As Sonic and Tails hurry to prevent Robotnik from launching nuclear weapons, one group of Freedom Fighters prepares to rendezvous with him and another prepares to do battle with a horde of robots.
This story is all about getting ready for the next issue. It piles exposition about who everyone is (for new readers' sake) on top of exposition about what Eggman's threat is and exposition about how everyone is gearing up to face that threat.
A story like this isn't inherently bad, but I'd think doing it right would be extremely difficult. And this story didn't do it right. The exposition is usually pretty heavy-handed and awkward on its own, but even beyond that, there are logic problems left and right, mainly for the sake of raising the tension or the cool factor. There are a few outright mistakes, too.
For instance, the story starts with Sonic running from Castle Acorn to Eggman's headquarters in New Megaopolis, using a power ring to ensure he has the speed to make it in time. However, Tails is keeping up with him just fine in the Tornado. Never mind that Sonic should be able to outrun an airplane even without a ring; if the Tornado is that fast, why bother with the ring and not just have Sonic ride the Tornado the whole way?
One scene is devoted to an explanation of how the Freedom Fighter Special Mk II works. I won't go into the details, but it's so convoluted that it would have to be much slower than simply flying from point A to point B. Another scene has General D'Colette giving an "As you know, Bob" speech to his men. He mentions how long they've been stationed outside Robotropilis to keep its deadly radiation from being released: Ten years. Except it was only about a year ago that Robotropolis was nuked and sealed inside a force field.
A few more oddities: Tails is surprised at being chosen to accompany Sonic on a mission. The president stands by the exact opposite of the position he took in the last issue. Then there's the bit near the end involving the surprise GUN operative.
There are a couple of scenes wherein a character simply rattles off the names of everyone accompanying him. It's gratuitous when Espio does it, but it more or less works. Knuckles' version might have worked if it had been a "Reporting for duty!" thing, but the way he tries to work it into casual conversation is awkward; it reads more like ad copy than anything else.
A related issue is that so many characters are introduced in this story that no one really makes an impression. New readers won't actually learn anything about most of these characters, except for their names. Most of them drop out of the story entirely after their introductions.
Finally, no review of this issue would be complete without mentioning the artwork. I won't mince words: It's very bad. It gets points for being readable, though that may just be because there isn't enough action going on for the action to get confusing. What ruins it is the characters.
The humans (other than Eggman) look okay, but it takes work to find a Mobian character who's on-model. The faces, especially the eyes, are terrible, and the expressions create the impression that half the characters just got out of bed. Mouths are not so much drawn as vaguely scribbled in. Of the few characters who appear in more than one panel, most are drawn inconsistently. It just looks lazy.
The story accomplishes what it sets out to accomplish: It gets the characters where they need to be for the next installment. Perhaps it's too much to ask that the story also be entertaining, or even coherent.
The debut of Mobius: 25 Years Later. Rotor makes preparations for King Sonic and his family to visit Angel Island. Knuckles deals with his hot-headed daughter, Lara-Su, who doesn't want to go through with a ceremony because she wants to be the next Guardian.
We're basically dealing with yet another preparation/exposition/setup story here. This one is more readable and enjoyable than the cover story, as there's at least some character development and a real attempt at heart. Even so, the bulk of it is laden with exposition and not very compelling.
The story opens with a one-page introductin by Merlin Prower, who frames the "Mobius: 25 Years Later" series (let's just call it M25YL for short) as a prediction he's making using his magical abilities. I'm not fond of his breaking of the fourth wall, nor do I care for the way he never appears again in the story. (This may be out of the scope of this review, but Merlin never appears again in the whole saga, follow-ups included.) This page isn't all that bothersome, but it is inelegant.
The biggest problem with the story is the way most of it is structured. It basically consists of a series of conversations. A teacher talks to his students, Rotor talks with some guy and then some other guy and then Espio, Espio talks with Knuckles, and Rutan talks to Lien-Da and Dimitri. A couple of these conversations are just pointless, but most of them are used as excuses for exposition about the plot or world-building.
This isn't really as offensive as it is in "The Gathering." This is partly because that story was a fast-paced exercise in ratcheting up tension, whereas this one is a slow, peaceful start. It helps that many of this story's scenes give you bits and pieces of an idea of who these characters really are. Is it enough? Arguably not, but it's far superior to having them introduce each other and then vanish.
Where the story really could start getting good is the ending. If you care to look for it, there's an interesting father-daughter moment in which the two come to an understanding and give off a real feeling of closeness. Sadly, the scene goes by way too fast, such that the conclusion feels like it wasn't really earned.
What about the visuals? The art gets the story told, and manages to look reasonably competent doing it. There are a couple of really nice moments, like the silent panel of Julie-Su giving Knuckles a look.
The art is not without problems, though. There are problems with faces throughout, especially mouths. Some surfaces are decorated with white squiggles that get distracting. There are a couple other little boo-boos that don't really detract much. The biggest problem, really, is that Julie-Su and Lien-Da sport some awfully idealized anatomy for a couple of forty-plus-year-old moms, especially anthropomorphic echidnas. That's a common issue in Sonic comics of this vintage, but still.
Overall, I like the cover. It's a really dynamic picture of the main cast of M25YL bursting out of a shattering crystal ball while Merlin and some of the present-day characters look on. Overall I like it, but (of course!) it has some problems. Julie-Su is even more humanoid/shapely than in the book--look at those calf muscles! Lara-Su is drawn with a shirt but colored without one. I know of no definition of "flyer" that makes the "Take a flyer into the future..." caption make sense. Still, the cover's good enough overall that these things will only bother you if you let them.
There's just enough interesting stuff in the M25YL story to make me avoid writing this issue off as altogether bad. It's slow and a tad boring in spots, but it's enjoyable enough if you're interested in where the future plot might go. If you don't care about M25YL, skip the issue and save yourself the headache of the cover story. It's not like the who-went-where stuff won't be recapped in the next issue anyway.