Archie Sonic the Hedgehog Issue 281 is the two hundred eighty first issue in the Sonic the Hedgehog comic series published by Archie Comics.
SONIC is SPEEDING down the Dragon Road in "Wings of Fire" Part One: Sonic and the Freedom Fighters travel to city-state of Chun-nan in search of more Gaia Keys! Dulcy the Dragon is bringing all her might to help, but is her fledging team ready for end-of-the-world stakes? Could anyone really be? Then in "Homesick," Bunnie and Tails come to the aid of a Key Guardian in a time of crisis! Featuring Cover art by the totally-terrific Tyson Hesse and a special Valentine’s Day “Love Struck” variant by the super-expressive Diana Skelly
- Wings of Fire - Part One
In Yurashia, Sonic, Sally, Antoine, Cream and Big are being attacked by Silver Sonic and other Badniks on Dragon Road. Sally begins to wonder where Dulcy and her team are when suddenly a stream of fire torches a badnik in the distance before burning Silver Sonic. Dulcy the Dragon then swoops down from the sky and knocks Silver Sonic off the bridge, ending the badnik assault. Afterwards, the Freedom Fighters are lead to the Shijin Shine where Dulcy introduces them to her team of heroes: Bunker; the shine's matron, Cinder; a member of the Southern Pyre Clan, and Jian; an ex-member of the Yurashia Egg Army's Egg Clan.
During lunch together, The Knothole Freedom Fighters learn from Dulcy's team that the last Gaia Key Guardian Zonshen makes frequent offerings to the local phoenix spirit: the Gaia Phoenix. Although Dulcy hopes he hasn't been lately as the guardian spirit has been acting strange recently. It is explained that the Gaia Phoenix is the only reason the Egg Army haven't taken the Gaia Temple yet and while the clans in Yurashia agree the Eggman Empire is a threat, they can't agree what to do about it because of each clans contempt for each other. Dulcy expressed her hatred over these clan feuds, saying it was the reason she ran away from her home in the Eastern Forest Clan many years ago...
In a flashback, Dulcy meets Sonic, Sally and Tails for the first time Westside Island and is surprised when Sally allows her the stay even though she's not a part of the chipmunk's "clan". Dulcy gets even more confused when Sonic tells her that he's never been part of a clan and has been staying on the island for a while. Sally thinks that Dulcy could use some down time and decides to take the dragon to meet the rest of her friends.
Back in the present, Dulcy explains that the Freedom Fighters showed her a different side of life from the one she knew and was inspired to return home and make some changes for the better. However, while progress has been made, the Egg Army has been using these changes to their advantage. Welcoming people from any clan to join their ranks with the promise of unity through strength. While Sally begins to inquire about what other advantages their enemies have, Sonic tells them that they can worry about the Egg Army later since they already have the back door to all the temples with the Gaia Gate and just need to find the last Gaia Key.
After lunch, the Freedom Fighters and Dulcy's team discover that Zonshen was last seen going to the temple grounds guarded by the Gaia Phoenix and the Egg Army. Meanwhile, at the army's base, the regional Egg Boss Conquering Storm is informed that the Freedom Fighters have been spotted in the area. Believing that they're coming for the Gaia Temple, Conquering Storm orders to let them pass into the temple grounds so that the now-corrupted Gaia Phoenix can destroy them.
Tails and Bunnie discuss how hard it is for them not knowing their own origins. Tails considers that he may have been bitten by a radioactive spider and Bunnie considers being the offspring of a cellphone and rabbit. They both laugh at these thoughts and Tails jokes that they may need new writers if the origins were true.
- This issue introduced Dulcy's group to Sonic and his crew.
- The Chun-Nan Freedom Fighters reveal that the Gaia Key Guardian has gone missing and the Gaia Phoenix has been acting strange.
- The Gaia Phoenix has been corrupted by Dark Gaia energy, becoming the Dark Gaia Phoenix.
- Tails and Bunnie get the 6th gaia key.
- Sonic: Remember back then 'Twan? Good times.
- Antoine: I am remembering her sneezing and setting my hair on fire.
- Sonic: Good times.
- This issue marks the first appearance of Dulcy in the post-SGW continuity and in her new design.
- Diana Skelly released a collection of potential covers for the Love Struck variant cover. Among those, the prototype of the actual cover didn't have E-123 Omega on the cover and his concept of a heavy artillery cupid was carried over from another cover. Other concepts included Breezie replacing a standard "love interest" with herself (playing with her old role in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog) and Marine working with Amy and Omega on Sonic x Amy fanfiction with a confused Blaze in the background, harking back to the Off-Panel to Sonic Universe #58
- The "Love Struck" variant cover was intended to coincede with Valentine's Day (the issue was originally scheduled to release around February). Due to the delays that Archie Sonic titles suffered at the time, however, the issue ended up not releasing until May.
Cameos and References
- On the "Love Struck" variant, Lah, the ghost girl from the animated short Night of The Werehog, can be spotted among the mob of female characters chasing after Sonic.
- In the "Off Panel", Tails took a bite from a 'Radioactive helicopter' bug, which references the Spider-Man series, in which the series protagonist Peter Parker is bitten by a 'Radioactive Spider' and then gains superpowers.
- The fact that Team Dulcy consists of a Forest Dragon, an orange Phesant, a black shelled tortoise and a white Tiger is a reference to the Sixiang, a quartet of mythical beasts that each represent a Chinese elemental and a cardinal direction.
- In the first panel, when Dulcy first arrives to defeat Silver Sonic, the back of Sally's ears are colored brown instead of red.
- Archie Sonic the Hedgehog Issue 281 at Sonic News Network