The struggles against A.D.A.M. and the robot horde continue, while Sonic and the other Freedom Fighters fight to defeat Mecha and stop Eggman's missile launch.
This story feels more like a series of related events than a coherent story. It lacks a theme of its own and doesn't really support the "Home" arc's overall theme apart from a couple nods. Various other problems work together to make it an unpleasant read even if you don't care about theme.
Since the lack of theme is the biggest single issue, let's start there. The story is essentially a string of (mostly) action scenes, and while they do generally flow logically, there aren't any significant thematic or emotional threads tying them together. They're mostly just things that had to happen on the way to the ending. The "Home" arc certainly has a theme: Things have changed. However, while a couple individual story beats reflect this, they aren't central to the story, and they don't drive the plot or Sonic's actions.
A couple other aspects of the story could be called themes, if only the story had done something with them. One is Sonic's obliviousness to his friends' emotional states: He's baffled by Bunnie's clearly not wanting to be paired with Antoine, and later he says, "Everyone's happy," while surrounded by frowning teammates. Another is the characters' disconnect from each other (despite the interconnected plot threads) and their resulting lack of control: Sonic never gets near his actual mission objective, and the Fort Acorn situation turns on someone else's action miles away with nobody really realizing what happened. It makes me feel that the victories aren't real, or at least aren't earned. But I never got the feeling that I was supposed to notice anything wrong; The story seems to want me to think that this is a great victory, and everybody (or at least almost everybody) is happy.
Theme aside, several scenes feel pointless. Some serve a story goal, clumsily, by making characters do things they have no need to do. Other scenes, even characters' whole parts, could be cut entirely and not missed.
One scene in the former category has Julie-Su protest that Knuckles shouldn't battle if he can't glide, so Rouge offers to airlift Knuckles to the robot horde. The next panel shows them both lined up with all the other heroes, an arm's length away from the robots. The airlifting was just to pair Knux and Rouge so Julie-Su could be jealous.
A more prominent example is the missile launch's countdown timer. Since ADAM could override it, there's no reason Eggman couldn't have launched the missiles at any time, except that otherwise we wouldn't have a story (or would have a very different story). The ticking clock is pure Hollywood contrivance.
Shadow is the prime example of a pointless character role. He popped in last issue to deliver threats; here, he says he's going to kill Eggman, then the story cuts away. When it finally comes back to them, to get Eggman's reaction to a plot twist, they haven't moved an inch. Apparently they were just standing around waiting for something to happen. Another example is Antoine, who gets dragged to Eggman's ship by one character and immediately dragged to shore by another. Elsewhere, Hershey and Espio each put in a short appearance to get beaten up by Mecha.
Sally's minor role is worse than pointless: Her whole contribution is to scream and cry. Eggman doesn't come off much better, being mostly panicky where before he was arrogant and in control. You could argue that some other characters are acting out-of-character, but frankly I don't think anyone else shows enough personality to judge one way or another.
Like the previous two issues, this is definitely an action comic, not a character study. But even here, it fails. Most of the action is pretty blah, especially at Fort Acorn. Bunnie's set piece near the end offers some neat spectacle, but doesn't do much beyond that. The real centerpiece is the fight against Mecha, which is still mostly panel after panel of Mecha beating up heroes.
Even worse, the Mecha fight is smothered under dialogue. I'll grant that Bunnie's action-movie quip was decent, but Espio's and Hershey's puns were cringeworthy, and Mecha's own remarks are pretty wooden. (Okay, fine, "robotic." Happy?) Even setting aside the quality of the writing, I'm annoyed that in the main physical conflict of the story, the characters yak more than they fight.
Moving from the writing to the art: It's not terrible, but it's not very good, either. The main issue is that characters keep going off model: Some just occasionally, like Sonic on the first two pages and Eggman on the third; others for the whole story, like Shadow and Rouge—the latter of whom still looks like a totally different character.
I'm not sure whether or not the female characters having standard human superheroine proportions counts as off-model; that's typical. That aside, Bunnie's victory pose near the end has the viewer looking straight down her cleavage. Then again, it's hard for her to show much more cleavage than she does throughout the rest of the story anyway. Meanwhile, Fiona's breasts are replaced with overinflated pectoral muscles in a couple panels, and I can't tell if it's a mistake or Archie trying to self-censor because Fiona's mostly naked.
Pardon the digression; I'll just be a moment: I know Sonic gets away with the "no-pants cartoon animal" shtick, but that's much harder to pull off with characters as human-like and shapely as Fiona and the other women of this comic. Even setting that aside, the idea that fur is covering enough is undermined by the other characters' cleavage-baring outfits that follow (minimal) human standards of modesty. Even if you don't see the sexiness as a problem, it still makes these characters look like they don't belong in the same universe.
So what did I like about the story? Well, as I said, Bunnie's late scene does work on the level of spectacle. Elsewhere, Tails gets to be a hero in a big way, even if the implementation undercuts it, and he does it by being clever rather than by hitting stuff. But there's so much going on in this story, so little of it is interesting, and there are so many flaws that even if you don't care about the lack of theme, the story still isn't entertaining.
After Lara-Su's Unveiling, Knuckles meets with Rotor to discuss the possible end of the world, while Lara-Su discusses more personal matters with her mother.
Let me start with what I liked: The mother-daughter scene between Lara-Su and Julie-Su. With all the end-of-the-world talk going on outside, it's nice to have a small, intimate scene about two people talking about normal problems. They're arguing, but on friendly terms. It says something about the relationship between the two characters.
Of particular interest is Julie-Su's flippant response when Lara-Su asks if she has any say. I know that at Lara-Su's age, I would have been pretty angry to get that response from a parent, but she doesn't flinch. So you know these two are close, if they're comfortable talking to each other the way they do. The delivery of the remark was also funny, so that's a plus.
This scene isn't perfect, of course. Some of the dialogue just doesn't make a lot of sense. For one thing, Julie-Su asks what fun Lara-Su could possibly have in the bad weather; somehow I think a bunch of teenage girls could figure out how to entertain themselves indoors in Angel Island's biggest city during a thunderstorm that isn't even causing any rain. At another point, Julie-Su tries playing the "when you have a daughter" card. Lara-Su's response is, "what if I have boys?" which works as a dodge, but she never goes anywhere with it: Her point is, "I wouldn't be on their case like you are on mine," which has nothing to do with boys versus girls. Sure, it might be realistic for a conversation to take twists and turns down meaningless dead ends, but strictly realistic dialogue doesn't always make for interesting reading.
I guess you could say that Lara-Su is supposed to be illogical or immature because she's a teenager, but that seems out-of-place in a Sonic comic where nearly all the main characters in the present day are teenagers, and they don't act like Lara-Su.
Most of the rest of the story consists of Knuckles and Rotor just talking to each other. This part of the story feels like it's beating around the bush, because that's what the characters are doing. I was originally going to say that most of this section was exposition, but it turns out that most of the dialogue is just chitchat between Knuckles and rotor. Except for the very last page, what little exposition there is mostly just rehashes what we already learned last issue.
I will admit, though, that the last page is serviceable. It's a cliffhanger, and I don't think there's much I can say about it without spoiling things. There aren't any huge twists or anything, but it arguably raises the stakes a bit (which is a neat trick since we started with the end of the world). It doesn't deserve high praises, but I have no complaints, either.
Of course, this part of the story isn't immune from dumb mistakes, namely the on-again, off-again lightning storm. Rotor keeps making a big deal out of the bad weather, as though it's a harbinger of the impending end of the world and only going to get worse. To showcase this, six panels show a sky absolutely filled with lightning. The problem: There are about thirteen panels with a view of the sky, and most of the rest—including the one in which Rotor says, "I seriously doubt you'll be seeing sunshine anytime soon!"—have a perfectly clear view of the stars.
That aside, the art is imperfect, but serviceable. It doesn't have the cover story's modeling problems. The mother-daughter scene has almost no backgrounds at all, which I like: It highlights the scene's character focus and contrasts nicely to the outdoor scene, which is (ostensibly) plot-focused and does have setting details. A hint of background does sneak into one panel, and honestly I wish it hadn't.
I won't belabor my standing complaint about the female characters' modeling in M25YL after I harped so much on the cover story. Besides, even Julie-Su in her nightgown is pretty tame compared to Bunnie.
So instead I'd like to talk about Salma, the chameleon girl introduced on the last page. (You know, the plot page.) Her body's proportions are more befitting of a human fashion model than a Sonic character, but her face is minimal even by Sonic standards. She basically has just eyes and a mouth, plus a horn in the middle of her forehead. Unlike Espio, on whom she's clearly based, she doesn't even have a ridge on the back of her head. What she does have is long, flowing black hair, decorated with beads and braids. She looks like a character from a whole other franchise, wearing a cartoon character mask. It's a bad design to start with, and doubly bad for a Sonic comic. Fortunately, there's not much of her in this story, or the series as a whole.
Overall, the story feels wasteful. It would be much better if half of it were cut out, as three of its six pages are spent on pointless talk. Getting rid of them wouldn't solve all the story's problems, but would make it a lot less boring.
The eyesore of a cover consists of a full-body shot of Sonic plastered over a washed-out faux-manga montage of other characters from the cover story. This could work, but fails several times over in practice. The background has a dull, blue-gray cast over it. The characters needn't be to scale in this kind of composition, but here their relative sizes and positions don't seem thought-out—especially the full-body shot of Bunnie in the bottom corner. Their expressions are also off, especially Shadow's derp-face. Sonic would look decent if not for his giant, melted spines.
Incidentally, a blurb on the cover calls this issue "Part 4 of 4," but the editorial says that next issue's cover story is "Home, Epilogue." Then shouldn't this be part 4 of 5, or is that a bit like arguing over whether the thumb counts as a finger?
The editorial mistakenly claims that M25YL is set in the same future as other future stories, including STH#106-109's Lara-Su arc. I haven't read that arc, but the wiki informs me that Lara-Su goes back in time to prevent her father from being assassinated, then returns to her own time to learn that she changed nothing and her father was the bad guy all along. Even if her future isn't explicitly identified as an alternate reality, it doesn't fit with Knuckles in M25YL being alive, not evil, and part of Lara-Su's life.
I felt like the people who made this issue were at least trying. Unfortunately, the cover story has too much action and too little emotional or thematic throughline, and the back story has too much chit-chat and too little plot, so the issue comes off as boring and not quite coherent. I'm not denying that there's good stuff in the issue (like that mother-daughter scene), but as a whole, it's not interesting.