The Blue Ink: Archie’s Mega Man #2

by Erico "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." -The Tao Te Ching by Laozi

And so it was that Mega Man set out to defeat six reprogrammed Robot Masters, save the world, and put an end to the schemes of the nefarious mustachioed villain Dr. Wily... But the question was, who to start with? After all, he was only armed with his Mega Buster at the start of this nonsense. Thankfully, Dr. Light teleported him to the Robot Master that the old man believed he'd stand the best chance against: Bomb Man.

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Taking a step back here and breaking the fourth wall of this monologue, let's make sure our bearings are aligned properly. At the end of Issue 1, we left our hero newly reborn as his Blue Bomber self. The city was under attack from the Robot Masters, and the Army was getting the crap beaten out of them, to say nothing of the local law enforcement. And who shows up to save them? An untried, untested hero with no real combat experience or programming.

Well, as I like to remind myself when I'm feeling unaccomplished, "We all start somewhere." And Rock may as well start out on Bomb Man.

After a minor Big Damn Hero moment with some Army guys hunkered down behind the remains of a shredded tank, Mega Man sets out to dispatch Bomb Man, the controlling entity in this region of dilapidated cityscape. Of course, he has to deal with the pests. He has a run-in with a mess of Fleas, annoying little jumpy things that are more like whirligigs, and then has a close encounter with everyone's favorite perennial enemy!

No, it's not Mettools. Or Mettaurs. Or whatever those yellow helmet guys are called these days. It's a Sniper Joe! Naturally, the shield and visored helmet of this green combat mechanoid causes Light a bit of momentary panic. And he does a name drop, how thoughtful.

Of course, we're two games away from Protoman at this point, so don't get too excited.

Dismissing Roll's question with the need to stay in the moment, Light urges Mega to press on, and he finally meets up with Bomb Man. The boss makes a distinctive introduction, sitting atop a slagged pile of rubble and machinery he undoubtedly created. Like a dragon atop his treasure hoard looking down at the adventurer foolish enough to enter his cavern, he grins animalistically in anticipation of the carnage to follow. There's the usual witty or not so witty banter as the two size each other up, and then EXPLOSIONS!

In a nice bit of artistic license, Mega Man uses his Mega Buster to target Bomb Man's ammunition, instead of the Robot Master himself. The resulting chain reaction brings him down. This is a nice touch: Anyone who's taken on Bomb Man the normal way knows that it's a long and tedious slugfest, and this tactic spares Mega Man a great deal of pain and pages.

After putting Bomb Man down, we finally get to see Mega Man's Weapons Copy ability come into play. But how does one exactly WEAPON GET anyways? The sources and suggestions differ on this point.

In his Famous Mega Man 1 Novelization, Maelgrim suggested that Rock rooted around in the skulls of his defeated foes and retrieved "Weapons Chips" to gain their powers, while the games offered their own conflicting theories. In Mega Man, you pick up a glowing red thingy to finish out the stage. In Mega Man 2, he just leaves. From Mega Man 3 on, Mega hops into the air and then "draws in" the bits of exploded matter from his defeated enemy to gain their power.

Or there's the less flashy, Ruby-Spears way of doing it: Reach out and touch someone.

Rock naturally has to complain about this sad state of affairs and how he's getting even more destructive power. After all, he's just a man whose circumstances went beyond his control, right? But he teleports out after a quick systems check and off he goes into the domain of Guts Man, whose lantern-jawed visage was the inspiration for the Villain Variant Cover of this issue.

Now, a word about Guts Man that doesn't involve his red posterior. Across the various games, series, manga, and cartoons, he's always portrayed as being a little on the slow side. Not that he's dumb, by any means, but how does one hear a silent alarm, anyhow? (The alarm usually sounds in an area different from where it was tripped, so that those who would be caught aren't aware that it has been sounded. --Ed.)

Here, his battle of wits with Rock leads to a rather humorous little back and forth moment. Naturally, Rock wins the battle of words, which enrages Guts Man. Real, MANLY MEN don't use plasma... err, solar bullet shooting guns. They use their FISTS! And his fists are HUGE!

Sweet Jesus, did he really just go there? ...he did, ugh.

Naturally, Mega Man figures out that if Weapon A isn't denting this guy, maybe it's time for Weapon B. And so the Hyper Bomb gets its first field test. JANKEN, GO! And wouldn't you know it? Bomb blows up rock. Winner: Mega Man, who gains the super-strength of the Super Arm as his own. And off we go to location three: Cut Man's domain.

POP QUIZ! Let's review the order here so far: Bomb Man, Guts Man, Cut Man. Now, who recommended this attack pattern back when the Kool-Aid man was more than a running gag, but our Lord and Savior for promising Game Boys if we drank enough of his dark elixir? If you said Nintendo Power, you'd be correct!

So far, he's attacking the Robot Masters in the order suggested by the NES Game Atlas, a super strategy guide that Nintendo Power put out in their heyday for eight of the more popular game series. Mega Man was the third section of this book, and we're following right along with the Game Atlas's suggested order (it was also the order used in the November 1992 issue of Nintendo Power, volume 42. --Ed.). It seems somebody at Archie Comics has a secret collection of video game publications that they're referring to, and good for them. While it's not the order I follow (I usually go Cut, Guts, Elec, Ice, Fire, Bomb), it does have its merits.

Like right here in the third portion of Issue 2. When he goes up against Cut Man, their fanciful duel can have the glorious conclusion it deserves. They have themselves yet even more witty banter, as most villains do with the hero before they do battle in a brief, overly difficult, almost cyclical manner. Unlike Guts Man's "Men at Work" flavored manly dialogue, Cut Man is the master of the cutting pun and the snappy comeback. Mega is outgunned when it comes to wordplay like this! He needs a game changer! He needs a James Bond vs. Jaws moment! He needs...

...well, that'll do. After hitting Cut Man with a ton of bricks, Mega Man claims the Rolling Cutter and finishes up the first three bosses. That can only mean it's time for Dr. Wily to get his moment of ranting about his plans for world domination in a dark room to close out the issue... and leave us waiting for Issue 3, when Mega Man takes on the elementally-based villains.

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Themes and thematics, they drive everything in literature, and by extension, movies, video games, and comic books. From the simple archetypes of Man Vs. whatever the Hell pissed him off that day to the tropes we've stuck to in the last 80 years of popular culture, you can usually find a corollary with something that's come before. Some people see this and think there are no new original ideas left, and scream woe to the world. I beg to differ. While you can find similarities, it's important to celebrate the differences. And trust me, not even Astro Boy or Casshern have the long-running oomph that the Blue Bomber does.

In Issue 2, the over-arcing theme is all this fighting, and what it's doing to poor Rock's psyche. He begins to separate himself into two unique personalities as a self-defense measure. Hounded by the guilt of destroying his fellow robots, he creates "Mega Man" as the warrior, and keeps "Rock" as the fun-loving boy; Mega Man is the shell that protects Rock from the harsh realities of the world.

By Cut Man, it's reached a critical mass of sorts, and it takes Roll acting as his cheering section to keep him at the top of his game. As she reminds him, he hates what he's doing, but that doesn't make him a bad robot. A bad robot would do what he was told without thinking about it. That he ponders the facets of his actions and worries about them means he's a good robot. Which is a roundabout way of saying "a good warrior never swings his sword in haste."

And what about pacing? Let's face it: Of any video game you could conceivably base a movie on, Mega Man is certainly one I would refuse to see put on the big screen. Now, it's not that I'm overly gun-shy after such failures as Street Fighter, Super Mario Bros., Double Dragon, Final Fantasy, Doom, and Prince of Persia... which I kind of am... It's that Mega Man just has too much going on.

You cannot cram Mega Man into the span of two hours, or God forbid the 90 minute "Kid-Friendly" restriction, and have it come out smelling wonderful. The thing I worried about with the comic was "novelizations," when they tried to follow the source material stage by stage. How could they give each Robot Master their due, give each stage something memorable? Would they leave out entire sections, or worse, clump up Robot Masters together in a sort of free-for-all?

Trust me, I've been there. I've done novelizations; they're a pain in the neck, and when you try to do something different just to keep it fresh, you sometimes get slapped down. It was with this sense of trepidation I followed this issue carefully. Could they pull it off? Could the writer manage to hand out a hat trick?

Well, each Robot Master definitely got their own moment in the sun, and the writers made sure that Rock approached each of them with a different strategy. To be fair, the multiple weapons Rock accrues on his exploits helps out a lot with this, as we do a fair amount of experimentation looking for boss weaknesses.

Did they dedicate enough time to each? In a comic book that may only be 30 or 35 pages long, three to five pages is a lot. I found that Guts Man's demise and Cut Man's rocky end were well done, but Bomb Man could have used some more work. They probably just shrugged and called it good with one chain reaction: "He needs to be dead, so we'll make him dead. Boom, moving on." Aside from that one disappointing boss fight, the writer did well and seemed to pick up steam as the issue went along, leading up to a well done conclusion.

I would wager that the third issue, and the next three Robot Masters, will be something marvelous to read about.

For the Blue Ink.

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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.