When SEGA’s Sonic Boom was unveiled in October of last year, all we had to go on was four silhouettes and a press release detailing the people behind the TV series and the general direction. What a difference a year makes, as here we are now with a much better idea of what Sonic Boom is all about, as well as an expanded offering of Sonic Boom materials ranging from the TV show and video games, to toys and comic books. Never before has an offshoot of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise spanned so many forms of media, and such a broad spectrum says a lot about how invested SEGA West is in Sonic Boom. While the TV series is a little over a week away (Saturday, November 8th on Cartoon Network) and the games release in the following weeks, we have the first form of narrative content from Sonic Boom available to us in the form of Archie Comics’ Sonic Boom issue #1. I’ve read it, and now I’m going to review it!
But first, an idea of where I’m coming from – review starts in the next paragraph. My relationship with Archie’s Sonic comics has a long history of ups and downs. I vividly remember reading the very first Archie Sonic comic, issue #0, and diving headfirst into the mini-series and main series – the main series which continues to this day. At the time, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was my favorite video game and I was a huge fan of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. I enjoyed the dynamic of Sonic and Tails taking on Robotnik and his robots each week, and liked how despite the differing designs, Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog captured the feeling of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Archie’s Sonic comics pre-dated both Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog (the darker Saturday morning series), and featured a mix of both cartoons. Stories were lighthearted, funny, and self-referential. It wasn’t until later when the Saturday morning series took off that the stories became darker and focused on longer arcs, eventually scrapping Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog altogether. After over 250 issues and a few reinventions and light reboots, it is in my opinion that Archie’s main series in overly complicated and simply not fun anymore. While I’ll admit the recent reboot, and select arcs like the Genesis saga and the Mega Man crossover were fun, the convoluted history of the comics have always been a point of contention for me.
So having said all that, I can easily say that the Sonic Boom comic books are a breath of fresh air. There is no mish-mash of tv show and video game adaptation backstory, Eggman is not an alternate dimension robot who switched bodies and turned flesh. Archie’s Sonic Boom begins as simply as the original Sonic the Hedgehog #1 began, we have a group of heroes who are committed to fighting off an evil doctor and his robots. Instead of the Freedom Fighters, we see the core group of video game heroes with new looks and vague backstories. Sonic and Tails are pretty similar to their original video game counterparts. Sonic is the hero sworn to stop Eggman at all costs, while Tails is the faithful sidekick of the Genesis days, as well as the brainy technician developed from Sonic Adventure onwards. Tails also has his signature house/workshop, and an alternate cover depicts a new take on the series signature biplane.
Amy Rose and Knuckles the Echidna are the least developed. While their characterizations are defined rather well in the first issue with Knuckles being less brains and more brawns, and Amy being short tempered and skilled with a giant hammer, there isn’t any hint of Knuckles backstory as a guardian of a floating island or if Amy is a former Sonic fangirl or his romantic interest. As is, Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Amy are four friends devoted to stopping Eggman’s schemes. My hope is that there is more to Knuckles than what they’ve established so far, and given hints of ancient echidna statues in the Wii U game and a decision Knuckles makes at the end of Sonic Boom issue 1, it is likely there is more to Knuckles than we’ve seen thus far.
Those hoping for new details about Sticks the Badger are out of luck, as it seems the comics take place after the character is introduced, which is likely to happen in either the games or in the premiere of the TV series. All that is revealed is that Sticks is the oddball fifth member of the team who grew up in the jungle and has a penchant for conspiracy theories. Eggman’s motivations are also vague, as all that is shown is that he lives in a tall island fortress similar to the one seen in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and is assisted by Orbot and Cubot who serve the same role as they do in recent Sonic Team games. Why Eggman is attacking Sonic’s tropical island is not explained, and the island itself goes unnamed in the comic book, but it is defined as being an island which is home to Sonic and his friends. Hopefully future issues or the TV series or games expand on why Eggman does what he does, and it would be cool to know the name of Sonic’s island – personally I’d love to learn that the name is South Island for a nod to the original games.
The two strongest aspects to the first issue are Evan Stanley’s artwork and Ian Flynn’s writing. Seriously, the artwork is top notch, featuring dynamic poses, expressive characters, and well paced action scenes. The writing is similar to early Archie Sonic comics, with a slant towards humor and self-referential gags. The running joke in the first issue is the introductory logos that appear when each character’s name is said for the first time, something that both Sonic comics and comics in general are known to do. There is also a funny exchange between Tails and Eggman in which they talk shop in the middle of a fight, highlighting the more casual relationship the heroes have with Eggman. As mentioned earlier, I do wish they delved into characters backstories and motivations a bit more, but given the comic book was released before the TV series and video games, I can forgive the lack of such elements. I only hope that when we near the 10th issue, the Sonic Boom universe is richer with the introduction of side characters and some knowledge of the Sonic Boom universe’s history.
Overall, Sonic Boom issue 1 was an enjoyable read. The artwork was excellent and the writing was light, but humorous. It felt good to read a Sonic comic taking place in a fresh universe free from past TV shows, comic books, and video games. While I still yearn for a true SEGA Sonic comic book series, only occasionally seen in Archie’s recent micro-adaptations of games like Sonic Generations and Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Epsiode II, Sonic Boom is the next best thing. Really, Sonic Boom feels like a reinvention of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog featuring elements of the original Genesis/Mega Drive games, which are all things I greatly enjoy. While the quality of the games and TV series remains to be seen, Sonic Boom as a comic book is off to a good start. Now to see what Knuckles is up to in the next issue…