The debut of Mina’s new song ruins Sonic, Princess Sally and Nicole’s evening out. Meanwhile, evil wizard Ixis Naugus and his apprentice, Geoffrey St. John, watch from the shadows and plot Naugus’s return to power.
The plots and subplots of the last few issues are starting to come together. The chapter’s title, “Changing Tempo,” refers not only to the change in Mina’s music and the shift to a longer story arc, but also the beat of the issue. After several more action-oriented stories, Sonic the Hedgehog #221 focuses on character moments that establish relationships and define the current status quo. Because of that, this is a great issue for new readers to jump on to the series.
Again Ian Flynn shows that he knows how to write a “mature” superhero comic that’s also all-ages appropriate. In the opening three pages, Sonic and Sally acknowledge their romantic past and issues and their current relationship in an intelligent, fun way that also touches on the fact that they are more than just two parts of a whole; that they have personalities and responsibilities beyond being just a couple. In a later scene Sally confronts Mina over the message her new lyrics send. Mina comes right back, accusing the princess of being irresponsible herself for leaving the city in its time of need during the Iron Kingdom occupation. During their dialog readers get a feeling for the history between the two women and where each one is coming from. Flynn also makes fantastic use of the “man in the street.” Like Stan Lee did at the dawn of the Marvel Age, Flynn uses the generic, non-heroic viewpoint to create a sense of verisimilitude, act as a kind of Greek chorus and move the plot along.
There are also some solid comic moments. One of them occurs when Mina’s manager/boyfriend Ash demands to know how Sonic and Sally got into Mina’s dressing room.
Sonic: Speed of sound? Kinda known for it?
You can’t talk about Ben Bates’ art this issue without mentioning his stunning cover. First off the white background just makes the whole image pop. It grabs the attention. Using Sonic’s quills as frames for the portraits of the issue’s three leading ladies creates a unified look while the individualized symbols around each woman gives readers an idea of what role she plays in Sonic’s life. The whole has a very clean, pop art look to it that’s extremely attractive.
Inside, aided and abetted by inker Terry Austin, colorist Matt Herms, and letterer John Workman, Bates accomplishes the difficult task of bringing a concert to life on paper. A concert works fine in the audio/visual format. On paper, it’s more problematic. The art teams does a more than credible job of creating a sense of movement at Mina’s concert by pulling in for close-ups and back out to focus on the stage or audience, using different shaped panels and tilting them on the page, cutting back and forth to focus on the different characters’ expressions and changing the coloring to reflect the emotions portrayed. Uniting them all is the staff of musical notes curling over, under, around, and through the panels. It’s beautifully done.
In a less showy, but possibly more important, scene, Sally stands after listening to Mina rage. The princess’s back is to the reader. We can’t see her expression, but we can imagine. She puts her hands on her knees and pushes herself up. There’s a sense of resignation and strength about her. Just by angling her torso and arms, Bates and Austin create a feeling of weight and ponderous movement.
In the backup feature, “Second Impressions: Part One,” the distraught Mina receives comfort from the unlikely duo of former Dark Egg Legion Grand Master Dimitri and the Chaotix Espio. Flynn does a solid job of creating a bond between these three characters by portraying them all as misunderstood outcasts. Dimitri in particular has never been so sympathetic. James Fry and Terry Austin team-up to create some beautifully expressive faces.
Sonic the Hedgehog #221 definitely lives up to its tag of “The World’s Most Way Past Cool Comic!”