Issue #9: The Battle For Angel Island Pt. 1 Review

The battle is about to begin, and it is going to take all of our heroes to combat this threat! Neo Metal Sonic controls Angel Island and the Master Emerald! What tricks does this formidable villain have up his sleeve, and does the Resistance have what it takes to overcome them?!

Issue: #9
Release Date: 9/19/2018
Title: The Battle for Angel Island Pt. 1
Story: Ian Flynn
Art: Tracy Yardley
Colors: Matt Herms
Letters: Shawn Lee
Editors: Joe Hughes & David Mariotte
Publishser: Greg Goldstein
Covers:

  • A: Lamar Wells & Adam Bryce Thomas
  • B: Tracy Yardley
  • RI: Nathalie Fourdraine
    Featured Characters:
  • Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Amy Rose
  • Miles “Tails” Prower
  • Knuckles the Echidna
  • Blaze the Cat
  • Vector the Crocodile
  • Espio the Chameleon
  • Charmy Bee
  • Silver the Hedgehog
  • Shadow the Hedgehog
  • Rouge the Bat
  • Tangle the Lemur
  • Whisper the Wolf
  • Neo Metal Sonic

Synopsis

Neo Metal Sonic narrates his plans and recent victories in seizing Angel Island and harnessing the Master Emerald, noting that he has baited the heroes into bringing him the final piece he needs to complete his scheme. Confident that he has already won, Angel Island is shown, transformed into a giant flying fortress harboring the entirety of the Egg Fleet.

The scene transitions to Resistance HQ where Amy Rose is giving the gathered heroes a mission brief on their plan of attack. Knuckles is angry and distraught that he left the island unguarded, and Amy attempts to reassure him that they will help him take it back. Amy proposes they split into 3 teams, Team 1 & 2 would attack the shore lines while Team 3 would take out Neo Metal Sonic. Knuckles is adamant about being on Team 3.

Blaze suggests she go after Neo as Burning Blaze, her super form imbued by the power of the Sol Emeralds, but Tails dissuades her from doing so lest Neo copies her pyrokinetic powers, or worse, her ability to use the Sol Emeralds. Blaze begrudgingly agrees to this possibility. Amy encourages her, stating that Neo will be nowhere near the fleets she will be tasked with destroying.

The Resistance sets off for Angel Island in their battleship as the various members pass the time and prepare in various ways from leisure to quiet brooding to anxious excitement. Approaching the island, the Egg Fleet begins bombarding their ship. Team 3, Sonic & Knuckles, launches on their Extreme Gear, Team 2, Blaze, transforms into Burning Blaze and departs for the eastern shore, Team 1 evacuates the crashing battleship lowering down to the western shore via their flying members.

While Teams 1 & 2 battle against the Egg Fleet, Sonic & Knuckles track down Neo Metal Sonic. Discovering him enthroned upon the Master Emerald, the two heroes prepare to engage him in battle, but the villain transforms into Super Neo Metal Sonic.

Story

This issue serves as the opening act of Year 1’s grand finale. The stakes are high: Angel Island and the Master Emerald are firmly in the hands of the Neo Metal Sonic and Eggman Empire, and it is up to Sonic and the Resistance to stop him before it is too late!

While at first glance, this arc promises to be a straightforward and action packed battle for the fate of Sonic’s world, there is a lot more going on here than meets the eye! Despite not getting to the action until the final pages, I didn’t find this issue slow, boring, or drawn out. Partially, this is because I am looking at this as the beginning of an arc. Despite often saying that in comics it tends to be better to jump right into the action rather than show the boring logistics and travel aspects, I found myself highly interested in the “calm before the storm” as the broad cast interacted, many for the first time in the series.

In fact, I found this issue reminiscent of the first Marvel’s Avengers film. We have seen each of these characters introduced in their own issue, but for the first time they are all together interacting with each other in various ways. It was fascinating watching the web of interactions; there was encouragement, mistrust, brooding, anxiety, and anticipation all mixed together giving us a peek into the mindsets and motivations of many of the character. Through this, Flynn lays the groundwork for some interesting future character developments and plot lines, much of which I will expound on in the character section below.

While, the character interactions were definitely intriguing, the hook for the next issue was definitely the ensuing battle. We only got a glimpse into the fray before being left hanging for another month, but it was definitely enough to maintain the hype for issue #10! While seeing the various rank and file characters fighting together against the Egg Fleet is fun, seeing Burning Blaze in action is more appealing. I hope that they give her something a bit more challenging than Egg Carriers that fold like cardboard boxes to deal with in the coming issues. However, the real show is going to be Sonic & Knuckles versus the newly transform Super Neo Metal Sonic! If the fight on 3 different fronts was not enough, Shadow has gone rogue for some unknown reason as well!

Thus far, Ian has littered the book with some great and unexpected twists and turns, as well as references for readers across the fandom spectrum. I am truly excited for what surprises he has in store, and how he will set up Year 2!

In regards to references, this issue may have been the most jam-packed yet. With a such a big cast, Flynn has many opportunities to slip in many references, call backs, and Easter Eggs, adding another layer of quality to an already stellar issue. Some were quite overt while others were pretty deep cuts. However, I think they all had their place with many adding to the story and at worst not detracting from it in any way.

From my experience, there are few things Sonic fans love more than Crush 40, and Ian has delivered, once again sneaking lyrics into the dialogue. This time Neo’s comments, “One by one, they’ll all become a black mark on the floor” and “Come show me what you’re made of” are references to “What I’m Made of” which is the theme song for his Metal Overlord form in Sonic Heroes.

Like a million faces, I’ve recognized them all,
And one by one, they all become a number as they fall.
In the face of reason, I can take no more,
And one by one, they all become a black mark upon the floor.

Let me show you just what I’m made of now!

We also see another Heroes reference when we our favorite detectives in their Team Chaotix flying formation with Charmy humorously trying to support Espio and Vector. In fact, the entire first year has been heavily referencing Sonic Heroes from the start. At first I merely thought they preferred Heroes’ Badnik designs for aesthetic purposes. While that may be the case, it was in actuality an early hint of which direction Flynn was going with Year 1. While we started in Forces, I feel that we are drawing much more from Heroes’ themes more at this points. Despite Super Neo being formidable enough already, I would not be surprised if we see Metal Madness or Metal Overlord very soon!

While the lyrics may have slipped by many unnoticed, a somewhat more overt reference was Sonic and Knuckles’ use of Extreme Gear from the Sonic Rider‘s series, once again indicating that the Babylon Rogues are still out there somewhere! Another passing reference was Blaze’s acrophobia or fear of heights that she references before jumping from the battleship and transforming into Burning Blaze.

There was even a Classic reference thrown in from Sonic & Knuckles. Neo transformation is very similar to Mecha Sonic‘s when Knuckle fights him in the Sky Sanctuary Zone, both robotic versions of Sonic using the Master Emerald to gain their super forms!

Characters

Ultimately, it seems this arc is shaping up to be action packed, but Flynn continues to weave character development throughout the book and there is a lot to digest this month! One thing to note before we delve into it, while many fans were hoping to see new characters introduced this issue due to Nathalie Fourdraine‘s RI cover, Omega, Gemerl, and Cream & Cheese do not appear in this issue nor does it seem likely they will appear in this arc. This is fine with me, Flynn handles the large cast well, but I do not think there was room for anyone else at the moment!

Because of that dearth of characters featured in this issue, I will be doing things slightly differently than usual. Instead of breaking it down by character, I will be evaluating each interaction chronologically. This way I will not have to repeat interactions that happen between various characters.


The book opens with a monologue from  Neo Metal Sonic. He is cold, calculating, and supremely confident. He is not just certain that he will win; he believes he has won already. It would seem as superior as he may be mentally and physically, he has not escaped the dangers of pride and arrogance. He may think that he has solved for every variable in the equation, but there are some things you just cannot predict. It will truly be fascinating to see where Metal Sonic is at the end of this arc.

We transition to the Amy Rose briefing the ragtag Resistance that has assembled. I am rather a fan of Amy being portrayed as the true leader of the Resistance, the one really pulling the strings and making things happen. It is refreshing to see her boundless energy focused into something more productive than merely chasing Sonic around.

Blaze has returned to Sonic’s world at the behest of the Sol Emeralds. Through a mystical connection not dissimilar to Knuckles’ link to the Master Emerald, she received an omen that something terrible was going to transpire. While Neo’s conquest of Angel Island seems to be the cause of these warnings, Tails dissuades her from using their power to confront Neo lest he copy her pyrokinetic powers or ability to use the Sol Emeralds.

While many recognized this as a convenient plot device to have Sonic & Knuckles go up against Super Neo instead of Burning Blaze, the logic behind it,  and more aptly her begrudging acceptance, fits the circumstances. Hopefully there will be a more significant threat for Burning Blaze to face later. Perhaps in the end, she will be necessary to stop Metal Neo, especially if he reaches one of his even more powerful forms.

Once they have departed for Angel Island, Sonic’s first major scene involves him going out of his way to check on Whisper and to thank her for aiding them despite being out of her comfort zone. Like before, he is very considerate of her, making her feel welcome and comfortable despite her aversion for crowds.  He even show consideration for her anxiety, leaving her be after checking up on her. This reflects his  empathy for others and his concern for the well-being of  his friends and allies. He also serves as a positive role model for those who have friends or loved ones struggling with their emotional and mental health.

The focus then shifts to an interaction that has been eagerly anticipated by fans. I found Blaze and Amy‘s conversation to be the center piece of this issue. Despite only being in the 9th issue, many of this characters have a storied history from the games, that is not being ignored. Like Whisper, Blaze was once a stranger to our heroes, and through their adventures they have formed mutual trust and respect, eventually causing Blaze to let her guard down and truly becoming their friend and ally. Reflecting on this, Blaze realizes that perhaps she could give Whisper the same opportunity.

Once again shifting, Rouge is unable but to help overhear their conversation and in turn questions Shadow‘s motivations for joining the battle. Although he is brooding and cryptic as usual, circumstances seem to hint that Shadow will have a significant part to play in this or the coming arc.

While Whisper played a relatively small role in this issue, it was her mysterious aura that continues to make her an intriguing character. Befriended by Sonic and Silver, it seems she has agreed to directly work with the Resistance from the first time, rather than operate from the shadows.

Granted, they really do not know much about her, and Whisper glaring at Shadow from across the room with murderous intent is a portent of things to come. In the previous issue, it was implied that Eggman had traumatized her at some point in the past, but it would seem she holds a grudge against Shadow as well. While her issues with Eggman and grudge against Shadow could very well be two different affairs, from a story telling perspective, this seems unlikely. I would venture to guess that a phantom Shadow created by the Phantom Ruby may be responsible, setting the stage for a significant misunderstanding.

I do not believe we will see Shadow and Whisper come to blows anytime soon, but whatever his personal reasons for joining the battle against Neo will likely soon be revealed if issue #11’s RI cover is any indication (which we have learned that it may not be)!

The card game was an interesting scene to me as well. Ignoring the established characters, I was most eager to see how Tangle acted. I feel like we did not get much of a chance to get to know her back in issue #4, but this issue definitely fleshed out her character in some subtle ways despite not having a major role to play in this book.

Living up to her name, she is not afraid to throw in or throw down with the boys, much less anyone else. We see just how comfortable she is in her own skin when she shamelessly cheats at cards by taking advantage of Silver‘s naivety much to the amusement of the Chaotix. While perhaps not the most heroic action, it shows that she is mischievous and cunning. She not only likes to rumble, but she likes to win.

Unlike some of the others, she is totally relaxed, even excited for the battle to come, flying into battle like a Norse Valkyrie with manic glee. She seems to be a spirited and mischievous brawler, eager to tangle with any challenger and happy to seek out new opportunities to test her mettle.

The final moment before the ensuing battle, shows Sonic and Tails friendship and trust in one another. Sonic’s nerves are racing with anticipation and a tinge of anxiety, but Tails assures him that they will make it through as they always do. I appreciated how understated this exchange was. It showed that these two have such a deep bond and understanding of each other that not much had to be said.

As the barrage begins and the ship begins to go down, Blaze transforms into Burning Blaze and takes off for the opposite side of the island, but before she does, she tells herself not to consider how high she is. This is a reference to her acrophobia that is first seen in the Sonic Rush series of games. I really appreciate these little details that give the characters flaws and dimension yet are also true to canon.

Amy commands the rest of the Resistance forces on the western shore, however, after seeing her tactical prowess back in issue #2, I was rather disappointed with how she commanded our heroes in this issue. Before, she was inspiring and strategic, organizing a ragtag militia into a formidable force that made short work of the invading Badniks. This time around, she has what is arguably one of the most elite fighting forces in the world, and shouts what amounts to a bunch of nonsense.

While one could argue that such elite fighters did not need much guidance, it just seems like a set up for a weak punchline, especially with the “cover Tails while he does something smart” line. If not as a device to note that Shadow has gone rogue, I would think the book would have been better served either with some more serious instructions or just forgoing them all together and letting the action speak for itself

I think between her insightful exchange with Blaze, the tactical leadership she has shown in the series thus far, and the maturity she has shown in her relationship with Sonic, I was just really jarred by her silly commands in this issue. They just seem to be out of line with the Amy we have seen thus far. In the end, I think it is forgivable, whether intentional or not, it shows that she still has room to grow and has not lost her signature spunk.

Meanwhile, Sonic & Knuckles track down Neo‘s lair crowned with a giant statue of Eggman. Sonic makes a quip about it, but Knuckles is not having it. Knuckles has perhaps the most interesting motivations in this issue. Outspoken and headstrong, he cannot help but display his anger towards Neo and his own disappointment in himself for not protecting Angel Island and the Master Emerald.

We see him angrily pacing back and forth at the briefing, pounding his fists in anticipation. He vehemently declares that he is going to be on the team that faces off with Neo which no one argues with, though Sonic does not miss an opportunity to tease him, nonetheless.

On the way to the island while others are blowing off steam, Knuckles is intent on isolating himself and brooding for the entire trip. He is completely focused on the task at hand. Even when arriving at Neo’s stronghold, he has no time for Sonic’s foolishness, focusing all his energy into the coming fight.

For him, this is not just another mission. It is personal. He has failed in his sacred duty as protector of the Master Emerald and has a sworn duty to win it back. This failure reflects on him as a person, and while the others were not hard on him and attempted to reassure him, he knows the severity of this loss and the danger it represents in the wrong hands. While his focus and devotion to his calling are commendable, it could also end up being a detriment to him if he gets too shortsighted.

Finally, we see why Neo is so confident in his odds of success. Already proven to be more than a match for Sonic, he uses the Master Emerald to attain a Super Form. How will Sonic & Knuckles fair against such a powerful foe? We will have to wait and see!

Art

This issue has to be Yardley’s best work on the series yet. It is also the first issue where he has done his pencils completely digital as has become the standard for IDW Sonic. He has a lot to work with from the large ensemble cast to sweeping vistas of Angel Island and the iconic Resistance HQ. He did a great job transitioning to a digital format; his inks are dynamic, capturing the moods and action of the various characters well. Matt Herms seasoned colors, give the book a nice ambiance, I particularly like the way they used shadows on and off to highlight some of the characters.

We see his iterations of the new characters, previously only drawn by Stanley, Tangle and Whisper. Yardley does them justice, staying very close to model, and giving them both very distinctive expressions. Two of the most memorable moments in the issue were Whisper’s glare at Shadow, and Tangle’s confident salute to Amy during the battle.

However, I think the crowning moment was Super Neo’s introduction shot. Yardley has these entrance scenes mastered. Like in issue #5 with Shadow, Super Neo make a big impression before the cliff hanger!

 

Covers

Cover A by Lamar Wells & Adam Bryce Thomas: While Lamar wells is responsible for the awesome pencils on this cover;I was pleasantly surprised to see Adam Bryce Thomas credited with the colors on this cover. I can imagine pulling off the reflection on Neo’s head was a challenging task, but Lamar & ABT pulled it off for what has become my favorite cover yet.

Cover B by Tracy Yardley: While I am learning to appreciate Yardley’s interior art style, I am quickly becoming a huge fan of his cover art. Between this and his issue #6 cover, he has the most diverse and creative covers amongst the artist currently working on the book. I really love the propaganda poster style. It is unique and really fits the theme of the arc perfectly.

RI by Nathalie Fourdraine: Nathalie makes it 3 for 3, giving issue #9 perhaps the best line up of covers in the series yet, and illustrating her 9th consecutive RI cover! Many were disappointed that while her cover included Gemerl, Cream & Cheese, and Omega that they did not appear in the story. While disappointing one has to understand that covers are often made way ahead of time with limited information regarding the story.

Not only that, but comic covers in general do not usually accurately reflect the story. If you note her previous covers, none of them really have anything to do with the stories, often featuring characters and locations that do not appear in that issue. If anything, besides extra characters, her issue #9 cover was the most accurate so far, beside.

It seems people just got excited at the thought of new characters being introduced, and unfortunately had their expectations violated. Do not fear, Flynn has confirmed that all those characters and more are on the table, and will be introduced sooner or later! Sonic has a lot of friends and allies, and it would be best not to overload the book so soon, but rather let them flow in more naturally. Editor, David Mariotte also addressed these concerns and said that those characters and more will appear eventually, even Big the Cat!

Conclusion

Overall, I think this was a great issue, and a phenomenal start to Year 1’s grand finale! The stage was set and the battle has begun! The writing was engrossing with its barrage of little interactions, and the arrival of Super Neo was an exciting revelation and satisfying homage! The art team nailed it this issue in every regard from cover to cover. While they once again left us on a cliff hanger, it has done nothing but made me look forward to the next part of the arc. If Neo has already ascended to his Super Form in part 1; I cannot imagine what surprised are in store for us still!

Thanks for reading our review of issue #9! In case you have no heard, there is exactly 1 week left in our 100th Article Celebration Giveaway! Check it out so that you can find out how to win a rare copy of Sonic the Hedgehog #1 with cover art by Jonathan Gray or a T-shirt with Adam Bryce Thomas’ Issue #2B cover art that were exclusively sold at Spencer’s in limited supply! Otherwise, check back regularly for the latest news, reviews, announcements, and discussion on anything and everything IDW Sonic!

UPDATED: 9/25/18 – Thanks to J-D-Art for the additional information regarding Yardley switching to a digital format and the division of labor on Cover A!

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2 Comments

  1. This issue marks Yardley switching from the old way of doing the pencils on physical paper and then passing it to a separate inker, to just doing the lineart digitally himself, aka the way he did it on Cosmo and how all the non-Yardley lineartists (ABT, Jen-Hen, and Evan) have been doing it.

    One thing worth noting about Lamar & ABT’s cover: according to ABT on instagram it was specifically that Lamar did the pencils, while ABT did the inks and colors.

    Like

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