Archie Sonic Universe Issue 29 is the twenty-ninth issue of the Sonic Universe spin-off series.
- "Inside Job" - Part One: Rock Bottom
Inside the No Zone's Zone Jail, Scourge the Hedgehog reflects on his past. Once merely an alternate Zone counterpart to Sonic the Hedgehog, he had managed to reinvent himself as an individual, going so far as to take over his home world. At the time, he had thought himself nearly invincible... but now, incarcerated, he finds himself as just "some punk." Since his arrest, his spines were shortened and he was forced to wear a Control Collar to suppress his super speed; additionally, he's been regularly abused by guards and prisoners alike.
While hanging out in the exercise yard, he finds himself approached by three other inmates, who tauntingly address him as "Snot." He puts up no resistance as the three physically beat him and throw him into the dirt, thinking that while in the past he could have fought them off with ease, he's little more than a joke now. Adding to his indignity, he's helped up by two others low in the prison hierarchy—Verti-Cal and Horizont-Al. The two cheerfully try to make light of the situation, earning nothing but contemptuous glares from Scourge. Cal points out that he and Al used to be godlike beings within their own zone—that is, until all their fighting began to threaten other realities, forcing the Zone Cops to arrest and imprison the two. Al adds that while they fell from godhood, Scourge was "only" a king, so in perspective his situation isn't that bad; in response, Scourge shoves him away and leaves. The two watch as he walks away, idly commenting that since he arrived, they at least don't get beaten up as often.
Scourge wanders over to the fence at the end of the yard and notices a Zone Cop transport approaching the jail; he blandly comments that new prisoners will help take the focus off himself for a bit. The transport parks and begins to offload its prisoners; one notices the unusual "sideways" orientation of the horizon in the No Zone and freaks out, saying it's "wrong." He's grandly swept aside by Warden Zobotnik, the jail's administrator, who pleasantly tells the prisoner that he is in the wrong, and thus he now belongs to him. Zonic, the Zone Cop transporting the prisoners, asks the warden to keep the line moving, as he has something to discuss. The two exchange cold smiles and tense handshakes; Zobotnik comments that the conflict with Dr. Nega must be going well if Zonic has time to stop by and tell him how to do his job. Zonic bluntly replies that the war is as bad as ever, and that on top of it, there's a strange occurrence in Mobius Prime, so he really does not have time to spare; he adds that despite complaints from the inmates, Zobotnik's record is spotless anyway. He explains that the reason he's stopping to chat is because of some of the new prisoners in particular; despite the lock-down on the Cosmic Interstate, this group was caught illegally zone-hopping and then proceeded to destroy several Zone Cop cars as well as send four officers to the hospital. Zonic explains to the warden that these prisoners—Predator Hawk, Lightning Lynx, Sergeant Simian, Flying Frog and Fiona Fox—are all from the Prime zone but didn't appear to be trying to escape the weird occurrence there. He warns the warden that they all have connections to Scourge, especially Fiona, and so he should keep an eye on them all. Zobotnik, however, is confident that they will all fall in line, adding that Scourge has been undergoing "aggressive rehabilitation" and that he is so far pleased with his progress.
The next morning, Scourge is seated in the mess hall and soon finds himself joined by Al and Cal, who cheerfully discuss how peaceful it's been since the arrival of new inmates. Scourge blandly agrees, saying he went a whole day without abuse. Cal muses that the "ruffians" must have found new targets to pick on, such as the group that just arrived from the Prime zone. Scourge is surprised to learn that these new inmates are a group of five from Mobius; he starts to get up from his table when a heavy hand lands on his shoulder. A rough-looking inmate, Smalls the Cat, tells "Snot" to sit back down; Scourge brushes him off, saying he needs to see who the Prime zone prisoners are. Not appreciating this, Smalls grabs Scourge by the back of the head and slams him face-first into his food tray. He picks the hedgehog up and is about to punch him in the face when someone grabs him by the wrist; Sergeant Simian coldly tells him to leave. Sneering, Smalls tells him "He's all yours" and backs off. Al and Cal are met with a glare from Predator Hawk and quickly scoot off and the rest of the table is cleared. Scourge sits quietly, unmoving, as Simian tells their "boss" that the table has been secured. Fiona, now leader of the Destructix, slides up next to Scourge and idly wipes some food from his face. "Hey, baby. You miss me?"
Scourge continues to glare straight ahead; Fiona produces a cloth and begins to clean his face, telling him to not "be like that." She coyly reassures him that she didn't ditch him in the past, but merely knew that he'd need backup and so rallied the Destructix under her command. Smiling, she explains that she cut a deal with Dr. Finitevus in order to get them onto the Cosmic Interstate so they could get themselves arrested and then help break him out of prison. Despite what she obviously saw as a show of loyalty and love, Scourge suddenly explodes. "You moron!" he screams. "You and these lame freaks are all gonna get me killed!" He storms from the mess hall, leaving a surprised Fiona with the Destructix; the latter are not pleased by this lack of gratitude. Fiona quickly attempts to reassure them that she'll handle Scourge, and that their plan will work. Flying Frog idly comments on Scourge's "rudeness."
In the hallways, Scourge is shaken. He tries to assure himself that everyone saw him yelling at the Destructrix; he's afraid that if it appears he's attempting to rally people to his side, the retaliation will be far worse than anything he's endured in prison thus far. He nearly jumps when he's suddenly called aside by another Moebian prisoner, Jeffrey St. Croix. St. Croix tells him that King Maxx wants to speak with him, and Scourge is left with no choice as several thugs appear to "convince" him to come along.
Scourge is escorted to Maxx's cell, which is somewhat more nicely furnished than typical. Maxx grandly thanks Scourge for agreeing to talk as the hedgehog is thrown on the floor before him. The former Moebian king tells Scourge that despite their past, he has no ill will towards him; he enjoyed trying to conquer the Zone of Silence after Scourge and Princess Alicia had exiled him there, even though it eventually lead to his capture by the Zone Cops. He even compliments Scourge on his idea of renaming the Moebians so as not to be stuck in the shadow of Mobius, and adds that he himself had continued the practice with the Moebians inside the prison.
However, his tone quickly becomes dangerous; Maxx says that he had thought they'd had a deal going, namely that Scourge would not challenge his power within the prison, and in exchange, Maxx's gang would not "tear [him] limb from limb." Scourge immediately protests, but his words fall on deaf ears; Maxx finds it hard to believe that five of Scourge's associates just "happened" to get arrested all at once. Desperate and angry, Scourge insists that it was all Fiona's doing, and that he's not involved, but Maxx won't listen; he tells his enforcers to "leave enough of him to be identified" so as to serve as a warning to others. Two of the goons grab Scourge by the arms...
Panicking, Scourge retaliates, headbutting St. Croix and kicking at the others. However, the fight quickly falls out of his favor; he's about to be pummeled into the floor when one of the goons finds his arm held back by the long tongue of Flying Frog. Simian smirks and comments, "Déja vu," and the Destructix pour into the cell. They make quick work of Maxx's gang members as Fiona strolls up to the former king; she tells him that Scourge belongs to them and he's not to be touched. Maxx tells her that they've just signed their death warrants, but Fiona isn't scared. She helps Scourge to his feet and begins to escort him out of the cell, telling the others to make sure no one interrupts while she talks with him. The others obey her orders, but Simian says he believes Scourge is a lost cause; as he passes by, Flying Frog tauntingly addresses Scourge as "Snot."
Fiona brings Scourge back to his cell and seats him on the springs of his bunk (as his mattress has been stolen by his cellmate, Smalls). Frankly, she asks what's happened to him, saying that if he's capable of fighting Sonic, a bunch of "meat-heads" should have been no challenge. Scourge explains that the Control Collars they're forced to wear cuts off his speed and agility, and that they keep his quills trimmed short. Fiona fingers her own collar, thinking that she had felt somewhat slowed down herself. Miserable, Scourge says that what had just happened was exactly what he'd feared; everyone will think he's recruiting a gang and will try to shut him down as brutally as possible. Fiona doesn't see why he doesn't just fight back, but Scourge admits that he's been beaten down too many times now; he just wants to be left alone. Fiona sits on the "bed" next to him, saying that in that case, he does need a team, just like Sonic. Scourge bitterly laughs, saying he shouldn't need a bunch of buddies on his side; he reminds her that he conquered all of Moebius on his own. Fiona gently says that he's not being honest with himself; he merely went around beating up a bunch of people and claimed that made him a king. She cups his cheek, saying that while Sonic's friends are liabilities, Scourge just needs some cannon-fodder on his side; he can still be "the baddest dude among them." However, she admits that now, the Destructix aren't likely to be interested... but the idea begins to have appeal for Scourge.
He turns to Fiona and asks if she has a plan. She grins and tells him she always does. Regaining his confidence, Scourge declares that he'll succeed in turning the Destructix to his side, and then they'll break out of the prison... and anyone who gets in their way will be in for a world of hurt.
Scourge is sulking in prison for being picked on and wonders if there are any other alternate Sonics in the Zone Prison. Sonic the Werehog is sitting down and says "Just one". Scourge turns around and believes that its unfair.
- Cal: It's been rather peaceful since the new inmates arrived, hasn't it?
- Scourge: Yeah. Sure, I guess. Went a whole day without eating turf.
- Al: You learn to appreciate the flavor.
- Maxx: Leave enough of him to be identified. He'll serve as a lesson to the others!
- St. Croix: With pleasure, sir.
- Scourge: NO! I'm not going down like a chump! Not here! Not like this!
- Fiona: Scourge belongs to us. Don't touch him.
- Maxx: You've just signed your death warrants.
- Fiona: Oooh, what a scary old man!
- Fiona and the Destructix arrive in the Zone Jail.
- Scourge quickly loses the support of the Destructix.
- Fiona and Scourge plot to get the team back on their side and escape.
- This is the first issue of Sonic Universe to show Scourge on the cover, and the first cover in the Sonic franchise to include more than one Zone Cop.
- Scourge's collar was incorrectly colored silver in the initial preview, but was later shown, in the final preview, to be correctly colored gold/yellow.
- Scourge's short spines on the cover were first believed to be caused by the angle, but were later confirmed, by Ian Flynn, to be cut short.
- This is the first appearance of Sonic the Werehog in Sonic Universe, however, he only appears in the off-panel.
- This is the first Sonic Universe story arc to star a villain as a leading character.
- It is unknown if the Echidna in this issue is Anti-Knuckles or a different one.
- Normally, the Sonic Universe stories are meant to broaden the main series' comic world, while at the same time using a character like Shadow or Knuckles in a starring or major supporting role. This is because they are characters created directly from SEGA and supported by SEGA Licensing, making them more easily recognizable to all readers from mainstream media. According to artist Jon Gray, this appears to be the first arc whose cast will be composed ENTIRELY of Archie Comics-original Sonic characters, due to the fact that they have been receiving large amounts of fanmail in support of Scourge, indicating a dramatic rise in popularity following his redesign and character development.
- There are two references to Monty Python's Flying Circus: Al briefly sings "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," and Scourge is seen reading a book entitled "How Not to be Seen."
- Alternate-universe versions of the following characters appear as prisoners, as well as simple cameos:
- This issue marks the return of Scourge Since # 197.
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