IDW’s SONIC THE HEDGEHOG is back! After the excitement of April’s week-to-week issues, it was tough to wait for the next installment. But finally, after a month, SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #5 races back to shelves.

And what can you expect? After laying familiar groundwork for the new series, Ian Flynn (on script) now begins to twist audience expectations to add a new dimension to an old villain. Does it work? There’s only so much I can say, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s an affirmative “yes.”

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Less Action and More Story are the Mark of this Plot

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #5 had to answer an outstanding question from Issue #4: what is Dr. Eggman up to? That comic ended with Eggman peering out of the slit in a set of blinds at a child’s broken wagon. Wearing his characteristic evil grin, he spoke a menacing line: “Soon, I’ll be fixing everything!” We were left to wonder what that meant.

Sometime after Issue #4, Sonic gets a solid lead on Eggman’s location. This is thanks to the Chaotix, the three-member detective posse of Sonic’s universe. From the team, it’s Espio the Chameleon who lets Sonic know that they were able to track Eggman down. Espio leads Sonic to a small village where the other two members, Vector and Charmy, have secured the evil genius.

Espio prepares to take Sonic to Eggman. Image courtesy of IDW.

As such, there is a decided lack of the action that typified the first four issues of the new series. Instead, SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #5 focuses on dialog. The reveal of Eggman requires a healthy dose of explanation, and that is what the story gives.

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Yet despite this, SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #5 feels just as exciting and interesting as each issue before it. Ian Flynn answers the questions around Dr. Eggman with more questions, deepening the intrigue. There’s a minor break for action near the end — followed by a wrap-up — but nothing felt boring or tedious. For such a major character in the series, that’s what this issue needed to do.

The Characters were a Little Underdeveloped

Despite Eggman’s grand entrance in SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #5, I felt that the other heroes fell a little flat. I’m speaking of the Chaotix, formerly Knuckle’s posse but now the de facto investigative arm of Sonic’s allies.

It didn’t hit me at first when reading, but the Chaotix don’t do much of importance in SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #5. As such, there isn’t much context to understand them as well as other characters introduced thus far. The series has introduced Tails, Amy Rose, Knuckles, Tangle, and Blaze (plus a few villains). In all cases, those characters were vital to the plot, either helping Sonic or interacting with the major opponent in some significant way. When we meet Espio in media res, he and Sonic are fighting, but it’s more of a background to the narrative summary the chameleon ninja provides. Similarly, Vector and Charmy show up to deliver their lines and then go away.

Espio fights alongside Sonic…but that’s about all he does. Image courtesy of IDW.

Therefore, if I was reading SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #5 for the first time, the Chaotix might fall a little flat. This is a shame, because the Chaotix — in the past — have taken a much more proactive role in stories, sometimes even driving their own. As an old reader of Sonic and player of the games (especially SONIC HEROES — I never had a 32X), I could rely on my knowledge of lore to fill in the gaps. But if IDW Sonic was my introduction to these beloved characters, they wouldn’t mean anything to me.

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Granted, I’m sure it’s not the last of the Chaotix we’ll see; Ian Flynn put them to great use during his time at Archie. Yet as for their IDW incarnation, their introduction was an unexpected weakness.

Tracey Yardley’s Art Shines — as Always

And finally, after a four-issue hiatus, Tracey Yardley is back penciling Sonic. Granted, I enjoyed seeing the other artists’ work in the interim, but it’s fun to have his familiar style back.

And what about his art is familiar? Tracey Yardley trades his excellent ability to give clear, unambiguous action sequences with clear, unambiguous character emotions. So much of the drama of this story happens in the way characters respond to the information they’re receiving. We see Sonic’s skeptical appraisal of the Chaotix’s assurance that Eggman is safe in custody. The mad doctor himself emotes through the way he walks through the villages. Grimaces, grins, and eyebrows tell this story, and Tracey Yardley has full command of all of these.

And, as a fun tag-along, a lot of this issue is in flashback (indicated by a sepia overlay on the panels). There are shots of old instances of Sonic and Eggman fighting throughout the last 10 years of video games. Fans of the series will get a load of the Egg Viper, Amy’s old nemesis Zero, and even the Time Eater from SONIC GENERATIONS. These Easter eggs are rewards for us older fans — and don’t bog down the story for the new.

The Chaotix look for Eggman in a flashback sequence. Image courtesy of IDW.

And on that Note, an “Old Fan” looks at Eggman…

While writing this article, you wouldn’t believe how many times I almost wrote “Dr. Robotnik.” So for the rest of the time, I’ll indulge my old habits by referring to mad doctor by his American name (recalling, of course, “Eggman” was always in use by Sega of Japan).

Over the years, I’ve seen Robotnik go through all kinds of forms in the video games, TV shows, and comic books. He’s been everything from deliciously evil to  sympathetically comical (“El Gran Gordo,” for example). And yet throughout all of this, he’s always been Sonic’s primary villain — destined to fail. That’s right. If you go on the video games alone, the story isn’t done until Robotnik loses. How do you write this villain in a compelling way?

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One of the best answers came from the comic books (and, coincidentally, Ian Flynn and Tracey Yardley). In Archie’s SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #200, Robotnik snaps. He can’t take defeat any more. The break-down scene — when he even rips out his mustache — moved me then and stayed with me even now. It was a twist on the same pattern of “Sonic beats Robotnik, Robotnik comes back scarier.”

That moment when your arch-villain can’t take fate anymore. From SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #200, image courtesy of Archie Comics.

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #5 has a slightly different but related answer. And from that, I’m so, so glad to see Robotnik still surprise me — and Sonic — even after so many years. It seems inconceivable that the story of Sonic and Robotnik has gone on for almost 30 years — and who knows why? But one reason, I think, is the villain, written always to be changing, getting deadlier, and being more cunning. Sonic may beat Robotnik, but Sonic’s had to chase him down each and every time.

Final Thoughts on SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #5

Ian Flynn subverts the expectations I had for Eggman in SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #5, making it the most surprising issue of the new series yet. I can honestly say that I didn’t see the first (or second!) twists coming. Although the Chaotix were not presented in the best way, this was still a fun issue that you don’t want to miss. Pick it up at your local comic shop or here!

And, once again, it’s my regret to inform the fanbase that the next issue will be a month away. SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #6 releases on June 27th. Don’t miss out!

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #5 by Ian Flynn (script), Tracey Yardley (art), Jim Amash (inks), Matt Herms (colors), Corey Breen (letters), and Kieran Gates (cover)
SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #5 finally sees the full-fledged return of Dr. Eggman to IDW Sonic — and it couldn’t be better. Ian Flynn provides a script that swaps up the typical action for a slower, more contemplative issue that answers existing questions with more questions. Tracey Yardley also returns to the series, showing how he can handle quiet, character moments just as well as full-blown action. The only downside to this issue was the depiction of the Chaotix. They didn’t do much to drive the plot, and as such, new readers may not pick up on how important they are to the Sonic universe. All in all, SONICH THE HEDGEHOG #5 surprised me in ways I didn’t see coming, showing that my favorite villain still has the means to challenge Sonic for the foreseeable future.
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