Monday, November 10, 2008

The Second Printing $2.25 Challenge: Sonic the Hedgehog #192

Yes, that's right: $2.25. Also, yes, that's right, number one hundred and ninety-two. This issue marks sixteen years of continuous Sonic the Hedgehog monthly comic-book action. That's, I don't know, more issues than every She-Hulk run put together. Hell, it's longer than the last four Captain America volumes combined. But, as ever, I digress. Which isn't to say that I'll stop digressing. I'll just digress into a segue into the point and then redigress later, probably.

A) In your assessment, could a non-comics reader pick this up cold and enjoy it? Why or why not?

Okay, so, we open on Sonic, a nude-except-for-gloves-and-sneakers blue hedgehog designed originally entirely without relevant reference material fighting no less than three evil twins of himself. I know, I know, it's stupid to call three distinct entities "twins" but the book does it and it's a trope so we will, too. We've got a green version of Sonic from what I can only presume is an evil mirror dimension where Sonic is evil - we know this because he is green, wears a leather jacket and sunglasses and is named "Scourge" instead of "Sonic" - an evil robot duplicate of Sonic named, for reals, "Metal Sonic," as he is made of metal instead of animal and a presumably even eviler yet robot duplicate of Scourge named, yes, for reals again, "Metal Scourge." The closest thing we get to a recap is Sonic's narration informing us that these four things are going to fight each other, coupled with a little Cast of Characters thing on the title page (which also tells me that there is a robot head in a jar named "Dimitri" who is "bound to Doctor Robotnik." Okay).

Basically, what I'm saying is, all you need to know is that there are four of more-or-less the same guy beating on each other while various concerned parties look on. I have absolutely no idea if a non-comics reader would, you know, enjoy such a thing, really, though I have a sneaking suspicion that it's what a non-comics reader half-expects when pressed to guess the plot of a given book. I mean, look at Captain America - Bucky killed Nomad, who was effectively his evil twin (except, at that point, Nomad was the good twin), became Captain America, fought the Red Skull (who, for a while, was a clone of the original Captain America), then fought the evil 1950s version of Captain America. And that's one of the best monthly books on the stands.

B) What age group(s) would it be appropriate for?

Seven on up. If you can read, you can read this. The violence is limited to cartoon hedgehogs ramming into each other at speed and threatened "smashing." Really nothing you wouldn't see on a Saturday morning cartoon.

C) Are there any aspects that don't make sense to the new reader (or, conversely, are there any that do?)

There are THREE EVIL TWINS. I can't even attempt to express the noise my brain made when I tried to wrap it around that. There's no onomatopoeia for that, man. I mean, there was a part of me thinking "but if the robot doubles are, like, Bizarros, wouldn't the evil robot double of the alternate universe good guy be a good guy?" Granted, I brought up the evil twin situation in Cap, but that ends up playing out substantially less ridiculously.

D) What is your overall perceived quality of the book, and could you see the quality being perceived differently if read long-term?

The art's a little screwy - the fight scene (which takes up a solid half the issue) is really weirdly blocked; characters end up in places that make no sense given their locations in prior panels and suchlike. But it's serviceable for what it is - a kid's book. Hell, the whole thing's not so bad if you figure the target audience is, hopefully, reading this while it's secreted within a third-grade math textbook. Which brings me to...

E) What was your overall enjoyment of the single issue?

I freaking ate up the old Archie Ninja Turtles book when I was a wee lad. I don't know when I switched over to Spider-Man and Batman, but, at some point, I did, and I never really looked back. Taken as a gateway book, I suppose this isn't any better or any worse than the innumerable liscenced bits on nonsense I read in my misspent youth.

I grabbed this book because I have a nasty habit of reading up on comics I don't actually read, chiefly to cover myself on the off chance I end up stuck in a conversation about said unread comics. I haven't read, say, Amazing Spider-Man in lo unto a decade now, but I still have a pretty okay working knowledge of what's going on in the book. But Sonic? All I know is that he's a video game character who had two different Saturday morning cartoons at the same time in spite of the source material's plot being "run to the right, hop on things, continue running." So props to Archie for stretching that out for sixteen years, anyway. They must be doing something right, I guess.

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