SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #14 is not the comic I was expecting after issue #13. This is not to say it was a bad story; rather, it focused on a character more than the overarching plot. That character, as the cover art hints, is none other than Dr. Starline, the canon super-fan of Dr. Eggman. How did I think it did? Read on to find out.

The Plot of SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #14 is a Showcase of Dr. Starline

When it comes down to it, SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #14 completes the remaining character showcase for the IDW series. Ian Flynn introduced Dr. Starline back in issue #11, and although we’ve seen him with Dr. Eggman, this is the first time he fights Sonic. Therefore, even though Metal Sonic shows up to the heavy fighting, Dr. Starline gets in on the action.

The result is positive, in my mind, but still mixed. On the plus side, Flynn delivers a very well-paced story. The action lasts just as long as it needs to before cutting away to Sonic and Dr. Starline talking. And then, as the panels fill up with the word balloons, back comes the action, told through Tracy Yardley’s excellent art. I had to step away and go back through the story with my analytical brain because enjoyment distracted me.

So what was the less-than-positive? It had to do with the fact that the story seemed self-aware. Though not quite metafiction (yes, I’ll use that word in discussing a Sonic comic), there are elements in Flynn’s script that hit those notes. From Sonic’s quip in the page below, to even Starline’s shrewd, by-the-numbers scheme, there’s a feeling of pretense on which I can’t quite place my finger. This isn’t necessarily negative, but it did dull the impact of the tale. I think that’s because I kind of knew what to expect before the plot delivered it.

Sonic says to Silver what we’re all thinking. Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

When I read a story, I want to be surprised by what I’m experiencing. I know Sonic won’t die, so intrigue comes from the surprising things characters do. Save for one excellent, climactic surprise, there just wasn’t that much surprising in this story.

This Story Really is About the Characters — At Least the Bad Guys

That being said, don’t pass up reading SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #14. Starline finally gets a chance to show off. For the whole issue, we see him pretty much win against Sonic and Silver, the focal heroes of the comic. We see that he is cunning, skilled, and effective, using the Warp Topaz to defend against the good side’s attacks. And when even his defense fails, he proves his brain and ability to manipulate others is where his power truly sits.

Dr. Starline introduces himself to Sonic. Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

But the best part of the comic for me comes from the concluding pages of the book when we see Dr. Eggman talk with Dr. Starline. There we see a point of growth between their relationship. Dr. Starline finally understands what Sonic means to Dr. Eggman — both literally as an enemy and as a life-long nemesis. The conversation that occurs between the two takes a different direction than what Dr. Starline thought, and that was great to see. It was an unpredictable moment in an otherwise predictable story.

Other than these two, though, none of the characters grow much more. Sonic and Silver are on call to represent the hero team. In the end, though, Silver is mostly there to get Sonic into (and out of) trouble. Metal Sonic shows up purely as a procedural obstacle to lengthen the altercation. Amy Rose does show up, but only at the end as a way to tease the next comic. Of course I thought Amy was great in her scene — but she was a bit outside the rest of the story. All in all, the bad guys steal the show.

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #14’s Art Elevates the Story

I’m glad that the powers that be chose Tracy Yardley to illustrate this comic. Yardley has a knack for Sonic action, both in blocking panels and in choosing what details to emphasize. He also is great at using character poses and expressions to reveal the emotional state of whomever is working. Both of his skills dovetail well with Flynn’s script that relies on deft switching between action and conversation. I’ve praised Tracy Yardley before, and I’ll praise him again. He definitely met the challenge inherent in SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #14.

Metal and Sonic go head-to-head. Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

And yet I should also mention the coloring work by Leonardo Ito. There are a few subtle touches that I really liked about this work. For one, this issue takes place in the snow. From what I can tell, all of the snowflakes that buffet Sonic and Silver are from the coloration. In a setting that also could have been pure white, we see variations in the color of the snow. Although there were some instances when character shadows were missing, I can chalk that up to it being a cloudy day. Ito’s work, in other words, sold the raw conditions faced by everyone at Eggman’s abandoned base. I did not expect this, so that was cool (no pun intended, of course).

Sonic and Silver trudge through the snow as they make their way to the base. Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

Final Thoughts on SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #14

Since the IDW series introduced Dr. Starline, I couldn’t help but see an old Archie character: Dr. Finitevus. I am not the only one to observe this (see this wonderful illustration by Penthovels). I won’t go into detail about Dr. Finitevus, mostly because his complete story is long and complicated. But, suffice it to say, Dr. Starline bears both an aesthetic resemblance to this doctor as well as using warping as a special ability.

Dr. Finitevus in action using his Warp Ring. Not the Warp Topaz. From SONIC UNIVERSE #10, image courtesy of Archie Comics.

But here’s the thing: the resemblance ends there. Dr. Finitevus was a typical Archie Comics villain: someone whose global ambitions often came in conflict with Robotnik’s. As such, the saying about “the enemy of my enemy” would often apply whenever a new villain came about.

Dr. Starline is not that kind of villain — at least not yet. He idolizes Eggman and wants nothing more than to work with him. I think this dynamic is new; I can’t think of another Sonic villain who didn’t see courting Eggman’s favor as a way of advancing their own agenda. Granted, I think we see in SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #14 elements of that posture beginning to erode. Dr. Starline is learning what everyone else knows: Eggman isn’t interested in partners but lackeys. If Dr. Starline rebels agains that hierarchy, that is a story I want to see.

So in the end, I can’t say I was as excited about SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #14 as I have with the other comics in the series. Nevertheless, it did a good job at what it set out to do: showcase a villain. Now that that is taken care of, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #14 by Ian Flynn (script), Tracy Yardley (art), Leonardo Ito (colors), Shawn Lee (letters), Lamar Wells and Adam Bryce Thomas (cover), and Megan Brown and David Mariotte (editors)
SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #14's plot is all about Dr. Starline attempting to prove to Dr. Eggman that he’s a capable colleague. Unfortunately, that plot gets lost a little bit in the somewhat perfunctory and predictable action that plays out for most of the comic. Nevertheless, the strong character moments between Eggman and Starline bring the story to a satisfying ending — at least as far as Starline’s character is concerned. Tracy Yardley and Leonardo Ito deliver high-quality art perfect for the mix of action and dialogue Ian Flynn wrote into the script. This issue does have me excited about the next.
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