The Blue Ink Reviews: Archie’s Mega Man #23 – Sons of Light

Issue23Cover_zps388cd47a"Beware The Ides of March!" -William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar --------------------------------------

I know, it's a Hellishly overused quote meant to give us forewarning of a tyrant's downfall, but something about it seems just so damn appropriate here. It's March, after all, getting into the middle of the month, and we kick off the last issue before the Worlds Collide crossover event with the arrival of our favorite guy in red (until Zero), the lovable, whistling jump-in-at-the-last-minute-and-save-you deuteragonist, Proto Man! Of course, he thinks of himself as Break Man at this point, but you can bet that'll change.

And just look at this cover! This glorious, glorious red and pink hued cover! Unf! It just screams for your attention, doesn't it? We've seen the world through a blue lens for too long; now at last, it's time to start seeing red.

We start off with a spot of good news: It's Mega Man's birthday. Congratulations, yon Blue Bomber, you're a year older and already you've survived two Robot Rebellions, a pair of scrapes with anti-robot terrorists, and a malware attack. You gotta be feeling good about yourself, right?

Well, true to form, Rock's rather embarrassed by it all. Like a good paladin-styled hero, he's always quick to try and blunt the praise and keep the focus on the people he protects. This time around, he's not gonna get off so easy. The mayor, who in breaking the old fat man elected official trope, is a youngish fella with a pseudo-hipster vocabulary and a pair of unattractive sunglasses.

He's thrown all his support behind Mega Man, kind of like the mayor did in that Ghostbusters video game... the best one they did relatively recently for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii? Well, it seems that he'll be renaming the city Mega City (ooh, original) and giving our hero the key to the city. Yawn.

WilyintheMorning_zps6fce4fb4I think it's time to change the beat.

Soooo, that happened. It seems we have Dr. Wily in a terrycloth robe, apparently nakers underneath. Aww, and he's drinking coffee out of a skull-shaped mug, how cute. He's watching the morning news with more than a faint trace of irritation, in spite of glowing in obvious contented bliss and dear lord Blues is behind him and now somebody is going to want to write slash fanfiction about them, I just know it...

*clears throat* Anyhow. Dr. Wily sees a unique opportunity as the cameras roll and show Mega Man, Blues' "replacement," yukking it up for the press. Having Mega Man talk is one thing, but then Dr. Light gets interviewed, and starts talking about how proud he is of his son, and you can feel the rage in Break Man's stance. He's about ready to tear somebody's head off, and all he needs is a gentle push. Wily pushes that button, and Break Man disappears in a "bwoo-wip" of red teleportation light. And then Wily cackles, because with Blues out of his hair keeping Mega Man occupied, he can get to work on his scheme he's planned with his new buddy, "Ivo..."

Okay, spoiler alert. This is the direct link to the crossover event. Ivo refers to one Dr. Ivo Robotnik, the big bad from the world of Sonic The Hedgehog. You may be thinking, okay, but isn't he called Eggman? Look, I'm old school here. He was always Dr. Robotnik to me, Sonic always ate chili dogs, and Uncle Chuck came up with the roboticizer to try and prolong the lives of Mobians, only to have his failed experiment turned into a weapon during the coup. So when people call Robotnik "Eggman," I cringe. He's Ivo Robotnik. Or Ro-butt-nik. And if you've gone your entire fandom only considering Dr. Robotnik as Eggman, then you completely miss this subtle clue that bad stuff is'a coming.

(Actually, he's still Dr. Ivo Robotnik-- "Eggman" is just a nickname, not unlike how we have Rock being called "Mega Man" and Blues being called "Break Man" here, among others. The difference is that while Eggman didn't come up with it, he decided to own it. -- Ed.)

Okay, let's flash over to the soon to be renamed Mega City...

We meet Bomb Man, Guts Man, and Cut Man who suddenly find themselves desperately searching for a present for Mega Man's birthday. It's an enjoyable little jaunt. Hats? No. Fireworks? No. Food processor? Hardly. How about a puppy? No, he's got Rush and then you have territorial issues. With only five minutes to spare, they settle on the tried and true solution. Gift card!

Come on, who didn't smile there?

Anyhow, we get to the ceremony, and the mayor blabs on as mayors like to do when they have a captive audience, and then he hands over the key... only to have it shot out of his hand by a well-aimed plasma burst. Mega Man follows the trajectory of the shot up into the air, and sights a figure with a long yellow scarf whipping wildly in the cityscape breeze. And he's whistling. Four tones. Five notes.

HonoBlues_zps659c5911Yes, Dr. Light, who else could whistle that melody? The sheer look of disbelief, mixed with a touch of horror that the artists gave my favorite robotologist here is phenomenal. We get the above angle shot, his eyes are super expressive, and he stood up so quickly that he even knocked his chair back.

Of course, the lost son of Light doesn't stop there. Ignoring Mega Man's pleas for order, he blasts a hole through the giant topiary statue of Mega Man and sends the Treeborg-forged art piece collapsing to the ground. Enter Cut Man and his two buddies! Sadly, Elec Man and the rest of the Sunshine Seven aren't around for the festivities, which isn't all that surprising: Ice Man's up north still, Time Man and Oil Man have their own places to be, and Elec Man's probably powering a small city at this point. Still, just those three is plenty of backup to help clear out the civilians and minimize damage.

With his buddies on patrol, Mega Man hops aboard Rush and flies up to confront his red mystery attacker. And this is where it gets fun.

A benefit to comics is that they can display in two pages what it might take a writer three to describe with words. Suffice to say that Break Man leads Mega Man and Rush on a merry chase around Mega City, dodging or blocking every one of the Blue Bomber's shots, then turns around and counterattacks with efficient and brutal blows, hitting Rush hard and causing them to crash land. Thrown off his bestest buddeh, Mega Man runs away from a still-shooting Break Man and starts to get Rush prepped for an emergency teleport to the lab. And then Break Man has to go and shoot him in the back.

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The vehemence of Mega Man, his desire to take care of his little robotic buddy causes Break Man to hesitate. He wavers, wondering if this "Mega Man" who replaced him is really all the villainous things that Wily's been feeding him. But the moment passes, and Guts Man and his two non-elemental buddies show up to party hardy.

Sadly, our angry and temporarily transformed Blues is all sorts of ticked off, and it takes him all of maybe ten seconds to incapacitate the lot of them. He gets Guts Man to crush Cut Man into the roof of the building they're standing on, he disarms (literally, dis-arms) Bomb Man with a pair of captured Rolling Cutters, and to really up the ante on how badass he is, he then scoops up a couple of Hyper Bombs and throws them lacrosse style into Guts Man's face! Seriously! How come Mega Man doesn't have moves like that?! We'll get to the answer in the second chunk of this review.

Mega Man finishes up with the necessary fix and sends Rush back to base, turns around to join the fight, and discovers that the fight's already over. Ow.

BreakManSpeaks_zps4a5ad75f

Time for the final staredown. Brother against brother! A true freaking House of Light civil war, like nothing the Ruby-Spears cartoon ever dreamed of. Blues starts off with a little shield-bashing action, Mega Man retreats and fires a flurry of blows, Blues blocks it with his favorite plasma-deflective Proto Shield, and then after some more scuffling and another retreat, they finish it off. Mega fires another flurry of blasts which do nothing, and Break Man fires the full on plasma supershot for the victory. Knocked flat on his back, his energy reserves well and shot, Mega Man makes one final plea. Destroy him, fine; just don't destroy the thing that makes him "Him," because that would hurt his father.

CivilWarSon_zps05e2c9bb

In that moment of wonderful flashbacks, Blues remembers all the good things about their father. Sure, he still has the pain and anger from being "replaced" and betrayed, but... here's another robot, his brother, no less, making a request that shatters the bloodlust inside of him completely. He deactivates his Proto Buster, and starts to turn away.

"Enough of this," he seems to silently tell us. He's done. And isn't that just like Break Man: He deals a few hits, he takes a few hits, and then he ups and leaves. Well, this isn't Mega Man 3, and it's definitely not Magnet Man's bizarre stage with the memorable music. Mega Man, damaged, manages to get up and grab a hold of Break Man's scarf, pulling him back with the notion of unmasking his crazy attacker.

And then everything goes white.

Cue the crossover.

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We like our hypothetical match-ups. Back when MTV still liked to show a few music videos once in a blue moon, they had Celebrity Deathmatch. When I first started out writing fanfiction to sharpen my fangs, I was a member of the now-dead Nintendoland website, where they'd have match-ups between two Nintendo or video game icons and then somebody would write up a fight about it. Think about GameFAQs' "Who would win?" contests, but with a bit of prose tossed in for variety. Among the many so-called deathmatches, there were a handful dedicated to Mega Man, and I do recall there was one where Mega Man and Proto Man faced off somehow...

Needless to say, Issue 23 gave us another look into this battle between brothers we always like to talk about. Sure, if you knew where to look, and if you wished reaaaal hard, you could fight Proto Man in Mega Man 7 for the honor of claiming his Proto Shield for yourself.

But that fight does get stale after a while, because Proto Man was required, by the conventions of Mega Man games and the level of AI programming they could pull off back in 1994/1995, to have a pattern. I figured, after handing his butt to him for the third playthrough in a row, that the real Slim Shady, er Proto Man, was a few notches tougher than Capcom's only canon example of such a duel presented us with.

And boy, did this comic come through with flying colors. He wasn't even Weapons Copy-ing anybody, and still he dropped three Robot Masters in the time it took Mega Man to evac his dog. Not only that, he correctly used their weaknesses against them! Well, Rolling Cutter on Bomb Man is questionable, as his weakness was Fire Storm in the original; it was indeed Rolling Cutter in the PSP remake, but that's a niggling detail we gloss over because it was awesome!

God, defeating Guts Man lacrosse style? It's about time that prep-school sport got some street cred again, especially after the sexual harassment fallout some years back. He grabbed Cut Man's Rolling Cutters before they hit the ground and hacked off Bomb Man's arms quicker than you could say "BOMB!" And who doesn't love making bad guys take each other out? That was the highlight of the early stages of the TMNT arcade game (the actual arcade game, not the NES release), because when you rescued April, you got to fight both Bebop and Rocksteady, and if you did it right, you could make them run into each other (and even take each other out).

Some warriors can handle themselves in a battle. Then there is the rare breed who can do more... who actually control the flow of the conflict. And in this issue, running on his atomic energy generator and looking to break off a big old piece of revenge, Blues showed that his experience vastly dwarfs anything that Mega Man ever thought of going up against before.

Mega Man may be a year old at this point in the comic, he may have taken down whole heaps of trouble, but Blues is a scrapper. A Lancer, in the truest sense of the trope. Mega Man has to play the paladin. He tries to talk his problems out first. He hesitates from dealing mortal blows. He stays his hand. He takes hits he shouldn't, just to make sure that collateral damage is decreased.

Break Man operates under no such restrictions. The sheer amount of butt-whooping that the writers and artists from the Archie team granted him was phenomenal, and right in line with the rage he's feeling. We rarely get to see Proto Man at work in the games. Oh, sure, he'll show up every now and then and drop off a cryptic word of advice, or maybe he'll leave you an E-Tank or an Energy Balancer if you find a secret room, and he'll definitely pop in to unmask a fake Proto Man for the scam it is when the need calls for it, buuuuut... have we ever seen him well and truly fight? I discount his appearances in Mega Man and Bass, because all he does there is fire off a couple of all-or-nothing shots and then retreat to lick his wounds. The best answer we can come up with is, "no, we don't really know what he's capable of."

(Well, there were the arcade games, but those can be disputed in the comments below. --Ed.)

And now we do. There's a reason that Capcom never really had Proto Man fight Mega Man with everything he had in him: It'd damn near be a massacre, if Mega Man didn't give it everything he had. And I mean, the everything he has at the end of a game, when he's plowing through Skull Fortress number whatever and he's good and pissed and tired and cranky and he just wants to go home and why isn't Wily doing something more constructive with his time, like learning needlepoint?!

If Mega Man hesitates, if he doesn't throw everything he has into the fight, Proto Man comes out on top. Think of Proto Man's level of skill as "where Mega Man needs to be all the time." Unfortunately, Mega lets some of his skills lapse between Robot Rebellions, kind of like students forgetting things over summer break, which is why he gets banged around so much. So long as Break Man remains an enemy, Mega Man won't get much sleep at all until he remembers how to kick butt with the best of 'em and supersedes his mysterious and yet-unidentified brother.

Small wonder we prefer Blues as an on-again, off-again ally; he makes a terrifyingly capable foe.

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.