It’s difficult to know whether or not this Chao Racing arc has finished yet. With issue #36, IDW’s Sonic the Hedgehog throws out a bunch of ideas, but lets the narrative drift along, so that it doesn’t feel as if it’s anchored to any main idea properly.
The cliffhanger of the previous issue saw Dr. Starline take centre stage as the villain of the arc, taking over what looked to be Clutch’s position
The scheduling of his appearance felt a bit unaligned, as the Bad Guys mini-arc where he was taking centre stage was still in the midst of being released. But with that now finished, the character can fully start to apply the development he had.
The character work in this issue isn’t the main problem that it has, as there are a few perplexing ways the story beats have been arranged and structured which don’t work. Starline gives Sonic the Trolley Problem, in that Tails and Rouge are in trouble but there’s an avalanche about to crush the resort where everyone else is located, including a lot of innocent lives.
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Whilst on paper it’s a classic old trope of giving the hero this type of choice, the circumstances around it doesn’t provide any type of tension at all. Within mere panels Rouge has gotten her and Tails out of the danger they were in, Shadow is there whilst Sonic has gone off to stop the avalanche. But when Tails and Rouge make it to the lodge before the avalanche even hits and the attempt of Sonic and Shadow to at least try and slow it down doesn’t work – it just doesn’t feel like any tension or excitement is being generated.
Whilst the comic is aimed at a young audience, it feels as if there is blatant side-stepping of any real threat or preil to the characters. The only real characters that have had serious harm to them are robotic. Sonic being infected with the Zombot virus could be an argument against this, but that was more about showing his tenacity to carry on rather than entertain the thought of any genuine threat to him.
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At least with this issue, we get a better idea that there’s more long-term storytelling in place as Starline appears to have an obsession with Tails. Giving us the final frame of a recognisably orange fox-hair in a mini-arc closing style way. But the story doesn’t go back to Rouge/Clutch and the races. They release the trapped Chaos, yet the story that started has morphed into something else completely. It’s as if another story has overtaken the one originally being told, and it doesn’t feel whole.
Perhaps this is a mini-reset to the narrative that’s needed to refocus whatever the current arc is supposed to be. But Sonic The Hedgehog needs a bit more tightness in its plotting for now.
Sonic the Hedgehog #36 is out on 6th January from IDW Publishing.