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A Book By Its Cover: My Mixed Feelings About Archie Sonic Online #254


Lorekitten

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This article contains spoilers for Archie Sonic Online issue #254. Obviously. This one isn't going to be a page-by-page recap like my last one, though.

Spoiler

So way back when Archie Sonic Online finally released the definitive conclusion to the Naugus arc in issue #253, I read through the entire issue expecting... well, among other things, that Antoine was going to wake up at the end of the issue, given that a big part of the previous issue had been Naugus planning on using his magic to possess Antoine's body and reshape it to fill his needs. Neither event actually happened, despite Elias somehow managing to use the Sword of Light to somehow heal/resurrect Geoffrey (in what I will forever refer to as the "LAZARUS COME FORTH" moment), but the teaser for the next issue made a pretty clear promise that it would focus on Antoine's return... or, at least, his final fate.

I actually wrote an entire article on ASO #254 speculation back when this blog was on the Nuzlocke Forums, which under my current mental health circumstances I would not go back to if you paid me (I don't want to talk about it and you don't want to know), but I may repost that article here as a bonus if anyone's curious as to what my ideas were. But when the actual issue finally released yesterday, it didn't really focus on Antoine until the very end, making me feel like the cover was false advertising until we finally reached the last few pages of the first story and Antoine woke up and...

...and while there was nothing wrong at all with the rest of that first story, it still felt kind of unearned to have the main focus of the cover be something that only happens at the very end without much of any real leadup to it whatsoever.

Look, I'll be honest here (it's the only thing I know how to be, really). As excited as I was to see the cover for this issue six whole months ago, I feel like the moment of Antoine's awakening would've been more impactful if this issue's cover hadn't as good as spoiled it half a year in advance. While I'm sure the creators had their reasons for choosing that cover design, setting up Antoine's return and then having the majority of the issue not be focused on Antoine at all not only felt like false advertising, it was also a spoiler to the most important twist in that issue. So much so that I almost feel robbed of the surprise I could've had when Antoine unexpectedly woke up. It was still a wonderful moment, I'll give you that; reboots notwithstanding, I've been waiting over a decade to see my boy once more. But promising Antoine as the focus of the issue and then having the issue focus on other characters not only dampens the impact of Antoine waking up, but it also dampens the impact of the rest of the issue, at least in my opinion.

And the rest of the issue absolutely did not deserve that dampening, because it was great.

My entire family has dealt with mental health issues over the course of our lives, and seeing Sally receive treatment for her trauma and an explanation for how it's affected her over the years made the character seem that much more alive and breathing. (Also, I totally buy it as the explanation for why The Slap happened.) I also like seeing Mrs. Quack as the psychiatrist; however I feel about Dr. Quack as a character and as a dad joke, it's always nice to see the lesser-known Archie characters get their time in the spotlight, which is one thing I always loved about Ian Flynn's writing and I wholeheartedly appreciate the writers of ASO carrying the torch.

Then there's the second main plotline of the first story, which pertains to the Council of Acorn trying to figure out how to handle Harvey Who's de facto insurrection and the fact that the Council of Acorn itself was compromised at the time said insurrection happened. Not going to spoil how this one turns out because seriously, if you haven't read the issue yet, read it, but I will say that this one satisfied me on all ends as well.

So, yeah. There were plenty of opportunities to design a cover that focused on the main plotlines of this issue and didn't spoil Antoine's awakening, and as much as I enjoyed looking forward to Antoine's return, I still feel that the way the story was written, it would've been a better moment if we hadn't seen it coming six months away.

The second story is the first of a two-parter in which Nicole and Mina do Nicole and Mina things together. It's nice to see the two getting along after all the crap they went through in the Naugus arc, and watching Nicole adapt her coding to being more Mobian is always a treat. Maybe it's my autistic experience talking, but feeling like you're 'programmed' differently and trying to relate to a world that feels alien to you is definitely a vibe. The art style is absolutely brilliant in both senses of the word, particularly the coloring. And that last panel has me curious as to how part two is going to play out...

So overall, I'd say that there's nothing actually wrong with the issue itself. It just would've been better with a cover that didn't spoil the first story's final page.

But on the subject of covers, issue #255's cover kind of concerns me, because... well, because Antoine just woke up from a coma and quite frankly, people who have just woken up from comas aren't typically given to action poses immediately afterwards. Given how much work the writers have gone through to make Sally's and Geoffrey's conditions and recoveries more believable even considering that this is a comic book about cartoon animal people with superpowers, this is stretching my disbelief, and I wanted to see him back as much as anybody. But the guy was caught in an explosion, for crying out loud. Just because he's woken up doesn't mean he's going to be that healthy this soon afterwards. I'm happy to see him and all, don't get me wrong, but I'd kind of like his recovery to be a bit more realistic, even by comic book standards.

Okay, maybe I was kind of hoping he'd have to take on some cybernetic 'enhancements' so he'd have something in common with his wife Bunnie and they could bond even deeper over that... and also because it'd be really freaking cool, but that's ultimately secondary to the character development angle in my book. (I may be a minority opinion on this comparison. Quite frankly, I don't care.)

And then there's the eventual Sonic Universe story, focusing on Blaze going to Moebius to try to find a Sol Emerald, and if Scourge and Finitevus somehow manage to show up in that storyline, it'll also be a win... so is it sad that my favorite character in the book just came back from the brink of death but the upcoming issue I'm the most excited about probably won't feature him at all? Unless you count Patch, whom I have no nice words about except that Ken Penders retconning Antoine's character assassination by invoking the evil twin rule was probably the only objectively good writing decision I've ever seen Ken Penders make. But that's another story.

Well, see y'all at the end of December, I guess. Even if we have to wait six more months for the next installment, if the team keeps this level of quality up, it'll be totally worth it.

 

Edited by Lorekitten
I completely forgot to add tags

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