The Blue Ink: Archie's Mega Man #9 - The Quick and the Red

"The secret of success is never believing you are successful." -Jeffrey Archer

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Dr. Wily has fled to lick his wounds, and there has been a period of prolonged peace. Perhaps even six months of it. Half a year of tranquility tends to alter a person's perceptions when they've known nothing but combat, and so it is with Mega Man.

With no more need of the super fighting robot, Rock and his family (including Auto) are celebrating their retirement from the hero biz. E-Tanks for my robots, and beer for my horses. Auto isn't particularly pleased with the outcome... there's so much good Rock could do if he kept on the blue helmet and stayed working. Everyone else, Rock especially, is glad to be done with it. But you know what they say... you just can't stay away from the lifestyle. Especially if your rival never knows when to give up.

The party is rudely interrupted by Quick Man, who can't help but land a few kicks and punches in for the heckuvit.

Obviously, Quick Man came to deliver a message, but there's a rage in him that goes beyond simply passing the return of Wily to the masses. He seems quite intent on proving himself a better robot than Mega Man ever was, and to be fair, he does quite a nice job of it.

Of course, anyone would be doing a nice job of it if they had the advantage of surprise and used cheap shots. He uses a couple of Quick Boomerangs to pin Mega Man to the wall and delivers the ultimatum: A showdown between Mega Man and Wily's new Robot Masters throughout the city. No warnings to the population. No calling the police or the army, or Hell breaks loose. And off he goes.

So, angrily, not nearly as reluctantly as some might have supposed, Mega Man decides it's time to get back out there. Auto tosses him his helmet, not bothering to try and pass of a Met helmet first, and off Rock goes. Auto and Roll are on equipment duty, and Light plays Navigator. First stop: The park!

It's no surprise to the thematically minded that Wood Man is lying in wait for the Blue Bomber, but his calm is surprising. Surrounded by his robot animal friends, he resembles a fatter, less-orange Lorax. "I am the Wood Man, I'm made out of trees!" Japanese Cypress trees, as Light offers through his headset.

Rock makes for the quick attack, but Wood Man's leafy defense puts him off his guard. Wood Man is, after all, the first Robot Master he's gone up against who uses a shield (won't be the last, either). After a few unsuccessful strikes, and escaping being skewered alive by the pre-Pokemon Razor Leaf, Mega Man turns to Light for advice. Light gives him a simple strategy: try a supershot when his shield is down. Duh, gee, I woulda never thought of that.

Luckily, the tactic works, and Wood Man is down for the count. Far less satisfying than lobbing a fully powered Atomic Fireball at him, but them's the breaks. Of course, Mega Man angsts about having to take another robot life, but then something strange happens when he takes on the power of Leaf Shield: A virus warning kicks on. Is there some kind of malevolent code hidden in the Leaf Shield subroutines? Oh dear. Notice that Rock's eyes change from blue to this weird off-red. I don't like red eyes in my heroes. They're never a good sign.

Moving on, Mega Man discovers that Wood Man's domain connects to Bubble Man's lair, and so down into the waters we go.

Now this particular panel I enjoyed greatly. Fully vertical right in the center of the page, and look! We get a shout-out to the original level design, with a 2-D representation of Mega Man fighting the robot frogs. Is this what Dr. Light sees on his monitor? Wouldn't that be fun for him? It's a nice touch and a good conversation piece, but we have a Bubble Man to destroy, so onwards.

Bubble Man is flipping out at the destruction Mega Man is causing: It took him forever to reprogram all those little buggers, after all. Has he no sense of decency? Of respect for the arts? Well, now he's got a reason to fight, and fight they do...of course, Rock makes short work of him with the Leaf Shield. At three damage a hit, it's hardly cost-effective to the four damage done by a single Metal Blade... but it's the weapon he has at the time. Maybe Mega Man is playing "Normal/Easy Mode" for the American release here, and those Leaf Shield hits are doing six instead. Who knows?

Mega Man recovers the snorkel from Bubble Man's very destroyed headgear and starts to Weapons Copy himself the Bubble Lead, but there's a surprise waiting for him again...

Another Virus Warning? Well, to quote Admiral Ackbar and his Rebellion Flakes cereal, "It's a Trap!" Two special weapons downloaded, plenty of dents in the fender, and a change is overcoming Mega Man. He's starting not to care about the damage he's taking. And he's taking plenty of pain on this jaunt. He dismisses the call to return home, the redness in his eyes isn't getting any better in spite of Ben Stein's best efforts, and he's climbing his way out of Bubble Man's lair. The reluctant hero is disappearing, and something else is taking his place. This isn't the hyper-confident "I'll kill everyone" Mega Man that developed in the first story arc. This is something new...

Something worse. Of course, we won't be able to dwell on the portents of it for long. Quick Man, tired of watching from afar, and he does like to watch jealously, decides it's time for him to get in on the action.

This doesn't bode well for our hero. And he hasn't even gone up against Crash Man yet...

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All right. So things are winding up again, and what does Mega Man do? He jumps for Wood Man. Why? Anybody who's played Mega Man 2 knows that the first thing you do, always, is fight Metal Man. With the Metal Blade in hand, you can plow through the game like nobody's business. The Metal Blade will always be the definition of a game-breaking weapon for me. They spent countless games nerfing weapons after Mega Man 2 just to try and apologize for the awesomeness of the Metal Blade. The Shadow Blade from Mega Man 3? Nerfed. The Ring Boomerang from Mega Man 4? Nerfed. Really nerfed. It got a much-needed utilitarian revival in the Game Boy Mega Man IV to make the Ring Boomerang passably useful. Why not go up against Metal Man first here?

Obviously, the writers paid a little attention to the craft of storytelling in college: The hero must face a series of progressively more difficult trials for the audience to empathize with him, and for his triumph to be meaningful. Think of some heroes from classical theater and literature; Odysseus gets kicked around for the better part of two fricking decades! Oliver Twist endures ten years of Hell before discovering that, yes, his real family is really rich. Edmond Dantes rots in prison for a crime he didn't commit before emerging as an avenging demon with a crapload of money. If Mega Man were to simply knock off Metal Man and continue on, he'd plow through the other Robot Masters in half the time. And we can't have that! He has to suffer.

His victory over Bubble Man and Wood Man isn't surprising. If you're careful, you can take out Woodsy the Sumo even without any special weapons. You won't have a whole lot of health left afterwards, but you can do it. And Bubble Man? Oh, that's just a skeet shoot. But Quick Man's a real problem. Quick Man is always a problem, and Mega has two strikes against him already: No Time Stopper, and no Crash Bombs.

Now, on a personal note, Quick Man has a pattern I can read easier than most, definitely easier than Ring Man. Yes, I'm aware people can fight Ring Man without taking a single hit. I haven't managed it yet. I do take out Dive Man without being hit once, though. I consider it a mark of personal accomplishment to take Quick Man on with only the Mega Buster. You just have to shoot where he's going, is all.

So, could Mega Man take him down in the next issue? Most certainly. Hell, if a guy from Iowa can do it, surely a super fighting robot can, right? The thing that worries me is these virus warnings that keep popping up when he downloads new weapons... the redness in his eyes that doesn't go away... his alteration in mood that he doesn't seem to notice in the slightest.

Let us examine Wily for a moment: Mad genius. Skilled roboticist. A maker of such creations as Bass, Treble, and eventually Zero himself. The man's got skills, let's not doubt that. It was my personal belief, and remains so despite conflicting evidence over some kind of "suffering chip," that the Maverick Virus was Wily's creation, the second half of a whole that went along with Zero. It's a simple bit of programming, but a dangerous and malevolent one. The Maverick Virus, responsible for a century of Hell on Earth in 21XX, can be seen as a masterpiece, whether made by Dr. Wily or not.

Is it possible that Wily has cooked up something new here? That he's hidden some kind of viral subroutine in his own Robot Masters, in an attempt to stop Mega Man once and for all? There is precedent in the game timeline and the fan-verse: Maelgrim famously had a Virus program that attacked Rockman in his Core Module during the events of the first Robot Rebellion. And who could forget Mega Man 10, and the so-called "Robo-Enza" virus? I wouldn't put it past the guy to try something else here. Which is why it's so important for a robot with a Weapons-Copying active lifestyle like Mega Man to get tested regularly, and often... not just for himself, but for all his robot partners.

Wily likes to play the long game. He's not afraid to bide his time for world domination and his personal triumph. Minor setbacks happen. As a villain, he's accepted this. Those meddling kids and their robot dog... wait, Rush doesn't exist yet, so never mind.

The point is, Wily has a very Japanese mindset, something that's very foreign to us Westerners. The Japanese culture, and others like it, prefer long and drawn-out battles. Think of a game of Go. The black and white stones, laid out in one small duel after another across the expanse of the game board... no two games will ever be the same. A loss and a retreat from one battle is not important. It is the overall picture that matters: Who has the most territory, the most gained at the conclusion. Japanese make plans within plans, and they're always thinking long-term. Five, 10, 15 years down the road. Westerners take on short-term goals, short-term gains. We forget our flaws, we drive over our pain, we distance ourselves from past achievements, and live in the now.

Mega Man has made the mistake of living in the now. His party at the beginning of the issue, his so-called "retirement," is indicative of that short-term vision. If Wily is not around and actively causing trouble, then he has given up. I can take it easy.

But Wily plays the long game. He has not given up, and the time that Mega Man spent relaxing, he has spent preparing for the next battle. This is a man who will later in life build one Skull Fortress after another in one remote location after another, who will always have a backup plan, who will always have an escape route. When Mega Man captures him in Mega Man 6, he will already have two contingency plans in motion: The Robot Masters set for auto-activation, and Bass.

If he weren't so damned evil, I would congratulate Wily for his foresight, his cunning, and his plans. The Hell with it, I'd congratulate him anyways. The safe bet will always be that Wily has something up his sleeve. Light can sense it, for who would know Wily better than his former partner? Light warned Mega Man that this newest attack, Quick Man's message, it all sounded too much like that incident with Time Man and Oil Man. It all sounded too much...

Like a trap.

Warnings or not, the fight goes on, and we are left pondering what will be between this strange, damaged red-eyed Mega Man and Quick Man.

The Magic 8-Ball indicates one thing: "Ask Again Later."

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.