So the new Sonic titles for the year have come and gone; namely Sonic Lost World, Sonic 2 (2013 remake) by Retro’s very own Stealth & The Taxman, and Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. These all out of the way (and indeed 2013), we’ve not got too much new for a while until information about the next games starts coming out. As such, I think it’s a good time to look back on some earlier titles, and finally finish off the 4-part extravaganza that has been our look at how Fleetway‘s Sonic the Comic covered the Sonic 3 & Knuckles storyline. So, let’s get started!
As you should remember, when we were last with our heroes they were trying their best to stop the repairs on Robotnik’s Death Egg being completed, lest we end up with the Genocide City scenario killing Tails, outside of a simulator this time. It seems that committing terrorist acts on bridges to destroy phallic imagery boosters hasn’t stopped Dr Robotnik though, as we begin the story “Mystery of the Sandopolis Zone” with Tails piloting the Tornado, Sonic in his usual wing-riding spot as they coast over a sea of clouds. Tails spots the Floating Island as the clouds part, revealing a sandy landscape below.
Sonic gets a swipe in at Tails while he can – his favourite punching-bag isn’t in the vast majority of this story. Much like the Sonic & Knuckles game itself, this adaptation of it just focuses on the titular characters, with no Sonic 3 Lock-On in sight to change that. Tails’ second of the whole 3 sentences he speaks in this arc completed, he flies off into the sunset while Sonic skids to a halt in a sand dune, muttering to himself that this “looks like the Sandopolis Zone all right”. Whatever tipped you off, Sonic, the massive amounts of flora? Wandering over to a ruined temple structure, Sonic notes that Porker Lewis said he should be able to get a good view from the top of it (evidently the pig has a spy network in place, and right under Knuckles’ nose, no less!) Displaying absolutely no regard for the preservation of historical monuments at all, the hedgehog clambers up to the top and peers over a wall.
Our first glimpse of the Annihilation Ovum. Get used to it, you’re going to be seeing it a lot. Sonic starts up a dramatic monologue about how if Robotnik finishes his repairs on it everyone will be at his mercy, and how he can’t let that happen – though just as he finishes his little speech, a sudden earthquake starts up, with Sonic barely having time to ask what’s happening before a Sandworm crashes into him. Sonic ruminates that he should have guessed Robotnik would have some Badniks out on patrol. Yes, Sonic, you should have. Crashing to the ground, we suddenly see Knuckles the Echidna, who’s watching the whole display from on top of a piece of masonry, and presumably having a great time of it. He promptly reminds Sonic that he told him not to come back to the Island (at the end of the IceCap Zone jaunt in part 5). Sonic for his part decides to pick up their little lover’s tiff right from where they left off.
I do wonder if part of the reason Sonic keeps coming up to the Floating Island is just to bicker with Knuckles. None of the rest of the Freedom Fighters seem that interested in the back-and-forth that we always get with these two. Insulting Tails must just seem hollow afterwards. An amused Knuckles says he thought Sonic would refuse his offer of help, just as the Sandworm surfaces again, but this time Sonic is prepared for it, jumping upwards and smashing it to pieces, asking the echidna if he still thinks he needs help as pieces of the now ex-Badnik fly all over the place. Hopping down from his viewing point, Knuckles asks what Sonic wants, saying he’s getting tired of people arriving on his home uninvited (oh boy, is he about to be in for a surprise). Sonic points out that if Knuckles hadn’t let Robotnik use the Island to repair the Death Egg in the first place, he wouldn’t even need to be there. Knuckles for his part tells Sonic that he was just on his way to see to that, having been delayed by the Marxio Brothers (remember Part 4?). Sonic starts to interrupt about how the Death Egg is too… something (powerful, presumably), but isn’t able to complete the sentence before being interrupted with a cry of “AHOY SONIC! It’s good to see you matey!” Oh god, this isn’t actually an adaptation of Sonic Rush Adventure is it? I don’t think I could take another round of Marine the Racoon. Thankfully for everybody’s sanity it’s not as, wincing, Sonic turns around and Knuckles gapes as the camera turns to reveal:
Oh quit your bitching, Knuckles. Anyway, yes, Captain Plunder – as the panel notes, the man’s shown up once before, in STC #23 to 25. This would be part of the storyline that introduced Amy Rose (and to a lesser degree Metal Sonic/Metallix) to the comic just before the Sonic CD arc that we looked at way back in part 2 started, “Pirates of the Mystic Cave”. There, she was kidnapped for the second time in as many stories (seriously, every story she was in up to and including Sonic CD she gets kidnapped. First by Robotnik in “Girl Trouble” (#21 and #22, her introduction), then by Plunder in #23, then by Metallix as bait for Sonic… Amy getting her bow was probably the single best piece of character development that she had in StC. But anyway, I digress…) Plunder is a sky pirate, and you can probably figure out for yourself how that works. Sonic did a deal with him back in #23 (well, I say Sonic. Amy yelled at both Sonic & Plunder while they were fighting each other, essentially bossing them into realising that they’d be both better off working together against Robotnik) – the Freedom Fighters use their intelligence network to tell Plunder which of Robotnik’s sky transports are worth robbing for loot, and in return Plunder’s pirate gang lend a hand when the Fighters need some extra muscle. Seems that backing Sonic up’s not why they’re here today though (yes, I’m done with the back-story exposition, do keep up at the back), as Plunder reveals they’re looking for treasure.
Knuckles doesn’t care about Plunder’s Skies of Arcadia exploits, saying that as the ruler of the Floating Island, he demands that they leave now – but Plunder (who it should be noted is about 3 times Knuckles’ size) thinks this is hilarious and cute, rather condescendingly patting the echidna on the head as his Professor crew-mate fiddles about on a wall of a nearby small pyramid. Sonic muses that he has no idea just who this guy is – Plunder reveals he’s a new hire for the crew, and used to work at Metropolis University. Presumably the pay in academia is bad enough that throwing your lot in with a bunch of sky pirates is a better career move, even with the added danger involved. However, there’s little time for small talk:
Pressing the pyramid-shaped button (that looks suspiciously like something that you’d see attached to a Stargate, the original film had come out around this time), the ground begins to rumble. Masonry goes flying all over the place as Knuckles cries out that if they damage the ancient buildings he’s holding Plunder personally responsible. Knuckles, I can see columns tumbling and snapping into pieces, there’s no “if” about it. Suddenly Sonic gets a rather pointy shock to his behind as a whacking great pyramid starts rising up out of the sand, leaving him to slide down the pyramid just a little bit as Plunder loudly exclaims that it worked – they’ve found the Lost Pyramid of Sandopolis. All Sonic can do is quip that it doesn’t look especially lost to him.
2 weeks later (in real time, if not story), Plunder is still crowing about his find of the pyramid, just as a door on it slowly starts to open. Feet are visible facing outwards from beneath the door. Sonic asks Plunder if his map mentioned anything about anyone being home, to which the pirate replies that there was “some nonsense about a giant stone guardian“, but that he basically ignored it. Great plan, Cap! Can’t see that being a problem!
Happy little chap, isn’t he? I can’t say that Sonic’s especially helping the situation either, but I don’t think he can help it, at this point. Shrugging Plunder aside, and now that he personally has been threatened, Sonic faces the Guardian and spin attacks into it, smashing it to pieces. Well, that was easy!
Can you guess what happens next, kids? Yes, that’s right – the Guardian smacks his fist down on Sonic, smashing his head into the ground (ouch!). The walking pile of rubble proclaims that the “heretic” should surrender to his fate, as he cannot be destroyed. Knuckles has a much better plan though, yelling at the Guardian to come and attack him, as the echidna has read the sacred texts and knows all about him & the pyramid (so presumably was just playing dumb earlier when it became obvious what Plunder was doing, I guess?). The Guardian lumbers towards Knuckles, but quickly starts sinking. Knuckles mocks Sonic, saying to the Guardian that the main reason for his win was because he’s not stupid enough to try and fight it – and why bother, with all this handy quicksand about? The Guardian promptly disappears beneath the sands, Knuckles hopping off his conveniently placed stepping stone (man, we never got one of those in Sandopolis Act 1) and telling Sonic that he has to learn to use his head (presumably as something other than a target for monolithic stone warriors to bash). Sonic tries to muster some pride back though, pointing out that if Knuckles is so smart, how come he let Plunder & co sneak into the pyramid? The two enter the pyramid themselves, with Sonic wondering why Red got attacked – after all, he’s master of the Island, right? Knuckles reflects that the Guardian’s from an ancient time and won’t even realise the echidnas are long gone… but then changes tone as he hears something up ahead, which turns out to be Plunder pulling on one of the light switches dangling from the ceiling.
Plunder being very single-minded there. Bugger the archaeological value, let’s steal shit! Starting his pilfering of his new-found Cave of Wonders, Plunder yells at his crew-mate Filch to start getting to work, to which Filch points out that he’s a ghost and can’t touch anything (this is actually wrong, as he’s a poltergeist, established in the last story… but oh well). I should also point out here that the reason that Filch is dead is because Plunder shot him in the head for taking an extra biscuit, something Filch blames himself entirely for. (Uhm, what?) Also, considering they knew what they were coming for, shouldn’t Plunder have brought a larger landing party with him than just himself, the Professor, and a crew member who can apparently do no physical movement? Anyway, Knuckles and Sonic finally catch up, with Knuckles being a party-pooper and saying that as the treasures are part of the island’s heritage (presumably he sees himself as the head of the echidna version of the National Trust) he’s not going to let Plunder steal them. Plunder, fairly reasonably, points out to Knuckles that as a pirate, he’s kind of supposed to steal things. Sonic tries to warn Plunder off, but then the lights give out, with Knuckles wryly saying that with a lighting system thousands of years old, it’s just not as reliable as it used to be. Plunder decides to take this chance to escape.
Hmmm, I wonder what the curse could be? Sure enough, as the three make their escape, some glowing blobs appear, and slowly start growing into a more coherent form, and right on cue:
Friendship not being an option (what? But Saturday morning TV preaches nothing but!), Plunder then decides that in that case, they should just continue running for it, as they’re almost outside. All 3 dive for the exit as the door slams shut, and they all make it outside – however it seems that in all the commotion with the ghosts all the treasure got dropped, as none of them made it out with any. Good work, guys – you’re telling us that as pirates you’ve never once had to make a run for it with bags of swag before? Dusting themselves off and walking back towards the anchored sky ship, Plunder says that they can’t just tell the rest of the crew they were chased out by a couple of ghosts. Filch reassures him he’ll come up with a more fitting tale – a hundred evil spirits ought to do the trick.
Meanwhile, back at the plot, Sonic & Knuckles have found a glass seal inside the now closed-off pyramid, which Knuckles smashes, sand flowing in. Sonic says that the resultant sinkage will re-trap the pyramid under the desert, but permanently this time – Knuckles agrees, it will keep the treasure safe from Plunder and people like him. Doesn’t that mean you have no way of getting at them either, Knuckles? What will your people make of this if they ever get back? Considering he’s supposed to be looking after this place for them, Red’s not doing the best job of maintenance, is he… Sonic has one other worry though, and it’s a biggie. The two of them are now trapped inside a sinking pyramid, aren’t they kind of boned at this point?
How conveniently placed! Sonic & Knuckles escape from the sand as the camera cuts back to the sky ship, where Filch is regaling the other pirates with a tale of how they were attacked from all sides by “two hundred evil spirits, each with seven heads and blazing eyes”. Oh well, if you’re going to have an exaggerated story, best to do it with full gusto – don’t half-arse it.
Over on the Death Egg, Robotnik is getting a bit over excited, but with good reason – the repairs on the Death Egg, started so long ago, are finally finished! All he needs at this point is some fuel – and as even premium strength diesel probably isn’t going to be strong enough to power this thing, there’s clearly only one thing that will do the job: the Master Emerald.
Oooh, ominous! I wonder who this could be? Well, we’re being left in suspense for a little longer – having escaped the sinking pyramid, Sonic & Knuckles are navigating their way through a series of lava-themed tunnels. Knuckles boasts to Sonic that he told him he knew the way around the tunnels – though as Sonic points out, Knuckles said that when he led them down the last dead end. Seems that this time the echidna is right though, as they come across a live volcano in the un-name-dropped Lava Reef Zone that’s right in the middle of Launch Base. Knuckles says that they must be really close to the Death Egg now. Sonic’s just looking upwards though, saying that they’re “Closer than you think, buddy…”
You’ve gotta admit, that’s a neat picture. Knuckles, doing his best Victor Meldrew impression, isn’t so impressed by this display of Robotnik’s might and crap piloting skills (I mean seriously, of all the places to land for a repair, right on top of a volcano? Even ignoring the heat, I’d imagine more than a few worker bots fell to lava-based deaths while fixing this thing, as Robotnik’s ugly mug stares at them). He angrily exclaims that Robotnik will pay for this deed, but Sonic tells him to cool it (oh-ho, Sonic, I see what you did there) as badniks are swarming out of a hatch on the Death Egg – hundreds of Eggrobos! One fires a shot at the ground between the pair, causing it to explode as a voice comes out of the Eggrobo, which Knuckles recognises as a certain demented scientist we all know and love.
Well, gotta give him props for his optimistic confidence, it certainly isn’t based off past experiences. Sonic, true to form, just starts getting on with the job, dashing left and right and smashing Eggrobos to pieces, but Knuckles tells him to stop (spoilsport) as there’s no time to smash all the badniks one by one – and he knows a faster way. Sonic’s pride of course can’t take this, as he tells Knuckles to “dream on” about being faster than him – but Knuckles just tells him to watch and learn as he smashes a hole in the nearby central lava pool.
Nice of all those Eggrobos to be flying around the level of where all the lava is and not get out of the way, isn’t it? However Knuckles has much bigger fish to fry, as he and Sonic dash down a much cooler-colour corridor. Sonic asks where they are, and Knuckles reveals that this is the Hidden Palace (again, no, not that one), where the Royal Family used to rule the Floating Island from in ancient times (so apparently the echidnas had a monarchy! Now I’m picturing an echidna Prince Phillip unintentionally insulting every other type of furry on Mobius. Add that one to your army of Knuckles clones, Ken Penders). The pair come to a halt by a bashed in doorway, which Sonic correctly guesses isn’t supposed to be that way – and behind that door-frame is the Emerald Chamber…
Oh, man, Sonic, you don’t know the half of it, not yet. Knuckles is seriously panicked though, saying that Sonic doesn’t understand – without the Master Emerald present, the Island will crash down to Mobius’s surface in a few hours (and I guess at this point it’s not happened before so he doesn’t know it’ll be fine in the end. Guess after seeing it happen this time he was fairly blasé about it in later games). Sonic says that he’ll think of something, he usually does… there’s also then a one panel aside about how different the regular emeralds now look (much bigger!) Knuckles says this is because when Sonic had them they were drained of most of their power. Nice to know the writers cared enough to give an explanation for the Super Emeralds. Sonic says the obvious (hey, I guess someone has to with no Tails in this story) that Robotnik has the Master Emerald now, but what does he need it for? Really, Sonic. You can’t put two and two together?
Yeah, that’s what. Look at Grimer‘s face, he’s so genuinely happy for Dr Robotnik, complete opposite of Snively. Robotnik starts fantasising about how he can make the Emerald Hill folk suffer like never before, and he’ll grind Sonic into… well, we never find out what (chilli dog meat, maybe? Bet it goes great with fried egg), as Grimer interrupts his daydreaming with the ever-so-tiny detail that the Emerald hasn’t actually arrived yet. Spoilsport. Robotnik yells that this is a minor issue, because even if Sonic stops the badnik before he takes the Emerald (bit late for that already, on Sonic’s part. Getting it back to the Death Egg? That’s still up for debate), it won’t make any difference because he’ll find himself up against the one badnik he can never hope to beat. Gosh, this is a lot of build-up, isn’t it?
Cut back to Sonic and Knuckles, who suddenly see a glow in the corner, and as Sonic looks on in wide-eyed surprise we see the Badnik is:
Wow. You made all that song and dance over another robot Sonic? By my count, Sonic’s already trashed 2 of those – one by kicking its fucking head off (and that was the second time he’d finished it anyway!) during the Sonic 2 adaptation, and by erasing one from existence during the Sonic CD arc (though technically I suppose he didn’t so much as beat Metallix there as cheat by changing reality). Regardless – cliffhanger time!
This next issue of the arc was special in that it was StC’s 50th issue, and as such we end up getting a little bit of fan-service in this story (but that actually fits regardless!). Diving right in, we pick up from where we were at last time with Metallix having a firm grip on the Master Emerald. Knuckles doesn’t get why the badnik looks like Sonic (if you ask me, I think it says more about Robotnik than it does about Sonic, Knux), but the robot sort-of ignores the question, introducing itself as “Metallix, the metal Sonic”, and says it’s come for the Master Emerald (mission accomplished, I guess?). Sonic’s more bothered about the fact that the thing should be dead, with Knuckles just quipping that he thinks Sonic forgot to tell Metallix that (Amy would beg to differ, Knuckles!) With a parting line of “Follow me… if you dare!” (not so much “follow me if you want to live” as “follow me if you want to die”. Even now, we’re still doing Terminator references), Metallix hops onto a teleporter and activates it.
Spikes? Was Blue too obvious a pet name, Knuckles? Seconds later, the two materialise in the Sky Sanctuary Zone, but they’re already too late – Metallix is getting himself charged up off the Master Emerald and as soon as they hop off the platform, Metallix charges the duo, sending Knuckles flying. Metallix boasts that with his ability to absorb power off the Emerald, destroying the pair will be as easy as stepping onto an ant (poor Archimedes) – and Sonic realises that Metallix isn’t buggering about, either, because Knuckles is completely out cold from that single hit. Flying to the sky, Metallix proclaims he will now have his revenge for the death of his brother. Sonic is puzzled by this apparent sibling but doesn’t have time to fully process this before being smacked in the face by a Metallix fist.
This panel here is quite important, but not especially for this story beyond a vague threat – this is for breadcrumb reasons. Remember this little factoid, there’ll be a test at some point down the road… Getting back to the matter at hand, Sonic pulls himself out from the wall and says that he’ll take care of this Metallix just like he did his “brother” (what, you have a TARDIS hanging about, Sonic? Or maybe another Time Stone? We know all about your cheating with causality), and starts running around the robot in circles, it’s head madly spinning around. Might this be the beginning of its end?
Of course not.
Next-generation technology? In early 1995? Cripes, watch out Sonic, Metallix is running off an internal 32X! Not quite sure how a beefy CPU can equal Sonic’s ability to move about fast, but whatever. In the midst of all this pummelling of Sonic, Metallix has made a silly mistake – with his internal energy down to a fairly low 15%, he has to return to the Master Emerald for charging (that quickly? Never mind the 32X, the battery system must be based off the same one the Game Gear uses), but his last punch has sent Sonic over in that direction first (concious still, unlike the wussy echidna), and he touches down before the power-depleted robot can get there.
Uh oh. A blazing zap of yellow energy smacks into Metallix, causing the robot to note a 20% systems failure, but a voice says he’d better make that 100%, because…
Again with the flying-off heads, though this time we’re mixing things up a little, with a punch rather than a kick. I should explain Super Sonic here as this is the first time he’s shown up in a Fleetway game adaptation – unlike most media’s depiction of him, Super Sonic in Fleetway is a megalomaniacal psychopath who wants to destroy everyone and everything – a living embodiment of the Chaos Energy that the emeralds have absorbed. Supposedly the story goes that when playing Sonic 2 to research the character, writer Nigel Kitching was struck by how out of control Super Sonic seemingly was compared to his normal form, and decided that this element should be carried over into his character in the comic – one I’ve always found to be rather fitting, personally.
Meanwhile on the Death Egg, Grimer turns from his computer console, and with a rather worried expression says he isn’t quite sure how to tell Robotnik, but they’ve lost contact with Metallix. Robotnik curses Grimer, saying he should never have allowed Metallix to fight Sonic in the first place and just have brought the Master Emerald straight to them (yes, you’re right! This is exactly what you should have done. Someone’s never read the “Evil Overlord” list). He demands that Grimer do something as without it they can never hope to launch the Death Egg (so, uh, how did it lift off in the first place, Doc? Had to get into the heavens somehow the first time before you crashed onto the Island…) Luckily for them, Grimer notices that in the scuffle between Super Sonic & Metallix the Master Emerald has somehow conveniently ended up on the Sky Sanctuary’s teleporter… (perfectly balanced on its point, too, and some time while Metallix was fighting Sonic. Maybe it has programmed-in OCD or something.)
Back on Sky Sanctuary, Knuckles finally comes around to see Metallix’s head flying through the air, and turns to Sonic – though he’s confused (the yellow colour, swirling eyes and manic spines can do that to you, I guess… more-so if you’re still a bit groggy. Super, who is currently tearing apart the dead Metallix’s inner circuity apart (just for fun at this point, apparently), roars and notes that Knuckles finally woke up.
Super then proceeds to start punching the crap out of Knuckles, and the echidna is absolutely helpless to actually do anything about it. Super taunts him, saying that the only thing that’s going to be left of him by the time he’s finished will be a red puddle, but then his eyes start to return to normal, his spikes reform, and poof:
You can hear the sarcasm in Knuckles’ line, can’t you… Sonic starts apologising to the echidna, saying that when he’s super he can’t control himself, but Knuckles cuts him off, pointing towards the teleporter, now conveniently Master Emerald-less. Well maybe you should have moved it from there, guys.
The zone may be crumbling apart, but the pair have other problems. Knuckles can hear a noise, and asks if Sonic can too – and if it’s thunder. As the camera faces some firey-looking clouds, Sonic remarks that it’s no storm – but whatever it is (answers on a postcard to “Knuckles Can’t Put Two And Two Together Either”, at the usual address), it’s big and it’s heading their way. Time for a fortnight’s intermission!
Sonic & Knuckles continue to stare at the clouds until they part, revealing the fully armed and operational Death Egg rising into the sky at long last, despite all the best efforts of everyone. Knuckles ponders how they even begin to fight something like that (hey, if it’s off your island, surely it’s not your problem at this point, eh Knux?). One problem at a time though, lads: the Sky Sanctuary Zone is now a small platform with the singular large pillar on it.
Meanwhile, at the wheel of the Death Egg… wait, what?
Wow. It’s a literal steering wheel. There’s even a couple of other misc levers. Surely on something of this size and magnitude there should be a central computer control system done via a console or something, rather than this? Robotnik really is a madman (all he’s missing is the driver’s goggles). Grimer stares transfixed at the Master Emerald, saying how incredible it is that the entire power requirements of the Death Egg can be supplied by the one single item, completely Chekov’s Gun’ing the situation. Robotnik (releasing his grip on the wheel. He’ll have the Mobian rozzers after him for that) is more amused by the fact that without it, the Floating Island will crash down onto Mobius, finishing his revenge on “the treacherous Knuckles” – uh, weren’t you the one who deceived & turned on him with that whole Chaos Emerald inflation escapade, Doc? Robotnik says that he’s taking the Death Egg down to Mobius, specifically the Emerald Hill Zone – seems he’s planning on making that simulator run on the zone back in Part 5 a reality as soon as he possibly can. Before he can do that though, he spies the Sky Sanctuary platform on a monitor, which we then cut back to:
Give it 5 minutes and there won’t be any zone left, Sonic. Robotnik’s simulated face looks down on them with glee, saying that it looks like he’s been saved the trouble of actually having to destroy them. He does remember that Knuckles can glide, right? Evidently not, as this is the very next thing he does, telling Sonic to grab hold and pushing off the column with Sonic riding on his back, warning him to hang on as he’s never tried carrying anyone while gliding before. Sonic for his part just asks Knuckles to stay clear of any turbulence.
Robotnik being prudent for once here. Knuckles isn’t happy as the Egg Robos open fire, saying they’re sitting ducks – but Sonic’s having none of that telling “Chuckles” (but he doesn’t do that! Sonic Adventure wouldn’t lie to me) that Sonic the Hedgehog is no-one’s easy target, and to prepare to be impressed, as he leaps off the echidna and starts bouncing off Egg Robos. One long chain later, Sonic rushes towards a circle on the Death Egg that he hopes is a window, lest he end up as hedgehog pizza (which I’m sure isn’t an especially tasty dish) – however, his luck is holding, and he smashes right through it.
With Knuckles descending back downwards, Sonic is alone on the Death Egg. Wandering down the corridor he’s in to a door very helpfully marked “Exit”, he muses that it’s a pity Knuckles didn’t make it on board, as he has a nasty feeling he might need his help. Not that he’d admit that to the echidna, of course. Oh Sonic, tragically doomed to always being a dick and never admitting you need other people’s assistance… Reaching the door, Sonic figures he might as well just face Robotnik and get this all over with, opening the door:
Sonic only has a few moments to stand there musing though, before a badly aimed spikeball (no, not Sonic himself) bounces off the floor just to his right. The hedgehog whirls around to see a squad of badniks, one of which loudly sounds off an intruder alert as they attack en mass. Sonic starts attacking them, sarcastically moaning as he does so that he’s come all this way to pay Robotnik a surprise visit and the badniks have spoiled it.
Bickering with badniks while fighting them. Who do you think you are, Sonic? Spiderman? I guess it’s because he has no-one else to make witty quips at right now. The badniks finally answer Sonic – they are of course Spikebonkers, the Death Egg’s security system. Sonic’s reply to this is just that they have to be kidding, as he bonks two of the badnik’s heads together himself, smashing them both.
Meanwhile, back with Knuckles, the echidna is busy in a chamber of the Floating Island fiddling with machinery that we learn hasn’t been used for eons. Hoping that he’s understood some scribbly looking glyphs correctly, Knuckles powers the system on. See, Robotnik? This is what a control room should look like. A proper chair, a touch control panel, cool neon lighting… wait a minute, a control room? For what, exactly?
Oh. Well, I guess it’s no more weird than when Archie did it. I suppose next issue we’re seeing a battle for the skies of Mobius!
We start issue #52 with a quick sum-up reminder of the previous part, that the Death Egg has been launched (and a note from Megadroid that it’s for real this time, no more fake-out shenanigans just so we can canonically kill Tails without it being permanent). It seems that Sonic wasn’t completely able to finish off the Spikebonkers as the badniks have escorted him all the way to Robotnik, who is now loudly crowing about how the hedgehog was a fool to attack him on the Death Egg, and that he’s now the scientist’s prisoner. Sonic retorts that the whole thing was done intentionally so he could get the badniks to lead him to Robotnik (because actually finishing Sonic off would be too easy or something, presumably), but Robotnik isn’t having any of it, and decides instead to show Sonic just what the Death Egg is capable of.
Despite being under a very close eye from the slightly dippy Spikebonkers, both Robotnik and Grimer are so engrossed in their rather weird looking targeting sensor (normal villains have cross-hairs on their targeting screen filled with innocent Emerald Hill folk. Robotnik has some sort of weird blob that the cross-hair lines don’t even meet on!) that Sonic makes a move for the Master Emerald, knocking badniks out of the way as Grimer announces that the disintegrator will be ready to fire in 10 seconds. Sonic is fast, but not fast enough – Grimer announces that the weapon is ready and Robotnik screams at him to fire it, while the hedgehog is still punching badniks. Fortunately for him (and the entirety of the otherwise-to-be-renamed Smoking Hot Crater Zone), the entire room suddenly shakes, knocking everyone off their feet with a loud explosion sound. Sonic continues thinning out the badnik pile as Robotnik and Grimer scramble to a window, to see:
So, uh – the Floating Island’s weapon system is a giant golf ball supported by electrical arcs? OK then… Robotnik isn’t impressed by this turn of events – taking the targeting sensors off the Emerald Hill Zone, he refocuses on the Island, and fires. the laser eye-beams we saw in the simulation lash out onto it, blasting chunks of rock off a mountain range. Knuckles feels the shock waves even inside the control room, shaking around and wincing, even as he notes that he hates to attack while Sonic is on board the Death Egg (concern? I guess he’s gotten used to Sonic after all), but that the Island is Mobius’s only chance at this point. Refocusing over his controls, he charges up for another attack – however without the Master Emerald, this will take time that he may not have. The Death Egg lashes out again, as Robotnik screams with triumph (in a standing position with his arms in the air – who’s actually controlling this thing at this point? I guess Grimer, but does this mean that steering wheel is meaningless after all?), and says that it’s all over – they’re all finished. Time for a convenient plot twist? I think so.
Well you took your bloody time about it, Sonic! The badniks were gone for the last 2 shots of the Death Egg, you should have knocked it out of there before now. Knuckles might well be dead for all you know! Their ability to actually do anything to the Island now hampered, Robotnik quickly orders a squadron of conveniently-appearing Egg Robos to grab the Master Emerald off Sonic, but of course that is easier said than done. However they don’t even get a chance to try, as Knuckles scores another direct hit, causing everyone to once again go flying – specifically for Sonic and the Master Emerald, towards the window Grimer & Robotnik were using earlier…
Bad choice of glass there, Doc! Should have used reinforced. That, or he thought he had, but instead got ripped off with his building supplies (that’s what you get for using Desert Palace sand, it either crumbles or drips). We’re then treated to a lovely two-page spread single panel of the Death Egg having the crap blasted out of it by the golf ball, with the energy beam coming out of one of the eyes of the Egg and pieces flying off it. As Sonic notes, as Egg Robos fire at him, it looks like it’s all over for the Death Egg – but he’s not going to be in a position to celebrate this. The Island is too far away to reach, and with nothing but thin air between him and a rather hard landing on Mobius, the future doesn’t look especially rosy for him.
Finally we reach the concluding part of the arc. Knuckles fires another shot at the Death Egg as Sonic tries to dodge Eggrobo shots, but things are getting worse – one of the robots has managed to grab the emerald, which could still be bad news even with the Death Egg in its current state. Fortunately, Sonic has a plan, grabbing a gun off one of the Eggrobos and taking aim.
Putting aside how the hell the Master Emerald managed to get that high up and that far across (I guess that Eggrobo must have moved really fast, but to me it doesn’t look like he’s far enough away from Sonic in that first shot for it to be where it is in the second) – Sonic just fired a gun. Yes, at a robot, but a gun. Guess he lied in Shadow the Hedgehog about how you’d never catch him using one, this is pretty red-handed, Sonic! Regardless, Sonic ends up dropping the pistol as one of the Eggrobos points out that he won’t live to the enjoy the victory, what with still falling to his death and everything. Sonic suddenly realises he forgot about that (where’s the Tornado when you need it?), and somehow manages to pull himself up (gripping onto thin air, apparently), on top of the taunting Eggrobo. We’re denied for the moment seeing what Sonic is doing, though. Cutting back to the Death Egg, Robotnik is desperately wrestling with the steering wheel (oh now he wants to use it) amid fire and flames, as he screams for the Death Egg’s loss; while Grimer tries to pull him away, saying that it’s over and they have to leave. Robotnik finally agrees, but swears revenge on the entire Emerald Hill Zone for what’s happened (really? Pretty sure the blame here can be laid squarely at exactly 2 people. 3, if you want to count Tails bringing Sonic up to the Island back at the start). Then we cut back to Sonic again, and we see this:
“Mein Hedgehog, I can valk!” This isn’t at all phallic, nope. Reaching the safety of the Floating Island, Sonic watches the Death Egg tumble towards the ground, with an amused hedgehog saying that he should make a wish on the falling station. Finding the Master Emerald in a bush, Sonic picks the heavy plot device up, saying that he has to get it to the Emerald Chamber before the Island crash-lands, as he dreads to think what would happen if it did. With foresight, Sonic, I think you can relax, the island has crashed on the surface by the time of Sonic Generations about half a dozen times with no real issue. Either way, Sonic doesn’t get a chance to ponder this, as he’s shot with an energy weapon. He never catches a break, does he?
Well, at least you can’t say that Robotnik isn’t learning, standing there as he does in the final Doomsday Zone boss mech. First the army of badniks to try and wipe him & Knuckles out, then figuring that Sonic would survive the fall… there’s a little bit of Genre-Savvyness here. Sonic of course doesn’t take this lying down – crashing into the mech, Sonic tells Robotnik to not bother thinking of a reply, as he doesn’t have time, but slamming the fists of the robot down, Robotnik says that first he’s going to squash Sonic like an insect, and then he’s going to take care of the Emerald Hill Zone. Sonic deadpans that Robotnik talks too much, as he slams into him again… and then gets serious, speeding up.
I’m a big fan of this final fight page, you really do feel like this is the climactic battle between the two of them of this entire arc. Getting faster and faster (as Robotnik seemingly gets more and more terrified. Maybe Sonic got a tiny bit of a Super buzz while touching the Master Emerald?), Sonic makes one final punch, and Robotnik actually topples off the edge of the Island, backwards – at which point the hedgehog actually has a moment of remorse.
See kids? Sonic’s not a killer, honest! He might well be a dick to Tails, but unlike Robotnik isn’t actually trying to end his life. This is somewhat a problem for the long term though, really: more-so when the evil genius who’s already tried to commit genocide on you, and stated multiple times that he wants to do so, has no issues with ending your existence… but I digress. Fortunately for walrus-chops, the jets on the mech suit, albeit damaged, are still working and should get him down to Mobius safely – though as Sonic notes, he wouldn’t bet on a soft landing. Now that Robotnik’s out of the way and help isn’t actually needed, Knuckles finally turns up (as Sonic himself says, “Just when I don’t need you!”). Knuckles dismisses Sonic’s sarcasm with the very valid point that if they don’t get the Master Emerald back into the chamber now, it’ll be too late to stop the island crashing – but nope, Sonic has one final act of dickery to do first.
Wow, Sonic. You’re really going to blackmail Knuckles by holding the Island and everyone below it hostage, at a time like this? I can hear Knuckles’ reply now, along the lines of “yes, anything, or we’re all going to die!” Cutting to three days later, on a dark and stormy night (for heightened drama, obviously), lots of little boats leave the Emerald Hill Zone, as the occupants wonder if they’ll ever see their homes again. The view shifting, we see a landed Floating Island, that the boats are heading towards as Tails flies around overhead in the Tornado. Sonic observes their crossing from his usual wing spot. The last boat nearly being across, Tails says that they might as well land, to which Sonic agrees, vowing that though Robotnik may have driven them out, they’ll be back, and he can count on it.
So, this is the deal that Sonic pressured Knuckles into – people permanently violating the privacy of his home, completely against what Knuckles would actually want, but he has no say in the matter. The echidna’s forced a compromise of a single zone, at least. As the rain finally stops, the Floating Island rises up, water flowing off the side as it gets higher and higher up into the sky. We’re left with one final shot of Robotnik in a hospital bed with Grimer sitting to the side, the top of his head wrapped in bandages. He angrily says that he tried going easy on the Emerald Hill folk (trying to disintegrate them is going easy on them? Really?), and being a just ruler – but that’s all over now; “No more Mister Nicenik!”
And so comes to an end the Sonic & Knuckles arc, and as is plainly obvious to see, this was done a hell of a lot better than how Archie did their equivalent. It’s much longer, takes place entirely in zones from the game, and is far more faithful to the source material, putting aside comic exclusive characters like Captain Plunder and Grimer that the story would largely work without anyway – in fact, let’s list some of the stuff straight from the game:
* Sandopolis 1’s Pyramid rising from the sands, and the Guardian boss
* Sandopolis 2’s ghosts
* The Death Egg staring down on Lava Reef Zone
* Hidden Palace, and its teleporters
* Sky Sanctuary, with Knuckles’ final boss fight
* The Death Egg launch, viewed from Sky Sanctuary, and then that zone’s crumbling away (even the final pillar run!)
* Sonic only in Death Egg Zone (and the Death Egg zone background shot, too)
* The Giant Egg-Robo fight
* The Master Emerald being saved and landing back on the Floating Island
You could even technically count Super trying to kill Knuckles as a belated Hidden Palace Zone fight, though as it’s in the wrong zone I’ll let it slide. This story was in my opinion (and that of many others) the absolute pinnacle of Sonic the Comic – while the title still has a decent number of quality stories to go from this point onwards, this is certainly the best game adaptation they did. There’s lots of little touches in here that I like, too – Sonic & Knuckles’ versions of Sky Sanctuary being combined is a nice example of this, with Knuckles’ boss and level size, but the Death Egg launch and the escape sequence from Sonic’s version of the level; as is Sonic being the only one ending up on the Death Egg itself so you get the same feeling of alone-against-massive-odds that you do in the game. The writing and artwork is top notch, and you even get a small nod as to the new size of the emeralds, bearing in mind how we’ve previously seen them as hand-held before they showed up in S3&K’s Hidden Palace chamber (as the Super Emeralds). Many of the adaptations done on both sides of the Atlantic could learn lots from this arc.
Oh ho, what’s Nack/Fang doing there? You’ll have to wait and see.
Forgotten how we got to this point, or just haven’t seen the last ones, because it’s been so long in coming? Check them out:
How Fleetway Played The Games, Part One: Of Flying Battleships and Space Eggs
How Fleetway Played The Games, Part 2: Of Time Stones and Shrink Lasers
How Fleetway Played The Games, Part 3: Of Emeralds and Echidnas
How Fleetway Played The Games, Part 4: Of Evacuating and Electricians
How Fleetway Played The Games, Part 5: Of Ice and Repairing
Don’t forget to read David the Lurker’s articles on the US comic’s adaptations too:
How Archie Played the Games, Part One: Of Pinball and Echidnas
How Archie Played the Games, Part Two: Of Floating Islands
How Archie Played The Games, Part Three: Of Pink And Metal Hedgehogs
How Archie Played The Games, Part Four: Of Walkers and Snipers
How Archie Played The Games, Part Five: Of Rodents and Giants
How Archie Played The Games, Part 6A: Of Death Eggs and Robot Birds
How Archie Played The Games, Part 6B: Of Silver Hedgehogs and Falling Islands