“Change in Management”
Robotnik’s defeated! But New Mobotropolis’s celebration is interrupted by the arrival of Monkey Khan and news that a new player is taking over Eggman’s empire. At the same time Robotnik’s nephew and betrayer Snively is getting cozy with Robotnik’s replacement, the Iron Queen.
After a lackluster two-hundredth issue, Sonic the Hedgehog is back on track with the introduction of a new menace, the re-introduction of old characters, new intrigues, and the hint of a new romantic rivalry.
I’m not familiar with the character of Monkey Khan, so the appearance of this brash, arrogant, cloud-flying monkey caught me by surprise. Obviously inspired by the Monkey King legend, Khan is the perfect frenemy for Sonic. Their opening dialogue establishes the relationship perfectly.
Speaking of new threats, the Iron Queen is another character from Sonic history I’m unfamiliar with, but Flynn immediately establishes her as an adversary worth watching. Surrounding herself with ninja servants, playing Snively and her consort against one another, and bringing Dmitri of the Dark Egg Legion to heel, the Queen demonstrates in the six pages allotted her, her cunning, ruthlessness, and villainous charm. She’s the anti-Princess Sally and I look forward to seeing these two characters square off some day.
Flynn handles the reintroduction of these old elements of the Sonic mythos beautifully. A line or two establishes who they are, then he moves on with the narrative. With only seventeen pages to work with for the main story, Flynn has to keep things moving at a good clip. And he does. There’s no wasted space or dead panels. Character is established through action. There’s a wonderful panel showing Sally dealing with Sonic and Khan that tells you everything you need to know about her character. Flynn makes sure a new reader, as well as a fan, has everything on the page that they need to understand the story. The only “non-friendly to new readers” moment in the entire book (and it’s a minor one) is when he doesn’t name check Sally’s brother the King of Acorn.
The backup story “Devotion” picks up from page five of “Change in Management” and spotlights the Chaotix Freedom Fighter Espio. This is basically a five page “hint” story. Espio is attacked, but the battle is quickly concluded when his attacker reveals unexpected news. Flynn actually throws quite a bit of information without context at the reader here, but he does it in such a way that the reader feels like s/he’s learned something important. And quite possibly s/he has. Readers will just have to wait for future issues to see how “Devotion” ties in with the Iron Queen story.
As always Tracy Yardley!’s art is beautiful. Monkey Khan’s entrance is especially nice. Framed by lightening and lowering clouds, he hovers on a cloud above the cast’s heads, staff at the ready, arrogant anger displayed in every line. Matt Herms’ use of black, blue, and electric white reinforce the ominous nature of his message. It’s a lovely moment.
Some of the best panels, however, are the ones showing what the supporting characters are doing in the background: Amy making lovey-dovey eyes at Sonic behind his back; Antoine and Bunnie holding hands; and Mina’s boyfriend checking on her after Khan’s dramatic entrance. These small actions, while not important to the main story, add information that helps readers get a handle on the character relationships without verbal exposition and makes them feel more at home in this world.
The only time Yardley! isn’t quite up to snuff is when he’s depicting the Iron Queen. There’s something about her headdress and face that’s just a bit off. When you look at her straight on, she mostly looks ok, though a bit dumpy. But from an angle or looking down at her, her headdress doesn’t seem like it would work. It’s a minor quibble.
Sonic the Hedgehog #201 offers readers action and intrigue. It’s a great jumping on point for readers looking to check out a new comic book or for fallen away fans to rejoin the flock.
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