Comics

Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 12 – The Completely Expected Death Of Locke

sonic143-coverWhen Ken Penders first started outlining what would evolve into Mobius: 25 Years Later, he took the title of the story seriously. While most comic book authors dealing with modern legends they neither created or owned liked to toy with the future, they knew in the back of their minds that the future was fleeting. Their ideas of how the fate of each character would play out could easily be changed, be it another writer down the line or even the whim of an editor. Ken, on the other hand, never thought he was writing an imaginary story or a possible future. To him, he was detailing the true and final fate of these characters within the Sonic Archie Universe.

As the series began to see print, the opinion on whether or not the story was canon or merely a possible future was suddenly called into question, much to Ken’s chagrin. An internal strife behind the scenes began, one that did leak onto the Internet in various fan forums and even some semi-official ones. Though it would be some time (and a change in editor) before Ken would be forced off the series, they were the first cracks in the wall to show that Ken’s position in the echelon of Archie scribes was not as strong as he would have liked to think.

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Right before the first part of Mobius: 25 Years Later saw print, writer Karl Bollers made a statement online to not only wish everyone a happy 2004, but also to clarify the position of the upcoming Ken Penders story:

Hey, Sonic fans! Just wanted to say Happy New Year and thanks for your loyal support during this past year and in previous ones. Hope you’re enjoying the new direction we’ve taken beginning with issue #130. We at Archie hope to make Sonic even bigger and better in 2004 than it was in 2003.

Sonic Editor J.F. Gabrie and I had a lengthy story conference this weekend to discuss upcoming storylines in the current SONIC series. Regarding the continuity of Mobius 25 Years Later, it was decided by Justin and myself that even though the future depicted will be the one seen in the SONIC: IN YOUR FACE SPECIAL it is indeed an ALTERNATE future, similar to DC’s Elseworld series.

That isn’t to say that it won’t be action-packed entertainment. Believe us when we say that M:25YL is going to really deliver!

And, sure, Sonic and Sally might not end up being king and queen in the future.

But who knows…

…they just might! [19]

As one can imagine, Ken was none too happy about this, especially as he was under the impression that Mobius: 25 Years Later wasn’t meant to be an alternate universe, as per his discussions with Justin Gabrie. As he recalled years later on his personal message board:

I never expressed any opinion about Karl or his work until I was dragged into the debate whether or not M:25YL was just a possible future or the actual future of the characters. I never thought there was – or should have been – a debate as it was made clear to me I would be writing the actual future of the characters. The only thing was, I wanted to write KNUCKLES: 20 YEARS LATER, and Justin offered me the Sonic cast of character in exchange for allowing Karl to use the characters set in the present day. I was all for it on one condition: Locke was the sole untouchable character. I already knew then I wanted to do the “FATHER’S DAY” storyline in some form, and didn’t want anything to detract from that. Otherwise, I was cool with everything. Justin and I even touched on how the 25 year difference in timeline meant Karl was free to do whatever he wanted, as there was always the gap between his setting and mine that allowed for any evolutionary changes that may seem at first irreconcilable. Neither one of us didn’t realize Karl wouldn’t see it that way. As such, people took sides for whatever reason when they didn’t have to. I was angry at Karl because he was essentially attempting to delegitimize what I was doing when I never took any such approach to his work. I didn’t agree with anything he did with the cast from about issue #100 onward, but you never saw me tear his work down to promote my work at his expense. [20]

Even when Gabrie left Archie and was replaced with Mike Pellerito, the canonical state of the story was still left ambiguous:

I have reason to believe it’s not, Ken and Bob R. have argued that it is, even though it says it’s only a possible future right in the letters page. And if it isn’t the actual future, then will Sonic and Sally be together? Or will Sonic take up another love interest with Mina or Amy? What about Knuckles and Julie-Su? Will Knuckles’ experiences with the afterlife change his mind about “commitment without ceremony?” (I would certainly hope it would. I want to see Knux and Julie MARRIED XD It just makes more sense in my opinion that they would get married, over Sonic getting married. XD)

I think the best way to understand this is to look at the editorial for Sonic 144. Yes, it is vague but the future is always in flux and a small event now could cause huge ripples of change in the future. How any writer wants to handle current events in terms of the future ramifications is up to them. I think the most important concern is to create enjoyable stories with everybody’s favorite characters regardless of the timelines. [21]

A safe answer, to be sure, but what else would one expect from someone who, at the time, was brand new to the Sonic comic book? Ken’s desire to be the author of the one, true future to the drawn serial was not just to preserve his legacy on the book, but to make sure that one very specific portion of the story would remain untouched. The fate of Locke, Knuckles’ father in the book, became extremely personal to Ken. So much so, it ended up having the highest page count of any other chapter. Clocking in at a whopping thirteen pages, there’s nothing left to do but to jump right into “Father’s Day” both written and drawn by Ken Penders.

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We open back at the Guardian’s residence, which should be immediately after the ending of part twelve, where Knuckles was overhearing his daughter’s constant complaining. However, instead of everyone being awake and dressed, we see Lara-Su just getting out of bed. Even though she was talking to Sonia a second ago. She asks Abby the Koala where everyone is, the domestic directing her to the patio where Julie-Su is drinking her morning chono (oh that word again) with the queen. The daughter of the Guardian walks out to join the adults, who are wearing oversized t-shirts instead of the usual elaborate nightgowns. That’s a pleasant surprise. Makes me wonder who dictated all the clothing previously. Was it in Ken’s script, or was it Steven Butler who couldn’t control himself? Not like it matters, I suppose. Once outside, Lara asks where her dad is, Julie asking if she’s forgotten what day it is. Realizing her folly, Lara immediately becomes remorseful, and the female cast disappear for the remainder of the chapter.

mxyl79Meanwhile, Knuckles walks alone somewhere on the island, thinking about how he should have accompanied Sonic but couldn’t, not on this day. We then enter an extended flashback, Knuckles reflecting back on the last day he saw Archimedes. Now, I haven’t really talked about Archimedes in these reviews, simply because he hasn’t played a part until now. In the early days of Ken’s Knuckles narrative, Archimedes played an essential role, especially in establishing the universe Knuckles lived in. He served as Knuckles’ mentor, first in the shadows then revealing himself right before the Guardian first went up against Enerjak. Every Guardian of Angel Island had a fireant there to assist them, Archimedes servicing Knuckles’ father and grandfather before him. By the time this flashback takes place, however, Archimedes feels his time mentoring Knuckles has come to an end. Accompanying him on a journey across the globe, the pair have ended up at the original site of Angel Island, before it levitated from the ground all those years ago. Though Knuckles doesn’t understand why, Archimedes is filled with the desire to return to his ancestral home, just as some Echidnas are possessed with the urge to move to Albion, the original Echidna settlement. Before he disappears for good, the ant leaves Knuckles with some food for thought, telling him he shouldn’t be afraid to dream. Just as the Guardian’s great-grandfather Athair stepped out of the role he was born into, Knuckles has taken the first step by deciding he wouldn’t thrust the role of Guardian on any of his offspring. Though he acts like breaking from tradition is a good thing, the fireant also cautions Knuckles about the consequences that could arise.

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With one final tear, Archimedes tells Knuckles that he couldn’t be prouder of him if he was his own son, and in a poof of smoke is gone. Using the Guiding Star Gem, Knuckles quickly returns home to Angel Island, making his weeks of pilgrimage a big waste of time. Once home, he runs into his mother who is on the edge of tears, only able to choke out that something is wrong with his father. Wynmacher, Knuckles’ father-in-law, takes the situation into his own hands, calling a cab so they can rush to the hospital. Whose driving? Why, Harry the Cab Driver of course. He’s the only person on the entire island with one. That, or maybe he just loves stalking the Guardian’s family?

Once at the hospital, the family meets Doctor Shockra, the physician attending to Locke. Yeah, that’s what he’s called. Definitely not one of Ken’s stronger entries into the pool of Echidna names. Knuckles doesn’t want to deal with the pleasantries, asking to get right to the point. Unfortunately, the doctor doesn’t have much to say. Every test they’ve run has come up negative, so even though on paper it looks like Locke is doing alright, he is getting worse by the second. While exploratory surgery could give them an answer, it might also expedite his condition. Knuckles asks what that is, and with a shot of a bedridden Locke, the doctor tells it straight: Locke is dying.

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With Knuckles being his father’s closest living relative of sound mind, the not-young yet not-old Guardian becomes Locke’s power of attorney. His mother being a mess, his grandfather apparently already entering the vegetative state seen previously, and Kneecaps being too young to give any advice, Knuckles remarks how there’s no one he can turn to. Solemnly, he ok’s the surgery path. Not sure why he didn’t call up Julie-Su and lean on her shoulder. An unspecified amount of time passes, and when the doctor returns, he tells the family what they’ve learned: that Locke has a carcinogenic pancreas, and there is nothing they can do to fix it. Knuckles asks for more information, not ready to just give up, but the doctor doesn’t help to add comfort. At most, Locke has nine months to live, it being a miracle if he makes it to Ascension Day (an Echidna holiday celebrating the date the island first levitated off the ground). The doctors can’t even say when or how his pancreas got infected, exposed to some toxic substance. It could have been days before, it could have been decades. The only thing that would push this even further is if Knuckles started worrying that he was the cause, what with all the crazy experiments his father forced upon him. Luckily, we’ve avoided that, since there’s already so much going on here in the first place.

mxyl82Knuckles and Lara-Le go in the room to visit with the barely-conscious Locke, who immediately becomes philosophical. He apologizes to his ex-wife about everything he put her through, and that he still loves her even though he was the one who walked away. Turning to Knuckles, he lays it on thick, saying that he should have done things differently with him, and given him a choice instead of forcing a path on him so young. So obsessed was Locke with the vision of the future that he never stopped to think of the consequences. Knuckles tries to comfort his dad, saying that he was a good dad and that everything turned out well in the end, but Locke can’t help but continue. Not only does he apologize for taking his childhood away, he says he was wrong for thinking that the prophetic dream he had was the most important thing, when in reality it was simply the fact that Knuckles was his son, and he loved him. Nice that he finally realized that maybe he went a bit too crazy in the past, once he’s laying in his death bed.

mxyl83With an arbitrary date, the narration of future-Knuckles returns, explaining that Locke passed away sooner than anyone was expecting, with him and Lara-Le by the bearded Echidna’s side. The funeral for the former Guardian was small, Knuckles saying he held back tears until he was alone. With that, we finally see where future-Knuckles was walking towards – the gravestone of his father, flowers already at the head. The inscription on the headstone reads “beloved father and soulmate,” and I’m not going to lie, seeing the word “soulmate” on there comes off as…well, weird. I know, using the word husband might be odd seeing he was a divorcee when he died, but would it be so bad to fudge it just this once? What does Lara-Le’s current husband think when he sees the word “soulmate” on that tombstone? Can’t make him feel all that great knowing that even in death, he’s in second place.

Knuckles remarks how the flowers must have come from his mother, even though she is planning on moving to Albion at some point in the future. He then comments on how his dad must be smiling down on him, knowing how well he did his job as a father. In his retrospective state, Knuckles thinks about how he’s been acting to his own offspring. So worried has he been about not repeating his dad’s mistakes, he was unknowingly taking away choice from his daughter. Just as Locke shouldn’t have forced the Guardianship on his son at such a young age, he realizes how wrong it is for him to deny his daughter from making her own choices in life. Slipping in the generic “I now realize how much different things are from when you’re a parent to when you’re a kid,” Knuckles tells his dad’s grave that he’ll give his daughter that choice, only wishing he was able to share this with his father. Unknown to Knuckles, the spirit of Locke watches on, standing with Aurora, the female Echidna spirit that also happened to be hanging out with Knuckles during the very brief stint he had being dead. With Ken’s penultimate chapter complete, he dedicates the previous thirteen pages to his own father, Kenneth. Wait, does this mean Ken Penders is actually Ken Penders Jr.?

mxyl85Now, even though this is the longest chapter to date, I don’t have as much to say about it, partly because I’m not sure how I should handle it. The writing does seem to be the best so far in the story, but I can’t attribute that to it being a story about Knuckles. Removing the whole Guardian angle, to me this reads as a very auto-biographical piece. I can’t claim to know the history of Ken’s family. I don’t know if his parents were married or separated when his father died. I can’t even say that Kenneth Penders died from a toxic pancreas. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he did, especially since this piece means so much to Ken.

One of the things that really kills me about it, though, is the art. Every installment thus far has been drawn by Steven Butler, so seeing Ken’s art is jarring. Not only that, but Ken isn’t the best artist the comic has seen. I know, I know, he wanted to be in control of every facet of this very personal story, but those awkward facial expressions and prominent knees ruin some of the impact the story is supposed to have. Then there’s the fact that this is, through and through, a character study. Locke dies not because of some grand threat to the island but because of something outside of his control. That in of itself doesn’t bother me. If the rest of Mobius: 25 Years Later was written differently, having this chapter be the calm before the storm would work very well. Instead, it’s more of the same, just written slightly better than what we’ve seen. Even reading Knuckles dialogue, I can’t help but read some of it in Ken’s voice. I’m not getting a Knuckles vibe here, but then again, I don’t know how old he is supposed to be. This could be that slightly more mature Knuckles that came out very sparingly in the last twelve chapters of Mobius: 25 Years Later. If anything, “Father’s Day” should have been the bridge between the day-to-day Knuckles of the main comic and the father figure we were supposed to get over the previous year of comic book storytelling.

SSSM4All in all, I can’t hate “Father’s Day” by itself. Only when placed in context does it really start to bother me. I don’t think that’s what Ken was going for, but that is how I feel about it. Also, I can see why it was not included in the compilation of the story seen in Sonic Super Special Magazine #4, for while it is long and personal, it doesn’t do much to evolve the story. If the entire saga was collected into a trade paperback, I would expect it to be there, but in a page-restricted format like the magazine, I can understand why it was omitted. It is sad to think that some of Ken’s best writing for this story can be thrown off the bus so casually and not effect anyone’s understanding of what is happening.

Next: we’re entering the home stretch. We finally get to Ken’s last installment of the saga. What could happen? Well, we still have a few of these columns to go, so don’t expect us to actually reach the end just yet.

If you want to simmer in the Ken Penders special, be sure to look back at the previous entries in our little series:

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
Mobius: 25 Years Later, The Review: Part 3 – The Adventures of Lara-Su and Old Rotor
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 4 – The Mobius Girls Can’t Help It
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 5 – A Brief History Of The Future
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 6 – A Brief History, Continued
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 7 – The Mental State of Sonic the Hedgehog
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 8 – A Dinner Party At The End of the World
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 9 – The Myth of the Mobius Sleepover
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 10 – It Goes Full Circle, If Only Halfway
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 11 – The Secret World of Jani-Ca

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2 Comments

  • Reply

    for fuck’s sake how long is this arch?!

    • Reply

      We’re working out a movie deal with Lebron.

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