The Blue Ink – Archie’s Mega Man #12: Escape Clause

"Bring me chopper backup!" -Commander Feral, The S.W.A.T. Kats ----------------------------------------

How many robots does it take to do a full frontal assault on a heavily fortified Skull Castle? Answer: How many do you have?

In Dr. Light's case, he has a full playset with Elec Man and the Sunshine Seven. Fresh to the force are Oil Man and Time Man, the wild cards in an otherwise well balanced crew. Thanks to some last minute remote access, Dr. Light was able to put a tracking program into Mega Man, but he was unable to completely finish out his antivirus upload. Which is why our Blue Bomber is now in the hands of Wily, being outfitted with a purple scarf and a new zest for destruction.

Thankfully, his salvation is right outside the front gates, and they're ticked.

Ooh, that smarts. Fire Man in particular is made more dangerous, thanks to Oil Man setting him up with a jet of fuel for added burn. With Time Man covering them in a blanket effect, the ranged combatants on the force are able to let the fireworks fly with impunity, shattering the Sniper Joes up on the parapets and turning the outer guns to slag. From there, Cut Man and Guts Man handle busting down the door. They make a particularly decent combo; the little guy and the big guy.

Of course, Wily can never make anything easy, and what's lying in wait behind the first door of the dungeon? A dragon. Oh, that'll hurt. Ice Man and Oil Man have a humorous moment ducking for cover behind the physically stubborn Guts Man, and the rest try to keep from being smacked down by the enormous green Mecha-Dragon's flame breath.

Of course, Wily figures this is as good a time as any to whip out his reprogrammed Mega Man, and so we go from Elec Man and the Sunshine Seven fighting a dragon to to fighting a dragon and the guy they came here to save. Elec Man unfortunately fails his reflex saving throw and takes the full 20d6 of fire damage, which leaves him smoking on the ground and helpless, right as Mega Man walks over and points his Mega Buster to the poor fella's head. In this situation, what do you do?

You call Guts Man for a Team Assist! The big bulky brawler tackles Mega Man and pins him down for a 10-count, then hollers a shout-out to Oil Man for the "package." The package in this case being a combination antivirus upload and the Item Set: Hoverprop platform, Jet Sled, and Wall-Crawler.

From there, it's no surprise that they're able to soundly defeat the Mecha Dragon. After all, Rock has how many extra weapons at this point, and a full team on backup? Wily is thoroughly irritated, and unwisely starts jerking on what little hair he has left. Angry, but not out of the fight yet, he preps for the coming siege.

The team, meanwhile, has a new problem: What to do with Elec Man, who's close to hitting auto-shutdown? Ice Man and Cut Man volunteer to pack him out, with Fire Man acting as their support. Everyone else goes with Rock, because there's still a madman on the loose.

Riding high on their Jet Sleds, Mega Man and the four remaining Robot Masters fly over the sea of spikes and stumble into a new hangar, where Guts Man promptly turns on the rage. Why, you ask? Because Wily built himself a Guts_Dozer, which is big, dumb, and a major piece of copyright infringement. Guts Man, Oil Man, and Time Man set about to put the thing down hard, and Bomb Man and Mega Man are forced to press on without them.

Oh, I see what you're doing there, writers. The Skull Castle is becoming a war of attrition: There were eight Robot Masters to begin with. Then there were four and Mega Man. Now, it's just Mega Man and Bomb Man vs. the Third Ring of the Skull Castle. In this fashion, they are expending their resources-- Robot Masters-- at a fast pace so they can get Mega Man to the heart of Wily's domain in record time. It makes sense, in a way: It has to be Mega Man who faces down Wily, after all. Nobody else can do that job.

Bomb Man makes his own explosive exit when he and Mega Man stumble into the room of sentry turrets. Against Rock: He doesn't know the faintwarp trick to do this room, and he's not exactly at full Crash Bomb energy. In his favor: He's got Bomb Man. And when you have two guys who can lay down the boom, what happens? Exactly. No more room of sentry turrets, that's what.

Actually, no room at all; it collapses around them. The effort exhausts Bomb Man of his supply of TNT, or whatever he uses to make his Hyper Bombs, so it's now finally down to Mega Man, and Mega Man alone, to face off against Wily in his newest Wily Machine. The thing has firepower, that's for sure, but Mega Man has weapons as well besides his lemon-shooter.

In the words of Strong Bad's E-Mail, HEAD HIT KEYBOARD.

Of course it would have been easier, ya boob! The Metal Blade-- argh, I've done this spiel already. It's a nice touch on the part of the writers to have Rock finally realize that the Metal Blade is awesome. Well, don't get used to it, pal, it won't help you any against what's coming next.

That's right, it's time for Wily to try his Wizard of Oz motif by creating a holographic alien. Grrr, fear for your life and run from the... wait. It's not real. Doy. Okay, shoot at the power source, aaaaand boom. Done.

That's right. What you must always keep in mind when capturing Wily is this: Watch out for trap doors, rotating walls, collapsing ceilings, and robotic fakes whose heads pop off Rock'em-Sock'em style. Also remember that as soon as he gets away from you, because he always will, the base will begin to self-destruct. It will always self-destruct. And you'll always make it out in time, because the game takes over for you. It isn't like other games, which put you on the clock and force you to make your own escape out of the depths before the entire thing blows up all around you, perhaps even taking the whole dang planet. The comic has a nice little escape sequence for Rock, where he flies out of dodge and grabs every Robot Master he can. It'd be a bad thing to lose the team now.

Naturally, they make it out with just one second left, per the rules of explosions, and make it home for a big old celebratory party... everybody except for Elec Man, who's got some major repairs to be done on him. He's cognizant enough to tell Mega Man that he's glad the mess is over with. That makes two of us, Mr. Team Leader. And Light has even more good news as we all settle back and convince ourselves that the danger is over once more, and we can rest easy again.

Awww, it's Rush. Finally, the team is complete. Yes, Mega Man. You have a dog now. And that dog means you'll have to take on extra responsibilities, because he needs a good owner to take care of him. You have to take him on walks, feed him energy biscuits, go out and play fetch, and most importantly, you have to clean up after him because that's not daddy's job, it's your dog and it's your job.

And meanwhile, off Wily goes to scheme and to plan and prepare. Because that's what he does. And when he comes back, Mega Man will be there to stop him.

And his little dog, too.

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The last time I geeked out over a cover, it was in the "Time Keeps Slipping" story arc. You remember, it was the one with CWU-01P on the cover, and the bubbles, and the bright colors, and... yeah. I liked that cover.

Well, I like this cover too. This cover was meant for the old school gamers, the ones who still have their old Mega Man cartridges from back in the day. Look at the Mega Man games. What stands out about them? If you said, "Dah, gee, they're all purple", you'd be right! Capcom liked to use the color purple as the borders on their box art and cartridge art a long time ago. Trust me, I have every Mega Man and Capcom Disney NES game there is sitting on my shelf, and it's a solid wall of purple. Gives me warm fuzzies to know Uncle Scrooge is right there beside Baloo, Mega Man, and the Rescue Rangers. The only exceptions are Bionic Commando and Mega Man 1, which have a black border scheme... but that's a minor detail, because this story arc was all about Mega Man 2, and everything's there.

The red oval Nintendo logo? It has Spaziante now. The Official Nintendo Seal of Quality? There's Dr. Wily with his stamp of disapproval. A dynamic cover full of enemies and our hero? Check. The only major difference is he's wielding his Mega Buster instead of some ridiculous laser gun. And that I like. Further info by my more cover-aware contacts inform me that this particular image is largely based on the European box art of the game. I'd believe it: The Archie team loves to make little obscure references. It's a nice shout-out to the old timers like me.

I don't usually talk about how the comic goes frame by frame, because I prefer the pictures I scan to do the talking for me. That said, I have to admit that the storyboarders know what they're doing here. I've seen them go from horizontal panels to vertical panels, I've seen them slash a page in half diagonally to make an impression, and I've seen characters overlap over the borders. They always manage to pull the eye towards the center of focus, wherever or whoever it might be.

This issue was plenty crowded; you had to save Rock, handle three Fortress Guardians, and deal with Wily in the span of its pages, and they pulled it off. Though they went to some average sized-panels from time to time (this comic loves to oversize its panels through most issues), they never felt cluttered, and that's the important thing. I always understood exactly what was happening: No confusion in the images to mess me up.

This issue was about resolution, and well-intentioned resolution. It established that even though Mega Man is still the front man, Dr. Light has a team of backup helpers in place should he ever require assistance. And that's a good thing; a warrior is only as good as his support network. Wily was sent packing, and his six-month grand scheme, although it worked for a time, was ruined because even though Dr. Light doesn't play the long game, he does hedge his bets and keep backup measures in place.

At the end of the issue, Light admits that he didn't do enough, and that is true. In a sense, Wily did them all a favor: He showed them that though there might be downtime, the need to prepare, to continue to build, will be paramount. Light tells Auto to stick around and join the team. The Robot Masters? Light will be keeping them close as well. He is becoming the boy scout we always knew he had to be: He'll be prepared for the next time, Mega Man will be ready and waiting, and things won't go Wily's way so easily.

We hope, more than we believe that. At times, hope is all we have.

It's what keeps me reading. Hoping that once they've gone on long enough with the game novelizations, the writers and the artists will tackle a story that will challenge the genre, cause us to rock back on our heels and do some serious thinking. I like a story that makes me ponder the world and our actions in it.

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.