The Blue Ink: Archie's Mega Man #16 - Breakaway

"There is no greater sign of a general decay of virtue in a nation, than a want of zeal in its inhabitants for the good of their country." -Joseph Addison

"In truth there is no such thing in man's nature as a settled and full resolve either for good or evil, except at the very moment of execution." -Nathaniel Hawthorne

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So, you're a terrorist who wants to put an end to robots once and for all. Now, you could just put a gun to Dr. Light's head and pull the trigger, but that's not dramatic enough. You're not some klutzy Sirhan Sirhan, or a Hindu extremist, you're Xander effing Payne. No, you can use guns, but they're beneath you. So what do you do? You use a bomb.

Ohh, that's even better. Yeah, real original thinking there. Any putz with Karo syrup, mothballs, and a few other household ingredients can make bombs. If you have gasoline and fertilizer, you can make a bomb. You'd think he'd at least have a bomb with some style to it: Antimatter in the basement of the Vatican, maybe. That's stylish. Ludicrous, but stylish. But, we figure that the Emerald Spears are terrorists on a budget. After all, their outfits are government surplus. Ooh, surplus! "No, honey, we already have too much surplus..."

Of course, now we get to the downside of what happens when you actually hit the big red button: You can't undo a big red button. It's boom, and done. Any chance you had of convincing the world that you were more than a nutjob intent on chaos flies out the window, especially when most of your people get buried in the rubble as well. It may be a sound strategy if you have enough troop numbers, but nobody ever won points in morality for sacrificing their own men.

Mega Man, Elec Man, Pharaoh Man, and Quake Woman have their work cut out for them: They need to dig through the ruins of the Expo, get all the humans out to safety, locate their creators, and then deal with Xander Payne. It's a tall order, but they've got the right skill set to deal with it. Meanwhile, Xander Payne is safe and secure in the security office, which somehow isn't completely bombed out. Amazingly, his CC cameras are working as well. It seems that the few remaining bombs, while powerful, weren't enough to wreck the wiring in the building. Hmm... okay.

And there again, we are treated to Xander Payne's motto: "Whatever it takes." That's actually the name of this issue, believe it or not, and he says it enough. It's like a motto. Of course, it lacks the same flair that Inigo Montoya's famous catchphrase has. It does however, prove that he's jumped completely off the deep end of the pool.

Wielding his blaster pistol, he and his two remaining "trusted" lieutenants make their way out to the ruins and try to put down Mega Man and company. The only problem is, with the First Law Addendum in effect, they can fight back now. And to make matters worse, Xander has a nightmare flashback.

It seems that seeing Elec Man again triggers a very bad memory, one he's referred to before. He blames Dr. Light for the Robot Rebellion as much as Dr. Wily, because it was Light's robots who messed him up. And who messed up Xander Payne's face? Elec Man. Who is he looking at in the ruins of the robot Expo? Elec Man. Who does he want to kill? Elec Man.

Oh, snap. You didn't just end up with an empty socket or a glass eye, didja, Mr. Payne? No, you got a robot eye. And now we'll have conspiracy theorists arguing that Xander Payne is Serges from Mega Man X2, like we needed another pointless Isoc gumming up the works. Mega Man jumps in and puts Payne down, leaving Rush on guard duty while he and Quake Woman dig on ahead to locate the three missing doctors.

Unfortunately, Payne has himself a Lassie (You mean Old Yeller? --Ed.) moment and puts a shot into Rush so he and his two helper lieutenants can make their escape. He's hellbent on continuing his crusade against robotkind, and doing, in his own words, "Whatever it takes." We get it, Mr. Payne. Yeesh, stop saying that.

With Payne out of the picture, Quake Woman and Mega Man are able to get down to the business of drilling, and they're quite good at it. After what seems like a close call with a collapse, they emerge with a few scrapes in the fender, but their human creators intact and lookin' good. Federal Agents Stern and Krantz are on the scene, thanks to getting the heads-up call from Roll, and the authorities round up the injured Emerald Spears members and put things back in order. And the Gibbs-ish hardcase Stern himself has a marvelous moment of character growth.

Uh-oh, three Emerald Spears got away. Take a wild guess who. And that resolves the Emerald Spears mess... for now, at least. You know Xander Payne will be back. He's too much of a magnificent bastard not to.

Well, I think it's time that we bounced back over to Dr. Wily, and Bluuuuues!

Blues is brought back online by Dr. Wily, and, in canonical fashion, has been retrofitted with an Atomic Energy generator and a more advanced kaboomy blaster. Notice how the design is eerily similar to Mega Man's in appearance... albeit with that cool flarey vent at the business end.

Grateful to Dr. Wily, who he still sees as a friend (due to being unaware of the events of the last three story arcs), Blues offers to help old Wily in any way he can. Wily, of course, eagerly welcomes the help. Blues is looking to make a fresh start in his life: Forget Dr. Light, forget who he was before. He's not Blues, and he doesn't even want to be called Proto Man. Wily says he may as well call himself Break Man if he's going to break from his former life, and Blues agrees.

Wheels up in five, Mega Man. You're not done yet.

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Ooh, look. They changed the design on the cover. Hmm, not sure how I feel about it yet. Perhaps it will grow on me.

Long story short, the "Spiritus Ex Machina" story arc is the best one they've done yet. They managed to touch on so many valid and discussion-worthy questions, I found a different thing to fangasm about in every freaking issue. But what drew me here, in the conclusion, is how everything was so suddenly upended and turned on its head, thanks to Xander Payne. In one fell swoop, he sacrificed the moral standing of the organization founded by Harvey Greenleaf and turned himself into Interpol's second most-wanted man after Dr. Wily. Or perhaps he's the first on the list now.

What began as a quest to convince the world, and the preeminent robotics scientists about the wrongness of pursuing AI development instead became an event that cemented the validity of the concept. Even Dr. Lalinde, who wanted to turn Tempo into an emotionless machine, admits that she was wrong to do so in the end. The Emerald Spears soldiers, trapped in the rubble by their own leaders, are now disillusioned. Who saved them? Robots. Who almost killed them? The humans they were allied with.

Agent Stern, the hardest hardcase ever to walk the face of the planet, has as close to an admission of respect and gratitude as we'll ever get out of him: Maybe robots are like people. Good or bad, it all depends on the choices they make, the actions they do. Robot Rebellions aside, Mega Man's actions, and those of his allies in this night of tragedy and ruination have made a dramatic statement to the world, and to the readers that can't be ignored.

Not all robots are evil. Not all humans are good. Such blind statements, such fallible logic, has no place in the modern world. As with everything, it must always merit observation.

Somehow, I don't think Xander Payne will ever get the message. He's too lost in his own delusions of grandeur, too convinced in his cause to ever be shaken out of it, to recognize how wrong he's been. And so he escapes, ready to prepare, ready to fight, ready to do whatever it takes until he's either won.. .or he's dead.

The end of the issue prepares us for the return of Dr. Wily and the menace of the next Robot Rebellion, but even though Mega Man 3 is my favorite game of the original NES titles, I can't help but feel like it's going be a bit of a letdown after the awesomeness that the writers at Archie have treated us to. Ah, who am I kidding. I'll read it, I'll love it, and I'll probably find a few things to nitpick about. But that's the way of it.

With this story arc completed, I can safely announce that Mega Man has established a firm foothold as an independent comic in the industry. Put this up on the shelf next to Fables, Hellboy, and Atomic Robo. We've got a comic worth reading here.

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.