Pickles Recommends: Sonic the Hedgehog (Comics)
I never thought I would say this, but there are some good things happening with Sonic lately. While his games have been lagging in quality for years, his comic series, made by Archie Comics, is pretty brilliant.
There are currently two series in the franchise; Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic Universe. The first is obviously the main title, which has been going on for very nearly twenty years. It started out as a comedy sort of comic for its first several years, mirroring the SATAM and Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons, but slowly began developing a plot, and by issue #50, it grew into something completely different than the games or shows as Robotnik was finally defeated.
After this point in the series, it began worldbuilding, introducing new villains, and developing the quite large cast that had grown due to the introduction of characters from the other continuities. During the 2000s, it used this to incite a crap ton of plot, including events that still have an effect on the comic today (unlike superhero comics where the events rubberband except for series launches and some temporary C-list deaths if we’re lucky) It has still remained lighthearted of course, being the Archie Comic it is.
Sonic Universe started out as 4-issue story arcs, usually consisting of independent backstories or side-stories of different Sonic characters or groups. This has grown over time to the point where it is almost a second comic in the series, especially with the two of the more recent story arcs about the Babylon Rogues and the Secret Freedom Fighters, the latter of which actually has the current focus of both series, with the main comic acting as the prologue/epilogue chapters to the arc.
The comics in the past few years have been exceptionally strong, in my opinion. The continuity is very solid, with more editors’ footnotes than I’ve ever seen in another comic, yet it isn’t incomprehensible to someone just starting out. I’ve only partially read the series and I feel like I understand most all of what is going on. Even though it is a family friendly comic, it still deals with deaths of major characters (the word death is never said of course), who don’t come back in less than five years, and some fairly interesting politics (wow I can’t believe I said that).
Another thing I really like about the Sonic comics is the lack of extreme decompression that is also prevalent in modern comic books. Even with Sonic Universe’s strict 4-issue story arcs, it doesn’t needlessly stretch out the story to fit the graphic novel. Instead, it actually has 4 issues’ worth of material, and just a couple issues of Sonic can outmatch six issues of Avengers (because for some reason Avengers-related series are insane about 6-issue story arcs, which are kind of excessive except in the case of a huge arc).
I haven’t read the entire series; this is related to the series’ major fault; Archie has only very recently begun collecting the comics into graphic novels. And the worst part is that they are in digest format, so there are only 4 issues per volume (even if the arc is longer than that). It’s up to Volume 18, though it’s only up to issue 70, so there is a huge gap in the story between there and the current issues if you want to read the complete story instead of jumping right in. There are Sonic Selects volumes which collect the miniseries, specials, and etc, but those are progressing slowly too. Even Sonic Universe has only collected 3 of its 11 story arcs so far.
EVENTUALLY you will be able to very easily read through the entire series (and for cheap too; each volume is only 7-10 dollars new, less on Amazon), but for now it is very difficult. But if you are not daunted by a 350+ combined issue continuity, you’ll find that this series does nearly everything right in terms of comic storytelling, and it still hasn’t been stricken with comic book deconstruction syndrome, so it’s still “approved by the comics code authority”.