Sonic #75 [Oct 1999] Spaz/Harvo/J. D. Ray cover: Well, it's not exactly a recruiting poster for the Knothole Freedom Fighters (or what's left of them), but then they may need to put one of those together pretty soon. "I Am The Eggman" Story: Karl Bollers; Art: Steven Butler; Ink: Pam Eklund; Lettering: Jeff Powell; Color: Frank Gagliardo; Editorial: GForce, though Justin Gabrie has added "Art Director" to his list of credits. Swell, Fred, but let me know when you fill the slot for Story Editor. Otherwise, I'd just be tempted to think that the title of "Art Director" represents yet one more triumph of style over substance. Speaking of substance, the very substantial villain of this piece is revealed to be [drum roll, please] Robo-Robotnik, who makes good use of the Bollers Opening Gambit by spreading his mechanical girth across the first three pages as Sonic gnashes his teeth and Sally flashes some tail after having kept it tucked inside her space suit in the previous installment. I still think hanging your tail(s) outside your space suit is asking for trouble, but what do I know? Apparently, Robo-Robotnik doesn't think too much of his name, preferring "Robotnik Mach 2." But Robo-Robotnik isn't the only one who wants to change that name: I've seen such variations as "Rbrb" used by AndyVVV and "RRobotnik" by Raven M. I don't care much for the name RoboRobotnik either (kinda busy), but I will continue to use it in these reviews. But at least typing it won't be a strain. Macros; gotta love 'em! Of course, the name game could still get a lot uglier. What if Robo-Robotnik were to meet the same fate as Plain Old Robotnik, only to be resurrected yet again? We'd then have RoboRobo-Robotnik, and nobody wants that. I mean, how seriously can you take a villain with a name like THAT? If that ever happened to him, I can just imagine his ultimate fate. Let me get the remote here: CLICK "Hi, I'm Kurt Loder with M-TV News. Add another name to the roster of bands signed up to appear as part of Mumblepalooza. RoboRobo-Robotnik will be bringing their own brand of metal sound to the traveling rock show featuring groups with stupid-sounding names. Already slated to appear are Chumbawamba, Kajagoogoo, Oingo Boingo, and Bananarama. In related news, rumors persist that Robert Matthew Van Winkle, also known as rapper Vanilla Ice, is trying to join the tour under the name "Chilli Vanilli," fronting a Milli Vanilli tribute band. Dates and venues will be announced as soon as the producers stop laughing. That's it for now, more news at ten to the hour here on M-TV." CLICK Anyway, Robo-Robotnik then encases our heroes inside an eggshaped force field, which subjects those inside to an unfortunate dose of PhotoShop Blur. Bunnie tries to punch her way out and gets FZAAAKTed for her trouble. It also gives Karl Bollers a chance to repeat the coyote identification of Antoine. I still don't buy it, but apparently that's their story and they're sticking to it. We now get two pages of exposition from the big guy which once again tries to paper over the difficulties in a story line that diverts into what's supposed to be the future of Mobius. To which Karl adds a new wrinkle: seems Robo-Robotnik claims to have "eradicated" the Sonic on his home world, who was the Terminatorlike Borg Sonic of "Night of a Thousand Sonics" (S19), and devastating Mobius and "its royal family" in the process [though the sentence structure leaves open the possibility that he didn't finish the job]. Because the score was even at one eradication apiece after Robotnik bought it in "Endgame," Robo-Robotnik decided to return for a grudge match with Sonic. He also teases the captives with the fact that getting them to schlep up into outer space was a diversionary tactic, drawing their attention away from... The advertisements! Memo to Archie Comics: your ad for Nabisco's Pop-Tarts(tm) knockoff prominently features Marvel Comics characters, and the ad on the back cover for the Olympia Sales Club features as premiums four pieces of video game hardware and two of software and none of it by Sega. So tell Marketing to stop sleeping with the enemy, 'kay? Back to Mobitropolis where all that urban renewal that started with "Brave New World" is being undone by a whole mess of "Shadow-Bots." Don't know if that's a Bab-5 homage or not. They come in two sizes, apparently: Regular and Godzilla. Either that or Steve Butler totally lost control of perspective on the 2-page spread. Nate Morgan and Amy Rose rescue John Doe [I thought it was "John Deer" but some tractor company must've made a big stink about it] and the missus by picking on someone approximately their own size. In the palace basement, where Queen Alicia is still floating in a tube in a pose that reminds me a lot of Reed Waller's Omaha on the runway, Geoffrey gives the bad news to King Max as the Queen gets packed off to Knothole. But just as it occurs to Max to wonder where his daughter has gone to, Robo-Robotnik shows up via a vid monitor to ask "You lose something, kingie?" Max goes into total grovel mode long enough for the Shadow-bots to break in and start busting up the joint until Elias has them chill out by dousing them with refrigerant. Back on Space Station Pokemon, Robo-Robotnik decides to add insult to injury by putting Sonic's parents, Uncle Chuck, and Muttski on display as trophies once more under his power. Sonic tries to break out of the force field but runs into two pages of ads and is stopped cold. As the force field gives new meaning to the term "Blue Blur"... Geoff's team make themselves useful, surprisingly so because his declamation is so wordy it's a wonder a Shadow-bot didn't have time to take aim and fire before Bomb did his thing, allowing them to get Rosie and some kids to safety as Hershey gets to quote from the dialogue of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." Back on the space station, though, Sonic and the others have reserved their wrath for an ex-con: Snively springs them from their force field prison and offers to change sides because RoboRobotnik wants to roboticize HIM. Uh, didn't King Max make this same mistake at the beginning of the Great War when Jules and Chuck showed up with a tub of lard named Julian? But there's no time to think about that as Sally uses Nicole like one of those high-tech keychains to summon the space shuttle as if it were some kind of SUV or minivan. While Sally plants an explosive charge, Sonic announces that he's going after his family before Robo-Robotnik shuttles them back to the planet. Sonic is so intent on what he plans to do he passes up some chances to redisplay his standard hip-cool: when Sally tells him the station will blow up in less than five minutes, I fully expected a smartaleck comeback about Sal's generosity. But I suppose the hedgehog attitude was considered to be out of place for once. We then get a page of Sonic and Robo-Robotnik going mano-amano which like a professional wrestling bout suffers from a case of outside interference when Robo-Robotnik is beaned by a power ring thrown by...Sonic's parents! Sonic tears up (or what passes for it) and Robo-Robotnik freaks out because it just doesn't compute. Sonic gets his folks to the shuttle and they get away before the space station blows up and Steve Butler abuses the PhotoShop Blur once again. Seems that the power ring wedding bands Sonic bestowed on his folks at the beginning of "The Truth Is Out There" (S73) are not only symbols of marital fidelity and undying love (not to mention being rather elegant fashion statements), they also prevented Robo-Robotnik's re-establishment of control over their minds. So it's two down, two to go until the next hedgehog family reunion. And now, the denouement: we're shown "a secret sub-basement" underneath the castle, which makes me wonder whether it isn't anywhere near the room with the puddle of goo from "The Ultimatum." Let me get the remote: CLICK Hiya, friends, Karl Bollers here for Bollers' Bargain Basement 'Botnic Boutique. You say you're looking for a supervillain? You say you're tired of the Nauguses and the Dragos and the Kodoses? You say only Robotnik will do? Well, we've got 'em all right here, all factory-equipped, all licensed and loaded, and all 100% evil! We got biker Botniks, we got ninja Botniks, we got a Botnik that looks like Hulk Hogan! Or you can try out this spiffy Japanese import complete with laugh track. Check it out! So shuttle on down to Bollers' Bargain Basement 'Botnik Boutique! If you need a bot, you'll love what we got! Financing available. CLICK HEAD: Maybe Archie should rethink the use of back stories in the comics. If this story is any indication, the writers actually tell decent stories when they have the additional pages to work with. The action kept happening here with no real slack, and Karl was able to keep the narrative flowing with no dead spots. And aside from the business with "The Return" from S22, which was posited in a Mobius that has yet to come to pass, everything made sense. A gratifyingly strong story that managed to tie up a lot of loose ends. Too bad Bollers left a number of new ones in the story's wake. I almost hate to bring them up, but I have a few problems with this story: Isn't the existence of the secret room in the castle basement just a little TOO convenient? I mean, the King's been down there to commune with the goo, they had to clear a lot of space to be able to keep the Queen on ice, and think of all the clean-up that would have been going on since "Brave New World!" Why evacuate to Knothole if its existence is no longer a secret? After all, Robo-Robotnik targeted it with that time ray in "Retro-Activity" (S71), so he knows where to look. And where did those Shadow-Bots come from all of a sudden? OK, so I think about these things too much. Still, It was a better level of storytelling than we've had in a while. Head Score: 8. EYE: This is Steve Butler's "See ya!" before moving on to draw Knuckles starting with #33 while clearing the deck for Jim Valentino and an artist to be named later (in this review). A very effective fare-thee-well, but ease up on the PhotoShop tricks, huh? It's getting annoying already. Eye Score: 8. HEART: While Sonic's emotional range has been broadened (see pages 12 and 20), King Max remains something of a cold fish even when he finds out that Robo-Robotnik has taken Sally and the other Freedom Fighters prisoner. Guess which family is dysfunctional. But the story did feature a very heartening ending. Right up until we cut to the bots in the basement. Seeing as how this is a comic book, Archie has to concern itself with an ongoing story line in order to keep the book selling month by month. Back in the old Gallagher-Manak days, they could just play a story for laughs and move on to similar shtick the following month. That works in a comedy environment; after all, every Bugs and Elmer cartoon is pretty much a variation on the same theme: "Kill the wabbit!" But now that the comic is springboarding off the SatAM continuity into its own uncharted waters, such mere repetition just won't do. And although the writers have established an infinite universes element in the storyline (even moreso what with the introduction of Zonic the zonehog), they've apparently decided that they won't go that route. And I'm not the least bit sorry. IMHO it hasn't done the venerable characters such as Superman or Batman any good. Instead, we're going to have to put up with infinite Robotniks. The writers will simply plug the consciousness of Robo-Robotnik into a bot bod for two issues or ten issues or however long it takes to milk a particular incarnation dry, then switch to a new bod and start all over again. Having disposed of the SatAM-model Robotnik, Karl Bollers has switched to the Segabased Dr. Eggman model hence the title. The comic, then, appears to be ready to follow the lead of the 1960's cult TV series "The Prisoner," wherein they unveiled a new Number Two every week to bedevil Patrick McGoohan's Number Six. While the infinite Robotniks angle will allow some visual variety of villains, I shudder to think what this means for Sonic. After all, we're talking about an enemy (Robo-Robotnik) who will keep on coming back for more so long as he's got robot bodies to inhabit. Thus the Sonic the Hedgehog comic could also turn out to be something like the "Friday the Thirteenth" slasher movies, with Robo-Robotnik as Jason. Only the mask changes. This can get dreary if you keep it up long enough. I've come to like the Sonic Kids stories simply because they afford a break in the fighting. For that matter, so did a handful of other interlude stories such as "Running To Stand Still" (S54). I like to think that Sonic, along with the more well-known comic book characters, has a life beyond what we see. One can imagine Clark Kent actually doing some work around the Daily Planet, or Bruce Wayne attending a shareholder's meeting, or Peter Parker sweating out an exam (he IS still in high school, isn't he?). Fighting crime isn't a full-time job for them. But as for Sonic and Robo-Robotnik... I couldn't help but visualize the following scene (with the help of Stanley Kubrick): the young gap-toothed kid Sonic is pedaling his big wheel down a creepy-looking part of the Great Forest. Rounding a curve he stops and looks down the path at two identical ovoid-shaped kids who say in unison: "Hello, Sonic. Come fight with us. We want you to fight us forever...and ever...and ever." I think that even Job would feel sorry for Sonic's long-term prospects, and that if Sonic himself knew what he was in for he'd be tempted to open a vein. If the price of keeping the comic book alive is kissing the possibility of some kind of happy ending good-bye, there may not BE another 75 issues. But perhaps I'm painting too dark a picture. Hidden in "I Am The Eggman" are a couple of really good story ideas that the Archie brass might consider. And I promise I won't sue if you use one or both of them: Working title: "While You Were Sleeping." At some point Queen Alicia will either wake up or die she can't remain "in vitro" forever. And if she wakes, one of the realities she'll have to adjust to will be that her two "babies" are all grown up and battling evil. I can't help but think that it'd be a major jolt, like the episode of M*A*S*H where B. J. breaks down when he realizes how much of his own infant daughter's lifetime he's missed by being away from home. At the very least, bringing the Queen up to speed would afford just as good an excuse for doing a "clip show" as the alleged plot of "Back to Basics" (S57). Realistically, though, it'll probably never happen because Sonic isn't center stage and Sega would veto it. So I'll probably end up doing it as a fanfic someday. Untitled. Since Robo-Robotnik let slip the news as to the "fate" (ambiguous though it might be) of Borg Sonic and the Borg Royals, Sonic and/or Sally might be tempted to redress the imbalance. That would mean they'd be in trouble not only with Robo-Robotnik but with Zonic for screwing with the timestream. This one has a better chance of seeing the light of day, even with an ending where Borg Sonic succumbs to the inevitable. But it'd be interesting to see whether the creatives show the material the respect it deserves, or even if they have the guts to take it on. One last quibble: following Ken Penders' Beatlespeak practice of rendering titles in two parts, I'm tempted to retitle this story "I Am The Eggman (Where Is The Walrus?)" Rotor's continued absence has NOT been appreciated. Heart Score: 5. Off-Panel: Didn't I see this bit in the pilot episode of "L A LAW"? Then again, I always think of the theme from "L A LAW" whenever Serena changes into Sailor Moon because they sound so much alike. Sonic-Grams: Not only an explanation of Paul Castiglia's departure, but also of the moving of Butler and Eklund to the Knuckles books. And I don't know why they did such an off-hand introduction to the new kid on the block: "Fry. James Fry." I mean, this won't exactly be a "debut," since this appears to be the same Jim Fry who did the artwork for "Zone Wars: Prelude" (Special #8), the Sally/Sailor Moon teaser. Why couldn't the Powers That Be at Archie have mentioned that story, unless it wasn't as big a hit with the fans as we were led to believe in previous letters columns? Next up, though, is Knuckles #29 THAT I've been waiting for!