Mobius: 25 Years Later, The Review: Part 3 – The Adventures of Lara-Su and Old Rotor

Hello and welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, to the world of Mobius: 25 Years Later. I am your host, David the Lurker, and I know you can’t wait to jump right into part three of this exciting series. After all, so much has happened up to this point, how could you not want to know what exciting twists and turns are around the corner? Ok, it’s more of the same, but remember, back when this came out, people had to wait a month at a time before they got their next six page fix, longing with anticipation the continuation of a storyline the readers had been waiting for since 1999. With the first part not seeing print until the end of 2003, the Archie devout waited four years to see the future of their favorite characters. You, the readers of Sonic Retro, only have to wait a week at a time before you deal with the longest review in the world about anything Ken Penders has ever put to paper.

“Midnight in the Garden,” the third part of the saga, is once again written by Ken Penders and drawn by Steven Butler, the pair responsible for most of the storyarc. The text box at the top helpfully summarizes the last eighteen pages into two sentences, and also gives us another stunning revelation: Rotor Walrus is now Lord Rotor. Does that explain the robes? I have no idea. I’m still confused as to why Knuckles the Echidna feels the need to wear clothing from top to bottom while his daughter can stroll around pantless. Ah, the joy of anthropomorphic cartoon characters.

We pick up the action right where we left off last, with Knuckles arriving at Locke Park to meet with Rotor. The Guardian immediately brings up the fact Rotor was missing from his daughter’s party, and that fights have broken out over less. Indeed, just about every instance of Sonic and Knuckles meeting up in the series has resulted in some convoluted brawl, so there is definitely truth to his statement. Rotor replies that he didn’t want to spoil the party, though I’m not sure how his walking through the doors would have killed the mood. Maybe Rotor has become Mobius‘ biggest drag in the last 25 years, which is why the only person who can be around him for more than five minutes is a half-dead Echidna. Rotor asks if anyone would have missed him being there, which Knuckles simply smiles and says “nah” about. Wow, that was harsh! I get that the scene is supposed to show Knuckles isn’t really mad at Rotor for not being there, but he could have at least humored the walrus into thinking that anyone actually likes being around him.

After Rotor apologizes for the Queen and her children not being able to attend (why couldn’t they? The real answer is “Ken didn’t want them there yet”), Knuckles asks the reason as to why Rotor wanted to meet in the first place. Since Rotor looks to have aged twice as fast as everyone else, he does what any elderly grandfather who is losing his mind would do: points to the sky and asks if he notices anything. Knuckles says it doesn’t look any different than other crazy weather that’s happened, in which Rotor replies that he better get used to it, as it may be the beginning of the end. Since we’ve already been told once what’s going on, we’re spared a reprieve, instead jumping back to the story of Lara-Su.

Remember how I mentioned Julie-Su‘s clothes before? Well, here we go again. With the Unveiling Ceremony over and done with, mother and daughter have returned home, both already dressed for bed. And while partially obscured by a chair, Julie-Su is wearing a nightgown that I sincerely doubt her daughter wants to see. There are many things I expect in a Sonic the Hedgehog comic book…cleavage is not one of them. Nor sleepwear that shows off one leg far more than the other. I can only guess that her makeup is still on, appealing to an audience that shouldn’t be the target. Moving on…casually brushing her daughter’s hair, we are given yet another exchange that showcases Lara-Su’s one definable trait: the ability to whine.

Asking why she seems down, Lara explains to her mother that she thought she would be able to go out after her Unveiling like all her other friends, to which Julie-Su tells her that she “isn’t their mothers.” Really? Are we really having this conversation? It goes like you would expect, with Lara-Su saying she is 16 and her mother talking about how she is overprotective of her baby. Even after pointing out the hypocrisy of her being forced to stay home, Julie-Su stands firm. When Lara throws out that her dad was on his own at ten, and that her mother was also forced to fend for herself, Julie’s response is to say that they were being watched, they just had no idea about it. That shouldn’t make someone feel better. If anything, the argument should go “Lara, your grandparents were all crazy and should never have let us do the things that we did at such a young age.” That would make far more sense than “oh, well they were watching anyway while we were in dangerous situations and probably wouldn’t have let us die too much, which is why you can’t go out and have fun with your friends.” I would also be able to take this exchange far more seriously if Lara-Su wasn’t already wearing bunny slippers and moments from sleep. If you’re meant to be this strong, rebellious type like your parents, why give up so easily? I’m surprised they didn’t add in a scene where she snuck out of the house to have fun. Actually, I wish there was a scene like that, because at the very least Lara would be portrayed in the way Ken wants her to be seen, instead of the way he is actually writing her.

With Lara bringing up out of the blue that her parents aren’t married without actually saying the words, we jump back to Knuckles and Rotor who are still sitting in the park. At first, Knuckles can’t believe what Rotor is telling him, but it doesn’t take long for the Echidna to believe him, not wanting to take the chance he could be wrong. Even though Rotor is sure of impending doom, he can’t answer when it will happen or even if there is a way to stop it, asking for the technological resources of Angel Island for help in finding an answer. Knuckles immediately pledges his support, and while they finish their conversation with talk of getting Sonic on board, we see that the pair has been half-overheard by…sigh. A teenage couple making out behind a bush. The guy? Rutan, Lara-Su’s cousin. The girl? A chameleon named Salma, who has no nose. I know Epsio technically doesn’t have one, but the way he’s designed it looks as though his horn is actually a nose. Salma? Her horn is small and right in the center of her forehead, making her noseless. Which has distracted me entirely from the cliffhanger ending.

Even so, I can’t help but shake the feeling that the conversation Knuckles and Rotor had would have been far more interesting to read than the one Julie and Lara-Su shared. Yes, I know it would have been a retread of last issue, but having Knuckles get the news at the same time as the reader would have been more engaging. Instead of the disconnected exchange between Rotor and Cobar that was seen in the previous installment, Knuckles would have served as the role of the reader, given information in a situation he is not at all familiar with. Even Cobar could have been there serving as a second voice for Rotor, but I suppose seeing Julie-Su have a non-fight with her daughter is far more interesting a plot. I get the sense the only real reason behind the scene (aside from the chance to sexualize Julie-Su again) was to tell everyone that, yes, Knuckles is not married. The fact the couple have a domestic partnership but never felt the need to make it official is something Ken was very proud of, and has brought it up numerous times online when discussing his work on the series. But the awkward way the point is made in the comic…it’s not like Lara has been shown being made fun of for her parent’s living situation. We haven’t been given any sign that it is even considered taboo in Echidna civilization. Instead, it just feels like Ken really wanted the readers to know the nature of Knuckles and Julie-Su’s relationship, but couldn’t think of a natural way to include it. So he forced it in the most ham-fisted way imaginable.

The story continues with “In Transist,” opening with a monologue from Rotor that sets the stage. “Having confirmed my findings of the entropic effect upon Mobius with Cobar, an Echidna scientist possessing a formidable intellect with whom I enjoy a close, personal relationship…” Alright, I can’t avoid talking about it any longer. After leaving the series back in 2006, Ken Penders went on record about a number of things involving his time at Archie Comics, anecdotes that would otherwise have remained quiet. His plans for Rotor Walrus is one of those tales, though it has gained a certain amount of infamy online. Once again, straight from Ken Penders:

I thought it was fairly obvious Rotor was gay, and begun laying the groundwork for that storyline during the MOBIUS: 25 YEARS LATER segments. I even showed his life partner without saying as such and planted clues between the lines. [2]

While there is no specific moment to point to, it was during the plotting of M:25YL that it occurred to me that here was an opportunity to develop a character who really didn’t get much time in the spotlight for whatever reason, whom we really didn’t know that much about. It was similar to the chain of thought I had when writing SONIC #46 and decided to take a character that was so hated by fandom at the time – namely, Antoine – and decided to make him a character the fans could embrace. Just as I decided one of the reasons Knuckles grew up the way he did was due to divorced parents, I decided Rotor stayed mostly to himself because he never felt he could be his true self around his friends. He knew he was different and was in search of a special friend who’d understand. My thinking had nothing to do with sexual relations and everything to do with acceptance of someone the way they are. [3]

While the seeds were laid out sparingly in Mobius: 25 Years Later, it was decided to never explicitly tackle the concept of Rotor’s sexual preference – at least, for the time being. It was something that Ken did want to write about at a later date, even making a hint that Eggman somehow knew Rotor’s sexuality because of a traitor within the Freedom Fighters…yeah, I know. Now, while more than likely Rotor’s orientation would not have been the focus of whatever that story would have been about, it was something that Ken seriously thought about. Wanting diverse characters in fiction is not a bad thing. Trying to hint at it in such an awkward way that no one knows what you’re doing? Writing a character gay because you can’t figure out any other reason as to why Rotor would want to keep to himself? That’s when people start to wonder just how strong of a writer you really are.

Anyway, the scene opens with Rotor on a transport, flying away from Angel Island. Keeping to himself, he flashes back to his night on the island, and how their meeting was intended to be secret to prevent widespread panic among the populace until a plan of action could be set forth. Before the lord is able to go into a droll political monologue, the breaking of a twig cuts him off, Knuckles looking towards the sound. With his bionic eye, the Guardian sees the growing-distant image of a teenaged couple running off, scared that someone would catch them making out. This is when Rotor asks if that is why Knuckles has kept his robot eye and not chosen to get a new one cloned in its place. While I’m sure its meant to come off as a joke, this is the only time Knuckles actually uses his cybernetics for anything useful. So yes, Knuckles has an electronic eye so he can spy on teenaged couples making out in parks named after his father. That’s not weird at all!

With neither of them wondering why they couldn’t have had their super private meeting at a more secure location like Knuckles’ house, the Echidna heads off to check up on Rotor’s info. We jump back to the present (relatively speaking) where Rotor muses about how Knuckles would have been surprised if he knew that Rotor was aware he was heading to see the Brotherhood of Guardians. Yet another hint at Rotor’s strange new powers? First his disappearing act at the airport, and now this. I wish there was some resolve, but as far as I know no one has ever bothered to even ask Ken about Rotor’s useless abilities. We flash right back to Knuckles arriving at Haven Two (the first having been destroyed in a storyline far removed from this one) where Knuckles greats his grandfather with a kiss on the head. Not going to lie, seeing Knuckles show that sort of affection throws me off. It doesn’t look right drawn in the panel, and it doesn’t seem like something he would do. Then again, it is future Knuckles. Maybe he kisses everyone on the forehead now!

Sojourner is the one who greets him, saying its been forever since he was in Haven, not since…the incident. Well, he doesn’t say “the incident,” but Knuckles cuts him off before he can reminisce about what could potentially be an interesting story. If you’re curious as to who Sojourner is, he is Knuckles’ great-great-great-grandfather. Sure is looking spry, especially next to Knuckles’ grandfather, who appears to be in a vegetative state. Shouldn’t he be in a hospital or something, instead of just sitting in a wheelchair where all these former Guardians work? Then again, I don’t know how the health care system works on Mobius, aside from their desire to keep Queens in stasis tubes and employ doctors named Quack.

Knuckles asks his relative a favor, wanting to know if their satellite network is still up and running. While Sojourner asks about his own setup in the Chaos Chamber, Knuckles tells him that he made a promise a long time ago that he wouldn’t spy on family. Glad to know the promise doesn’t mean much if he’s just having someone else doing it while he’s standing right there. Because we don’t have enough Echidna’s in the frame, Sojourner’s father Spectre shows up, reminding his son just who Julie-Su’s relatives are. Yes, an even older Echidna has shown up. Knuckles tells his great-great-great-great-grandfather that it isn’t Lien-Da he’s worried about, but her son Rutan, and what he may have overheard during his makeout session. It isn’t long before everyone is gathered around the viewscreen watching a direct feed of Lien-Da’s house, where she is right in the middle of giving her son the third degree.

Now, I can understand a vast network of spy cameras way back when the island was mostly uninhabited, but does the population even know that these spy cameras exist? I would think of all people Lien-Da would be the most cautious of having a random camera in her living room connected directly into the Brotherhood’s headquarters, but she sure seems oblivious to it. The three Echidnas watch as Lien-Da questions her son about his whereabouts the night before, Rutan claiming they spent the night with friends. And to be honest, the last we saw of the couple was them running into the night. Where did they go? He could be telling the truth, or maybe they spent the night at an Echidna hotel. It’s not like any of that matters, since Knuckles is only interested in what Rutan may or may not say about what he heard in the dead of night.

Lien-Da does her parental duty, scolding her son for lying and taking his girlfriend home, though she does it far nicer than if it was 25 years beforehand. As the dispute wraps up, we discover that not only were the Guardian’s watching, but Rotor as well, Cobar having somehow hacked the satellite network of Haven. With a common saying twisted to make it sound Mobian, Rotor says he’s seen enough for now, and the kid seems harmless. Cobar points out who his mother is, which lets Rotor mention the current relationship between Sonic and Knuckles, and how it definitely isn’t on good terms. What caused these friendly rivals to stop speaking entirely? You don’t get to find out yet. This is just part four, after all.

While certainly not the worst we’ve read, there is still something lacking to “In Transit.” Maybe because it all feels like setup to a payoff we’re months away from, maybe because it still feels like not a whole lot has happened. There are still many answers to be given, more questions to be asked, and more pacing to wade through. Instead of dwelling on a chapter whose very title makes it seem like a transition instead of a solid moment of storytelling, I’ll leave things here for now, and see you next week where we will continue our own journey. If only we could get to the end of all this in six pages…

…and yes, the above picture isn’t from Mobius: 25 Years Later. Ken didn’t write that dialogue, and was against it. But there’s something about it which speaks volumes about the whole comic from this era.

Curious about what happened in the future beforehand? Check out our previous installments:

Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 1 – What’s Future Is Prologue
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 2 – Of Frightened and Dancing Crocs

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  • Reply

    There’s a coloring error in that last image.
    Seems like Sally has a kangaroo pouch in her belly, but it’s actually her jacket that has been colored light brown.

  • Reply

    >Wouldn’t expect cleavage in a Sonic comic.

    What, does Rouge not exist in that continuity or something? Because in 2003, Sonic fans would already have been exposed to HER bombshells.

  • Reply

    David, I miss your old comic reviews. Back in the old days, before you jumped aboard the Penders-bashing bandwagon that everyone seems to be on nowadays.

    For all the nitpicking you’ve done over M: 25YL thus far, the fact remains that fans reacted positively to the arc in its original run–and if they hadn’t, Ian wouldn’t have revisited that story years later.

    Another thing I take issue with is how in reach review you point out something they should not have done considering the book’s target audience. I think you underestimate how many older fans the comic had even then, and the vested interest even the younger fans had in seeing the future lives of Julie-Su, Lien-Da, et al.

    I was 15 years old when Penders first began teasing Mobius: 25 Years Later. Back then it was going to be called Knuckles: 25 Years Later, and on the basis of the mocked-up cover alone–Knuckles and Locke standing side by side–I was quite eager to see the continuation of the recently canceled Knuckles series. When M: 25YLR finally happened I was 19, and I was not disappointed. The characters interested me as much then as they do today, and I found all the scenes of domestic drama you’re complaining about now to be examples of Pender’s best writing. And he IS a much better writer than he has been given credit for recently.

    • Reply

      “David, I miss your old comic reviews. Back in the old days, before you jumped aboard the Penders-bashing bandwagon that everyone seems to be on nowadays.”

      You say that as if our favorite Lurker hasn’t always been hating on Ken. He’s been making fun of the guy since the very first one.

      Love the domestic drama all you want, since it’s your opinion and you’re welcome to it, but it isn’t exactly something most people liked.

    • Reply

      I’m not jumping on the bandwagon exactly…I know there is a lot of Penders bashing, and some of it is unwarranted. He is a very easy target. But at the same time, there is something extremely lacking in this story. I don’t mind domestic scenes, or moments where the comic can go slow. What I mind is when that’s all it is…I could get into it more here, but I do discuss it further in the reviews that haven’t been put up here yet.

      And believe me, I remember the hype this story had before it was released.

  • Reply

    There isn’t a good medium: It’s either slightly-convoluted drama, or the simple SEGA-esque character brawl that is Flynn’s style. While I like ideas from both styles, I would much rather see a clean slate gradually introducing old ideas, akin to the newer reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics.
    Unfortunately, that would require caring about writing- which is something SEGA is practically incapable of doing on it’s own. If they were serious about keeping a foothold in the comic market, not as a money-machine but a story, they could be taken so much more seriously. If they tried, they could do much better than Archie.

  • Reply

    Also, a strong artist is key. Tracy Yardley(!) is no such person. Sonic is such a fluid image! There are variations upon variations of his character and world just waiting to be expressed. Why do they always follow the conventional (or rather conservative) method? Not to brag too much, but my doodles show more life than some of the pencils these days.

    • Reply

      “Tracy Yardley(!) is no such person.”
      You must be kidding.
      And no, I do not doubt your skills or something – But from what I’ve seen of Tracy (His DA and some occasional comic pages, because I don’t read it.) his characters are drawn in a funny and “easy on the eyes” way. (Not the case with Steven Butler.)
      They look pretty cartoony and alive(?), if you ask me.
      …How else would you want to see Sonic expressed?

    • Reply

      I actually kind of agree with this. Yardley is indeed talented, and can put out some amazing work when he puts time into it. The problem is that a lot of his work I’ve seen on the comics just looks rushed and unclean. Part of the blame probably goes to the inker and/or colorer, but I always thought Yardley’s work was pretty lacking.

      Spaz, on the other hand… Well, let’s just say I wouldn’t complain if he did the penciling for every issue.

  • Reply

    (I love your username)

    But no. I admire some of his goofy smiles, and some of his faces, but they blend together. They tend to be the same basic body with a few accessories. Knuckles’ head is always seems square, everyone’s shoes always seem so bleh. I need something fresh. Something loose.
    I suppose it all comes down to personal taste, but he just seems too kiddie. I want something more like whoever did the cover to #212. Not EXACTLY like that, but more of that kind of style.

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