Now you can’t tell me this cover doesn’t grab your attention. Just look at it! Sonic surrounded by flames as a strange flying object that resembles a cross between Dr. Robotnik and a vulture fires on him. How could you not want to check it out?! And inside it’s even better! The Freedom Fighters take on the Dark Egg Legion. Robotnik reveals his new secret weapon. And Snively and Dimitri come to an agreement--of sorts.
As the big 200th issue draws near, Ian Flynn starts setting up the pieces for a major, and perhaps final, showdown between Sonic and his allies and Doctor Robotnik. “Phoenix-Down!” has the FF taking the battle right up to the Eggdome while phrases like “It’s time to finish this,” “I will be the end of him,” “This is it,” and “It’ll be over” are thrown around with abandon, creating an ominous air.
Action junkies will be delighted with the wall-to-wall mayhem, but in the midst of the fast-moving events, Flynn never forgets he has to make readers care about these characters. Just from their dialog, he gives readers an idea of who they are, what their relationships are, and why they’re fighting, making it easy for a first-time reader to get involved in the story.
Lein-Da, Dark Egg Legion Kommissar, is probably the most complex character in the issue. We get a sense of her desperate attempts to be positive, her pride, and her over-reaction. A remark of Antoine’s makes you wonder if the Kommissar isn’t having second thoughts about having thrown her lot in with Robotnik.
Contrast Lein-Da to the cool, confident Princess Sally. The Princess has the love, respect, and support of her team and knows her cause is just. Without histrionics, she changes her plans to meet circumstances and meets danger head on. She also has a sense of humor. She’s a role-model worth emulating.
Flynn, in concert, with artist Renae Deliz, also provides a sweet background moment involving Bunnie and Antoine, one of comicdom’s best married couples. As Bunnie gives cover to the Freedom Fighters, Antoine throws a quick, concerned look her way while Amy puts a sympathetic hand on his arm. It’s a silent, mature, realistic moment that gives added depth to the characters.
Thanks to Tracy Yardley’s layouts, this issue looks like animation between covers. The majority of movement is toward the right of the panel, drawing the eye forward. When the action reaches the right edge of the page, there’s generally a curve of some sort that pulls the reader’s focus back to the left so the process can begin again. For example: the curve of Lein-Da’s whip, the flow of her braids, the angle of Tails’ leg, the flow of a sound effect. The sequence showing Sonic in battle with Robotnik’s secret weapon follows the same pattern, though in this case, the action is also moving upwards as it moves to the right.
Deliz’s pencils are sleek, flexible, and dynamic--well-suited to this storyline. His characters’ heads are almost too large for their slender bodies. When not in action, they still almost seem to be swaying. Because of this sway, several iconic panels – Sally and her teammates on the edge of a cliff overlooking the battlefield and Sally and Tails facing down the secret weapon to name just two – have a sense of movement and so avoid becoming mini “cool shot” panels. They are cool, but they don’t stop the flow of the story.
Deliz excels at expressions, as in the aforementioned Bunnie-Antoine scene, and in the scene between Snively and Dimitri. Both characters run through a gamut of emotions – surprise, fear, confidence, superiority, and confusion – and Deliz catches them all.
As always Jason Jensen’s colors are spot on. His shadows are deep and menacing without obscuring the action. His reads and oranges are brilliant and his rosy sunset is gorgeous.
Fans of well-told, heroic action stories really need to pick up this issue of Sonic the Hedgehog.
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