You’ve waited over a year for it, but it’s here: the second part of possibly Sonic the Comic’s best story arc, that of Sonic 3 and Knuckles. However, I’m teasing a bit, sorry! The build-up to the final conclusion to the game’s story (which by 16-bit Sonic standards, was quite involved) took a couple of months, presumably to stretch out the material as much as possible before the next game came out. As such, we got a few shorter arcs before the final main story started, and that’s what we’ll be looking at today & next week, covering the final conclusion in Part 6 – simply as you miss things otherwise. Hey, don’t look so sad, you there at the back – there’s some fun stuff here. Think of these as an early Christmas present!
The first of the 7 stories we’re looking at, “Marble Garden Menace”, was printed in Sonic the Poster Magazine issue 6, and was set between issues 34 & 35 – after Sonic & Tails fished up Robotnik in the net from last time, but before Knuckles’ digging into their secret headquarters via Robotnik’s tooth-based homing beacon (Sonic knows where the Floating Island is, but Knuckles still thinks he’s the enemy). As a spin-off poster magazine, the story is a single-part one-shot, beginning with the Kintobor computer alerting Sonic (who is just standing around the HQ, seemingly doing nothing) that he’s picking up new Badnik activity in the Marble Garden Zone – which as you should recall, was where they were when Robotnik was captured from right under Knuckles’ nose. Sonic complains that Tails isn’t around to fly him up there in the bi-plane (I’m not sure if the name Tornado was ever used in StC), so instead decides that there’s no time to contact the others and chooses to leave a note for Tails to meet up with him later. He then asks Kintobor if the new “Hyper Spring” is ready, to which the computer replies that it’s currently untested – Sonic cares not, though (well, his exact phrasing is “too bad, it’s the only way I can reach it without a plane, so I’m gonna go for it”), to which the computer does a virtual eye-roll as Sonic races out of the building.
Outside, Sonic rushes past Amy Rose, who happens to be standing relatively near to the fairly weedy-looking spring (which is apparently bolted to the ground, not something Sonic has just placed down. Does the Floating Island stay in one spot?). She asks if there’s any chance of a date, to which Sonic retorts that he has no time for any of that stuff. Amy however doesn’t care, and as Sonic dubiously jumps towards the spring, wondering if it’ll even work, Amy reaches forward – and grabs his foot.
Obviously not a fan of overly-attached wannabe-girlfriends, once the obligatory bout of dickishness is past Sonic’s first thought as he flies skywards isn’t for the danger he’s dragging Amy towards, but instead for his own sake. It seems the spring has been very specifically calibrated, as he asks the pink hedgehog if she realises that her extra weight could make him miss the island. Speaking of the island, it seems awfully easy to spot from the ground – remind me again how it was just a myth for so many years? Anyway, Amy for her own part shrugs off the implication that she’s been at the chilli dogs a bit too much, snapping back that she watches her weight – as they reach the island by the tips of Sonic’s fingers. Literally. As he hauls them both up onto the surface, Amy remarks at how lovely the surroundings are, though as a Spiker blasts a fireball at them, Sonic points out that it can also be pretty deadly. Landing in a safer spot, Sonic decides that the girl simply isn’t letting the message sink in and starts a rant on how he knew Amy shouldn’t have come along and that she’ll only get in his way, but for her part Amy can only point out that Sonic’s eyes sparkle when he’s angry. Now, up to this point, Amy has been utterly useless, as you’ll recall from the Sonic CD arc – she is finally about to show that she’s actually capable of doing things.
Basking in the glory of her dead-on crossbow shot, Amy smugly asks Sonic to tell her again how he doesn’t need her around. Backing down a bit, Sonic says that they have a mission to complete – though I’ll point out at this point that had Amy not been there, he wouldn’t have had his back turned to rant at her and would have seen the badnik coming… Sonic asks the newly-freed animal that was inside the Pointdexter about the badnik threat, and we find out that it’s a brand new creation called the Combinik, 3 different badniks in one. Not only that, if it’s successful Robotnik plans to roll out more of them. Amy then states the incredibly obvious (“it must be stopped!”) but Sonic also points out that they’ll need to keep an eye out for Knuckles while doing so. No remark about the obviousness of the remark though – I swear he leaves most of his abuse for Tails. Maybe with Amy he’s too tired from having to constantly rebuke her advances? Suddenly the ground gives way – Knuckles? Nope, it’s a spikeball on a chain – dodging this, Sonic asks if Amy still thinks the zone is lovely – she decides that “lethal” is probably a more descriptive adjective. At this point we’re finally introduced to the story’s foe, as it bursts out of the wall.
Sonic decides to see what the device is made of, charging at it – and bounces straight off without leaving a dent. Amy fires a bolt at it, noting that it also hasn’t had an effect – not a surprise, seeing that Sonic’s a lot more powerful – and Sonic decides the best course of action is to take the fight back outside, smashing through a wall. Amy chases after him, followed very closely by the Combinik, and says she’s stuck for ideas on how to stop it – to which Sonic says that that was precisely the magic word, running across a cracked tile bridge over one of Marble Garden’s infamous tar pits. Right on cue, the bridge collapses and the Combinik sinks into the tar, never to be seen again. Also, its head explodes off the main body for no particular reason, go figure. Maybe it was expecting to have been kicked off? Amy remarks with a cheer that she & Sonic make a great team, to which Sonic mumbles a quick “Er, maybe”, but is saved from having to say anything further as Tails soars into view, having got the message from earlier – Sonic mentally noting that he’s never been more pleased to see the fox.
Finally as our heroes fly off into the sunset, Amy joining Sonic on the wing, we see Knuckles popping up who is just too late to make any actual difference to the story. Looking pretty pink there, Knuckles! Hell, he’s debatably more pink than Amy is. I don’t know if his incorrect colouring was just a poster mag staff problem (as you’ll recall, in the last one he was in he was purple), but I’m not quite sure why this would be the case in any event as they’re done by the same people.
Our second story, “Robotnik’s Revenge”, picks up where we left off from last time – Robotnik is freely roaming about on the surface of Mobius, back to his normal self after his bout of invincible fatness was extracted by Knuckles, and now that he knows where the base is he’s coming to destroy it, in the Big Arms craft. We open to a scene of chaos (pun somewhat intended) – the freedom fighters are packing their stuff to leave as quickly as they can, now that their location has been compromised. Sonic tells Tails to take the plane and go – well, I say “tell”, he yells “Move it!” at him, to which all the poor fox can do is stutter a reply. Poor Tails. Porker Lewis appears to be the main roadblock to their escape however – he’s having problems copying the Kintobor program back onto the Mobius Ring they got him from in the first place, but the computer says that Lewis needs to keep trying as it’s the only way they can take him with them. Not even turning it off and on again & making sure it’s plugged in has helped. Sonic, still holding the same box (hard working hedgehog, yup) turns to Johnny Lightfoot, who is looking at a large monitor – Robotnik, surrounded by a selection of badniks, is heading straight for them.
Meanwhile, on the Floating Island, Knuckles is standing at gunpoint of a Trooper who is guarding the Launch Base Zone saying no-one may enter. Seems Knuckles never got that memo though, as he smashes it to pieces, saying that he already threw Robotnik out. He then goes into the pictured monologue to the dead robot – however unlike a certain other pile of parts, no-one else is around to hear him doing so. And he’s not thinking small, either – his first target is Robotnik’s massive Death Egg, currently sitting smack in the middle of the zone.
Back on the ground, Robotnik is getting close, as pointed out by a fairly nervous looking Johnny Lightfoot – though Sonic does still find the time for a quick quip about the source of the rumbling noise. Porker explains to Sonic that the time it’s taking simply isn’t his fault – the Kintobor program is massive and the data transfer process takes time. “State of the art, that’s me!” replies the holographic head. Evidently the interface to the computer isn’t – is the hookup USB1 or something? We’re on USB3 now guys, keep up! Sonic flexes his muscles and says that as Tails and Amy have already left for the rendezvous point (Amy left earlier off-panel, apparently), it’s just the two of them to buy the time the pig needs to finish the transfer. Lightfoot replies that’s OK with him, and the two race off to the source of the noise. “It has to be somewhere around here that Robotnik is trying to get in!”, says Johnny, at an obviously circular cracked wall.
I’m not sure which is the better put-down here, actually – Sonic’s or Robotnik’s. It seems regardless that Sonic is in somewhat of a more serious mood anyway – Robotnik grabs Lightfoot in one of the Big Arms’ fists, and as Sonic smacks the machine, freeing the rabbit, Johnny’s relieved thanks is cheerfully accepted by Sonic. The two assume a fighting stance as Robotnik pauses to gloat for a moment, saying that although he really should be supervising the repairs on the Death Egg, he couldn’t resist leading the attack on the hideout personally, as he’d hate to miss their final moments. He muses that he should be back on the Floating Island before Knuckles even realises Launch Base is still operational (a bit late for that Doc). I sense that there might be a little bit of payback feeling too, from his Hannibal treatment the last time he was here. Sonic smacks into the machine, saying that if he gets the Death Egg working he’ll be unstoppable – Robotnik then punches Sonic into the air, saying that’s precisely the point. Johnny says to Sonic as he pulls himself off the floor that he can’t beat Robotnik while he’s piloting the Big Arms, saying he’s simply too strong for him – Sonic’s response to this is simply to use denial, saying he’s going to pretend he never heard him say that (ah, the small child’s strategy!) Instead, he jumps up and over the machine, smacking into the roof – and all around the room.
Landing clear of the machine, Sonic has instead come up with another way to stop it apart than attacking it directly – arranging a cave-in, Sonic tells it to eat boulders as Big Arms is covered in rocks, save one pathetic-looking hand sticking out. Rushing back through the tunnel, Sonic hopes they’ve given Porker Lewis enough time to complete the download, which he has, as they arrive back at the main room to see Porker holding a sparking Ring. However, there is one remaining problem – it’s too late, as Robotnik has sealed off all the exits; the three of them are trapped underground. Back under the rubble, Robotnik is slowly moving aside the rocks, grumbling as he does so that he should check in with the Floating Island on progress, and brings Grimer up on the viewer. He asks if Knuckles has tried anything, to which Grimer reports that he did attempt an attack, but that he was surprised by a badnik patrol – and is dead. Rather messily so, as it happens. Knuckles being dead reminds Robotnik of what he’s actually doing, saying that taking care of Sonic shouldn’t take too long and he’ll be back within the hour – he’s fairly optimistic, then! The transmission cuts off – revealing a very much alive Knuckles monitoring Grimer, who is tied up below the sight of the video camera transmission. Grimer asks rather nervously if the transmission was alright, to which the echidna replies that it was, though the trailing off of the sentence should give the green-skinned scientist some concern.
Two weeks of temporally-enforced suspense later, we return to Sonic’s HQ with the 3 still trapped – surrounded on all sides of the slowly-being-wrecked base. Sonic reasons they’ll just have to fight right where they are, even over Porker’s objections. They might be in a somewhat sticky situation, but Sonic’s just as cocky as ever. Robotnik bursts through the wall (a second time, now – they have to be almost out of walls by this point, surely) announcing Sonic’s end has now come. Sonic tries another spin attack on Big Arms, which again doesn’t work.
Wait, Squeeze Tag Machine? I know this boss didn’t get a name until Sonic Generations came out but… that’s fairly lame, all said and done. It has massive arms and spikes, could you not focus more on those? I mean I can see where you’re getting squeeze from, but tag? Eh, whatever. Sonic retorts that there’s no such thing as spin attack proof (I beg to differ. You can attack Death Ball directly as much as you like, you’ll get nowhere…), and all he needs is time – however Robotnik announces that his has run out. Suddenly however there’s a cracking on the ceiling, and to what I like to imagine is the music in the Generations cutscene when Sonic’s friends start showing up (after Time Eater has palmed the 2 hedgehogs to the floor), Knuckles bursts through the ceiling.
Deus ex Echidna starts punching the glass on the window of Big Ar-sorry, the Squeeze Tag Machine, causing it to finally shatter, as Johnny points out to Sonic – though the hedgehog grumbles that this was only because he’d weakened it first. Knuckles ignores this and just tells Sonic to spin attack it – which he does, ripping the top off, which somehow causes Robotnik to fly out (I don’t know why either, let’s just roll with it). Sonic says he doesn’t need Knuckles to tell him how to fight, to which Knuckles just points out that it looks like he needs all the help he can get – to be fair to Sonic, Knuckles, they are rather outnumbered and surrounded in cramped quarters. Porker was never a fighter, so it’s basically just Sonic & Johnny here. Robotnik sends in his badniks, who apparently were just lounging around playing mental Solitaire up to this point. Knuckles starts punching a hole in the wall to get the 4 of them out of there, to which Sonic taunts Knuckles, asking him if he’s scared of a fight.
You know, that’s a bloody good question, Knuckles – and a first that someone has actively called Sonic out on his dickishness, I think. However Sonic completely ignores it – not that I think he would have done much more than make a quip, anyway – and as the ground shakes, badniks burst into view, as Sonic says that now is Knuckles’ chance to show the others what he can do. We’re then treated to a page of the gang beating the crap out of robots, in their own way – Sonic flying around, fists outstretched, extolling his own virtues of coolness and blueness; Knuckles saying that while he isn’t as flash, he has his own methods, as he punches badniks apart; Johnny whacking badniks with his pugil stick; and Porker Lewis… holding the Kintobor ring while the computer somehow manages to vocalise a request to know what’s happening, as it can’t see. Shouldn’t it be unable to speak and listen either? It’s on the equivalent of a USB flash stick, why does it have a microphone and speakers?! No time to wonder about this though, as a small truck with Robotnik’s mug plastered on the front is trundling into view, loaded with Troopers – evidently normal badniks weren’t working so he’s going for the heavy duty stuff. Why weren’t these being used on the initial raid? Cue more badnik smashing, as Robotnik flies off in his Egg-O-Matic. Post-fight, Sonic asks Knuckles why he came to help them. After all, the last time we saw him, back in not-Hidden-Palace shrine, he said he had no interest in fighting Robotnik. Knuckles says that while this is true, it was his fault Robotnik found the secret base (due to his gullibility and willingness to have brain surgery off someone he’d just met – yes, it might have been a year, but I still can’t get over that!), and as such he felt duty-bound to help out. Sonic asks rhetorically when he ever needed anybody’s help (conveniently forgetting the entire ceiling-smash rescue from earlier), but Johnny shuts him down, practically pleading with Sonic to not start that conversation up again.
Knuckles then flies off in a conveniently-placed Egg-O-Matic (though the fact he mentions other flying Eggs are available to him would suggest this is how he got down off the Floating Island), and off into the next story we’re looking at – but first, let’s tie this one up. At the rendezvous point, we meet back up with Tails and for the first time in this story Amy, who says she’s been worried sick, and asks what happened. Sonic’s reply is just that Robotnik needed teaching a lesson, nothing more, and says that they need to get moving – as they hop into a motorised caravan with “Bob Beaky’s Travelling Circus” written on it, and a fairly obvious biplane shape under a tarpaulin trailing behind it. The group set off, Porker at the controls, and Amy hands Sonic a box, saying he’d better get into his disguise – despite the fact none of the others are doing so. Good thing too, the caravan is approaching a checkpoint manned by Troopers, who command them to halt – but as the next panel shows, they must have all changed as Porker is now in a circus get-up. The Troopers announce that they are looking for “that traitor of Mobius, Sonic the Hedgehog”, reported to be in this zone. Porker gulps that they haven’t seen him, and then we’re treated to this panel:
I mean, come ON. Sonic’s completely covered simply because I’d imagine blue creatures being targets are hard-coded into every badnik Robotnik makes moreso than the others, but really? Tails and Amy especially are so obviously visible – hell, these are AoStH level disguises, with similar levels of badnik dumbness, right here. The Troopers are thick enough to buy it though, and the caravan, free of the checkpoint, rides off into a cloudy-mountain sunset (of sorts), with Sonic complaining that he doesn’t know what’s worse, being forced out of the base or “having to look at Johnny wearing that ridiculous moustache” (his exact words, not mine. Even in-universe they know how pathetic the disguise is!). Johnny’s having none of it though, he believes it makes him look distinguished.
No, Johnny, it really, really doesn’t.
We then leave our heroes for a while to focus on Knuckles. At the time Sega was bigging him up as a star on the same level as Sonic, which would peak with his very own game – such a shame that game was Knuckles’ Chaotix on the Mega Drive 32X, which basically ensured any future endeavours on that sort of level were shelved – permanently, by the time
Emo the Hedgehog Shadow the Hedgehog rolled around and replaced his maximum-edginess character slot. Anyway, I digress – we’ll get to Chaotix in the future. As mentioned at the end of the last story, “Carnival Night Conspiracy” begins just as that one left off – while Sonic & co are off playing P. T. Barnum, Knuckles is flying high into the sky over Mobius in an Egg-O-Matic, approaching the Floating Island, when suddenly the machine casually informs Knuckles that the self-destruct has been initiated.
Knuckles jumps out of the now-badly-smoking machine, as Robotnik gloats that he’s done for unless he’s learnt how to fly. Fortunately for Knuckles, while he can’t exactly fly, he can glide just fine – and as he’s already over the Floating Island, he’ll be fine getting back, as the Egg-O-Matic explodes behind him. The clouds parting below, the island is revealed, but it’s apparently had some building work done in his absense, as an entire city comes into view.
Knuckles drops to the ground behind some rocks outside the city, noting that it’s well guarded (the entrance to the “Carnival Night City, opening soon” has 2 Troopers in front of it), but that this isn’t a huge issue as he could take them out fairly easily. However, Knuckles decides stealth is the better course of action here until he’s found out what’s going on, digging underground but noting as he does so that there’s no way of knowing where he’ll come up and that he’ll just “have to hope for the best”. Take a look at that panel to the right again for me. Note how Knuckles is above the city and could easily drop down inside it and plan exactly where he’s going to land. Instead, he deliberately lands outside and digs in at random. Why? There seems to be absolutely no reason at all, as the next panel shows him punching up into an empty space inside the city, and hoping he can get out of sight before he’s spotted. However, he’s a hair too slow, as a silhouetted figure with a dodgy accent checks his security screen saying that “she’s-a picking something up”.
Hmmmmm. Just who could this mystery trio of men be? Back with Knuckles, the echidna is looking around at all the advertising hoardings (featuring “Coola Cola” among others, Coka apparently having gone out of style since Sonic CD) and casino buildings, not getting it at all and wondering what the place is for exactly, as a helpful footnote from Megadroid reminds us the echidna has lived on the island all by himself his entire life. Knuckles the Amish, unable to conceive of things like gambling and cola… getting back to the point, the construction robot mentioned earlier suddenly pops up and says not to worry, as he won’t be around for it to matter much longer. Knuckles invites the robot to give it his best shot, which it does, throwing a punch at him – however Knuckles meets the punch with his own, shattering the robot to pieces, as the echidna stands there smugly. However, his cockiness almost proves his own doing, a bullet narrowly missing him (a gun?! Oh well, at least it’s not Sonic using it…) as he dives to the floor.
It’s those figures again, up to no good. Knuckles immediately proves the left-most one wrong as he scales the building, rocks crumbling off it as he does so (never saw that happen in the games. I blame the contractors using cheap building merchant supplies, obviously Mobius doesn’t have good quality control), reaching the top of the building and kicking the rifle out of the hand of the cigar-smoking shooter. Now he sees him up close, the shooter actually realises who Knuckles is – and we finally get our first view of the trio:
It’s the Marxio Brothers! Remember Sonic’s video game from last time? Yeah, these guys are the starring electricians. Gee, I wonder just who Harpio, Grouchio and Chicio (from left to right) could possibly be parodies of? Certainly not a certain 16-bit rival’s mascot, nope, not at all. I should also explain at this point for the benefit of the audience this isn’t the first time these guys have shown up, either (as per Grouchio’s comment in the initial panel above) – they debuted in issue #18, from ‘Marxio World’, a place they’re terrified of (the horror of being in a SNES title, no doubt). Working for Robotnik (because Nintendo is evil, geddit) they promptly got their Italian arses handed to them by Sonic and disappeared – until now.
2 weeks later, we’re back exactly where we left off, with Grouchio saying to Knuckles that they’re going to make him rich, throwing his arms wide and knocking poor Harpio’s horn (his only way of communicating. Seriously, he’s a mute, he communicates by using the horn to make noises) out of his hands, but fortunately (for Harpio, anyway) he manages to catch it. Knuckles however has a fairly valid point first – not 5 seconds ago the brothers had been shooting at him. Grouchio shrugs, saying it was an honest mistake – after all, Knuckles had broken into the place, they thought he was a criminal. Knuckles takes some offense to this, saying he’s the master of the Floating Island and that he therefore goes where he pleases – and Grouchio readily agrees with him, saying that this is why they’re cutting him in on the profits of Carnival Night City (nice of him to do so, when he doesn’t even own the land he’s built the place on!) Chicio asks if as a result he’s going to actually get paid now, as he gets nothing at present – Grouchio’s only response to this is “That much? Remind me to cut your wages!” Remember kids – Nintendo are only out to screw you over (hey, to be fair, this was definitely true in Europe at the time). Buy Sega products!
Grouchio is stubborn though (another negative Nintendo trait. Man, they’re just full of them aren’t they?), and isn’t beaten yet. He says to Knuckles that he’s waiting for his people’s return, but asks what are they going to think when they get back? The island is a mess (I suspect largely from what’s been done to it ever since the Death Egg crashed on it in the first place, but I digress…), but with the money that Knuckles will make from Carnival Night, he can clean it up. Knuckles is initially resistant, pointing out that as many of the sites are ancient monuments, they’ll obviously look old… but that he supposes the buildings in the Marble Garden could use some work (there’s a couple in particular that have hedgehog-shaped holes in, not to mention your underground punchup, eh Knux?) Grouchio offers to show Knuckles around before he makes his mind up, to which Knuckles agrees, but warns against any tricks. Down on the floor of the city, the four stare up at the wide array of fairly tacky casino-themed buildings, with Grouchio asking Knuckles what he thinks – and noting the first customers arrive tomorrow. Knuckles is initially stunned, but spots two Troopers marching in the background. Jumping to a conclusion, he says that he of course saw some at the main gate (you honestly forgot, Knuckles?), and that Robotnik is obviously behind all this, he should have guessed. Yes, you should – but we’re getting ahead of ourselves a little here.
Knuckles continues pummelling the Troopers and says he’s not making a mistake, as he knows all about Robotnik’s evil; though as we all know, it took the gullible sod long enough to twig. He then punches the head off one of the Troopers (Sonic would approve I think, though more so if it had been kicked. Then again, he is known for his fists). The Troopers dispatched, Grouchio tries to calm Knuckles down, saying they just bought the robots off Robotnik, simply as his robots are the best (and likely the only, I would have thought), and that’s all their connection to him is. Fortunately these are Troopers and not regular badniks or they’d be buying enslaved animals as well – I suppose putting Nintendo in the slave trade might have been one step too far, maybe. Knuckles asks how they know about the Floating Island if they have no other dealings with Robotnik, to which Grouchio tells him that ever since Robotnik found the place, ol’ blubber-butt has been blabbing about it and that it simply isn’t a secret any more. He then asks Knuckles to just give them a chance, and if he still doesn’t like the place, they’ll leave, as Harpio wiggles his leg furiously to try to get one of the Trooper’s helmets off his foot. Chicio says Knuckles will never agree, but Grouchio has an idea, taking Knuckles to a roller coaster ride with a horror theme, the “Hell House”. Knuckles complains the straps are tight, but is reassured they’re for his own safety as Chicio fires up the system and Knuckles is sent on his way.
Oh dear, whoever saw that coming? Grouchio hints at fatal results for Knuckles while he’s sealed in the cart – though as we cut back to Knuckles racing along, he muses to himself that the ride isn’t half bad – and with a “YEE-HAAA!” from Knuckles, the strip breaks for another fortnight.
Continuing to trundle around the tracks, Knuckles thinks the ride is pretty good – except for the harness being so tight he can barely breathe. He wonders if “the Marxios were taking the mickey when they said this was a ‘white knuckle’ ride”. I suspect they were more thinking of a Knuckles ghost than draining all colour from his face through shock. Meanwhile, back in the control room:
Poor Chicio. Grouchio is just as big a dick to his brothers as Sonic is to his friends, isn’t he? Back on the ride, a suit of armour swings down its sword, which sticks into the cart just behind Knuckles’ head – the echidna completely oblivious of the deliberate nature of the trap, saying that you’d think the knight really was trying to kill him. Chicio informs his boss they missed – Grouchio just tells him to spring the next one, as the ground ahead of Knuckles shakes and 2 mud creatures pop out. Knuckles thinks that the Marxios have sure put a lot of effort into the ride and while he could just sit back and relax, attacking the monsters is far more fun – which he does, smashing them to chunks of rock, as the echidna hopes these aren’t the only mud monsters the Marxios have. However, he’s starting to get lazy:
So instead, Knuckles punches the ceiling and a rockfall takes all the creatures out. Chicio bends over his control console but nothing is working, asking what Grouchio wants him to do – to which his brother replies that next time he crosses the road, don’t look each way. You know what, I take back what I said about Grouchio being as big a dick as Sonic – seeing as he’s actively telling his own brother to try and kill himself, I think Grouchio is actually bigger. Not even Sonic’s done that. Chicio seems to have the same obliviousness to malice that Tails does though – though rather than just apologising, Chicio just says that Grouchio is just a big kidder, and that he has an idea, sending Knuckles onto a section of track that they haven’t finished building yet. Knuckles rides over some large humps, does a loop-the-loop, and splashes through some pink liquid (hey, they even got Carnival Night 2’s water in here), with no way for Knuckles to escape as he’s strapped into the seat. Throwing some ghosts in his face, the end of the line is hidden from Knuckles until his cart arcs off the tracks and into thin air. Luckily for Knuckles however, one of their attempts at killing him proves his salvation:
Flipping upwards with the axe, Knuckles smashes the cart to pieces against the track, then wanders up to the Marxios’ office, politely knocking (he might be an isolationist, but he’s got good manners) and wandering inside. Grouchio gulps, telling the echidna that he might have noticed a couple of problems with the ride, but it’s nothing they can’t sort… but surprisingly, Knuckles tells Grouchio to take it easy – he loved the ride, and is allowing them to stay, to which a relieved-looking Grouchio says Knuckles is smart, & he can see that they made a shrewd move making him their partner. This of course proves once again that Knuckles is a complete idiot, having failed to see not one but multiple attempts to kill him.
A fortnight later, we return to the story to see that the Marxios have been busy getting Knuckles fully on-board since his surprise agreement last time – he’s now got his own office, complete with executive toys (one of those ball clackers, that Harpio is playing with, deep in concentration), an In and Out tray, a nice sign that says “Marketing Consultant” (so Knuckles is doing work for his money, not just getting it as the landlord? This wasn’t part of the deal! Maybe he should pray they don’t change it further), and even a TV, which Chicio is deeply jealous of. Grouchio says to Knuckles that in just a few hours they’ll be open to the public, at which point they just sit back and watch the cash roll in. Knuckles doesn’t care though, making the fairly decent point that he only agreed to all this to get the cash to renovate the older parts of the island – and as such doesn’t see why he needs an office. Do the Marxios answer him? No, because just like Amy at the beginning of the last arc, they’re TV addicts.
Knuckles looking deeply impressed there, I think. However, Chicio & Harpio don’t get a chance to see anything (presumably they were hoping for the Super Marxio Bros. Super Show?), as Grouchio quickly interrupts Chicio, asking him whether he pays him to watch TV. Chicio complains that he doesn’t get paid to do anything, and Grouchio turns to the camera smirking, saying that he knows that, but it’s a shame because he does it so well. Oh, those wacky Marxio Bros… Jumping ahead in time a bit, the next panel shows the three outside on the zone’s floor. Safely away from Knuckles, Grouchio muses that all they need to do is wait until his guard is down and finish him off permanently. For no reason at all, Chicio decides to break into song, singing that “there’s-a no place like the Carnival Night-a Zone”, to which Grouchio asks what the musical interlude is all about (a valid question, I’m with Grouchio on this one).
Oh, OK. I’m glad that THAT’S explained, then. You know, at this point I’m convinced that we need to get Grouchio and Sonic together for a rap battle where they do nothing but insult their comrades or something. “Which 16-bit mascot is the biggest douche? YOU decide!” Anyway, while sparks are apparently flying out of his arse, Grouchio’s rather hilariously shaped mobile phone (oh mid-1990s, how you amuse me) is being called by a Badnik patrol. Seems Knuckles is leaving the zone. Chicio is more worried about how mad Robotnik will be about this: “My momma always a-say…” Wait, is his mother not the same as the other two? They’re supposed to be brothers, is this more Nintendo lies? I think so! (OK, you do realise you yourself aren’t in 1994, right? -Ed) Chasing Knuckles down in a fairly friendly looking flying contraption with a happy-ish looking clown face on the front, the Marxios catch up to Knuckles just as he reaches the zone exit, much to Knuckles’ chagrin. Grouchio asks the echidna where he’s going – he just gave him an office all to himself after all, and now he’s repaying him by trying to leave? Such poor manners! Knuckles says that though he’s letting the Marxios stay on the island, Robotnik is something else entirely, and the Launch Base Zone is still up and operational – but not for much longer. And then, Chicio (who let’s not forget, is the closest resembling Mario of the three) makes the stupidest move he could possibly make at this point.
Even Knuckles realises he’s been duped after that line. Grouchio shrugs, reasoning that he figured what Knuckles didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him – “which in your case means you’re safe from practically everything!” Oooh, sick burn there. And we’re not even in Lava Reef Zone yet! (OK, seriously. You really ARE fired after a joke like that! -Ed) At this point though, it’s fairly safe to say that the Marxios don’t need to worry about stealthing their true purpose from Knuckles any more. Chicio, quick, activate “Compensating For Something” mode!
Wow. Overkill much, lads? Also good to see that Chicio has his priorities in order – obviously twatting Knuckles to death has a lower order of importance than ensuring you’re the first in line to grab his television set. Those boxed VHS tapes of “The Adventures of Super Marxio Bros 3” aren’t gonna watch themselves! The brothers start attacking Knuckles, launching missiles at him and trying to pound him into the ground with the machine’s massive fists. Knuckles resists at first but the second hit seems to have taken its toll – Grouchio orders a halt as he sees nothing moving, and tells Chicio to take a look – but as we see an unconscious looking Knuckles on the ground, it seems to be all over.
Gleeful of their fairly easy win, Chicio calls up whom I assume is Grimer, saying he can tell Robotnik that Knuckles is finished. Grouchio grabs the phone and says they’re expecting the first visitors from Mobius at any time, and that Robotnik will earn a fortune from the Carnival Night Zone. The voice at the other end of the phone says that they don’t want another Casino Night Zone fiasco (hey, all these electricians do is run gambling ventures? Nintendo is just so shifty), but Grouchio reassures him, saying that this time, nothing can go wrong.
Oh, Grouchio. That’s right up there with “what’s the worst that can happen?” and “How hard can it be?”
However there’s no time to mount an immediate search for Knuckles, as the first transport is arriving. Grouchio says they need to get to the control room (oooh, so close) and organise the opening day parade, finding Knuckles will have to wait – but the echidna has other plans. Bursting out of the ground & informing them he waits for no-one, Knuckles says he’s going to take care of them and then tear down the zone. The brothers fire off another missile shot, which hits… the ground, missing Knuckles who’d dug underneath. Even a fist-smash doesn’t work, as the rumbling of the ship isn’t in fact Chicio’s stomach as Grouchio thinks, but Knuckles punching up through the cockpit of the mech and smashing it to pieces, scattering Marxios everywhere. The transport lands, and Knuckles stares at the brothers with a fairly evil grin on his face – however, they’re not done just yet.
Lots more out-of-zone badniks. I wonder if Grouchio bought them as a pot-pourri discount lot? Grouchio sends Harpio off to organise the parade, while he and Chicio meet the guests. The doors of the craft cycling open, there’s no way that they can hide Knuckles bashing robots to pieces from the incoming guests – so Grouchio, balls of steel, decides to take a different tack than ignoring it.
Well, got to give him credit for the inventiveness of the idea, if nothing else. While we’re here, I’d just like to make a quick comment on the balloons in the panel on the right, that are dotted throughout this story – I realise this is faithful to a mechanic in the original zone, but why aren’t these floating away entirely? Maybe they’re being held in place by the zone’s control centre or something…. I dunno. Anyway, this little demonstration of echidna-on-badnik action prompts a response from the crowd (specifically a bear in a biker jacket, right next to a duck in a suit – I love the throwaway background character designs in this comic) that some say that Robotnik is still on the Island, repairing his Death Egg; but Grouchio quickly dismisses this and instructs the crowd to follow him into the zone – which of course is a problem for Knuckles, who doesn’t want to destroy the zone with people around as they might get hurt (whatever happened to kicking the crap out of all island invaders? You’re getting soft, Knuckles). He realises he needs to finish the badniks – fast.
Still smashing the badniks, Knuckles is effectively held in place while the world’s slowest moving crowd edges closer to the entrance of the zone. Now, at this point, they’re no further than 5, maybe 10 metres from the ticket booths. I want you to make a mental note of this fact, and that it would take an average person maybe 5 seconds to walk that distance. Still with me? OK, on we go. Grouchio looks on at Knuckles, chuckling (which as we all know, is something that Knuckles never does) that they’ll have visitors inside the zone before Knuckles can stop them, at which point there’s nothing he can do. Knuckles knows he’s not going to make it and has to think of something now, holding back (and getting punched) for a second, drawing the badniks in…
Knuckles has fists that emit a fire lighting effect, evidently. Honestly, at this point, the crowd should already be in the zone, but instead they’re just lulling about (as we’ll see in a bit), so instead simply have to be now overhearing the conversation that Knuckles & Grouchio are having, with Grouchio taunting Knuckles and saying they have another 20 badniks waiting to attack the second he steps into the zone – but Knuckles has had another idea, dropping to the ground on all-fours and saying he just has to sense where a nearby fault line is, and then:
Yes, that is sky you’re seeing in the middle of the panel there – Knuckles has punched the entire zone (which fortunately was built right at a convenient edge-on-3-sides piece of the island) clean free of the rest of the Floating Island, a development so shocking it’s caused Grouchio to drop his ever-present cigar. Note where the crowd is. That was a bloody long 5 seconds! Either way, this is a bit of an extreme way to solve the problem, Knuckles – do this with every invader and you’ll have no island left! What would your space-facing ancestors say? Either way, looks like the brothers are screwed: or are they?
I must say, Grouchio is fairly blasé about the thought of dying, here. Anyway, does this mean there are now 2 Floating Islands? Of course not. Remember how the main island stays aloft? That’s right, the emeralds – and as Knuckles explains, the ground over there still has a bit of power keeping it up, but as the emeralds are on his side of the break… and right on cue, the Carnival Night Zone starts dropping. Knuckles muses as they head out of sight that with some luck there’ll be enough emerald power left to cushion the impact – and then turns back to the crowd (now containing at the front a Johnny-like and Porker-like in different clothing), telling them to get back to the transports and off the island – el pronto. Meanwhile, back on the ground in the Emerald Hill Zone, we’re about to get some comedy relief as a young 90s-clothed bear complains to his mother that all his friends have gone to the Carnival Night Zone – why can’t they? Because it’s too far and they can’t afford it, says his mother. The kid heads off outside, kicking a stone and cursing, wishing that the Carnival Night Zone wasn’t so far away.
I think we all know where this is going.
Cutting to the wreckage of the zone, we see that Grouchio, Chicio and Harpio have all survived the fall intact. Chicio does his best Alpha-from-Power-Rangers impression, wondering what Robotnik will do to them once he realises what’s happened, but Grouchio has other plans, telling him that he’s welcome to wait around and find out if he wants, but that he’s going back to Super Marxio World – and that Robotnik is going to have plenty on his mind once Knuckles catches up with him.
And that brings us to the conclusion of the first part of the interim stories! Join us again next week for the second half, with more Floating Island shenanigans & an ominous foreshadowing of the future… For now though, remember to think happy thoughts and not get angry at having to wait for a bit. Just like Doctor Robotnik here.
(Yes, it is an actual panel from Sonic the Comic. No, it’s not from this set of stories. Yes, I just wanted an excuse to put it in. =P)
You’ve not read the previous parts already? For shame! Go check them out here:
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
And don’t miss out on David the Lurker’s lookback at how Archie did games adaptations on the other side of the Atlantic:
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