SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #4 is the powerful conclusion to the issue-per-week adventure of IDW’s new comic. This issue not only introduces a new character — Tangle the Lemur — but we finally get a glimpse of where the series will be going next. As before, Ian Flynn delivers the script with Matt Herms and Corey Breen providing the colors and lettering (respectively). Evan Stanley, a veteran of Archie Sonic and her own fan comics returns to provide the art.

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The Robots Up the Ante

After leaving Knuckles in issue #3, SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #4 shows Sonic encountering a city in peril. An over-sized buzzbomber badnik is dropping legion upon legion of Eggman’s robots into the city streets. Sonic rushes in, only to find the local militia fighting the robots. Noting that the Resistance isn’t there to help, he jumps into the fray. After a well-placed slide, he takes out two robots and quickly looks for more. Yet what he finds instead is another warrior, quick at work dismantling robots with her tail.

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Sonic jumps in to help. Image courtesy of IDW.

This is our introduction to IDW Sonic’s newest character, Tangle the Lemur. The city under attack is her hometown, and although she’s fought off the raids before, the latest raid is a challenge. Unlike Sonic, who uses his speed and spikes to smash enemies with force, Tangle uses trickery and subtlety. Her tail seems both prehensile and extendable; with it, she smashes and tangles up enemy robots, controlling the combat environment.

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Tangle shows her moves. Image courtesy of IDW.

But before they have too much time to admire their combat abilities, more badniks fly in, intent on destroying the city. It takes every bit of their effort — Sonic and Tangle — to avoid defeat. Ultimately, they’re saved by another surprise entrant to the fray: Blaze the Cat. The flame-shooting, guardian princess from a parallel dimension tells Sonic that the Sol Emeralds — her world’s Chaos Emeralds — called her to Sonic’s world. This has happened to Blaze before, so when she shows up, Sonic’s world is generally heading to the pits.

And so, despite a twist of a teaser at the end, SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #4 is straightforward and simple. There’s plenty of robot smashing and a whole lot of peril.

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Character Teamwork Saves the Day

Yet within that simple plot is something that the IDW comics haven’t explored: the threat of defeat. In other words, SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #4 was the first issue to make me feel the calamity of the world.

During issues #1-#3, Sonic meets his old friends, and together, they smash robots. In all cases, Ian Flynn gives the combat enough of a break for those characters to inform Sonic (and the reader) about the rest of the world. Though action is intense when it happens, it’s almost secondary to the plot. The real focus is the characters, and the robots let them show how cool they are.

This is not the case in SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #4. Ian Flynn seems to know that he’s let Sonic off easy before, so he doubles down on the conflict. The robots don’t let up the assault on the village, even when Sonic pairs with Tangle — and the comic makes you feel that. Even when Blaze shows up — someone just as strong as Sonic — her effort isn’t enough. Instead, to overcome the challenges put forth in SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #4, the characters have to team up.

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Sonic and Tangle can’t catch a break. Image courtesy of IDW.

This is the development I am happiest to see return to Sonic. A consistent theme of Sonic media has always been teamwork. Although Sonic, Tails, Amy, Knuckles, and Blaze — and now Tangle — are competent fighters on their own, they all work better as a team. One could argue that failing to see this has always been Dr. Eggman’s downfall. Obsessed with Sonic, he fails to see that Sonic is just one part of a machine of the forces of good. And through teamwork — especially when Sonic falls — the heroes can overcome any challenge or obstacle.

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The Art Represented a Tonal Shift in the Series Thus Far

But when it comes to those obstacles and the peril they create, they have to be believable. In this realm, the art team of SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #4 delivers by departing from conventions set by the previous issues.

Matt Herms’ Color Palette Is Grey and Grim

In Issues #1-#3, Sonic and the world around him are bright. The sky is blue, grass is green, and buildings take on the colors you’d expect. Sonic, too, is his trademarked blue, as if the world assumes he’s always well-lit. As such, those issues took on a tone that reflected the color palette: one that behaves as we expect. It’s hard to feel in danger on a bright, sunny day.

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This is not the case in SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #4. The world is dark. The blue sky we’ve come to expect is grey, swirled with mustard-yellow clouds. The buildings are grey and broken heaps of rubble. Sonic takes on a purple tone, almost like a bruise. Even Blaze — who shoots fire — is only lit from the flames in her hands. To contrast all of this, who is saturated? Who are tints of bright primary colors, looking fresh and relaxed? The badniks.

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Sonic approaches the city under attack. Image courtesy of IDW.

Evan Stanley Balances Brutality with Comedy

It’s not just the color palette that sets the perilous tone of this story. Evan Stanley’s art shows the effects of damage unlike anyone else in this series before her. We see badniks ripped apart by their own bullets, and bits of armor fly off from impact. We see Tangle and Sonic both get damaged — or at least spun around. Stanley shows that fighting is dirty and dangerous work.

At the same time, she has a great eye for comedic effect, keeping the tone from plummeting completely into despair. She depicts the silly reactions of the characters to their impossible odds. This light-hearted approach to the visceral peril they face makes the cast of SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #4 match the tone of the issues before. But the new take on the color palette — as well as showing combat for what it is — shifts the series to an exciting, new place.

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Tangle gets her tail singed after dispatching robots. Image courtesy of IDW.

If I have any issues with the art, it’s that the fade-transitions Stanley drew were a little hard to follow. When you designate transitory motion by dropping the saturation of objects against an already gray background, the effect gets lost. But even still, this didn’t disrupt the story inherent in the layout of the art — it was more of a temporary distraction.

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Final Thoughts on SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #4

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #4 took the IDW series to an old place as it continues to innovate the series. For the old, it’s good to see Sonic in a place of danger once again. Victory was not inevitable in this issue, and neither was it gained through ease. For the new, I thought Tangle was a delight. Like a lot of Sonic characters, she’s in possession of a fair level of chipperness, but it’s matched by a level-headed and crafty approach to combat. In an ensemble-cast universe like Sonic, Ian Flynn does a good job of keeping characters’ voices unique; Tangle is no exception.

But again, what I really loved about the issue was the art of Evan Stanley and colors of Matt Herms. I didn’t notice the grayer, darker colors on my first reading, but I did feel it. It was a great artistic decision, and I hope SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #4 sets this precedent for future issues to come. I want to explore a world where hope is on the rise but not yet the final victor.

And a final word on the new Sonic

That’s a wrap! After an intense four weeks of back-to-back reviews, the “Gotta Go Fast” blitz of IDW Sonic has come to an end.  Although it’s sad that there won’t be another Sonic comic until a month from now, I am happy that I am feeling sad about that. Sonic feels like he’s back, and the IP feels fresher than ever.

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I’m happy to report — at least from my opinion — that everything that made Archie Sonic great is back in IDW Sonic. These past four issues have spanned the gamut of characters and tones the old readers have come to expect.

So writing as a Sonic fan and a fan of comic books, I am thankful to Ian Flynn and the entire creative team of IDW’s new book. I’ll be covering what I can of the new series and supporting it on my own. The future is bright for Sonic the Hedgehog at IDW, and I couldn’t be happier.

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #4 by Ian Flynn, Evan Stanley, Matt Herms, Corey Breen, and Tyson Hesse
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #4 takes the IDW Sonic series to new places. Not only do we get a new character, Tangle the Lemur, but Blaze the Cat returns as well. The action is brought to life by Evan Stanley and Matt Herms, who shift the tone of the comic from light-hearted to gritty and grim. ISSUE #4 shows just how far IDW Sonic can go in its exploration of the series — and I couldn’t be happier.
98 %
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