Editor’s Note: Yeah, this may seem a little late in coming, but better late than never, and hopefully we’ll be able to catch up with the series before too long.
For years, the Mega Man fan community has been the strong and stalwart bastion of fandom within video game fandoms, setting the example for so many others. They dress up in silly costumes and go to conventions. They hum, sing, and whistle the music from the games. They create homemade video games in tribute to it. They write stories, poetry, and even plays. They NetBattle in their spare time with an intensity that few Pokemon Masters dare to even fathom, and can argue the merits of one series over another with such fervor that one would think they were instead debating the philosophy of Descartes, Sartre, and most importantly, where missing socks disappear to.
And one can hardly blame them: Mega Man is a franchise that has been a mainstay of the industry since 1987. It has spawned over 50 games, 7 distinct series, one cartoon show, at least one rock band, a horde of action figures, countless tropes, several internet memes, and one very dashing coffee mug.
The one thing that the Mega Man fandom lacked to celebrate their favorite video game was a comic book. Oh, sure, Dreamwave Productions toyed with it some years back, producing a short-lived four-issue run. After that fell through, there was a long period of saddening silence.
And then joyous occasions fell upon the fandom once again, as Archie Comics (Yeah, that Archie Comics) stepped forward and said, “What we did for Sonic the Hedgehog, we can do for the Blue Bomber!” And there was much rejoicing.
This is a review of that first issue, #1, from April 2011. So sit back and let the story float you away.
In the beginning….
There was a man named Doctor Thomas Light, a kindly old fellow with a Santa Claus complexion who was the leading scientist in the field of robotics. He lived in a quiet little house with his two helpers, Rock and Roll. Yes, he named them after his favorite kind of music. He does this a lot with his early creations. Rock and Roll were special, as they were both robots who were built to resemble humans. Of course, we must allow a genius his eccentricities.
See, Light is more than a fellow who designs human-like robots, he also designs them to be an active part of the workforce. Light is always typified as the idealistic dreamer, the slightly naive fellow who believes that everything can turn out perfect, and that everyone can get along.
In his press conference, Light espouses his particular brand of awesomeness to a crowd of reporters who hail from several distinct games (in the lingo, we call these cameo appearances!). With all the dignity and aplomb of a master speaker, he cries out from his bully pulpit and says that humans and robots can walk hand in hand to a better tomorrow. He means it. He believes it.
Now, I could spend a few paragraphs talking about how that opinion is a little misguided, but 4chan already did that, so let’s skip that argument for another day, and issue #14, where somebody brings it up. This is the comic book continuity, and we’re starting fresh. This is a bright and sunshiny world, full of hope, optimism, and 3×5 index cards.
Meet one Dr. Albert W. Wily, resident mad scientist, Einstein lookalike, and red tie aficionado rolled into one. See, Wily and Light have what we would call a “past.” The extent of their working relationship has waxed and waned over the years through personal opinion, clashing sources, and conflicting sub-series, but the gist of it is that these two were once partners that worked together to build robots to make the world a better place.
Over time though, Wily got the short end of the stick while Light got to live it up, even getting a Nobel Prize for his achievements. In the Archie continuity, they work very hard to adhere to the opinion that Wily’s just your run of the mill, disgruntled, going-to-go-postal supergenius having a bad day.
Of course, most people who have a bad day don’t do this.
That’s right, the six Robot Masters that he and Light developed (but Light got all the credit for) are on a rampage, and Wily is the dastardly fiend responsible for reprogramming them into killer robots. And you have to give the guy props where it’s due: He’s definitely got some confidence going for him. It’s well deserved, as Light explains despondently to Rock and Roll a page later. Their Robot Masters were on the cutting edge of technology, and nothing can stand against them, not even the military.
Now, we could play the blame game here, and hoist Light up on the stand to yell and rant while the world goes to heck in a handbasket. But that just wouldn’t do. We all know that whenever Dr. Wily goes out to cause mayhem and destruction, Mega Man is always there to stop him! But wait…there isn’t a Mega Man yet, is there?
Well, crap. But wait! Proving that he is more than a mere tool-using robot, Rock hoists a hand in the air and says that it’s time for somebody to make a stand. Of course, he can’t exactly fight a war as he is. What’s he gonna do, kick all those robots to death? (Don’t laugh, they seriously did that in Mega Man Powered Up.)
So Light puts his “I don’t make weapons of war” philosophy off in a dark corner and pulls out all the stops to transform his little boy into a super fighting robot. Super armor, super helmet, a weapons copy chip that will let him take the powers of his enemies for himself, and a gun in his arm that shoots plasma… er, I mean, solar bullets.
Rock has been reborn as Mega Man, and it’s time to get down to business. Hold down the B button when you select the first boss!
…but that’s in the next issue.
Serious Critical Review Time!
When a comic book starts out fresh, they have a lot to do, and not many pages to do it in. The writers need to introduce us to the major players, they need to keep the pace moving along, and they must fill in the plot while leaving us wanting to come back for more.
Overall, the first issue achieves this. We meet the main characters, we learn why Wily suddenly decided to Take Over The World (NARF), and Rock gets his trademark blue armor. It’s well paced, was careful to pay attention to even the little details, and like the original series, tries not to take itself too seriously. They have Mega Man X for angst, after all.
The writers make use of the “Flash forward” mechanic to show us Mega Man in the final stages, pun unintended, of the first story arc. This plot preview mechanic has been used plenty of times in other comic books and even in other media: You might recall Megamind doing this, previewing the protagonist’s eventual fate in the first seconds of the movie.
The Mega Man comic team uses it in a way that manages not to be cliche; they demonstrate Rock’s physical capabilities, but also show his mental uncertainty, ensuring that there will be a smooth transition from reluctant, untrained warrior to the courageous Blue Bomber that takes down Wily.
One aspect that initially bothers me, but that I’ll probably learn to live with in the coming issues is the fact that Roll is shown to have the ability to cry. The presence of such a human emotive reaction in a robot, even an advanced one, can be controversial. One could give the artists the benefit of the doubt by looking to Light: He views Rock and Roll as his children in every sense of the word, and it’s highly possible he gave them that unnecessary function as a means of further expression, or just to more easily “fit in.”
And this is where the comic shines: Though at the forefront of it is the fight between Mega Man and the machinations of Dr. Wily, the subtext at play is the world as it was, and how Light’s desire to change it to his more utopian view of the future guides a great deal of not only his actions, but that of Mega Man as well. Children learn from their parents, after all. I would bet that there will be more of this hidden, or not so hidden debate as the story progresses.
Besides that, their storyboarding was well done: Panel to panel, the flow of the comic was easy to follow, while managing to stay dynamic, blowing up panels for moments when the action got intense and there was more detail or focus to bring to bear. As mentioned before, the first issue accomplishes everything it needs to. That they manage to do so while staying fresh, easy to read, and with a subtext that makes the comic enjoyable not just for young children, but for the older fans as well. If the authors can maintain this winning formula, the comic should have a long and enjoyable run.
Until issue #2, fellow Mega-philes!
For the Blue Ink.
When he isn’t writing “The Blue Ink” reviews for The Mega Man Network, Erico (The Super Bard) spends his days keeping track of the “Legacy of Metal” fanon, dabbling in cooking and tea-brewing, and exploring the human condition from his Iowa stomping grounds.
The views expressed here reflect the views of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Mega Man Network.