Fleetway has some really nice painterly coloring for most of its run. And I feel like it remained fairly solid throughout it's run...after you get through the first dozen or so issues. Some of that early art is rough. But, I'll admit it gets much better later on. Especially anytime the Metallix show up.
But, Archie had some amazing artists, including Patrick Spaziante (That cover of his for #36 is one of my favorite covers of all time...purely for nostalgic reasons, but still. And the Mecha Madness special might be some of my favorite work from him). And some...let's say stylish artists, like Tania Del Rio and Steven Butler. But...when it was bad, it got REAL bad. Like Sonic Super Special 15, where half the pages are blank with NO ARTWORK whatsoever. Or #113, where you WISH you couldn't see the artwork.
Winner: Fleetway. Yeah, this part is no contest, at least pre-Ian. Archie would get a LOT more consistent after Ian got on board.
Fleetway has some really memorable villains. Probably most notably the Brotherhood of Metallix, a group of Metal Sonics with a hierarchy like Sentinels from X-Men and whose plan is to travel back in time to stop Robotnik from being created. There's also Doctor Zachary, the original evil scientist albino monotreme, a tradition which lives on to this day with Doctor Starline. And then there's Super Sonic, who became a separate character and was basically a evil berserk super-violent and super-powered Sonic...until he got amnesia and started working at a cafe with a couple of other female members of the cast (never let it be said that Fleetway couldn't get as weird as Archie from time to time). The Drakon Empire, a empire of alien fish who enslaved the Echidnas and created Chaos Energy (although the Echidnas killing ALL the dinosaurs is a odd addition to the canon). And, of course, the greatest enemy of all...MAN! And Fleetway does have some memorable supporting characters. Captain Plunder is a lot of fun, a pirate who's just in search for loot. Shortfuse the Cybernik is a highlight, a Punisher style character who 's a squirrel badnik that retained his free will and started a personal war against Robotnik. Tekno the Canary is a genius former weapons designer for Robotnik who eventually joins the Freedom Fighters and is basically the tech support for Shortfuse. There's Ebony and Pyjamas, two female characters who run a coffee shop called the Groovy Train, a magician and a psychic, who end up taking in a amnesiac Super Sonic. There's the Omni-Viewer, a sentient TV like...thing who acts as a portal to different dimensions (I don't believe they ever explain what his deal is). There's Porker Lewis, who was a cute little pig who ends up having a nervous breakdown by the end of the book. And Johnny Lightfoot, another cute animal...who ends up DEAD! Both Porker and Johnny have some nice moments where they really WANT to be heroes the way Sonic is, and they really try.
Two knocks on Fleetway's characters: Sonic is a jerk and Tails is whiny in this version. I'd say the Archie versions are better. And when that applies to two of your main characters, that's a big problem.
As for Archie...*drumroll please*...may I introduce you to the Freedom Fighters? Sure, they were completely stolen from the SATAM cartoon. But, the comic continued to use them and flesh them out. Sally is still a lot of people's favorite character from this franchise, being probably one of the best leaders we'd ever get in this franchise growing into the role of a leader with style. Bunnie growing to accept her robot parts. Antoine slowly (VERY slowly) growing beyond his cowardice. Tails growing up from being the taggalong kid to a inventor in his own right (...basically stolen from the Adventures games, but I'm still counting it). Geoffry St John, a smug jerk who's got the talent to back himself up. Nicole, who grows from a simple palm pilot, to a full fledged character all her own with a holographic body. Julie-Su, who goes from being part of a evil organization to Knuckles' punk-rock girlfriend. Sir Connery, the noble horse knight armed with the Sword of Acorns and who's duty is to slay all Dark Magic! King Acorn, who gets himself quite a arc, going from noble king to brainwashed knight to a alzheimers riddled half-crystal shell and back to King again. And then there's the villains. Like Enerjak, Knuckles ancient ancestor with a Egyptian motif who nearly became a god. Feist, the impish giant Panda that controls the Special Zones, which is also never explained like Fleetway's Omni-Viewer. Mammoth Mogul, a immortal obsessed with Chaos Emeralds. Ixis Naugus, which while mentioned in SATAM, we really get him more fleshed out here, a wizard who betrayed his King. Doctor Finitevus, who while probably owing a lot to Doctor Zachary, is arguably the most memorable version of a evil albino Monotreme.
And you know what? I'll say it. Knuckles' council of incredibly similar-looking ancestors are actually kind of interesting. It's convoluted, and I can't really remember most of their names, but it adds a layer of legacy that this book didn't have before. Knuckles is basically a legacy hero in this book, a member of a long line with a long history, like the Green Lantern Corp or something.
Winner: Archie. The Freedom Fighters alone make this a easy win. So many of Archie's characters grew and changed over the course of the comic. I don't feel like the same can be said of Fleetway's cast, at least not as much.
Stories and the Worldbuilding:
Here's where we're going to get into the different styles. Fleetway could be a lot more brutal and violent than Archie usually was. There might have been no blood...but there were times when you felt like there MIGHT be. But then, it could also be goofy, like Kintobor being turned into Robotnik by a rotten egg irradiated by Chaos Energy. And Robotnik being able to basically reincarnate himself into different forms by becoming a egg is both goofy and a little disturbing. Fleetway kind of feels like 2000AD a bit: a little dark, a little satirical, and mostly shorter but with more punch for each installment. For better or worse, I feel like most of Fleetways stories are more straightforward than Archie's stories, probably due to the difference in page length. I wouldn't really say they're closer to the games, but they do use more game characters more often, like the Chaotix. Fleetway definitely has some tentpole moments like the Brotherhood of Metallix and Super Sonic and Robotnik becoming a god (and getting depressed after he still manages to lose after having godly powers). Honestly...I just feel like most of these stories are GOOD and MUCH more consistent than Archie's stories...but not as memorable as Archie's stories.
Mind you, Archie's stories are memorable...because they're just so freaking BIZARRE! And...that's kind of why I love it. It's a mess of furry politics and cosmic world-shattering superpowers...and it's AMAZING. The beginning issues where everything is a pun, NO EXCEPTIONS. Tails falling in love with a robot...who turns out to be based on a jerk. A good portion of this comic is about dealing with Sally's father turning into crystal after being trapped in a alternate dimension for years...and then basically having alzheimers. Robotnik dies for real...and is then replaced by a even eviler roboticized alternate reality version of himself. Knuckles gets infused with Chaos energy as a baby, turns green, becomes a GOD, DIES, and then gets reborn. Tails being predestined to merge with every other version of himself throughout the multiverse to become a uncomfortably-buff version of himself to beat up a mammoth with a Chaos Emerald in his chest. Knuckles evil ancestor eventually just turning into a cybernetic head in a ball that gives him advice. The different Zones which were basically just a excuse to make references to other comics and cartoons, like the Fantastic Four and Sailor Moon. The possible future 30 years from now where Sonic is King. The Xorda, a alien race of tentacle brains, being responsible for creating Mobius by bombing out past-Earth (although, Fleetway Mobius was created by Space Dinosaurs sent by God, so that's kind of a tie). Dulcy the dragon being in a abusive relationship with her boyfriend. Antoine and Bunnie's absolutely heartwarming relationship. Even the cringy SLAP. All of it's so memorable for me.
And Archie didn't shy away from dark stuff either, even though I do feel like Fleetway's tone is overall a little more aggressive. Robotnik's takeover of Archie's Mobius feels a little more serious in Archie than in Fleetway, being a more ingrained systematic threat. Charmy's friend dying of LCD (...which, yeah, weird and wrong, but still). I'll admit though, Fleetway's darkness felt like it was part of the story...Archie's darkness could sometimes feel oddly out of place. And I'll admit, the Knuckles book going HARD on echidnas and their city kind of got self-absorbed (it kind of reminds me of current IDW Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Mutant Town arc in this way, a potentially interesting idea, but it goes on a little long and it's not quite interesting enough to justify itself).
I feel like Fleetway doesn't dive as deep into their lore like Archie did. Mind you, some people would argue Archie dove TOO deep...but I liked it. Although, I do find it interesting that both series kind of ended up paralleling each other. The first dozen or so issues being kind of lighter and then getting much more serious afterwards RIGHT after introducing Sonic CD stuff, getting rid of Robotnik for more and more comics-only villains and characters, the entire backstory and origin of their world involving aliens...there's some similarities here.
Winner: ...For me, Archie, but again, I'm biased. While Fleetway can get a lot darker, I just feel like the world of Archie is richer. There's more interesting characters and concepts at play than in Fleetway. Fleetway, with it's myriad of random zones that all feel the same, and random magic portals everywhere just doesn't feel as fleshed out as Archie's world full of furry politics. Fleetway just feels more disjointed than Archie, to me. I'll fully admit that this is more a matter of personal opinion, though. Fleetway is by FAR more consistant and probably has a more interesting tone throughout...but Archie is crazier. And that makes it stick in my mind more.