A fascinating aspect of this issue of Sonic the Hedgehog is the decision to split the story into two, with the Chao races being in the first half, and then Sonic and Tails in the abandoned Eggman lab dominating the second half. It feels as if there are two separate stories one after the other. Which is fine, as previous forms of Sonic comic series have had different stories in the same issue – but it really stands out here. On a re-read, it does feel as if the Sonic and Tails story doesn’t allow any natural breaks to cut back to the other one, so presumably that’s what led to this decision.
Which, unfortunately, feels as though it’s of detriment to the Rouge/Amy/Cream story, as the Sonic and Tails one just feels more exciting. It doesn’t help that it starts with the hilarious visual of Sonic fighting a punching dummy in the form of Knuckles, and then flows into an action sequence, and introduces a new character in the form of Belle.
As introductions go, Belle gets something that feels like the early issues in the first arc, where Sonic would meet the characters one-after-the-other. There’s not much time to showcase a lot more of her due to the reduced page count for the story, but there’s enough here to make her intriguing. Mysteries set up already in regards to why she’s there and who “daddy” is, alongside the Pinocchio reference of being made of wood. It’s a shame there’s not much more to see of her first appearance.
On the flipside, the main plot goes through the motions and feels like it’s losing steam, and over by this point already. Shadow’s involvement feels like he’s only there to give him something to do, and the confrontation with Clutch just feels as if it was a bit too easy. There’s also the strange moment where they find innocent Chaos in a cage and Gemerl says it’s not easy to rescue them – even though it just seems to be a lot of locks that look easy to get through. Mainly because they have a robot and Rouge to either break or pick the locks.
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Maybe the story would feel better if the structure had the two storylines going back and forth, but there’s something about the A-plot that gets overshadowed by the B-plot. Or if the issue had focused purely on fleshing out more complications for Rouge and company it would have felt more substantial. But the Sonic/Tails/Belle stuff saves this issue. It is completely worth it for the second half.
Sonic the Hedgehog #34 is out now from IDW Publishing.