Any long term or ongoing narrative that’s going to be planned out or unfold over time needs to make sure that the antagonist is on equal footing and as good as the protagonist. Your usual high-profile comic book characters from one of the leading comic book companies such as Marvel or DC have characters with expansive rogues galleries that they can tap into and mix around. So whilst Batman and Superman have their arch-rivals in Joker and Lex Luthor respectively, the nature of their universes mean that stories don’t need to continually focus on them. They can breathe and writers can work on other challenges for their villains.
Sonic The Hedgehog is a slightly different beast, as the primary antagonist for everything is generally Dr Eggman. Eggman is usually the inciting incident for pretty much everything that happens in the Sonic canon and arguably the greatest component for change in any iteration of the IP. IDW’s story so far hasn’t done anything to change this, as everything that has happened to Mobius has been in reaction to Eggman or characters influenced by him. How writers use him affects the whole of the tone of Sonic stories.
Just look at SatAM and The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons. One has Robotnik as a dark serious threat whilst the other is a megalomaniac human form of Wild E. Coyote chasing Sonic’s roadrunner. IDW goes the darker, more serious route and never lets his genuine threat be undermined for humour. Any comic moments are a dark, biting hostility to everyone else and leaves the more less serious threats to his underlings. It’s a clever use of the character, and even the Tinker aspect had a level of seriousness underneath it.
Ian Flynn uses this issue to explore Eggman and the mysterious Dr. Starline, who we learn a lot about as well. We had the impression he held Eggman in high regard, but it’s here where he comes across as more of a naive yet dangerous fanboy of our favourite egg-obsessed doctor. Whether it strips him of any mysterious agency is questionable at this time, as he’s been built up as someone with his own agenda – but the twist is he’s being more independent that Eggman would like.
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The warping technique via the Topaz gem he has works in his favour, as he does use it to help a reprogrammed Metal Sonic to do plenty of damage to Sonic and Silver. He even manages to nearly kill Silver in the process by playing a clever trick of causing Silver to nearly blow himself up.
Eggman’s reaction is one of intrigued; as his obsession of beating Sonic rather than killing him is revealed. It’s the Joker/Batman dynamic in play, but he then treats it as a learning curve for Starline; questioning how he found the first battle with Sonic. It’s an odd yet intriguing reaction to someone who he was berating like a henchman moments before. The way he views Starline in comparison to Rough and Tumble is extremely telling. Only pages ago he was thinking of ways of speeding up infecting everyone on the planet with a virus that turns them into robots.
Sonic and Silver are just going by the numbers here, reacting to Starline in a similar way Sonic interacted with characters in the introductory arc. If anything, they’re secondary to establishing the Starline/Eggman dynamic which will propel this next story arc in the comics. Which, on the basis of the work this series is doing lately, looks like it’ll be great.
Sonic the Hedgehog #14 is now available from IDW Publishing.