Comics

How Archie Played The Games, Part 6B: Of Silver Hedgehogs and Falling Islands


You know, it’s almost hard to believe that it’s been fifteen years since SonicQuest: The Death Egg Saga was originally published. Coming out right at the tail end of the Golden Age of the Archie series, it promised to give the readers everything they were asking for, a fun little detour as the main series began to amp itself up for “Endgame,” the four part storyline that also is seeing its fifteenth anniversary this year. Causing far more controversy than the writers were intending, Endgame was designed to be the final chapter of the comic book if it was to see cancellation in the wake of the Saturday morning series ending, and although the series instead continued to be published (and still thrives to this day), it was certainly the end of an era. SonicQuest, though it has its faults, still exists in that pre-Endgame state of mind, surely assisted by the writing style of Mike Gallagher. In fact, there is only one more game adaptation before “Endgame” would change everything…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Picking up where we left off yesterday, we continue with SonicQuest: The Death Egg Saga, the pseudo-adaptation of Sonic 2, 3 & Knuckles, even though we already had adaptations of the latter two. So let’s find out what the heck’ll happen next.

With Sonic and “Tails” both on the Death Egg without the other knowing, we’re able to turn the page and rejoin Knothole, where Princess Sally continues to stand next to the fallen image of her father. Using Nicole, she desperately looks for some answer to her father’s deteriorating state, even though she already sent two teams of Freedom Fighters on a quest for rings to help ease his crystallization. Faster than you can dunk a sproket in a pot of coffee, Rotor B. Walrus arrives back on the scene, giving the princess a status report. First off are the status of Antoine and Bunnie (remember them?) and how they were temporarily lost in the Great Forest until Bunnie took over command of navigation, the pair now on their way to the Ring Grotto that is apparently much farther away than it should be. Sonic and “Tails,” on the other hand, have yet to report in, and while we the reader know that it’s because somehow the giant Death Egg satellite is jamming their communications, the other Freedom Fighters are unaware of the true nature of the situation, Sally unable to hold back tears at the news. This sudden burst of emotion comes out of left field and, to be quite honest, seems a bit uncomfortable. She claims its just the stress and how everything they’ve been working for is coming apart at the seams but…is it really? The fight against Robotnik is still where it’s always been, the only difference is that King Acorn is laying in bed as half a crystal. The King’s physical health, while nice, isn’t the deciding factor between victory and failure, Sally. Either way, the readers are given a hint that King Acorn is aware of his situation even if he is unable to convey it, a single tear rolling down his cheek as Sally cries into Rotor’s bosom. Boo hoo hoo indeed.

Back in the cockpit of the Death Egg, the disguised “Tails” stands and watches as Dr. Ivo Robotnik plots a course to get the one thing he needs to make everything fully operational – a Chaos Emerald. When he learns where the doctor is heading, “Tails” is shocked, though to be quite honest, he shouldn’t be. If you need a Chaos Emerald quick and don’t know where else to look, where would you go? That’s right: the Floating Island. It isn’t long before the eclipsing figure gains the attention of Knuckles the Echidna, who is standing on the edge of “The Eternal River.” See, that’s one thing that’s always bothered me about the Floating Island. How is it possible for it to even have a continuously flowing river? I can understand standing water such as a lake, but a river needs to go somewhere. Is it just a circle, or does it actually fall off the edge of the island? And if its the latter, how does it replenish itself? It can’t be the ocean, and if the island is floating above the clouds, it mustn’t be seeing that much rainfall…eh, I’m probably overthinking things here.

After describing in excruciating detail how he is able to glide (let’s be honest here, how many people have sat down and thought about the physics involved in Knuckles’ abilities?), the echidna lifts himself into the air to get a closer look at the object heading towards his island. The guardian doesn’t get much of a chance, as one of the eyes of the Death Egg decides to zap him. Nothing fatal, of course…wait, why isn’t it fatal? Or at least an attempt at roboticization? I mean, that’s the whole point of the ship! You’d think Robotnik would be able to roboticize one person, but no. He just stuns him a bit. How exciting. Knuckles quickly falls, but is caught by Mighty the Armadillo, who is joined by the rest of the Chaotix. Forget who the Chaotix are? Don’t worry, the comic will tell you who they are in the most awkward way possible. We also get to see Archimedes the Fire Ant, Knuckles’ mentor-thing previously introduced in the original Knuckles the Echidna mini-series. Curious as to his backstory? Even if you are, don’t fret, because you don’t need to know any of it for the purposes of this comic.

Since he must be bored with Knuckles, Dr. Robotnik drops two gigantic Burrobots from the Death Egg, though they look more like miscolored Grounders than anything else. Once they land, each goes in opposite directions, with Robotnik gloating from his Death Egg about how they will find the two Chaos Emeralds hiding out on the island, destroying anything in their paths. “Tails” is of course still there, watching silently and doing absolutely nothing. Sure, he thinks about stopping Robotnik, but I guess standing there being useless is far more satisfying.

Archimedes tells Knuckles that the Burrobots have to be there for only one reason – to get the Chaos Emeralds, as at this point there are two on the island. One from the original adaptations I’ve talked about before, and a second that was gathered during the events of Super Sonic Vs. Hyper Knuckles. While the entire Chaotix team stand around for a while because, hey, who needs to actually do anything in this comic, they decide on the most obvious course of action – stop the robots from getting the emeralds. Thus, we’re treated to a two-page spread of…

…oh. Right. These are the other miscolored pages. And how about that, the Burrobots are still miscolored, regardless if they’re the Sonic 1 enemy or the Grounders of Sonic 2. Even if they weren’t miscolored, the page is still ridiculous. I mean, Vector fights one of the Burrobots by taking a log and stabbing it. Which somehow works. Because a random tree is a great way to pierce metal. I know he is piercing it because the sound effect is incredibly helpful on this page. And…what the heck is Charmy even doing?

Back in the Death Egg, Sonic has finally made his way up to the bridge, destroying SWATbots left and right without Robotnik even being alerted to Sonic’s presence on his brand new battle station. Robotnik must have some really terrible security up there…usually the SWATbots can’t wait to shout at their leader that they have Sonic in their sights. “Tails,” apparently also done with standing around and doing nothing, resolves to take off his disguise and stop the mad doctor’s latest scheme, at the same time Sonic turning the corner and eying up the SWATbot shell, not knowing that his buddy is inside. Oh man, wonder what wacky shenanigans are about to happen next!

Before we’re treated to that latest misunderstanding, we get to see Robotnik lose his mind, annoyed that Knuckles and the rest of the Chaotix stopped his robots. What was he expecting? You’ve run into Knuckles how many times at this point? Either way, insanity prevails, with Plan “B” apparently being “run the Death Egg straight into the island.” And this is where the comic loses me.

I neglected to mention this earlier, but when the Burrobots had fallen from the sky, Knuckles’ explanation of the situation was to stop Robotnik from getting the Chaos Emeralds not because he would suddenly have access to incredible power that would surely spell the end of the rebellion, but because the island would fall into the ocean. Which everyone seems to treat as the worst thing ever. Why is that? Is the island going to explode if it makes contact with a wet surface? The only reason the island is floating in the games is so that the Master Emerald is kept safely away from the rest of the world. In the comics, at least at this point, it isn’t doing any such thing. It just is an island that happens to float. In reality things would probably be a lot easier for Knuckles if the island was grounded. Robotnik certainly wouldn’t care to look at it. It would just be a generic island in the middle of the ocean instead of the easy target it is through the rest of the series. But once again, maybe I’m overthinking it too much…

With the Death Egg’s weight pushing against one side of the island, the Chaos Emerald that keeps it afloat tries with all its might to stop its descent, but it doesn’t take long for the island to tilt to one side, causing the cast to hold onto the island with all its might. Knuckles, however, lifts himself into the air to get a better look at the situation, watching the Death Egg crashing itself into Mount Fate, the island beginning to sink into the water. Oh no!

With that dramatic cliffhanger, let’s head on to issue number three, entitled “Over Easy.” Man, with all these egg puns, you’d think the name of the villain would also have the word egg in it or something! After the briefest recapping of the first two issues, we see Robotnik gloating once more, proclaiming that he will sink the Floating Island into the sea, drown everyone and recover the Chaos Emerald afterward. That makes a bit more sense than just crashing into the island for no reason, but I still feel like there has to be a better way to go about things. Then again, if there was, they wouldn’t be able to recreate the iconic scene of the Death Egg crashing into the island immortalized in the title screen of Sonic & Knuckles, so I suppose its a fair tradeoff.

Though Robotnik is sure of his success, he is unaware of both Sonic and “Tails” being right there, with “Tails” ducking out so he can make his grand re-entrance undisguised. The two-tailed fox doesn’t get the chance, because just as the last issue teased, Sonic mistakes him as the real deal. Doing that very odd “I must describe every action I am committing” dialogue, it only takes a couple panels for Sonic to register that things aren’t as they seem, since the voice of the SWATbot sounds familiar. With the poking out of two very distinct tails, Sonic realizes what he’s done, apologizing for attacking his best friend. I am a bit surprised “Tails” didn’t go into some strange rant about how great his disguise was since it even fooled Sonic the Hedgehog, though.

With the two reunited, Sonic turns his sights on Robotnik, lunging at the obese doctor in the hopes of knocking him out. His jump is halted midway, the hedgehog crashing right into plexiglass. The dictator turns his head to say he heard Sonic’s oncoming approach (maybe he shouldn’t have described out loud his destroying of every SWATbot he encountered) and stands to watch as Sonic is sealed in the corridor, some unknown yet assumingly poisonous gas filling the chamber. While things look dire, the tide is turned when “Tails,” still clad in the SWATbot suit but without the helmet, crashes through the eye of the Death Egg, firing wildly at the controls while Robotnik’s face melts. Yes, Sonic is freed from certain doom, but I’m more curious as to how “Tails” got outside in the first place. And ether SWATbots are the most powerful things in existence, or Robotnik really went cheap with the eye material.

The destruction of the controls also cause the Death Egg’s thrusters to reverse, making everyone in the cockpit lose their footing as the Floating Island becomes free of the pressure. Robotnik is able to escape first, somehow having a stabilizer forcefield built into his robotic arm that allows him to gain his footing faster than anyone else. With one quick jump, he falls down a shoot into his auxiliary control room. Meanwhile, back on the Floating Island, we get to see the Chaotix do absolutely nothing. Remember how last issue we had this stunning cliffhanger with Knuckles right at the center of it? Remember holding the cover, seeing Sonic and Knuckles standing together, promising the two teaming up once more and putting aside their differences? Yeah, none of that happens. Knuckles just gets to stand on a rock, look at the Death Egg leave, and tells the Chaotix to bugger off and give him any damage reports from the island. Glad you could be in this one, Knucklehead.

With Robotnik in his super secret control room, he begins to broadcast his face all over the ship to taunt Sonic and “Tails” once more, revealing his latest invention. Seems that back during the Mecha Madness arc, Robotnik took the time to study the workings of the roboticized Sonic, and from the notes he took built something even more powerful than Sonic: the gargantuan Silver Sonic. Now, the name Silver Sonic is one of those funny things, because for years people would refer to the robot version of Sonic in the Sonic 2 games as Silver, even though his real name is Mecha Sonic. But, since that wasn’t a well known fact, and remembering that Archie had already used the Mecha Sonic name to not only describe Metal Sonic but the roboticized version of Sonic…well, having another Mecha on the pile would have been a bit too much. So Silver Sonic it is then!

The fight between the two looks incredibly one sided, with all of Sonic’s signature moves doing nothing to the robot. Heck, he even uses a figure-eight powered punch to no avail. Once again, not sure how that would even work. Silver grabs Sonic, crashes him into the ground, and actually rips apart the metallic floor with Sonic’s head. How Sonic can even still be conscious at this point, I have no idea. Even Sonic is a bit weary, but Silver’s violence has caused some live wiring to be exposed. With quick thinking, Sonic takes the live wire by the hand (kids, don’t try this at home!) and zaps the robot duplicate, putting it out of commission.

Watching the events unfold live, Robotnik is not ready to take this sitting down. Running behind a changing wall, the crazy doctor suits himself up in the Eggs-O-Skelton, yet another egg-punned device that makes him look half-roboticized. Seeing Robotnik flying off psyched up to pummel Sonic is a bit amusing, but there is that part of me who would have really liked to see the Death Egg Mecha show up instead…maybe if it was a more direct adaptation, I would feel more strongly about it.

With the entire power of the Death Egg flowing through him, Robotnik arrives in the room where Sonic barely defeated Silver Sonic, only to find Sonic is nowhere to be seen, his robot once again fully operational. Instead of playing the hiding game, Sonic reveals pretty quickly that he took a cue from “Tails,” climbing into the robot to pilot it from the inside. Not sure how that even works…if it wasn’t built with a cockpit, how can Sonic control it just by sitting in its head? I can’t be overthinking this one, can I?

Soon, the two start duking it out, with Robotnik still claiming his superiority, even if Sonic is controlling one of his creations. With a sudden explosion of wild chin hair, the pair engage in a two-page spread. Turning the page, “Tails” shows up just long enough to distract Robotnik and allow Sonic to punch him a few stories up. With the battle ending abruptly, “Tails” reveals to Sonic that he has somehow set the entire base to explode in twenty minutes, though all the damage that has been caused could mean it’ll happen way sooner than that. Though Sonic wants to remain and try and finish off Robotnik once and for all, “Tails” convinces him its not the right time, and the two rush off to escape. Reaching one of the hatchways to exit as soon as possible, Sonic notices a box of rings, reminding all of us why we started this in the first place. With the pair scooping up as many as they can (Sonic still in the Silver suit), they finally jump out towards the quickly approaching ground.

Using the metallic shell just long enough to reenter the atmosphere, Sonic abandons Silver Sonic, allowing “Tails” to airlift them to safety. Once on the ground, they take a look up…

…along with everyone else who has been in the comic. Don’t know why Sally or Rotor would be looking out the window towards the sky. I know the entire Death Egg exploding would be pretty loud, but they have no idea that a “deadly dirigible” is the cause of it. Antoine and Bunnie are there only to remind us they exist, and Knuckles looks like he’s already forgotten he was in the comic. Maybe if all of these characters were integral to the plot, these reaction shots would be much more intense, but instead it just leaves me wishing that there was a bit more to all of this.

In the aftermath, Sally is able to contact Sonic, and commands him to return to Knothole to attend to the king. We’re given a nice little editor’s note to refer to Issue 42 of the main series to find out what happens when he returns, which is pretty much “oh wait the rings don’t do a thing for the King.” To close things off, we’re shown the fate of Robotnik, who survived the blast only to see that Snively has been changing things without his knowledge. I guess one of the things Snively did was build a huge sign that says Snivopolis on it? Parachuting into his penthouse office, Robotnik unknowingly lands on top of Snively, crushing him in a comedic fashion, making the miniscule lackey flat and stuck to the backside of our lead villain. The comic relief, ladies and gentlemen.

And with that, the mini-series ends. And all I can really think is…this needed to be three issues? I’m not saying they should have relegated the Death Egg to something smaller. In fact I would argue that it should have been bigger. Like I’ve said before, the flying death trap was the centerpiece of three-fifths of the original line of games. It was featured in numerous spin-offs. The Space Colony ARK from Sonic Adventure 2 certainly picks up a few cues from it. And its meant to make some sort of appearance in the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2, even if we still don’t know the entire story behind it. In Issue 46 of the main line, there’s a scene where Uncle Chuck is being hard on himself, going on about how, among other things, he had no idea that Robotnik was building the Death Egg. But the thing is, why didn’t he? Why wasn’t this a story about Uncle Chuck finding out about the Death Egg, and the Freedom Fighters planning a preemptive assault? Have them be onboard when it launches early, have it crash on Angel Island, have it lift off again and have Knuckles be a part of it. Why, the Death Egg could have been the centerpiece of the Endgame storyarc, instead of the less-than-inspired “Ultimate Annihilator.” They could have still covered the same beats, including the whole “is Princess Sally dead” plot point, and maybe had Sonic prove his innocence instead of just…um…having Dulcy say “Sonic didn’t do it because I can’t lie even though I really shouldn’t know one way or the other.” But this is me going off into a “oh man wouldn’t it be cool if…” moment.

Even if they weren’t going to make it bigger, it could have been paced better. Way too much time was spent with Sonic and the rest standing around talking. All the action is shoved in the final issue when it should have been spread out. The story they told could have been done in one or two issues. I think it just seemed to suffer from the same problem as the Princess Sally and “Tails” mini-series that proceeded it: the staff at Archie having some vague idea to cover in three issues, but not knowing how to effectively write it. Instead, you get something that could have been covered in the regular series, or just spread across a couple back-up tales. When things actually happen in SonicQuest: The Death Egg Saga, it’s fun. But there just doesn’t seem to be enough of it.

Also, I still don’t understand every comic book companies obsession with making the Sonic robot from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 huge. He wasn’t towering over Sonic in the games, people. He was just bulky.

Next Time: Sonic Blast. Which is actually an adaptation of 3D Blast. Oh man, Flickies’ Island, here we come!

Curious as to the madness so far? Check out the previous installments:

How Archie Played the Games, Part One: Of Pinball and Echidnas
How Archie Played the Games, Part Two: Of Floating Islands
How Archie Played The Games, Part Three: Of Pink And Metal Hedgehogs
How Archie Played The Games, Part Four: Of Walkers and Snipers
How Archie Played The Games, Part Five: Of Rodents and Giants
How Archie Played The Games, Part 6A: Of Death Eggs and Robot Birds

And for those wanting even more gaming comic yarns, check out Overlord’s look at Fleetway’s take on the Sonic universe:

How Fleetway Played The Games, Part One: Of Flying Battleships and Space Eggs
How Fleetway Played The Games, Part 2: Of Time Stones and Shrink Lasers
How Fleetway Played The Games, Part 3: Of Emeralds and Echidnas

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2 Comments

  • Reply

    Death Egg Robotnik looks ridiculous! Whoever came up with that idea is probably working at a construction site right now…

  • Reply

    Can’t help but see Wario when I see Super Robotnik there.

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