Planet In Peril!
First printed in issue 171, cover dated 15 December 1999-11 January 2000
Script by Lew Stringer, Art by Richard Elson, Lettering by Ellie de’Ville
So here we are, on the verge of STC’s final year in print. The comic is in a reasonably tragic state compared to its glory years at this point. I could go on and on and on about how stupid and short-sighted the Humes That Were Ultimately In Charge were with those stupid reprint strips. I have every faith that we could have easily seen Richard Elson, Nigel Kitching, Lew Stringer, Bob Corona and Nigel Dobbyn still turning out new strips for us on a fortnightly basis even now had the people at the top not been so stupid. Isn’t Archie’s comic enough proof of that? Even in Sonic’s ebb years as the DreamCast was dying on its overpriced arse, he was still a popular and beloved character and, sure enough, the storm was weathered and he’s now more popular than ever (if not as big a figure in the public-consciousness). I remain, to this day, completely baffled that STC had to meet the fate it did. But that’s another tale for another time.
Planet in Peril is the first part of Lew Stringer’s final arc on STC and the penultimate arc in the comic’s print run. It’s the last time we see spikes-pointing-upwards Sonic, too, which is nice. Sadly, that means we get wacky-bendy-spikes-and-green-eyes Sonic soon, and that’s not so nice. As Stringer’s swansong, he couldn’t have gone out on a higher note.
We open on a snow-covered Emerald Hill Zone. What else? Tails says it looks like it’s going to be a peaceful one and maybe Robotnik has been moved by the Christmas spirit. Sonic, of course, isn’t convinced. And rightly so- Robotnik is thrashing around his new base in one of the new Zones created in the aftermath of the Shanazar arc, demanding Sonic’s death. Grimer, scared of Robotnik’s rage, agrees, saying that with Sonic gone, Robotnik could rule Mobius once again. Shockingly, Robotnik says he doesn’t care for that any more.
Robotnik has had enough of being beaten by Sonic and figures that maybe he should just destroy Mobius and have done with it all. Suddenly, the Plax creatures Sonic fought in issue 159 show up, saying Robotnik must be the Great Destroyer their legends speak of! The Plax also want to destroy Sonic and all other non-Plax life on Mobius. Robotnik, satisfied by this, decides a team-up is in order.
At the Control Center, Sonic and Tekno respond to an emergency call from horribly-out-of-place-3D-Kintobor. Kintobor has picked up a disturbance in the force. I mean, sorry, no, he’s picked up a disruption in the planet’s energy patterns. At this moment, he shorts out wildly and isn’t seen again until STC-O starts up, so we don’t have to look at his ugly face any more. You wouldn’t believe how happy I am that STC-O has limited resources whenever Kintobor’s in a strip, that 3D looks dreadful and unemotive. And suddenly he’s solid green? Never mind. Sonic hears screaming outside and he and Tekno dash down to calm everyone and assure them it’s just a storm and nothing to worry about. Tekno, though, thinks something evil is in the air.
Suddenly, a huge Christmas tree topples over, forcing Sonic to dash to save the lives of two of the Emerald Hill Folk. Tekno inspects the tree and sees it’s dead- it died rapidly, as a result of some sort of anti-life virus. Sonic is shocked, but not quite as shocked as when a huge living snow monster appears from behind and threatens Sonic will be next to die.
Sonic is somewhat nonplussed, but the snow monster is a tough cookie to beat. He tries a Spin Attack and, for a moment, it seems to work. However, the monster reappears beneath the now-assembled Freedom Fighters (actually, is there a name for them post-100?).
Tekno uses her expositor—sorry, scanner—and realises the monster is actually made of millions of nanobots. He’s also quite angry and nearly swats Tails out of the air (a fun Christmas game involving Tails, it would seem). Sonic decides to pull an old STC favourite out of his bag of tricks and goes for his Speed Coccoon attack, encircling the monster. It seems to work, too, as the monster shorts out and is destroyed. Sonic is glad he won, though he clearly had no idea his attack would actually work.
A little later, once the dust (snow?) has settled, Sonic assembles his friends to discuss their next move. Realising this attack has all of Robotnik’s hallmarks (a robot monster attacks the Emerald Hill Zone and tries to kill Sonic? Got Robotnik written all over it, that does), the gang decide to move out and track down the blubbery doctor and stop him. Suddenly, Shortfuse shows up to recount his origin story and join the gang. He looks really good when Elson draws him, I have to say. Sonic tells Tails to look after the Emerald Hill Zone while the rest of the gang move out. Tails wishes them luck, but Sonic is grim- he doesn’t think Tails realises how serious the situation is. If they fail, there may not be an Emerald Hill Zone to come back to.
This is a great story. Planet In Peril/Game Over/whatever you want to call this arc is one of Stringer’s finest moments on STC and one of the highest points of this era of the comic’s life, if not the highest. There’s one problem, though: it’s not a Christmas story. There’s a Christmas tree and Tails says it’s Christmas. Other than that, this is simply a winter story. I’m loathe to say this is disappointing, given the quality of the story, but it’s a shame there couldn’t be anything more festive in it.
And that’s it. Well, sort of. You see, in the 2001 Christmas-dated issue, 222, there were no Christmas stories. By then, of course, STC had sadly become just another kids’ comic on the shelves. I’m sure the reprinted tales from past issues had the same effect on a generation of kids that they had on many of us when we read them for the first time, but with no new stories to drive it and only a fan art and letters page in between, STC had now lost everything that set it apart from its competitors.
But don’t be sad, Boomers! In May 2003, some wonderfully talented people unveiled to the world a little webcomic known as Sonic The Comic Online. I won’t waste your time with an in-depth examination because that’s another tale for another time. That said, I really think it’s worth showing gratitude at every opportunity to the STC-O team for their hard work and dedication to keeping alive what foolish executives couldn’t. STC-O has had its ups and it’s had a fair few downs, too. But, by and large, it is the best possible continuation to Sonic The Comic.
With that said, we have two more stories to go. One for you to look at tomorrow (and it’s a brand new post- I never got around to typing this one up when I first did this thread on the STC-O forums!) and one last story on Christmas Day.