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Spark of Life Review 

part 1:

(Looks across a scorched landscape.) This burnt landscape was a direct result of fans whom raged over what they read over the work of an arc written by Aleah Baker. Real choice actions over a new writer of her own arc. Aleah Baker is an artist and writer for the sonic the hedgehog comics. She is also the wife of current writer, Ian Flynn. She was tasked with writing the arc known as Spark of Life.  Just to say, she has a familiarity with the series not only because of her being the writer's wife, but she had also wrote back up issues for the series not long ago when this arc came out. Does she do this arc justice? Let's find out.
Before we begin lets tackle on the background information on the two characters that are the main focus of this arc. This is mainly Sally Acorn, leader of the freedom fighters, and Nicole the A.I. holo-lynx, whom is the main focus of this arc and is in fact delves in her origin. Nicole has had two different backstories from different mediums. In the  satam cartoon series (mainly on the notes for season three), she was a smart little girl whom had her mind ripped out by Robotnik and transferred into computer, but she would ultimately forget the experience and help out Sally, Sonic and the rest of the freedom fighters.  As for the old comic continuity, she was created by rotor of the future and was sent back in time to help sally and the freedom fighter in the past. Time paradox everybody. So, what makes Baker's story any different? Now without further ado, on with the review.
We start this issue with Sky patrol under attack by Gaia monsters with Sally, Rotor, Tails, and Big fighting them off. Nicole tells them they only need to fight them off for two more minutes until sunrise. However, tails gets swarmed Gaia monsters and Sally takes them out nearly falling to her doom of the airship. Luckily, tails manages to return the favor and with the  break of dawn, the Gaia monsters disappear. After the fight the group rests up (with cream serving up muffins and donuts but having a hard time with rotor's coffee machine), Nicole questioned Sally on why she was reckless on saving tails and nearly falling off sky patrol when sunrise wasn't too long. Sally tells her that though it was reckless tails was in trouble and she couldn't sit by and do nothing. Suddenly, Nicole disappears into the digital world after a distress call from Dr. Ellidy, an old lynx scientist who made Nicole and Sally's wrist blades. He had digitized Mobotropolis' royal archives and was very ingenious computer programmer but left to isolated island (I made a mistake in my announcement summary)and started to delve more into ring technology before departing he gave Sally, Nicole, for safe keeping. This is revealed via flashback. In the present and in the digital world, Nicole saves Ellidy from viruses which he somehow acts as if he sees a ghost and asked her why she has the form of lynx as an avatar in the digital world and she tells him "she chose it". When Nicole reunites with sally and the gang (big and tails whom had arrived) on isolated island in the real world. Ellidy briefs them that he was doing some research with the help of the badiks he repurposed after Eggman abandoned in a previous bid of subduing the island to help his research and protect the island from Gaia monsters coming out at night. However, some of the badniks have been going haywire and he went to check their programming via the digital world to find the problem. But ended up being attacked by viruses where Nicole found him. After, he goes to rest and recuperate Sally and Nicole discuss that something is in the computer system which we are revealed our villain whom takes an interest in Nicole, Phage. 
This was a good start for the arc, a lot of backstory and setup was in this one and Aleah did wonderfully on this beginning portion. It also establishes Nicole's backstory of being a creation of Dr. Ellidy rather than a time paradox. But it seems there may be more to her previous relationship to her creator because of how nervous Ellidy is around her. In the next part we figure what is Ellidy researching as of now and what secrets hold for Nicole as well as the new featured villain, Phage. 


So next part of the review, here is where we are going to get a great deal of backstory. As well as where the main story picks up. Now let's find out what we have. Shall we?
We find that Ellidy was doing some research, and what exactly was he researching into? Why a red star ring. Now for those of you unfamiliar with current sonic games the red star rings are found across stages that unlock special features like artwork, a multiplayer (in Colors), and unlocking Super Sonic (Colors and Lost world). Also, in the mobile games like Dash and Runners, the red star rings are used to unlock playable characters, items and extra lives. But back to the main story. 
Ellidy states he discovered the ring when the local lake of rings suddenly dried up of rings but suddenly producing this one red star ring. He theorizes the creation of these rings are due to Gaia energy and that these rings have a greater energy output then their regular counter parts. Sally makes the comment that it could power Nicole's lynx indefinitely. This doesn't sit well with Ellidy. However, the group breaks up Sally and big go and investigate the lake and the downed robot, while tails and Ellidy aid Nicole in the digital world to snuff out the virus or hacker in the digital world. As they are on their mission, Sally after seeing how ellidy reacted to Nicole, she asks him how he feels about her. He says he liked her and as for how he felt about her being an AI he says; "As long as they're nice, I don't care what anyone is". Well said Big. This leads to a flashback to when Sally starts to use Nicole in her studies but ends up figuring the hard way to be self reliant due to Nicole unable to solve a question. As that's going on Tails and Ellidy do their part and help Nicole in the digital world (with phage stalking nicole). Ellidy then asks Nicole if she remembers when she first activated. She says that she had remembered those events but now from different perspective and rather disappointed in what she was then. Which we are given two different flashbacks, the first being Ellidy activating Nicole however, she had no designation which made him break down in tears. As for the next flashback, younger Sally is talking to Nicole that everybody (Bunnie, antoine and Rotor) were now counting on her to be strong but she feels she couldn't but she thanks Nicole for listening. Which we end up back with Sally and Big to find the robot unresponsive, a red starring and a powerful energy signature. However, the robot goes haywire and attacks them when they pulled the ring out of the water but they destroy the robot and head before it got dark. They tell Ellidy their discovery and decide to get rest as for sally she goes outside to ring up Rotor of their status but then stumbles upon something which she ends up being caught by a dark gaia possessed Ellidy telling her it wasn't right for her to be snooping around.
This issue was very decent. Big got that one character moment out of it.  And the flashbacks really set up the relationship Nicole had/have between Sally and Ellidy as well as a little bit of their thoughts and feelings toward the A.I. Now comes the next where a lot of people give this arc a great deal of flak.
Now on to the next part, it's this half where a few reviewers really laid into this issue. What are their problems with it in particular? Are they wrong about it? Does this last half deserve this hate? Let's... 

God from Monty Python: GET ON WITH IT!

Yes. We start the issue with Sally asking Ellidy who this girl whom looks similar to Nicole that is enshrined in front of his lab. He tells her to drop the conversation but Sally persisted. He tells her that the girl enshrined was his daughter, Nikki. She was dying of a terminal illness which he had little options to save her because in a flashback in this very issue. Uncle Chuck was checking up on his project and Chuck had also told him his roboticizer was still not ready yet, which might have been helpful. Now what was Ellidy's project? Scanning and Mapping Nikki's brainwaves and consciousness and put them into an A.I. That A.I. was Nicole. However, the mapping was unsuccessful and Nicole was a failed project. Since then, Ellidy saw Nicole as a failed experiment that had cost him his daughter's life.

As that's going on, Nicole and Phage finally meet. Phage finds the fact of her being able to manifest a hologram body that could interact with real world and she also, tells Nicole that she's causing all the problems with all the badniks so she could nab the rings, Ellidy's Research and a Chaos emerald that was on the bottom of the lake of rings. This was all Nicole needed to know and she quarantines her off. However, Phage is too strong, breaks free and captures Nicole as a hostage. 
Back to Sally and Ellidy, Sally tries to persuade Ellidy to put the blame on Nicole for the loss of his daughter, but he ends up saying he didn't and that was why he gave her to Sally. But Sally's says how he treated her now hurted her feelings and it slowly devolves into an argument over Nicole's feelings and Sally's father. This is due to them under the influence of Dark Gaia. Sally realizes this and pulls Ellidy back inside the lab and are chased by both Dark Gaia Monsters and Phage controlled badniks. Sally and Ellidy wake up Tails and Big as they head into the lab but are sealed in the room. On the computer monitor, Phage reveals herself to Ellidy and Sally making her demands known also, she reveals on who she works for... Eggman. This leads to another debate of shutting the system down it would stop Phage but would destroy Nicole. Sally isn't too keen on Ellidy's option. 

In the digital world, Phage tries to copy Nicole's persona and tries to absorb her but Nicole stops her and escapes looking for a place to hide. Sally gets a message from nicole and tells Tails and Big to head to the Lake of Rings and fast. They, Tails and Big, take the vehicle he and Sally took earlier. In another flashback, sally wakes up to find Nicole's handheld missing and a strange figure outside her bedroom. She asks who this lynx girl is and she says she's Nicole. She tells her she had little time to explain because the hologram body. However she wishes to see the stars, sounds familiar moving on.

Nicole runs and hides from Phage and her virus-lings but she informs her that she infected the entire system. Leaving Nicole nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. Nicole then finds an uninfected part of the computer system which contained video clips and pictures of Nikki, however phage manages to find her. Sally then fed up knowing Nicole would be powerless fighting Phage on her own decides to help. She covers up a camera with her vest and hands Ellidy one of her ring blades  and tells him she's going into the digital world via the digitizer. Ellidy protests saying how foolish it is risking her life for Nicole and that's she's a princess.  Sally acknowledges she's a princess but she tells Ellidy: "And as far as I'm concerned my family exists to serve its people. I get it you didn't intend to create Nicole and maybe you don't like having her around. But don't you dare suggest to me that she isn't a person worth saving!". You tell 'em. Sally heads into the digital world slicing up Phage and sets up the fight for the next issue.

Ok, now what did I think of this issue. It was decent. I understand people's gripes that Phage is a villain in cahoots with Eggman being a bad thing and making her characterization poor. Not necessarily, some of the villains tied to Eggman whether they'd be egg bosses  or former associates like Sniveley or Breezie, whom have interests of their own but use Eggman as a means to an end.  Also, what about the Doc's robot creations like Tails doll and Metal Sonic, they're devastating and dangerous. Which we see in this issue that Phage is interested in Nicole likely because of her abilities in the fact that she can interact with the real world which is dangerous in the hands of a virus like her would be apocalyptic. So, honestly it's beyond unfair that Phage is discredited because of her ties to Eggman. 

Now comes the next gripe others have of this issue, Nicole not being Nikki. Some reviewers (a former fan in particular) say that it is a bad thing and wrecks the emotional connection of the comic. However, I don't think it does. What Ellidy did was brain map her daughters brain and translated it into coding for an artificial intelligence that was meant to house his daughters mind however, this technique isn't transferring her mind and everything that made Nikki, Nikki but made a copy of her memories and how her brain functioned rather than her experiences or for a  lack of a better term her soul. Which is why in the prior issue she had no designation. Ellidy created Nicole by accident in hopes of saving his daughter, what he got instead was a new being. Nicole whom had different experiences than Nikki.  I think people forget what an origin story is in how it makes characters. It's not the traits, or physical characteristics that makes them who they are but their choices and experiences they had. Which is what makes Nicole who she is.

Also, this issue really showcased Sally and Ellidy's relationship with Nicole. Ellidy sees her as a machine, with no characteristics that had failed to save his daughter. As for Sally, she sees her as wonderful friend. Which it's this clash of characters in their impressions of one character in particular contributes greatly to this story, 

Next issue is the battle between Phage, Nicole and Sally. How will they defeat her and will they get the emerald? We will find out next issue.
part 4: 
Now unto the final issue of this story arc. This is where arc all comes to an end. Now there are a lot of people who dislike the ending. Why you may ask? Let's get this over with shall we?

We start where part three left off, Sally fighting off Phage to save Nicole. Sally tells Nicole to head back into her handheld so they could shut the system down but Nicole instead helps Sally by summoning a digital pitchfork which pierces Phages core. Which just pisses her off. Nicole then grabs Sally and fly off away from phage.
As for Tails and Big, they arrive at the lake of rings, now swarming with badniks. So, what does Big do to get the chaos emerald out of the lake? He fishes the emerald out. They now got the emerald however, their ride gets trashed by dark gaia monsters leaving them surrounded by both dark gaia monsters  and badniks. Oh boy. 
As for Sally and Nicole, they hide from phage thinking of their next plan. Nicole told Sally she didn't go to her handheld  because Phage had infected the entire computer system making escape not possible. She also, felt what she did was reckless but she didn't want Sally hurt. Sally reassured Nicole she understands but they make a plan and decide to use some of Ellidy's ring inventions he had on file in the computer and use against phage.
Sally distracts Phage and has her chase her out into the entrance to the greater expanse of the digital world, all the while doing the matrix-ey thing of trying to run as fast as sonic by thinking she can. Phage taunts Sally thinking she made a mistake but little did phage know was that as she tailed Sally there was a trail of glowing light, which come from a set of tether rings which Nicole uses to pull sally back into Ellidy's computer system and try to shut Phage out and leave her in the digital world. However, Phage tries hard to get back in getting more frustrated and angry. 
As that's going on, Ellidy is seeing Sally struggling as she's hooked up to the digitizer and badniks are now in the room ready to take him out. Instead of fighting them off with the ring blade, he makes a big gamble. He shoves a Red Star ring into Nicole's drive. Thus, transforming her into Over clocked Nicole. In this form, she shuts Phage out of the computer system and restores the Badniks back to ellidy's settings of being nice robots and chase dark gaia monsters thus saving Tails, Big and Ellidy, as well as well as securing the chaos emerald. 
We then, find the heroes packing up and ready to head back to sky patrol with the chaos emerald and the first red star ring. Ellidy and Sally talk in private. He apologizes to her for how he acted toward Nicole and that if his daughter were alive they might have been friends. Though Sally tells him he should apologize to Nicole, but Ellidy says it would take time. Sally went to check up on Nicole and she tells Sally she understood why Ellidy acted in such a way because she came to life while his daughter died. However, before they left Ellidy gives Nicole the second red star ring for her to analyze after what she did for him. Consider it as an olive branch. Then the group fly off with Nicole feeling the wind in her face. 

Now how about that ending. The best way to put the ending would be in the words of Chuck Shurley from Supernatural; "Endings are impossible. You try to tie up loose ends but you never can. The fans are always going bitch. There's always going to be holes. And since it's the ending it's all supposed to add up to something. I'm telling you they're a raging pain in the ass." So what does this end or more or less this arc adds to?  Well we have good story about Nicole's origin as well as a better understanding of her and her relationship to her creator and to those dear to her. Which this arc really shows. She also has the known ability to go super thanks to the red star rings. However, the fans will complain about that due to the fact red star rings are easier to find than emeralds then again they only occur if an emerald plops into a lake of rings fusing rings together with the infinite energy of the chaos emeralds forming a red star ring. Also, this arc shows the best characterization of Sally ever. 
Though some people will complain on how phage was handled. I do agree some of her character could have been touched upon in more detail. However, I do think she was handled as briefly as this arc was. Now I understand that she was just had a door thrown in her face but, know and consider this. The comic is in a new continuity, one off villains are a luxury though one could argue Black Death was one but he was a package deal alongside Eclipse the Darkling and The Dark Arms. I am sure we will see more of Phage in the future. So, was this story terrible make you want leave the series and have a fit over it? Well it depends but honestly I don't think it is and I hope Aleah Baker works on future stories. (Regardless of the fact that some call her anti-feminist when she is in fact a woman herself).
feel free to comment 
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Nice Review Akessel, be waiting for you to put more stuff up here. :)

Really nice views on Spark of Life, it's been awhile since I read it but I always did thought it was a decent story. I was never one who hated on it due to Nicole's New Origins due to the whole Nikki thing, which in of itself is confusing to me since she's part Nikki but isn't, but I will say that it's a much better and less convoluted origin then the one Penders came up with. I can tell it's origins were based on the SatAM Origin when you think about it, and while people can complain about it and have some problems with it I'd much rather choose this over the one from the Pre-Reboot.  That and as you pointed out Big and Sally's lines in the Arc are really great, it's nice to see a more active Sally in this Arc which I think everyone can agree on and tend to forget.

Also I'm a sucker for stuff being adapted like the Red Star Rings and having Isolated Island is a nice bonus if you'd ask me, that means the events of Chaotix did happen in the comic! :D
Though I am confused on one particular matter and it's nothing to do with the review or the arc, rather since all the games are Canon in the Post-Reboot, including Chaotix and the Chaos Rings, wouldn't the Red Star Rings and Chaos Rings be generally the same? I dunno maybe it's the difference on how they are created.

I'd really like to see more reviews from you Akessel, you bring in a nice and interesting viewpoint that I don't think is said so often when it comes to the Post-Reboot Comic, reviews of it and from any other media I'd be all for and await it.

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Improving your formatting, tighten your focus, and add some more commentary on what could improve the work, and I think you would have good review with a diverse perspective. Try to summarize more in the begining of your work perhaps. I actually recommend this guy if you want get into subtextual criticism while being fun and entertaining to the reader. Don't copy him persay, but take a note of the structuring of his reviews.



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