Hedging Your Bets #11: Countdown To Chaos
With almost 300 issues in the core series, Archie's Sonic The Hedgehog stands as the longest-running uninterrupted American monthly comic book that's currently being published. In Hedging Your Bets, I attempt to get up to speed on Sonic the Hedgehog, challenging the odds to hopefully make it all the way to the finish line.
This week, we finally hit a newly rebooted Sonic universe, and if you were worried that we wouldn't have any more mind-boggling scenarios or unanswered questions, then friend, I have some good news for you.
Sonic the Hedgehog #252 - 256: "Countdown to Chaos"
And here we are, ten weeks later, with the story I probably should've just started with.
That is, in fact, what was recommended to me not just by readers of the book, but by the folks at Archie Comics, who responded to an email I sent when I first got the idea of doing this project by telling me that this would be the best jumping-on point for a new reader who was interested in Sonic the Hedgehog. The thing is, as great as it is to have a place to jump on that's actually pretty friendly to new readers, something about that idea has always seemed a little false to me.
I think this has way more to do with my age and my (probably misplaced) nostalgia for picking up random issues of comics at convenience stores when I was a kid, but there's something that really appeals to me about just jumping in with both feet wherever you feel like it, especially when it's a long-running series like this. You get to experience the comic in an entirely different way than you would otherwise, with all the complexity and confusion front-loaded right there at the start. To me, that's way more fun than just picking it up with a bold new direction. Heck, there's a part of me that still thinks that if I really wanted to understand the Sonic comics, I should've started with #1.
Really, though, as interested as I was getting in bits and pieces of the plot that was building up before "Worlds Collide" came along and derailed everything, it's nice to know that we're getting some kind of clean break. Now let's open up this week's selection here, and ---
Wait, what?! Part two?! Was there a zero issue in there somewhere, or do I need to go pick up Sonic Universe, or --- wait, what's that down in the corner?
This is the second part of a two-part story that was interrupted by a TWELVE-ISSUE CROSSOVER?! This comic. And it's only going to get weirder from here.
See, this is the thing about not starting in the place that I "should've." Because I went back to the events leading up to "Genesis," I at least have a frame of reference for what's going on here with the Genesis Wave and the weird take on re-writing reality. But here's the twist: This time, the Super Genesis Wave didn't just put things back the way they should've been at the end of the crossover with Mega Man. It changes the entire history of the book.
A lot of readers wrote in to tell me about the behind-the-scenes story that led into "Endangered Species," but I never heard anything about why the rest of the bathwater got thrown out with that particular baby. I'm pretty curious about it --- I'm always curious to find out how this sort of decision gets made --- but since I don't know, I can't really speculate on the motivations behind it. What I can do is talk about what made it to the page, and that's where we start running into how strange this story is.
First of all, not to rag on the artists on this comic, but I am just now being confronted with the fact that Sonic and Tails have what I would refer to as "extremely human hands," and that's very upsetting.
Second, and probably more important, every single plot thread that was going on before "Worlds Collide" has been completely and thoroughly abandoned. Ixis Naugus dethroning the Acorns and installing himself as king, Sally being roboticized, Antoine being nearly killed and Bunnie --- "cured" of her cybernetic implants --- running off to parts unknown to settle the score, all of the stuff that I actually found to be pretty compelling about the book? It is gone.
And I'm not really sure why. There's even a joke about it in the three-panel gag strips that run with the letter columns in each issue...
... but the fact that Sonic was at a pretty low point before the Genesis Wave showed up actually makes this even harder to understand. None of these plots seem like they're resolved --- and while I was told that back when I was complaining that it was difficult to get into the drama when I knew Sally Acorn was just fine 50 issues later, I assumed we'd get something. We do not. Those threads are just swept away, apparently never to be tied together.
Except that they're not entirely gone.
Instead, the premise of the story goes something like this: Nicole, the AI, gets damaged by the Genesis Wave thanks to her proximity to Ixis Naugus, who is apparently just up to some standard supervillainy rather than the political machinations and demonic possessions that we saw before the reboot, and who exits the story in the most delightfully ludicrous way possible:
It's like he tried angel dust in an after school special.
Whenever any of the main characters come in contact with Nicole, though, they're able to remember the events of the previous timeline alongside the one that they're in currently.
That means, at least for now, that this is my least favorite kind of reboot: One where everyone still remembers all the dangling plot threads before the clean break into a new universe, but where those events and relationships seem to have lost any meaning or impact for the world around them.
With each member of the Freedom Fighters that Nicole interacts with, her programming is repaired, so Sonic heads off to reunite his team, give them their memories back, and simultaneously fix Nicole, all while [sigh] Eggman is wandering around the world discovering that he apparently leads a vast and largely unchecked army in this timeline.
The whole thing where alternate timeline memory distribution helps to repair an AI is maybe the greatest example of "I know it doesn't make sense but just go with it" plotting that I think I've ever read, but it does have a nice touch in that Sonic himself finds his memories of the previous 250 issues of his comic being slowly overwritten over the course of the adventure.
Sonic also inhales a bunch of "Mystery Gas," and --- and this is actually true --- I am pretty sure it's going to turn him into a werewolf pretty soon. A werewolf hedgehog who already has disturbingly human hands. That's where we're at.
To be fair, as frustrating as these five issues are, the dust of the reboot hasn't actually settled yet at this point. As Nicole points out once she's back at 100%, the Super Genesis wave didn't just put things back together in a new and more streamlined way. The entire multiverse has collapsed in on itself, and both Nicole and Eggman have reached the conclusion that it's too late to actually do anything to fix it.
Which, you know, considering that this book goes for at least another 50 issues, seems pretty unlikely.
Personally, I think the much larger problem is Antoine's... new... "costume."
Look. You can show me an animal-person not wearing any clothes, like Sonic, and that's fine. What you can't do is show me an animal-person who does wear clothes for like 15 years and then take those clothes away. It's just... I don't feel like I have a lot of outs.
This Week's Odds:
- Chris finishes the entire project: 90 to 1
- Chris realize that he is complaining about all the knowledge he "worked" "so hard" to acquire about Sonic the Hedgehog characters is pointless now that the universe has been rebooted, and once again must realize that he is the true monster here: 12 to 1
- The whole werewolf/hedgehog thing turns out to be a dream brought on by cold medicine: 3 to 1
- Okay so there's a part in this issue where Uncle Chuck has a caption that says he's "Uncle to many" and what does that even mean?! I don't even have a funny betting odds joke for this, I just want someone to please tell me what that means. Is he not Sonic's uncle?!