Writer: Ian Flynn
Artist(s): Tracy Yardley!, Jim Amash (i), Jason Jensen (c), John Workman (l)
Publisher: Archie Comics
First off, the cover of this issue is an absolutely beautiful composite of design and color. In the background, the evil Enerjak reaches out with grasping hand, while Shadow burns with energy and Dr. Finitevus looks on with sinister glee. In the lower corner, Dr. Eggman’s fleet moves out of his dark shadow. All of these are colored in dark or muted shades of read and purple. Contrasting with that is the bold white title and logo and the bright blue, white, and red of Sonic as he leaps off the page toward the reader. Without copying it, Tracy Yardley! has captured the same iconic feel the Hildebrandts’ Star Wars: A New Hope poster has. It’s also the best Sonic cover since #175’s “The Unthinkable Happens!” (And just as a side note: When is Archie going to do a poster book of Sonic’s best covers?)
After the magnificent cover, you’d expect the rest of the issue to be fantastic too, right? Well, unfortunately, it’s only very good. By cutting down the main story to a mere seventeen pages, some of the dramatic momentum was lost. Still there’s plenty of good stuff for readers to enjoy.
Knuckles stands revealed as the evil Enerjak, ready to lead his friends to a new tomorrow. Whether they want it or not. The two panel sequence showing his reaction to the New Mobotropolians’ rejection of his offer is chilling. In the first, he’s completely silent. You see only his look of angry disgust. In the second, he’s pulling on his helmet, becoming a completely different character from the Knuckles readers know and love. His line positively drips menace: “I am very disappointed in all of you.” Yardley! and Jensen link these two panels together through a colored border, making them look almost like a piece of film, contributing to the feeling that readers are watching a movie or TV episode.
Speaking of TV, Flynn and Yardley! must be Babylon 5 fans. There’s one panel showing Enerjak looking upward as the Eggman fleet blots out the sun. It’s so reminiscent of the B5 scene showing Londo Mollari looking upward as the Shadow fleet blots out the sun that it’s eerie. It has to be homage.
But while I give Yardley! and company high marks for that panel, I’m not sure I can forgive them for what they did to poor Sally the majority of this issue. Yardley! and Amash have apparently forgotten how to draw her. In several panels she’s off; but in what should be her highlight panel, Yardley! has given her the most horribly misshapen arms! It’s meant to look empowering. Instead it looks grotesque. And to make it worse, due to the staging, it looks like she’s holding a tiny Antoine in her palm. However, if you just read her lines and don’t look at the picture, it’s a fine character panel.
Sonic’s character continues to delight and grow this issue. The hedgehog’s trademark banter is especially bright here. He and Enerjak (who Sonic does not recognize as Knuckles at this point) have a lovely bit that - appropriately – breaks the story’s tension for a moment. And it should be noted that it’s John Workman’s lettering that really makes this particular piece of dialog work.
But Sonic is also the one who reminds Shadow they need to work together to defeat Enerjak. Teamwork isn’t something the blue blur has been known for in the past. His acknowledging that it’s necessary, however, is a natural outgrowth of his late experiences with Eggman and Tails. It’s a scene that Flynn doesn’t make a big deal of, yet it shows regular readers how much Sonic has grown recently.
I know I’ve said it before, but I simply can’t give Ian Flynn too much credit as a writer. He’s playing with a lot of Sonic history here: Enerjak, Knuckles being overwhelmed by power – again!, Shadow, Knuckles’ father issues. Yet the story is easily accessible and understandable. The dialog recaps without being heavy-handed, moves the story along, and manages to be true to character. Not a simple feat, yet Flynn handles it with ease. His partnership with Yardley!, Amash, Jensen, and Workman, is really a match made in heaven.
The back-up story, “Albion’s Shameful Secret,” brings readers up to speed on Finitevus’s origin and actually creates a bit of sympathy for the character. What could have been a very static piece is enlivened by interesting page layouts. Here again there’s a Star Wars: A New Hope feel due to the way Flynn and Yardley! chose to tell the story. Even Jason Jensen’s color scheme – heavy on the yellows and browns – suggests early scenes of that movie without copying it.
“Fallen Angel” isn’t a spectacular issue, but it’s entertaining, absorbing, and well-worth reading.
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