origins is a good reflection of how new readers, especially those younger fans, might feel when meeting the Sol Princess for the first time, too.

Speaking of Blaze, I’m outright giddy to see her return here. I’m a huge fan of Sonic Rush and Blaze has always been one of my most beloved Sonic characters. Her absence from recent titles, notably Sonic Forces, stung quite a bit, certainly after the unfortunate cancellation of her fated return in Sonic Universe #96. I expected Flynn’s portrayal of Blaze to excite me. After all, Treasure Team Tango and Pirate Plunder Panic were two of my absolute favorite Sonic Universe arcs. I’m happy to say that portrayal has stuck. As with the majority of this universe’s characters, Flynn has a grasp on what makes Blaze interesting, and writes her with a sharp personality that absolutely shines in every scene she’s in. Her skepticism and slight bitterness have always played a wonderful foil to characters like Sonic and Amy in previous books, and her interactions with Sonic and Tangle here are a total delight.

Blaze’s portrayal is only amplified by Evan Stanley’s wonderful art. If you’ve seen bits of Stanley’s fan comic Ghosts of the Future–and you really should, it’s wonderful–you’ll know that she’s a big Blaze fan, and that very much comes across in this issue. Stanley’s art in issue 4 is overall stunning, with gorgeous and dynamic action sequences, expressive faces, and crisp lines. There’s some adorable expressions in this issue that immediately make for classic reaction images, a testament to Stanley’s love of these characters.

IDW’s talent continues to deliver great art overall. As in issue 1, colorist Matt Herms delivers vivid and wonderful work as always. Covers this week are from familiar faces. Tyson Hesse’s A variant concludes the series of four connective covers, Stanley and Herms deliver a movie poster-esque B variant featuring the three stars of this issue, and Nathalie Fourdraine once again comes through with a gorgeous retailer incentive variant that I desperately want as a poster. The second retailer incentive variant is another Hesse cover, featuring the image IDW used to promote the launch of this series that looks to be gracing the cover of the first trade paperback (Fallout!) as well.

Relying on the aftermath of Forces is generally working for me. There’s been some pain points in these first few issues. I think the story feels a little slower than the concise four-story arcs we had in the Archie days, but I’m confident that’ll work itself out in time. Trusting the readers to have either played Forces or done a quick Wiki read of its plot was generally a smart move, I think, but I do worry this runs the risk of making the world feel a little anonymous. In particular, it’s sorta strange how all of these villages that Sonic’s visited are seemingly nameless. Unfortunately, I don’t know how much of that is intentional and how much is due to SEGA mandates. My biggest hope is that the comic’s stunning sales success will prompt SEGA to place more trust in this team. Arguably, the storytelling in these comics continues to be significantly stronger than what we’ve gotten in the games, and I genuinely believe Flynn’s writing should be the lead car of this train rather than the caboose.

I will say that I’m very excited about the next few issues. Issue 4 closes with the triumphant return of a certain mustached scientist, but there’s absolutely no indication that he’s been in charge of the organized Badnik onslaughts. He’s roughed up, worse for wear after the defeat he suffered at the hands of the Resistance, hiding in a shack in some anonymous village. He doesn’t appear to be holed up in one of his own bases surrounded by screens and his loyal robotic servants–plus, the telltale chair is notably absent from his appearance here. Thanks to solicitations we already know Eggman’s return is the main draw in issue 5, but I’d place a pretty good bet on Eggman not being the mastermind here. If that’s the case, I’ll definitely be happy to see Flynn deliver some twists on our expectations here, and either way the wait to next month is going to be tough.

The biggest challenge moving forward is convincing readers now accustomed to a weekly release to stay hooked month-to-month. I know that I can say the story’s hooked me in for that wait, and I can only hope others feel the same. Were you happy about the first month of Sonic’s IDW debut? Tell us in the comments.