The Blue Ink: Archie's Mega Man #5 - Remedial Temporal Mechanics

by Erico "Oh, what times are these! What morals!" -Cicero

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"The last Metroid is in captivity. The galaxy is at peace..."

Dr. Wily's bid for world domination has been stopped, as the wiry old roboticist has been put in chains and stowed in a dark jail cell to rot. The Robot Masters he hijacked have been reprogrammed, and once more Elec Man and the Sunshine Five are on the side of good, working with Mega Man to clean up the mess that the First Robot Rebellion caused. It would seem that our hero can finally rest on his laurels and enjoy the spoils of a successful bid at the hero business.

Well, as soon as he's punched his time card and is off the clock, that is. When we rejoin the Blue Bomber, we find that it took him little effort at all to get back on good terms with the others. Why, just look at that manly camaraderie he has with Bomb Man! MANLY! FISTBUMP!

And it's also a way for him to Weapon Copy the Hyper Bomb again. I guess he dumped all his powers after Wily was hauled in, or perhaps his Variable Weapons System (not the phrase the comic uses) can only support alternate weapons temporarily. Regardless of the duration of his borrowed weapons, Mega can set us up the bomb and make big pieces of rubble into tiny, wheelbarrow-friendly chunks.

Above the deconstruction zone, Dr. Light looks on with a sense of pride and hope. Finally, his robots are doing what he built them for: They are helping humanity, they are doing a great public service, and they're doing it with a sense of style and fun that can only be described as innocent. If he dressed in tie-dyed T-Shirts, this would be the moment when he pulled out a jug of dandelion wine and started singing "Kumbaya."

Naturally, some people just can't stand to see the return of flower power.

Ah, fudge it, it's the feds. The man. The pig. Crackers, what the heck is wrong with this sad sack? Well, naturally he has a burr up his butt. It doesn't matter that Light's robots are helping out, they caused this mess in the first place. The fact that they were doing so under the command of an embittered megalomaniac who never got hugged enough as a child never seems to click into place for Federal Agent Stern.

His partner, a more level-headed gal who hasn't chucked all of her compassion out the window just yet, isn't quite as bad, but she's the junior partner. With Stern on the case, Light finds himself on the defensive with a very unsympathetic audience. Sounds like life or something like it, all right.

Of course, Stern can't charge Light with anything; after all, Wily's the one who did the reprogramming, the big speech, and the world domination kick. And he's being transferred from county to the big Federal Pen. I'm sure Wily is looking forward to that greatly. At his age, it's not like he qualifies as fresh meat for the more amorous cons, after all.

Light and Mega Man agree to tag along, which doesn't exactly make Stern happy. Of course, I doubt he'd be happy if they stayed home, either.

Now, this I enjoyed. There was a conversation here between Light and Rock where we start to delve not so much into the robotic side of the equation, but the human side of it. Like Light says, you can't reprogram people, you can't fix stupid, and you can't flip a switch and make a prisoner a good person again.

This disappoints the Blue Bomber; after all, he lives in a world of absolutes, on or off, 1 and 0. Being human, he's discovering, really kinda sucks, especially because there are so many defective humans. This was a very small part of the issue, but worth touching on.

Now for the fun. Naturally, Wily planned his own prison break. Why shouldn't he? We've known since the end of Issue 4 he had Time Man and Oil Man lined up to cause some trouble, and earlier in this issue, Light briefly mentioned to Agent Stern that he has no idea what happened to DLN-00A and 00B, the designations for Time and Oil.

Well, Wily's had them on standby, and now it's time for a jailbreak. Or, as it's more convenient, an attack on the caravan transferring Wily to the big jailhouse. Sniper Joes get to work blasting up the highway and pinning the convoy down, and while Mega Man engages them, that's when Time Man makes his move.

With a somewhat confusing application of Time Slow, Time Man calmly strolls through the war zone, plucks Wily from the prison transport, and walks off with his leader slung over his shoulder like a smelly sack of potatoes. We realize that the Sniper Joe ambush was merely a distraction, not only for Mega Man, but for the Feds as well. Nobody pays any attention to the prison transport until after the fact... and surprise, surprise, Wily is missing.

Now, pop quiz: Who do you think Agent Stern is going to pin the blame on?

The Man's reaction: Blame the Hippie. Terrific thinking, Agent Stern. Boy, you spent a lot of time at Quantico learning how to be a great detective, didn't ya?

All the while, the real culprits are escaping, and there's a little added surprise. Back at home, as Roll drags a sack of groceries along for dinner, she gets ambushed and kidnapped by Oil Man. Why the insult to injury? Who knows. Maybe Wily just feels like twisting the knife in the wound. He's human, after all. When have humans ever done things logically?

End result: Wily's free, The Man blames Light, and things just got even more complicated for Mega Man and his pals, Elec Man and the Sunshine Five.

Just another day in the life of the Blue Bomber.

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Themes! Ah, I do so love them, and it's time again to figure out what today's lesson is. Wheel of Morality, turn turn turn...

The focus of Issue 5, if you looked reaaaaal hard, was rehabilitation. Why do people do bad things? Why don't they go back to being good? How come, there isn't some kind of reset button you can put on someone to make them better?

Well, since this isn't Star Wars, and we can't just lobotomize people to make them a mostly brainless computerized servant to Lando Calrissian in Cloud City, the solution is a lot tougher. People have to want to change, and that's a tough road; not everyone can bounce back.

Does Wily want to bounce back? No, not especially. He is the irredeemable villain in this scenario, despite what we might wish, despite whatever excuses we might provide. This is something that our seven to ten year olds may as well learn sooner than later.

A separate lesson might also be "don't assume things," which is what the hardnosed hardcase Federal Agent Stern is doing. I think we'll save that one for a later issue in this arc... something tells me it'll rear its ugly head again.

Did I enjoy Issue 5? Well, as the first comic to go off the beaten path and trudge into new territory, yes. I'll admit that I love seeing Rock team up with Elec Man and the Sunshine Five, because they're a hoot. It'll take Mega Man a while to clear Light's name and dig himself and his friends out of this hole Wily's conveniently drop-kicked them into, which gives us even more time for hijinks and pleasant, small surprises.

Really, there was only one thing in this issue that made me blink and go, "Whaaaat?" And that's Time Man.

More specifically, his Time Slow. In Mega Man Powered Up, Time Slow is presented more as a personal time dilation field: Intense space-time fluctuations allow Time Man to operate at a different frame rate than the rest of the world around him. It's not that time slows down for everyone else... it's that Time Man speeds up, and therein lies the difference.

In the comic here, though, when he's strolling through and making Wily's jailbreak happen, I couldn't help but pay attention to the digital clock above the highway that he passes under. Before his arrival, it's 2:28. When he strolls into the action, it's 2:29. When he leaves, it's 2:31. And somehow, everyone else around him, every explosion, every shout, every tiny sonic vibration, is frozen. But that clock kept ticking. RED FLAG!

So how in the Hell do we establish what just happened? It's been years since I've ever felt the need to do an update to that tiny throwaway piece I did called "The Physics of Mega Man," seeing as most of my interpretations deviate from canon (I prefer plasma over solar bullets). This is one occasion I have to scratch my head and go back to the drawing board here. Time to dig out that high school textbook.

The problem is that stupid clock. Let us say that Time Man's Time Slow ability was operating like it seemed to in the games: He simply encloses himself in a personal bubble of spacetime that allows him to advance through the world at a faster pace than everything around him. That would seem to make sense, considering how explosions, expressions, people, robots, and ammunition are all frozen in midair. But if Time Man is moving faster than the rest of the world, how come that clock advances 3 minutes?

Now, the other possibility: Time Man is using his ability to "Slow" everyone else, trapping them in some kind of space-time stasis lock. In this scenario, his field of effect expands outwards beyond himself; he himself is in this bubble of slowed time, but is immune to it (it's a rare Robot Master that actually gets hurt by himself, after all...).

Picture drawn by Cybermoon Studios on deviantART

But if Time Man is influencing more than himself, the power demands for his weapon would be frigging astronomical. Like, let's shove the total power output of our sun for a week into his chassis, and we might be getting close to the level of oomph it'd take to distort reality enough to let that happen. Sure, creating a personal space-time bubble isn't much easier, but I'm willing to suspend disbelief a little bit with Mega Man weaponry. I just can't suspend it entirely. I prefer to have a good explanation for why something works.

But, putting the power demands aside, assuming that Time Man is shoving an entire region into a displaced section of slowed space-time without causing it to rip apart from the rest of the earth by the creation of a hyper-gravitational anomaly, we still have one problem. Explosions stop. People stop. Cars stop. Bullets stop.

But that digital clock keeps on ticking.

So, there's clearly a disconnect here. Perhaps the artists intended for the clock to be a symbol for how long Time Man spent inside the action between moments, a sort of indicator of "missing time" without it being missing at all. If that was the case, it was a poor choice of definition.

To me, that clock is the one confusing, world-breaking anomaly in what is otherwise a perfect and explainable situation. Time Man causes a temporal distortion around himself, walks in between milliseconds, grabs Wily, and walks out with nobody the wiser. The clock should not have moved. Time for everyone else didn't stop... time for everyone else didn't slow... Time Man simply sped up.

But perhaps I should be thankful to the Archie Team. This one gross oversight of theoretical physics did allow me to whip out some rather arcane knowledge I don't often have an excuse to reach for, and I do so love having discussions about these "What the heck" moments, especially with the "Legacy of Metal" co-authors. Ask Magus or Revokov, they'll tell you I'm nuts for stuff like this.

God help the writers and artists at Archie if they ever decide to do a time travel story arc. It could get real messy around here.

For The Blue Ink, until next time.

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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.