This issue *really* wants you to focus on the Sonic & Tails vs Rough & Tumble fight that centres the whole issue. The cover art is a fighting game selection screen featuring the four characters alongside a timer and a “free play” prompt giving you the impression of games such as Street Fighter.
To its credit, it does feature a smackdown involving said characters. But what this issue does is use the opportunity to reveal more subtle sides to the characters. Writer Ian Flynn has managed to do this successfully a few times in previous episodes, with small slides of dialogue and moments of subverting initial expectations of characters.
Throughout the fight, there are cuts to Dr. Eggman and Dr. Starline having a conversation which are establishing future stories and plot devices (like Starline’s Warp Topaz) more than anything; but again revealing more about the characters. Dr. Eggman, after his Mr. Tinker buffoonery, immediately gets dark – as in nearly Sonic The Comic dark as he starts using live experiments to test out a virus that will turn them mechanical. It’s not exactly graphic (the letters pages are full of letters from readers under the age of 10), but more psychological in what it’s inferring it’s doing to the subjects. It’s highlighting the genius and intelligence of Eggman, and it’s exciting to see.
Eggman/Robotnik often can be played in two ways, sometimes he’s a mad buffoon whose schemes end up with him caught in slapstick moments where Sonic outsmarts him. Early Sonic The Comic and cartoon The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog make him out to be of the Wild E. Coyote style of villainy. But on the flipside, Sonic Am (which aired the same time as TAOSTH) has him as a much more cynical and threatening villain who managed to kidnap and robotised members of Sonic’s family. It’s the same iteration of Robotnik that sees him (in several different stories) fully capable of conquering Mobius when Sonic is unavailable/missing.
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Sidenote: the best example of this is the Metal Sonic arc in the Fleetway Sonic the Comic arc in which Sonic gets stuck off Mobius for 28 days and returns to find that everywhere is under Robotnik’s control.
It’s incredibly exciting to see a version of Eggman that is fully in the competent-villain mode. One where Sonic has to think on a different level as he can’t outsmart him. As for the fight itself; it’s well drawn – and it continues the story by highlighting how different Rough and Tumble are with the mechanical upgrades from Eggman. It gives Sonic and Tails a new lead; and also gives us a few things character wise to explore.
The aforementioned intelligence of Eggman could match Tails’ view on the world. Tails immediately is suggesting that Eggman is back whilst Sonic wants to believe that perhaps someone has kidnapped Mr. Tinker. Sonic’s optimism as opposed to Tail’s realism is refreshing and makes them work as a double-act. It tracks with Sonic’s ease in which he believes Eggman changed completely, and makes him more likeable as a character.
IDW’s Sonic The Hedgehog continuing the good work it’s capable of, and being entertaining in the process.
Sonic the Hedgehog #13 is now available from IDW Publishing.