SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #3 had me laughing out loud. Although there was a lot of new information in this comic, the tone was still light and fun. Ian Flynn packed the script with hilarious banter between Sonic and Knuckles, backed up by Jennifer Hernandez’s expressive art and Heather Breckel’s vibrant colors. This comic was a good introduction to Knuckles and two new characters to appear in the IDW Sonic universe.

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The end of SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #2 had Amy Rose telling Sonic about the whereabouts of Knuckles the Echidna. Knuckles, commander of the Resistance, was investigating a town in the South. When Sonic reaches him, we find out the investigation has to do with a sudden halt in the supply of “wispons” to the Resistance.

“Yo Knux! What’s up?” Image courtesy of IDW.

Wispons first appeared in SONIC FORCES as a way for unnamed heroes to have superpowers. Without going into the lore too much, wispons are powered by sentient aliens known as wisps. In SONIC COLORS, Eggman steals the planet from which the wisps hail and enslaves the race, harnessing their life-force for a mind-control ray. In that game, Sonic teams up with the wisps to foil Eggman’s plan, and they part on amicable terms.

It’s in SONIC RUNNERS where we learn that some of the wisps stayed on Sonic’s planet — they had grown to like it. Thus, when the events of SONIC FORCES take place, the wisps agree to be weaponized in the fight against Eggman. When we get to the IDW continuity, the wisps still agree to power the wispons used to mop up the remaining badniks.

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Yet the good news is that you don’t have to understand any of that backstory above to appreciate SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #3. Ian Flynn manages to include just the important details to set up the drama of this issue. There are named villains who control the very weapons needed to defeat the robots. And in doing so, those villains have terrorized the citizens of the town into submission. Looks like a job for Sonic and Knuckles.

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I couldn’t stop smiling while reading SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #3. Ian Flynn struck gold by focusing on the comedic overtones of a somewhat darker story. Comedy ensues when Sonic and Knuckles interact with the townsfolk, and in doing so, we get a peek at both of their personalities. Although Sonic has his typical dose of playful insouciance, to Knuckles, everything is deadly serious. I won’t spoil my favorite joke in the issue.

Notice the pronouns Sonic uses — it’s a team effort. Image courtesy of IDW.

On that note, one thing lacking — which is rather telling — is any note of rivalry between Sonic and Knuckles. To give a little context to what I mean, I’ll cite these lyrics from SONIC ADVENTURE 2. In that video game, the background music was performed by rapper Hunnid-P, and this imagined exchange between Knuckles and Sonic (from “Deeper”) always makes me chuckle:

Sonic, what are you doin’ here?

I heard you were on a quest to find the Master Emerald

You know me and you don’t get along

I don’t think that’s the point right now, Knuckles

I know how much the emerald means to you

And I wanna help get it back

Stop bein’ stubborn and think

Well I guest you’re right

Ya damn right, Knuckles

Sonic and Knuckles willingly help each other in SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #3 without a shred of hesitation. There’s a camaraderie between the two that hints at a greater maturity in both of them.

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In the end, that camaraderie does wonders for the plot. What could have a been a story about one-upping each other becomes instead about what they can do to help the people of this town. And when they do meet the villains, their delightful wackiness makes the whole story even better.

Art Enhances the Character-Driven Story

As opposed to the two issues that preceded it, SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #3 has very little action. The story is part investigation, part confrontation — and even then, the climax is resolved through speech. To tell this story, the IDW team called on Archie-Sonic veteran Jennifer Hernandez and colorist Heather Breckel.

Hernandez shines at depicting the emotional states of the characters. Without words, we can know exactly what they are thinking — all from the way she handles their postures, eyelids, lips, and eyebrows. Even though I praised Flynn’s script for its excellent writing, this is one comic where I think you could pick up on the emotional nuance without words. Truly the moments that brought me the most laughs were not what Flynn wrote, but how Hernandez depicted the moment.

One of the sillier moments of the issue — I love the facial expressions in the last three panels! Image courtesy of IDW.

Also enhancing the story told by Hernandez and Flynn is Heather Breckel’s colors. Although not as complex as some of the color work seen on this series to date, I believe that helps this story. It keeps the emphasis on the characters, staying true to the plot of the comic.

Final Thoughts on SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #3

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #3 is my favorite in the series so far. Not only was it good comedic fun, but I’m getting the sense that the exposition is over and the series arc is afoot. Here, we meet some villains, and we finally get to see where the mysterious “watcher” is aiming his (or her) sights.

In truth, SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #3 is deeper than just the superficial enjoyment I derived from it. This comes from the fact that villains are not robotic — they’re just like the rest of the people. Yet what makes them evil is their willingness to exploit the fear of the citizens to give themselves power and prestige.

With Eggman out, a new form of villainy is on the rise: exploitation. Image courtesy of IDW.

Also hiding in the plot is the matter of the wispons. These weapons, remember, are powered by sentient beings. At the climax of the story, Sonic and Knuckles are held at wispon-point by the villains. How our heroes get out of that situation involves remembering that the beings inside the guns make a choice to be used as weapons. This entire drama ends up being a commentary on concessions to power versus personal agency to act.

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In the end, SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #3 hides a smart theme behind the visage of a comic for kids. This has always been a hallmark of Sonic media outside of the games — from SatAM to Archie’s own series. So from script to art, through and through, I can declare that Sonic is back in force at IDW. With just one more issue due for this month, I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

And one final thought: adapting the video games

It’s a good thing that SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #3 takes most of its cues from the recent video games. Throughout it’s run, Archie Sonic — which had its own continuity — had to add bits to its stories as Sega released new games. This meant that whenever the video games deviated from the comics, the comics had to come up with a way to accommodate. One particularly dramatic moment I remember was when Archie had to update characters for SONIC ADVENTURE. The game featured a teenaged Amy Rose, but in the comics, Amy was the still a child. SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #81 includes her explanation:

Amy Rose takes stock of her “growth spurt.” In SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #81, courtesy of Archie Comics.

With SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #3 picking up from the continuity of the modern video games, any changes in the games should be seamless. For that much, I can be thankful — or not. Because without a doubt, the IDW stories will take their cues from the games, serving, perhaps, as filler between new installments, devoid of any originality they could have. So, what ultimately liberates the comics from unplanned changes puts a huge creative block on the series.

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Yet for what it’s worth, I like the way the story in the series and the recent games has gone. Certainly the way SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #3 hides a dark story underneath a light-hearted tone shows that Ian Flynn is capable of writing within any potential confines. Nevertheless, what I think would be really interesting is if the bridge between the comics and games becomes two-way. Will we see original characters from the comics enter into the video games? Only the future can tell. For now, I’m a little more worried about the movie coming out — and how Sega/IDW will adapt that.

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #3 by Ian Flynn, Jennifer Hernandez, Heather Breckel, Corey Breen, and Tyson Hesse
SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #3 is the most fun I’ve had with any recent comic (other than the others in the series). Ian Flynn wastes no time in progressing the series by having Sonic meet up with Knuckles to investigate suspicious behavior in a southern settlement. What results is best described as a “buddy cop” adventure -- full of way more humor than I expected. The perspicacious art of Jennifer Hernandez, complemented by the colors of Heather Breckel, brings believable emotion to this character-driven plot, making it my favorite issue yet in the series.
100 %
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