Review – Sonic The Hedgehog Annual 2019 (IDW Publishing)

Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writers: Ian Flynn, Caleb Goellner, Evan Stanley, Gigi Dutreix, Cavan Scott, James Kochalka
Artists: Jennifer Hernandez, Jack Lawrence, Evan Stanley, Diana Skelly, Jonathon Gray
Colourists:  Leonardo Ito, Evan Stanley, Prisculla Tramontano, Reggie Graham
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Release Date: 1st May 2019

After a year of being a critical and commercial success, making waves with fans young and old alike, IDW’s new Sonic The Hedgehog comic celebrates with its first annual.  Featuring five standalone stories from a bevy of talent that, while perhaps not essential, showcase why this book has become such a hit. Across the five stories we get new tales featuring Tangle and Whisper, Sonic and Tails, Silver and Blaze and Rough and Tumble, with each story managing to capture something special about this series.

Even the first story, from Flynn and Hernandez, which stands as the weakest of the five, brings the strength of Flynn’s original characters to the forefront.  Within a story that seems to be a little restrained as a result of being compressed into an anthology, the unique and exuberant Tangle and Whisper bring so much heart you can’t help but feel won over. Whisper in particular feels like such a refreshing, individual and surprisingly layered character in the world of all ages comics  Oh, and it also features three of the wilder characters from the Sonic spin-off games, brought to life by iconic Sonic Artist Hernandez, which is always fun.

We bounce next to Goellner’s, Lawrence and Ito’s Sonic and Tails story, which captures the speed and action of the main series. It’s fairly simple, featuring planes, experimental tech and bad robots (and the hijinks that frequently ensue when these things come together), but with Lawrence’s special attention to fast-paced, kinetic action, and Sonic’s smug expressions, it’s a plenty special and a worthwhile adventure to include here.

From Stanley and Dutreix, the third story may be my favourite of the whole bunch. It’s equally simple, featuring Silver, Blaze and gardening, but it brings such a surprisingly powerful message that it ends up being really special and unexpected. With Stanley’s art (which has being consistently outstanding through the run) becoming an absolute masterclass, and her use of colouring and composition crafting something remarkable, each page becomes something worth admiring and framing, honestly.

It’s the fourth story from Scott, Skelly and Tramontano that feels the most packed and fitted for a great anthology story. With Rough, Tumble and Rouge toe-to-toe in the looting of an old Eggbase, it has action, adventuring, slapstick, a twist and a very sweet ending. It delivers everything you’d hope for from a standalone short story (and more!), and Skelly and Tramontano bring dynamic and lavish panelling and texture to perfect this grave-robbing, Egyptian inspired story.

However, just when four solid stories of Sonic and the gang seem like enough, it’s the annual’s final tale that brings the emphatic knock-out to this issue. Legendary creators James Kochalka, Jonathon Gray and Reggie Graham bring a hilariously wonderful take of an in-world Sonic fanclub, featuring some absolutely stunning cartooning. The almost sketchbook Sonic-meets-Calvin-and-Hobbes-meets-Disney-Animation art style is unbelievably good, tying a glorious bow on top of an already strong package.

Sonic Annual 2019 may be inessential, with no ties or threads to anything happening in the main book, but it truly is a shining example of what this series does best.  It pairs a crack team of writers with some of the finest cartoonists in the business, and provides some action packed, heart-filled all ages fun that consistently looks stunning.  If you’re a fan of the franchise, these five adventures are a fine addition to the series, but if you’ve never read a Sonic comic before, this annual might just show you just why so many people have become attached to this strange series that probably has no right being this good.

Rating: 4/5.


The writer of this piece was: Connor Stephens
Connor Tweets from @diddlesMVP

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