You don’t need me to tell you that the strange homunculi cast of the Sonic the Hedgehog game series are about as developed and characterized as a pile of forgotten cartoon characters held together by a tapestry with a list of canned kid-friendly phrases written on it. In light of Sega’s recent layoffs it’s unlikely to expect a compelling story from them any time soon, but honestly it seems to be better that way since Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 is looking fantastic.
Thankfully we have Archie to fill the surprisingly high demand for proper Sonic stories. Like most comic book worlds the plotlines can get a bit wonky at times, but a wonderful cast of well-written versions of the characters we know and loath from the games makes them more than worth reading.
Cream the Rabbit is a pure concoction of cute. She is a relatively recent addition to the Archieverse, but fits right in. Since this universe is defined enough to have actual cities occupied by an actual population instead of some weird disconnected series of locations whose only inhabitants are Sonic, his friends, and Robotnik, Cream has fitting role as an occasionally seen citizen of New Mobotropolis. She is something of a Fluttershy type of character: quiet, polite, and utterly adorable. A character like Cream is much more fitting in a side role like this instead of being shoehorned in like her game counterpart.
Unless you have subjected yourself to the absolute worst of the Sonic games you probably haven’t heard of E-123. He was originally created to fill out Team Dark (Shadow, Rouge, E-123) in Sonic Heroes and continued to appear in future games because . . . reasons? In the comics he has been significantly fleshed out beyond “I’m a robot, but decided I don’t like Robotnik anymore.” His joy in causing mayhem and destruction suggests inspirations from HK-47, the widely loved killing machine from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Like his game counterpart, he works with Shadow and Rouge as a defender of Station Square, the only human nation in the Archieverse.
The writers at Archie have the uncanny ability to take just about everything that sucks about the Sonic games and elegantly recreate it in their comics. Silver is no exception. Like his digital doppelganger, he is a time traveler from an unpleasant apocalyptic future timeline who makes regular trips to the present in an attempt to prevent it. His objective makes a bit more sense in that he is trying to root out a supposed traitor in the Freedom Fighters. It’s hard not to sympathize with him as he blunders about, constantly accusing members of the Freedom Fighters only to be wrong every time. He’s pretty low on this list due to lack of any further development, but the current story arc has him banished to the present with no hope of returning home until he finds the real traitor. His future is unclear, but he has great potential.
Espio’s resurrection in Sonic Heroes didn’t do the forgotten character any favors. Sega had the right idea when they ninjafied him, but without any traits beyond that and an obnoxiously deep voice he is among the worst of all Sonic characters. Archie Espio, on the other hand, is one of the most interesting characters in the comics. Even though he remains one of Knuckles’ most trusted friends, he is honor-bound to the Shinobi Clan, a ninja cadre from the Dragon Kingdom (the China of Mobius). This loyalty actually forced him to work against his friends when the four main ninja clans united under the Iron Queen, a tyrant bent on conquering Mobius. His undying loyalty to his clan has created a constantly strained relationship with Knuckles and the rest of his comrades leading to some of the most enthralling plotlines in the comic series.
Shadow is actually the closest on this list to the game version. Shadow is “The Ultimate Life Form” created by Gerald Robotnik under military contract. However, he also saw Shadow’s creation as a means to cure an illness plaguing his granddaughter Maria. Unfortunately a decision to shut down to the project led to a raid on the doctor’s lab resulting in Maria being shot Gerald arrested. 50 years later, Shadow awoke with no clear memories beyond the desire to avenge Maria planted in his subconscious by his creator. That doesn’t sound so bad in writing now does it? The difference is all in the execution. The Archie version of Shadow’s tale used that origin as the starting point and created a character with whom readers could actually empathize with. Shadow’s quest is a sprawling tale that has developed him from an anti-hero to protector of Station Square who freaking smiles sometimes.
Tails certainly isn’t the worst character in the games, but he’s still hasn’t developed beyond his “boy genius” status. Archie Tails is one hell of a scientist and inventor, but his personal development is the most interesting part of his character. His relationship with Sonic has evolved far beyond that of hero and sidekick. The hero of Mobius respects Tails as an equal and no longer as a kid brother he has to look after. Tails may have had to literally beat that message into him during one of the strongest story arcs in the series, but it made their friendship all the stronger in the end.
Sonic’s number one fan is easily one of the best characters in the Archieverse. Amy’s unrequited affection for the blue hedgehog is the only trait that carried over from her transition to the comics. She doesn’t let her love for Sonic define her. Amy is one of the strongest Freedom Fighters (Sonic’s close-knit team) capable of badassery matched by few others. She once went toe-to-toe with the Iron King; a bull about five times her size wearing supposedly indestructible armor. The way she doesn’t latch on to Sonic like a fan girl, but respects his decision to pursue other romantic pursuits places her in an adorable underdog role. She’s like Taylor Swift in You Belong With Me. As a reader you’re actually rooting for her to get a shot with Sonic.
Knuckles is, potentially, the most powerful being on all of Mobius. Due to some serious tampering with his egg (yeah Echidnas lay eggs, let’s go no further than the writers did) performed by his father, Knuckles was blessed from birth with control over the energy emitted by chaos emeralds. An attempt was made to making these powers manageable made things worse, but things went awry and he was essentially transformed him into a living chaos emerald. After a few forays into altering time and temporary death (comic books), these god-like powers became more of a dormant state within Knuckles. Even though he is a strong leader and fiercely loyal to the cause of freeing Mobius from Robotnik, his dormant omnipotence presents the risk of him losing it and trying to take over the world himself. Readers have seen what Knuckles could become if that happened thanks to an alternate timeline Silver encountered in his travels. It was terrifying.
Julian Kintobar, the original Robotnik, was actually killed pretty early in the comic series (issue #50), but not before coming into contact with an alternate, robotized version of himself from a parallel universe. The two chatted for a while before parting ways. This alternate Robotnik was considerably more ruthless, proving such when he decided to just bombard the hell out of his version of Mobius with nuclear weapons. He quickly became bored without an annoying hedgehog or any other resistance to shoot missiles at, so he decided to travel to the main universe when he discovered that the original Robotnik was no longer among the living. He took on the moniker of “Eggman” so Archie could keep using the character and set out to conquer another Mobius. Eggman is cunning, ruthless, and slightly mad after Sonic defeated him one too many times. Although he still makes use of roboticization (transforming organic life forms into soulless machines), he also “legionizes” anyone who joins his cause freely by fitting them with cybernetic enhancements. Of course said enhancements are rigged to explode in case any of them so much as look at him funny.
Sonic is a combination of “good guy” Steve Rogers as portrayed by Chris Evans, the wisecracking Spider-Man few writers can ever get right, and the world-on-his-shoulders aspects of Superman. He’s kind, strong, self-sacrificing, funny, and just an all around good person. Sonic is the ultimate example of the straight up “good guy.” Sonic hasn’t had much character development, but he never really needed it. He’s no different than he was in Sonic the Hedgehog #1, but that doesn’t matter because he has an outlet for all of that good will. When he doesn’t, on the other hand, we get to experience a whole new side of Sonic. In times of peace, he doesn’t know what to do with himself. When Ixis Naugus, one of the lead villains in the series, seized control of the kingdom Sonic calls home through crafty politics, the blue blur is powerless to stop him. At times like this, Sonic has to rely on the more crafty, critical thinkers he normally protects. In no other medium has Sonic been this perfect of a character.
Way past cool, folks at Archie. Way past cool.