The Blue Ink: Archie's Mega Man #4 - Doing Things the Hard Way

by Erico "One of the biggest roles of science fiction is to prepare people to accept the future without pain and to encourage a flexibility of mind." --Arthur C. Clarke

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Mega Man has plowed through six robots that were his friends. He has achieved greatness and accepted their powers as his own. He's relaxed and had himself an E-Tank, and now he's neck-deep in Dr. Wily's first Skull Fortress. Just where we left him in the flash-forward, it's time for his showdown with the Rock Monster. And yes, I'm aware of the irony that ROCK is going up against a ROCK MONSTER. This might be why I prefer his original name: The Yellow Devil.

As those of us who've played Mega Man 1 know, yes there is a pattern that you can use to avoid the Yellow Devil's battering particle attack, but it's a pain in the neck, especially with the NES title over the remake. And Rock has the right idea to start with: Fry the amorphic sucker with the Thunder Beam and don't let up until its monocular sensor is burned out of its skull. But then he has to go and... well, be all paladin-y.

Geez, Rock! You know how long it's going to take you to whittle that sucker down with just your Mega Buster? You're not even using the Select button freezing pause trick (another reason to play this game on the NES, instead of the re-releases)! But no, Mega decides to be the bigger man and stick to his guns, taking this brutish hulk down with his standard firearm.

Gutsy of him. Possible. Stupid, but possible. It's like killing Elec Man without the Rolling Cutter. Sure, you can, with three continues and a quick trigger thumb... but why put yourself through that?

Because he's MEGA MAN, and he has to prove to himself and to us, the readers, that no matter how awesome we think we are, we will always fall short of his particular level of awesomeness. Misguided as it might be, he defeats the Yellow Devil the hard way. And then he finds himself a teleporter. Ooh, teleporter! Good idea, right? Step into it, get bamfed somewhere else in the fortress that's closer to the center, right?

Naturally, this is a very bad situation. Any time you have to face all the Robot Masters from a game at one time, it isn't pretty.

Now, they've all got their reasons for wanting to have another go at him. For one, there's Dr. Wily's programming telling them to kill Mega Man. Beyond that, though, they still remember their last encounters with this guy, and Mega Man wasn't exactly very kind to them. Especially with Ice Man and Fire Man. He may as well have teabagged their corpses, for all the taunting he was doing.

But again, Mega Man has to be the bigger fella here, and he pleads with them to ignore Wily's programming and just come back to Dr. Light's lab. He'll take them back, reprogram them back to normal, and everything will be right as rain. Sure! Naturally, some of the Robot Masters listen to him, and some of the others don't, which causes this once rather well-planned ambush to devolve, with the Robot Masters going after each other. Glad for the reprieve, Mega Man just sneaks away, like an old cartoon character crawling out of a dustball full of guys who thought they were beating the good guy up.

Off he goes, across the Land of Death Spikes with his newly created Magnet Beam. Yes, Mega Man, we know it's awesome, but don't get used to it. Light's got a thing for gadgets, and he's minting new ones already.

On the other side of the super death pit, Rock stumbles into a room full of Easter-colored tiles. All those neon pastels, good lord... seizures! Wily laughs through the loudspeaker and begins to monologue about how Rock has fallen into his trap, how feeble Mega Man is compared to his genius, how the world will soon be his!

So what can beat Rock? Well, I'd say paper, but a clone of him works just as well. Every move Rock has, this guy can do just as well. So, I guess it's time for our next deus ex machina.

Aah, yeah, that'll do. In an altered form of the mangling that Wily planned for the six lugnuts to do on the real Mega Man, Elec Man and the Sunshine Five clobber the clone to silicon dust. That's one way to get around their programming: Wily ordered them to kill Mega Man, he just never said which one.

But how did they get there? I mean, Mega Man had to cross the chasm of death spikes! Did they use some hidden teleporter? Is there some sort of monorail running through the building like an amusement park tour bus? Guh, never mind. Sometimes, it's better not to try and make sense of the ins and outs.

So, with his clone defeated, you can imagine that Wily is right tossed off. He busts through the Easter-colored walls with all the aplomb of everyone's favorite pusherman. Flying high in his superpowered saucer-topped death machine, Wily unloads, stuck in full bore rage. The Robot Masters scatter, and Mega Man starts his last battle.

In his opening gambit, he hops on top of the thing and punches down into it with a Super-Arm powered punch, then follows up with the old standbys: Thunder Beam and Fire Storm. The Wily Machine goes down, and Rock stands triumphant.

True to his Asimovian heuristics, Mega Man pulls Wily out of the rubble and spares his life. Well, this time, anyway; we'll see how generous he feels after six more games of this nonsense. Wily is naturally ticked off, as his bid for world domination has failed. But them's the breaks some days, and he'd best get used to it.

Mega Man returns home with the six Robot Masters, the triumphant hero with his foe in chains. But of course, not everyone is willing to let this result stand.

Hey, look! It's everyone's favorite last toss-in Robot Masters from Mega Man Powered Up! And Oil Man now has a face-covering scarf thingy instead of his original, somewhat controversial appearance. Of course, yellow scarves are still cooler.

It seems Wily had these two tucked away for a rainy day, and they're ready to cause some havoc and mayhem. I think we've got our next story arc, come Issue 5.

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Something I've been worrying about over the last two issues was, if they blazed through the regular stages that fast, how were they going to do the four stages of Wily's Fortress and give them the justice they deserved? At last, I have my answer, and honestly, I'm okay with it.

Now let me explain this simple answer. What are the most important things we have to see in the first incarnation of Wily's Skull Castle? Well, the Yellow Devil for one. All those insurmountable spike death traps? Yes, those were there too. Wily himself, of course. And the Robot Masters themselves.

Really, the only thing that wasn't present was a dive into Stage 3 (Or Stage 2, if you're going by Mega Man Powered Up's playbook.) For reference, that's when Mega crawls through the sewers underneath the place and has a face to face with the Guardian that oversees Wily's sewers and waste management. You know, that funny collection of spare parts that hides inside a humongous sphere of Bubble Lead to protect itself? CWU-01P?

Now, it's time to jump genres for comparison. When you go dungeon diving in Dungeons and Dragons, you expect to see certain things. Random wandering monsters, hidden passages, traps, and no true dungeon is complete without a run-in with everybody's favorite walking example for why we should never try to apply Jell-O for housekeeping purposes, the "Gelatinous Cube."

CWU-10P is kind of like Mega Man's gelatinous cube. It's big, it doesn't move very well, it only really hurts you if you let it slam into you, and it's a forgettable threat. Be honest, what would you rather they spend pages on in this comic? The Yellow Devil, or the thing that cleans up after Dr. Wily clogs the pipes from a weekend bender at Taco Bell? Yeah, I thought so. CWU-10P, you're out of there.

The next burning question: Did they handle the rematch with the Robot Masters well? In truth, what Mega Man did was kind of genius, in a way, and it brought up another quote, because I do so love quotes if you couldn't tell. I try to find a relevant one when I start something, after all.

"The easiest way to solve a problem is to deny it exists." --Isaac Asimov

By having Rock make the morality play with the Robot Masters, he skips what would have been a very troubling and painful fight, and keeps them around so they can stay intact. The side genius here for the writers is that Elec Man and the Sunshine Five can be used as cameo characters later on in this comic book series, should they have need of foils.

Is this the right play? Well, some people were probably hoping for the bloodbath, but I can see why they'd want to avoid it. It's kind of genius, in a way. And Rock still kicks a lot of butt, especially when he takes on Wily. For those who wanted to see Mega Man go all rainbow-colored, him vs. the Wily Machine is a real treat.

If Issue 2 and 3 were about trying to follow the conventions while bringing up some valuable themes that kids could learn from and adults need to be reminded of, Issue 4 is the folks at Archie Comics finally breaking free from their molds. By skipping CWU-10P entirely, by having Rock handle the Yellow Devil and the Robot Master rematch in their own way, they're announcing loudly and proudly, "We will write this thing the way we want to, and it'll be good." There are times to hold to the conventions of a game series, and there are times to break them. The introduction of Time Man and Oil Man at the conclusion are a clear sign that we are marching into unknown territory, and that is good.

As I've said before, the real test of this comic will be if they can make it enjoyable when they deviate from the source material and try to do something original and marvelous.

Issues 5 to 8, the "Time Keeps on Slipping" story arc, will be our first real sense of that feeling.

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.