Hedging Your Bets #13: The Chase
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, hey, remember that part in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Manos: The Hands of Fate where Tom Servo just loses it and shouts "do something!" at the screen? It's like that, but with a train robbery set piece.
Sonic the Hedgehog #257-259: "The Chase"
I don't want to blow anyone's mind here, but my experience with reading Sonic the Hedgehog has been a very frustrating one. Every time I think I have a handle on the book and its universe, every time that I think we're going somewhere in a story that I can actually get excited about, something happens that derails it all and sends it back to the starting point.
It happened the first time with "Genesis," where I was intrigued by the storyline about Nicole and the New Mobotropolitans turning against the AI that saved them, and it happened again with the cascading problems that saw Sally turned into a killer robot, Bunnie turned into the opposite of a killer robot, and Antoine nearly murdered by --- you guessed it --- a killer robot all being swept off the table for Worlds Collide. And now, it's happening again, for the third time in, what, two years' worth of comics?
With the end of Worlds Collide and the reboot of Sonic's universe, we were given some pretty pressing concerns to worry about: Conflicting memories of different histories that seemed to herald the collapse of the multiverse. That's a big deal! Like, that's the whole deal with Crisis, right? The collapse of a multiverse is literally the biggest thing you can do in comics unless you can figure out how to place the reader themselves in danger! And yet, here we are with the next story arc, and the multiverse is... still... collapsing. Eventually. Maybe. At some point.
Admittedly, in the grand scheme of comic book publishing, three issues isn't really that much time, but still. Taking time away from the very urgent sight of a planet being torn apart along its fault lines for three months that essentially amount to someone just showing up to tell Sonic about the quest he needs to go on grinds the momentum of the big story to a halt, even if it's built around the pretty fun set piece of the good guys robbing an evil train.
Seriously, if I wanted to see a universe that was taking months to collapse, I'd just watch the news.
It's especially frustrating because this book, like its hero, is at its best when it moves fast, and spending an entire arc in what feels like a holding pattern doesn't do it any favors. I am ready for this to go. I want this book to get buck wild, and the story where I just know Sonic is going to turn into a dang werewolf is so friggin' close I can taste it.
But that doesn't mean that "The Chase" is devoid of weirdness. Far from it.
The basic idea is that Sonic, faced with the impending collapse of the planet, has to rescue "Uncle" Chuck and his pal (ugh) Dillon Pickle from (sigh) Eggman so that he can find out how to save the world from tearing itself apart.
Two things about this: First, spoiler warning, but it's the Chaos Emeralds, and at this point, Sonic should've just friggin' assumed it was the Chaos Emeralds. I could've told him it was going to be the Chaos Emeralds, and I don't even know what the Chaos Emeralds are. Apparently President Obama has them?
Second, and perhaps more importantly, Professor Pickle is a regular-ass human being.
Well, as close to regular as you can be with those eyebrows, at least, but I think those fall under Sega's nebulous understanding of artistic license.
He's not alone, either. Apparently the far future world of Mobius is just full to the brim with plenty of humans, and some of them even have airships.
I don't know why it weirds me out so much that there are regular humans --- technologically advanced ones, even --- running around in a world that is built entirely around a funny animal adventure hero, but having an airship commander tell Sally Acorn, a squirrel in boots, that she did a great job coordinating the rescue efforts for a bunch of people who were almost killed by a natural disaster is exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about when I say that.
I was given to understand that Mobius --- which, remember, is far-future Earth --- was essentially taken over by mutated animals with opposable thumbs and shoes and biplanes, and that humanity had more-or-less been replaced, Planet of the Apes style. Or, I guess, Planet of the Echidnas. If that's not the case, well, I suppose that's fine, but still. It's not just me, right? This is actually strange and not just something I'm fixating on?
I mean, this dude alone.
Look how disturbed he is by this entire situation! I'm with you, buddy. And you know what, I'm with Green Polo Shirted Hedgehog, too. This whole thing is just not sitting well with anyone.
Anyway, it turns out that Professor Pickle knows exactly what's going on: A natural cycle of death and rebirth that hits Mobius (and, therefore, Earth) every 10,000 years, which of course requires the Chaos Emeralds to stabilize from a cataclysm into a new era.
And again, this is something that I actually am starting to get pretty excited about reading. It sets up the potential for a story about video-gamey set pieces --- seven different levels that have to be reached and stabilized while the world is crumbling around them --- with the built-in ticking clock of the impending death of the planet, and the added danger of Eggman being able to somehow shape the world if he can control the Emeralds at the temples.
The big problem here, of course, is that this is literally what just happened with the Super Genesis Wave. It's, like, the exact same thing, right down to being a product of the Emeralds that Eggman was meddling in, that resulted in a collapsing multiverse. It's the same plots rearranged three issues later into a new spin on it, and having to go through the same rigamarole again is really frustrating as a reader.
But at the same time, there's one thing that I really like about this: As much as I loved the metatextual aspects of Worlds Collide, where the idea of bending the stories so that these two disparate franchises could cross over involved literally (and textually) restructuring the universe into one where they could coexist, complete with an interdimensional No Man's Land made up of pieces of their universes, I really like the idea of doing the same thing with the concept of a comic book reboot. Characterizing it as part of a natural and inevitable cycle, and as something that has to be controlled so that you wind up with a good reboot instead of a bad one is a really interesting meta take on the entire idea.
If nothing else, it's interesting, even if it feels like Flynn and Co. got a really good idea for a story about a reboot three months after they actually did one, and I'm willing to give them the do-over on this.
This Week's Odds:
- Chris finishes the entire project: 99 to 1
- Chris finally comes to terms with the fact that I guess there are just people in the Sonic universe, perhaps by putting it in the context of Elmer Fudd existing alongside Bugs and Daffy: 12 to 1
- Chris finds forgiveness in his heart for the name "Dillon Pickle": 1,000,000 to 1
- Chris admits that despite all odds and his best efforts to the contrary, his favorite character in the comic has somehow become Amy Rose: 100 to 1