Seamlessly transitioning back to the pre-reboot universe, writer Ian Flynn makes it very clear that the events of the previous four issues did happen and that Sonic and Princess Sally have some memory of them. I don't know about other readers, but I take comfort in this solid piece of storytelling. I don't like having to guess if something's in continuity or not. The guessing gets in the way of the story. Fortunately that's not the case here.
From the gorgeous Ben Bates cover to the well done summary page, action-packed opening, and shocking conclusion, the Sonic team is hitting on all cylinders. This issue is wall-to-wall action and emotion as Sonic and Sally try to keep Robotnik from roboticizing Mobius.
Flynn deftly cuts between scenes creating a sense of nameless dread. Even Sonic's wisecracks have a strained feel to them as he fights with the shadow of Sally's previous "death" hanging over him.
Speaking of Sally, we once again see why she's one of the best heroines in comics today. Fighting by Sonic's side, she immediately grasps Robotnik's plan and takes the initiative to stop it. In an inspiring, memorable, and heartbreaking scene, she doesn't hesitate to do what's necessary, no matter what the cost to herself.
Robotnik, too, is back with a vengeance. In fact he hasn't seemed this malevolent since Issue #175, when he almost destroyed Sonic. Robotnik might be a mad scientist, but his madness is intelligent and focused. The line "You can't make an omelet without breaking a few Dark Egg Legionnaires" is a chilling reminder that no matter how foolish he can be or how comic he seems, Robotnik is a villain who has tested Sonic's mettle again and again.
The face of evil genius
Artists Ben Bates, Terry Austin, Matt Herms and John Workman unite to give the book a great look. The Egg Dome is all sanitized metal, cold blue light and narrow, claustrophobia inducing access tunnels. In contrast, the characters are bright, vibrant, and active.
Bates has refined the traditional shonen manga style to make it work within the American superhero comic context. Action sequences that would take up pages in a manga like Naruto are condensed within one page. Rather than taking away from the scene, this concentration gives the scene additional intensity. In one panel, Sonic leaps down toward Robotnik, fist clenched. Behind him are stripes of grey and white indicating speed and movement. In a manga this might be a full page. Here it's one panel of five, but because it leads directly into a battle scene, you get the feeling that everything is happening very fast as any battle between Sonic and Metal Sonics would.
Expression isn't slighted either. Bates and Austen do a fantastic job of making every look of horror, fear, disgust, anger, and sorrow visible and clearly understandable to the reader.
What's even more impressive about "Two Steps Back" is that it's only 17 pages long. Five pages of this issue are a tie-in chapter to the eagerly anticipated Sonic Generations game. While it's basically a setup for the game and doesn't have much of a story to it, the chapter does introduce the concept of the game in an intriguing way.
Sonic #230 returns to the main Sonic Universe with a bang that will delight and surprise readers. It's a great time for readers to jump into one of the best all-ages superhero comics available.
For the past 13 years, Penny Kenny has been an elementary library paraprofessional in a rural school district. For the seven years prior to that, she headed a reading-math program designed to help first grade students with learning difficulties. Her book reviews regularly appeared in Starlog from 1993 to the magazine's unfortunate demise in 2009 and she has published several e-novellas under a pen name. She has been a reviewer with Comics Bulletin since 2007.