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Zavok the Zeti


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(Just a heads up, but I do consider this to be more of a game-centric discussion. While there is going to be some inevitable overlap with his comic book appearances, I do want to steer this conversation by ways of his Sega appearances.)

Okay, the running theme around here when it comes to the Deadly Six is that as a whole the group of caricatures was a bunch of poorly handled, uninteresting one-trick-ponies. With almost all of that exposition coming from Sonic Lost World, I can see how the limited space left an empty feeling for the group. Many of them failed to reach past their most basic character descriptions and were fairly shallow as a result. That’s to be expected to some degree when you introduce so many new characters all at once, but that’s the hand we were dealt.

That being said, I think Zavok (and to a lesser extent Zik) got off a bit better than the rest of the group. After ousting Eggman, Zavok took on the role or leader and chief decision maker. All the cutscene’s introducing the remaining members of the group tended to feature Zavok, where he was allowed to bounce off those characters and thus able to showcase a little more of his own personality.

He showed he could be manipulative. Sweet talking Zeena into doing her job. He showed he was calculating and condescending, using Zazz’s zeal for carnage to throw him to the wolves against an unknown enemy to gauge its potential strength. He showed he was vengeful, greedy and always looking for leverage in how he dealt with Sonic and Eggman. He even showed off a fondness for banter and taunting as the game went on. He was on opportunist. Above all he was evil, taking pleasure in relishing in Sonic’s losses and showing no remorse for bleeding a world dry.

 

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Zavok checked off a lot of boxes for what I look for in a good Sonic villain. He’s not the most overpowered of baddies, which is actually quite refreshing, but he’s got the patience, the lust/greed and the mindset to make effective decisions on when and where to mess up Sonic’s day. And then, on top of that, he’s got a team to back him up. When all that fails, they even have that innate Zeti ability to control machines. Put him in downtown Future City and sit back to enjoy the fireworks.

My question for you guys is to look forward to Forces. Let’s remove Zavok from the rest of his team for a moment (for all we know, the others may not be around). How do you think Zavok was handled in Lost World, and how do you think the Zavok in Forces will be effective as a villain? Minus a leadership position, its likely Zavok will be back to taking orders, but do you think his personality cues will lead itself for some decent storytelling?

Metal Sonic and Chaos are mute, and it is very likely that Shadow will be tight lipped about his situation in order to fuel suspense. Zavok may well be the mouthpiece for the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. How does that make you feel?

Should Zavok even be allowed to appear minus the other Zeti? Can he mind-meld a Death Egg Robo? What about Metal Sonic?

 

Lots of questions. A few months to speculate ^^

 

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In regards to the extent of his machine-controlling powers, I think it would achieve reasonable balance to say that his control is diminished in proportion to a machine's zie or complexity; in other words, though he could control many lesser Badniks, one Death Egg Robot or Metal Sonic would be his limit.  That could potentially create some interesting situations, I think.

As to whether he should be allowed to appear without the other Zeti... well, it does feel a bit odd to see him out of that context, but for all we know they're lackeying it up on his behalf around the globe.  Or they're dead.  Or Eggman chucked them into a prison because he didn't want the trouble of having to deal with more than one rebellion-prone henchman.  If it can be explained, I'm willing to hear the explanation, though I don't necessarily know that I expect one.

So far as his role in the story might go...  I don't know if I see him just lying down and being defeated, though admittedly that's more or less what happened in Lost World.  I suppose what I'm saying is that, were I writing the story, he'd be an unstable element and would be a significant factor in Eggman's top brass of past baddies beginning to crumble and jeopardise Eggman's rule.

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There's so much left unsaid by the writers about Lost World that Zavok doesn't appeal to me much beyond the potential characterization within his own shallowness; really, a puddle described by Orwell is still a puddle at the end of the day. The set-up with Eggman effectively taking siege of the Zeti's planet is perfect fodder for a revenge story and some interesting emotions, but they throw it all away for generic genocidal villainy towards everyone because fuck it, we need a major villain to fuel tension. It's annoyingly trite within a context of a game that tries to boast interesting moral explorations.

Furthermore, I can't really say I have confidence that Forces will significantly develop Zavok because the issue of character overload still remains. He's sharing space with Eggman, Metal, Shadow, and Chaos who are all more popular, and on top of all of that he's not even the main villain anyway- that honor goes to Infinite/Infinity. So my hunch tells me he and the other villains are going to be screwed out of a chance to be properly justified and that he's really only here because they're trying to cram as much cool stuff in as possible. Granted, I guess the idea of him being exposition fodder would be better than the nothingburger I'm describing so I'll take it.

As for whether or not he can be allowed to appear with the other Zeti. I mean, I guess. Technically... but why?

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Zavok is maybe the most boring of an already pretty shallow group of characters. He's pretty much just The Leader, a serious-minded tough guy ordering his team around. The other Zeti are hardly complex characters, but there's at least some fun to be found in Zazz's hyperactive enthusiasm, Zor's overdramatic depression and nihilism, and even Zomom's "I'm big fat and dumb!" personality.

And to what extent he and the other Zeti work, I think they work better as a group than any does alone. Individually they're all pretty shallow, but together they at least make up an eclectic group of assholes that can play off each other as much as off the heroes. Plucking Zavok out of his group and sticking him in Forces feels like a bad move because it takes him out of his role as the leader of the Zeti, he doesn't have much personality to contribute to Team Evil, and he's never even interacted with anyone but Sonic, Tails, and Eggman (and depending on how the story goes he might not even have that).

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I've said this before but I don't hate Zavok. I absolutely can't considering he's responsible for making me FEEL something for one of the characters in a Sonic game since Unleashed came out in 2008. That scene where he confronts Sonic with the awesome dark version of the Deadly Six Theme playing in the background, where he walks around him, calmly talking to him like they're having a nice chat and then just drops the bomb that he's going to turn Tails into a robot was fantastic. Lost World has a lot of really damn good individual cut-scenes that shamefully don't manage to make up a very good, cohesive narrative when strung together. And some of the other cutscenes are just awful on their own too. However, I won't ever forget that moment because, even though what ended up happening stacks up there as one of the most disappointing resolutions to a proposed conflict in a Sonic game, the initiating emotional connection it got from me stuck, and following that up with a stage with such a beautiful yet urgent piece of music like Dragon Dance just made it sink in even more that what was happening could finally be taken as a bit of a big deal. It wasn't in the end but I felt it if only for a fleeting moment.

However, I too did think over how he'd fare on his own and to be honest, in the hands of a good writer, I think he'd be fine. 

All the characters in that villain line-up, including him, have some sort of context or baggage that makes their inclusion relatively "interesting" to think about on a surface level of thought. Zavok's is mostly something that could be played up as a complete mystery due to how little was told to us about the specifics behind him and his group in Lost World. That was mostly an unintentional thing but it's something they could take advantage of in a big way going forward should they plan to keep him around. The fact that we know so little about Zavok despite also knowing that he has a lot of tidbits about him that are interesting is a position that grants him a more open opportunity to be a lot more engrossing.

We know the Zeti are hundreds of years old because of their profiles. We know that they live on the Lost Hex, which is a bunch of hexagons in the sky, but we don't know anything about it or how it got there or what it's functionality is. We know that Master Zik used to be their leader before Zavok took over, which is one of the most interesting things about the Zeti. I really love the fact that they have a Master and the Master isn't the actual leader. 

One day when I was bored at work, I was actually thinking about this dude and how a conversation between him and Eggman would go.

And I got pretty far into it in my head. There was a lot of back and forth, some interesting reactions to what the other person was saying, and general conflicting ideologies that I felt I was able to dig up. Like the fact that Zavok cares for his group but doesn't really give a shit about an entire planet of people living below him and doesn't hesitate to destroy it just because one dude really pissed him off versus someone like Eggman who does care for the well-being and preservation of his planet but merely wants to take it over. And he's not afraid to cause a ton of destruction to it for the greater good despite that. 

So yeah, I personally think he could stand well on his own so long as he has someone to bounce off of. It may not necessarily be his own team but it doesn't have to be. Especially considering that any other character in the Sonic universe for him to react to would probably be more inherently compelling than anyone on his own team. And I say this as someone who liked Master Zik, Zor, and Zazz.

Not so much Zeena and Zomom but... you know... there are some stereotypes I love and some that just bother the shit out of me. Although I did love that scene where Zavok tricked Zeena into going out into battle. And the look on his face when he said "Well, you sure seem to be taking your time..."

As a character he's got enough going for him that his appearance alone isn't a decisive waste. It really only makes a difference when it comes to how well they decide to handle him. And that depends purely on how much of a shit the team over in Japan gave when they wrote the story. I'm feeling a bit better about it than Generations and Lost World but those weren't exactly high bars...

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I don't really have much to say on account of Zavok being pretty one-dimensional as far as characterization goes. Yea, there's potential but it doesn't mean a whole lot if the story never does anything with it. He has a few token good scenes, but overall they don't amount to much on account of him (and the rest of the Zeti) being unceremoniously pushed aside for Eggman in the ending. So they don't even get any sort of resolution to their characters at all, they just...disappeared and that was it.

Because of that, I'm not particularly invested in his inclusion in Forces. It's even worse now since he's been pushed aside for the likes of Infinite for Big Bad status, and I'm way more invested in Shadow's reasons for teaming up with Eggman than Zavok's. So as it stands, Zavok lacks too much context and depth for me to really be invested in him as a character, and since he's been reduced to a flunky in Forces, I doubt they're going to dedicate much time to fleshing him out as much as they are showing off the cool new villain.

It'd be nice to be proven wrong, but Lost World's storytelling doesn't instill much hope.

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So it appears I’ve been summoned. A day or two late of course, but better late than never.

As one could guess by my avatar, I am a fan of our 148 year old Skylander reject. He may fall under the “Genocidal Villain” trope, but Zavok has a fair amount of potential going for him. He is the strongest Zeti aside from Master Zik…

 

Wait a minute. This isn’t the “In Defense Of the Zeti” post that I canned a while back! They do intersect, I suppose…perhaps another day I’ll elaborate. Ah well.

 

In any case, I thought they handled Zavok as a villain decently enough in Lost World. He was always thinking towards the task at hand and planning strategies. His leadership was a balancing act of manipulation and genuine respect. While he did have to play to their egos, he nonetheless valued his subordinates. He took his enemies seriously, wasting no opportunity to get inside their head. He could take some damage and dish it out in spades. And he excelled in being a sadistic little devil. What else would you call someone that savours the pain of pulling someone’s teeth out? The problem is that none of the Zeti were fleshed out as much as they could have been. There was enough that you could tell basic personality traits, but not enough to give them much depth beyond that. As such, when you hear Zavok threaten you in Sky Road or Lava Mountain, it can come off as shallow banter. Entertaining and deliciously baritone banter courtesy of Knuckles Travis Willingham, but ultimately shallow.  

If individual Zeti ended up becoming more frequent members of Sonic’s Gallery of Rogues, I’d be open to that. Zavok would be an interesting case to follow. If his own tendencies were fleshed out a little more, I could see him being the equivalent of Slade from Teen Titans. They have very similar surface traits, but Slade actually did something with them. It’s not like Zavok doesn’t have tools to work with. As Sega DogTagz said before, sick him in place like Future City or even GUN Fortress and you have yourself some mayhem.

Do I think he’ll be developed much in Forces? Probably not. The spotlight’s not just on him, but five other villains at once. It would be cool to see, but it’s probably not going to happen. The most I expect is that they explain what happened to Zavok and the others at the end of Lost World. Maybe Sonic did kill the other Zeti in Lost World and Zavok was the only one that survived? Is Sonic Runners canon? Either that, or this really does come down to time travel shenanigans and they pulled him from before his apparent demise. It does beg the question on where the other Zeti are, but they’re most likely just ravaging other parts of the globe. Either way, I am happy to see that he’s back.

What I’m most curious about is how he’ll bounce off the others. While he could end up just being the mouthpiece, it would be fun to see the five actually interact with each other. Time for some speculation!

  • Infinite is anyone’s guess right now.
  • Zavok seems to respect power, so he might be somewhat wary of Chaos. The mute water god of destruction isn’t much for conversation, so it could be a bit awkward.
  • Shadow isn’t much for conversation either, but I could see Zavok attempt to pry. Both are capable of banter anyhow, so a back and forth might be interesting.
  • Metal Sonic is a mechanical counterpart of his hated adversary, so this is a toss up. I can easily see Zavok attempt to seize control of him and make him subservient. On the other hand, perhaps the two could interact via the Magnetokinesis? It would be a nice excuse to give Metal Sonic an actual voice again.
Edited by Zavok the SpinningSilver
fixed the spacing
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The point about bouncing off other characters is an interesting one. The rest of the Zeti did do well to complement him, mainly because their hierarchy lent credence to his leadership and decision making mentalities. Since he was the one calling the shots, it was easier to put him in positions where he could coax Zeena and/or throw Zazz under the bus.

Those options will be off the table if the rest of the deadly six are elsewhere. Zavok is going to have to strike a different chord with how he communicates with this new cast of villains. Shadow likely will not tolerate domineering behavior and he's going to have to return to being at least backhandedly respectful to Eggman. Even if his screentime is limited, how he responds to the people around him could give us more insight into Zavok himself. Even when he was stuck in servitude during Lost World, he maintained that air of defiance. Looking for the first opportunity to stab the doctor in the back. Could his tune change considering how successful Eggman has been during this campaign? Could his respect for power make him... dare I say it... loyal?

 

5 hours ago, Zavok the SpinningSilver said:

Infinite is anyone’s guess right now.

 

We still don't know exactly what Infinite is capable of, or what he holds over the four other villains if that is the case; but I do believe that Lost World showed us enough from Zavok that we can tell that he does not appreciate having to take orders from anyone outside of his inner circle (which is pretty much just Master Zik).

If he's being relegated to second class, I can easily see him harboring a grudge for it. Maybe not enough of a grudge to team up with Sonic and join the resistance, but enough to help topple the local authority figure to ensure the safety of the Lost Hex. At the very least, he's got somewhere to fall back to when the time comes to remove himself from the plot. He can just go home.

 

5 hours ago, Zavok the SpinningSilver said:
  • Zavok seems to respect power, so he might be somewhat wary of Chaos. The mute water god of destruction isn’t much for conversation, so it could be a bit awkward.

Sonic Battle is pretty much all we have to go on for Chaos at this point. I doubt Zavok would even really know what that little puddle is capable of becoming. He might look down on the guy... until the chaos emeralds make their appearance.

 

5 hours ago, Zavok the SpinningSilver said:
  • Shadow isn’t much for conversation either, but I could see Zavok attempt to pry. Both are capable of banter anyhow, so a back and forth might be interesting.

I could see Zavok instigating quite a bit with Shadow. Perhaps lauding the idea of having 2 hedgehogs duking it out for supremacy.

 

5 hours ago, Zavok the SpinningSilver said:
  • Metal Sonic is a mechanical counterpart of his hated adversary, so this is a toss up. I can easily see Zavok attempt to seize control of him and make him subservient. On the other hand, perhaps the two could interact via the Magnetokinesis? It would be a nice excuse to give Metal Sonic an actual voice again.

Metal Sonic would be a heck of an asset, so if Zavok is of right mind, he'd be crazy not to at least try to manipulate Metal. I'm personally curious if that kind of interference would be just the kind of kick tin-grin would need to restart that rebellious streak.

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