Comics

Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 14 – All Hail King Shadow

sonic166-coverSometimes, long-running serials can become stale. If you’ve been hired to write for a comic book month after month for years, you can reach a point where you just can’t be as good as you used to be. Ideas get regurgitated. Fast paced action is slowed down. All the creativity of those first few years can dwindle, even if the property is yours. There’s a reason creatives are always looking for new valleys to explore – focusing on just one idea, one story, can drive someone mad. It can compromise the overall arc. It can feel like the story should have ended years beforehand, instead of half-heatedly lurching forward into the abyss.

American comic book companies are aware of this to a degree, oftentimes changing the creatives on a book in order not just to improve sales, but to prevent the material from becoming flat. The hope being that if new minds are always bringing in fresh ideas, the 70+ years of Batman adventures won’t continue to repeat themselves. Very rarely in the modern industry do you get someone on a title for more than a handful of years. Extremely rare is the tenure that Ken Penders enjoyed, writing on Sonic the Hedgehog and its related series for nearly 13.

When Ken was unceremoniously dropped from the title back in 2006, he was replaced by newcomer Ian Flynn, his first story seeing print in Sonic the Hedgehog #160. Though relatively unknown, there was a faction who was excited to see what he would bring to the table, him having been a fan himself, writing his own fanfiction about Sonic in the years previous. Even if sales of the title had gotten better when Ken took over from Karl Bollers as head writer, there was a certain stagnant feeling to the stories being provided. If you’d had gone on record saying that, in your mind, the battle between Sonic and Eggman was over and you were solely invested in the future tales of Mobius, what else would one expect?

With Ian at the helm, it didn’t take long for the new writer to revisit one of the longest running, incomplete tales that had taken hold of the comic since its early days. Dictated by management to wrap it up once and for all, Ian set off to finally finish Mobius: 25 Years Later.

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The first of Ian’s two-part conclusion was published in Sonic #166, and just like Ken’s final chapter, it received top billing. “Tempus Fugit,” illustrated by Tracy Yardley, opens up with the briefest explanation of what happened in the previous fourteen issues, joined by the now-familiar Mobius: 25 Years Later logo. The scene is the city of Portal on Angel Island, a locale mentioned but barely explored in the original arc. Immediately, one can tell that something is amiss. Right in the center of the city? A statue that suspiciously looks like Maria Robotnik, now clad with angel wings. Ominously nearby is a poster with Knuckles’ face, cybernetic eye and all, the phrase “The Chaotix Are Watching” giving a Big Brother vibe to the whole scene. A collection of random Mobians stand around the statue, assumingly praising the female form. And flying above? Miles “Tails” Prower, who knows something isn’t right. This certainly is a departure from every single opening we got the first go-round. And seeing “Tails?” You can’t go wrong with that. He was sorely missing from the story previous.

mxyl96Thinking to himself that the “triple threat” need to get back together if things are to be put back in the right place, we jump over to see Knuckles and Lara-Su, the two sharing some sort of father/daughter moment. Lara is in the process of being trained, and is making stones fly overhead through telekinesis. Who knew? Knuckles remarks that she’s much better at it then he was at her age, which I don’t understand. I know Knuckles has had some crazy powers over the years with the oft-mentioned “green Knuckles” period, but that was never meant to be part of his standard abilities. But Lara? Guess she can do all sorts of things without being green. You could say it was hinted at back during the Jani-Ca arc Ken wrote where she apparently had the ability to travel through time on her own, I don’t know.

Their moment is interrupted by the arrival of “Tails,” whose appearance makes Knuckles tell his daughter to wash up and go home. She protests initially, but the older Guardian stands firm. With Lara out of the picture, “Tail”” enters exposition mode. He tells Knuckles that he’s aware that things aren’t right with their present. That he still remembers how things used to be in the original timeline, and that he knows Knuckles was near the tachyon chamber when all of this began. Knuckles asks the obvious question: how does “Tails” know all of this if he wasn’t around? Though its not clear how he was aware of Sonic and Knuckles’ doings, he did have knowledge of the breaking down of the space-time continuum, making precautions to protect his family from the possibility of an altered timeline. How very fourth-dimensionally thinking of you, “Tails.”

Knuckles doesn’t say much, and when “Tails” says they need to figure out what happened to Cobar (now spelled Cobor…must be a side effect of the universe reshaping itself) and look for Sonic, Knuckles snaps, threatening to arrest the flying fox. In this altered future, Knuckles is no longer just the Guardian of the Master Emerald, but also the chief enforcer to King Shadow. Wait, what?

mxyl97Perturbed by his audience with the enforcing Guardian, “Tails” leaves the Echidna headquarters, only to stumble across Lara-Su again. Seems that their entire conversation was overheard by the teenage protagonist, who sympathizes with “Tails” cause. Recalling how she stowed away to Sonic and Knuckles’ trip to the badlands back in Sonic #144, she is acutely aware that things aren’t the way they should be. She has memories of Sonic’s children, even though they no longer exist. That’s dark. I didn’t think Archie would ever allow Sonic’s offspring to be wiped off the map, but here we are. As a Guardian, she says she wants to help set things right, and together the two of them walk through Portal to find answers.

mxyl98Underneath Castle Mobius, which I can only guess is the future Castle of Acorn, the reader gets the first glimpse of King Shadow, clad in cape and crown. In the dungeon catacombs, Shadow interrogates his latest prisoner – Rotor Walrus. Wearing his Lord robes, the walrus looks all the worse for wear. A broken tusk, a dirtied face, and a pained look show he’s been holding up against Shadow’s questioning. Just what is it the dark king is looking for? It’s not explicitly stated, but things are made clear once he steps out into the hall. Who should be waiting for Shadow than Lien-Da, the ineffectual antagonist of Penders’ telling of the future. She makes it clear that she was the one who captured Rotor, herself being aware of the original timeline. Before everything was wiped out by the green haze, Lien-Da forced Cobor to make her a bracelet that would allow her to remember the previous timeline if things were to shift. It worked, his reward being tortured by Shadow, presumably to his death.

mxyl99Reveling in his torturous ways, Shadow goes on to say that things can’t be changed back, him doing far too much good in this timeline. Sometime between the present day and the 25 year future, Shadow has turned from anti-hero to full-on lunatic. Being immortal could do that to a person. Lien-Da cackles like a crazy person herself in the background, super excited to whip Rotor into giving them any more information. Looks like they want to be sure Rotor and Cobor are the only people who have an awareness of how things used to be, or else Shadow’s power could be threatened.

Before she can get way too inappropriate for a children’s comic book, a faceless member of the Dark Legion arrives, handing Lien-Da some news. The Grandmaster gets super excited, telling Shadow that Lara-Su has been hanging out with “the wrong crowd.” Shadow tells her to get his legitimate enforcer to take care of things, Lien-Da confident he’ll arrest all three of them. Three, you say?

Back in Portal (or is that Echidnapolis?), “Tails” and Lara-Su finally find what they were looking for, though the latter can’t believe her eyes. Hiding in the back-alley of some unknown building lays Sonic the Hedgehog, looking like a homeless refugee. With tattered shoes, a half-eaten chili dog on a hubcap (even on the street, there’s only one thing Sonic will eat) and the closest any of these characters can look to being unshaven, our hero even remarks on how he can’t believe what’s happened. Remembering the old timeline, he recalls briefly how he saved all of time and space, though he spares the details. A shame, seeing as that was the centerpiece of the last fourteen chapters. We get no explanation as to how he managed to save the universe, aside from the fact it happened. The side-effects, though, proved costly, Sonic’s entire life disappearing once he returned. How long has he been back in his present? Has he tried to make any contact with Sally? Is he just believed dead, or did history change so that after he served in the Freedom Fighters, he just became a bum and disappeared from the public eye? Another question unanswered, though I understand that Ian only had so much space to work in.

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Sonic embraces his old friend, realizing that he is from the same future that he once hailed from. He asks about Mina and the kids, whom “Tails” assures were protected from the universe changing. Sonic smiles, but can’t help but cry at his own losses. His children, gone. His true love, married to Shadow. Shedding tears, Sonic has an introspective moment, going on about how he didn’t appreciate the life he had before. Even with his midlife crisis over, “Tails” sorrowfully tells him that they can’t risk turning back time again, Sonic still proving himself the hero by saying that if given the choice, he would still do the exact same thing to save the universe. For the first time, we’ve seen a Sonic who isn’t acting 15, and it’s not that bad. Is it worth having read everything up to this point? Probably not. But at least we’ve gotten the first payoff to Sonic’s characterization, even if it was at the cost of his own children. And hey, “Tails” was at the center of it!

Knowing he can’t bounce through time again, Sonic says he can try to make things right by apologizing to “Tails” about their falling out, though we still don’t get those specifics either. Must have not been anything huge as the not-so-young fox accepts the apology instantly. Getting back on his feet, Sonic points out how Lara-Su is acting precocious, which she simply replies with “times change.” Oh, I get it. Though it is nice to realize that Lara is acting more like a full-fledged character and not just an over-emotional teenage girl.

The trio start talking about how to set things right without the use of time travel, but are interrupted by the arrival of a police force, Sonic looking more than a bit annoyed. The force? Made up of Echidnas, and led by none other than Knuckles. Big Brother has struck, and his vehicles are covered by the logo to Shadow the Hedgehog.

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In eleven pages, the status quo of future-Mobius has changed. It certainly feels like a lot more has happened here than in the 104 pages of Ken’s material. The shift between the two writing styles is unmistakable, but in the process, you can tell that this has suddenly become a very different story. Whatever Ken was planning has vanished just like Sonic’s life, almost making it a continuation of Mobius: 25 Years Later a moot point. While it’s nice that the story is able to reach a proper conclusion, and the writing has improved, it doesn’t deliver the payoff the disappearing Sonic promised. In the same breath, I doubt that whatever Ken was planning would have been any better. At least the future is interesting again!

mxyl102One small issue I do have is Sonic’s dialogue as he references Maria. Twice, he uses her name in the same sense one might say “God help me,” which doesn’t make sense to me. In this now-dystopian future, it looks like Shadow has created a cult around Maria’s fallen image. But if Sonic is from the old timeline, there’s no reason why he would reference Maria in his expressions. If anything I would think Sonic would avoid it in a purposeful fashion, maybe even being snarky about how everyone is worshiping a relative of Dr. Eggman’s. Either way, we get a stunning cliffhanger that makes waiting a month for the conclusion worth it. I doubt anyone read “Slumber Party” and couldn’t wait to see if Manik was going to ever get to play spin the bottle.

A brief aside, there was some editing to Tracy Yardley’s original line art with the scene involving the crying Sonic in the alley. Though he still is sorrowful in the printed version, the original sketch had Sonic looking far more upset. While some people have voiced their displeasure at the change, I’m just surprised SEGA allowed the amount of emotion seen in the final product. A far cry from the dead-pan Sonic way back in Endgame.

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Next time, we finish up with Ian Flynn’s take on Mobius: 25 Years Later. Yes, we’re almost done folks.

With the end fast approaching (just as fast as Sonic, am I right?) take a look back at what has been said before about this seemingly never-ending saga:

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
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 12 – The Completely Expected Death Of Locke
Mobius: 25 Years Later: The Review, Part 13 – When Is A Finale Not A Finale?

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10 Comments

  • Reply

    Can’t wait till the inevitable 30 Years Later review!

  • Reply

    Fucking ugly ass Archie comic covers.

  • Reply

    Almost over?
    But, what about 30 years latter?
    Or The Silver Ark?
    Or is this just a review of the ‘M25YL’ Story? Makes sense, or we would be here 8 more parts… oh well, maybe in the future.
    Good review though, you hit the nail on the head of a few things that were bothering me about the stories.

  • Reply

    Oh Shadow, you’ve practically handed Sonic the victory here. How quickly you seem to have forgotten that when there’s nothing left to lose you win.

  • Reply

    Yay! Tracey Yardley’s pencils are looking pretty good here, especially when compared to the last thirteen issues.

  • Reply

    Funny how one comic can feel like a better crafted and more complete story than the other 13 of them combined… Very nice review.

  • Reply

    It’s interesting to me, seeing an issue drawn by Tracey that doesn’t make me scowl in disappointment at each page. I’m not sure how “early” this was in his tenure on the comic, but it seems like Tracey put a lot more effort into these images; he’s not BAD per se, but his art usually seems rushed and sloppy, to my eyes.

    It’s also amazing that Ian Flynn managed to “salvage” the boring, meandering, melodramatic mess that was Ken’s 25 Years Later arc. Sure, he had to pretty much retcon the entire story up to that point, but at least he put a little bit of thought into how to do that. It feels like much more happened in this one chapter than the entirety of the previous 13. I know that Ken originally planned for the story to revolve around Knuckles specifically, but honestly, it should have jumped right to the action from the beginning (or at least by, say, chapter 3) instead of giving us 10+ chapters of family non-drama followed by a chapter and a half of disappointing “payoff.” It just always felt like Ken was trying to cram the Sonic universe into very non-Sonic situations, and Ian managed to reel it all back in.

  • Reply

    So…. What the hell is Shadow even doing here at all? Or is there an SA2 adaptation I’m not aware of? (…Which isn’t saying much. Comics in general are very much an unknown to me.)

  • Reply

    Power Ring cereal box in the alley picture. Wow.

  • Reply

    The cover is so full of QUALITY.

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