A year or so ago, when Wily was causing all sorts of havoc with his second Robot Rebellion and smacking Mega Man with cleverly fragmented pieces of a malware program, I remarked in a review that one of the main reasons that people like Wily are always causing trouble is that when they go to ground after a defeat, the good guys are content to pick up the pieces, rebuild, and get back to a sense of normalcy... which of course, gives the bad guys plenty of time to plot out their next evil world-conquering scheme. Hey, if this wasn't the pattern, then we wouldn't have much of a story now, would we?
But in this particular instance, at the outset of the "Worlds Collide" crossover arc, one can't help but have it made suddenly clear that there are times this policy of "villains act, heroes react" has some pretty dark consequences. And this time, the bad guys aren't content to just screw up their own world, no... Now they're tampering with the very fabric of space-time via convoluted quantum mechanics. We'll touch on that later.
To begin with, a recap is in order. And not just a recap of Mega Man, but because this is a crossover, we have to touch on what's been happening on Mobius as well. Funny thing is, apparently Mobius is an Earth in which an alien race dropped Adventure Time-styled apocalypse bombs, which resulted in mankind being nearly wiped out and animals evolving into their anthropomorphic states. Pretty damn wild, and while certain webcomics and Pendleton Ward's offering suggest it, these guys used it first. Dibs!
Some time back, Sonic the Hedgehog squared off against Dr. Robotnik, who somehow managed to get his hands on all seven Chaos Emeralds AGAIN and use them to power a world-altering "Genesis Wave." Yes, I know you Trekkies are screaming foul on that, because we all know the Genesis Device stolen by Kahn deployed a Genesis Wave which brought life to lifeless places, albeit in an unstable fashion.
Suffice to say, in Sonic's world, the Genesis scheme of Robotnik was (naturally) stopped, and life went on. Well, almost. Just a few quick notes which aren't really spoilers, but might shock those of you who haven't been reading the Sonic comics for years: Princess Sally is roboticized after an act of world-sparing self-sacrifice, Nicole is now a fully fledged mobile AI instead of being the voice of reason inside Sally's handheld computer, and Sonic is... well, at least that hasn't changed. At the end of that debacle, the Chaos Emeralds were scattered, presumed lost. Now why is this important? Because the guys at Archie have that rare gift of being able to pull a Cartoon Network Velma: It all connects.
The Chaos Emeralds are the all-powerful MacGuffins of Sonic's reality. According to the lore of the lost Echnidna civilization, the power of a single emerald is damn near infinite. Perhaps they act as conduits for energy extracted from micro-universes, ala the ZPM's from Stargate. Perhaps they simply resonate with the power of the cosmos, feeding off of dark energy. Maybe they just work, dammit, and why am I trying to explain this? Well, because I like having some kind of an explanation.
Once upon a time, there were more Chaos Emeralds than you could shake a stick at. In accepted canon, the number in Sonic's time is down to seven, not including the "Master Emerald" which Knuckles and pals guard religiously. Oh, side note: The machine Uncle Chuck created to make power rings for Sonic in the cartoon? Used a Chaos Emerald. Or "energy crystal", depending on your take. In the comics, supposedly the power ring generator was created by a long-dead overlander (human) and dropped in a lake to prevent it being misused. All this information aside, the one thing you need to know about Chaos Emeralds is this: They play by their own rules. Which is how stuff like this happens.
Yes, Chaos Emeralds can even jump entire continuities. Not content with mucking around with one video game universe's reality and all affiliated alternate realities, the light blue (or is it the dark blue?) Chaos Emerald somehow crashed right into Dr. Wily's Amazon jungle backyard. Oh, sure, it could have landed anywhere. Probability dictates that it would be more likely to get dumped into the ocean and be forgotten by time (Funny you should say that... --Ed.), but noooooo, it goes where it can do the most damage.
And look what it interrupted! All Dr. Wily wanted was a well-prepared bowl of rice. Not too soggy on the outside and hard on the inside, not too overcooked to paste, just firm grains that stick to each other and not much else. I found myself agreeing with him; what good is a Met if it can't cook you a bowl of properly prepared rice? I recall that in the Mega Man prequel fanfic I wrote, I famously had Dr. Light install a beverage cooling and dispensing system in Eddie the Flip-top's head. With pneumatic launching capabilities. Because who doesn't like a robot who throws cans of beer and grape soda at your head? (Didn't he already do that in the cartoon? --Ed.)
Naturally, all thoughts of a decent meal go flying out the window as Dr. Wily starts to tinker and probe the gem that Flash Man discovered. And then a horrible, twisted bit of a miracle happens. The Chaos Emerald fritzes out his equipment, maxes out every diagnostic needle, and opens up a communications channel. Guess who's on the other end of the call? I'll give you a hint: He's round, has an IQ of 300, and an egg fetish. Naturally, Wily and Robotnik have themselves a moment of "my screwdriver is bigger than yours" as they try to establish who is the more awesome robotics genius. For my money, I'll pick out Wily. Not for what he's done so far, but for what he will do.
Having made initial contact and having also discovered they both hate the color blue (which is ironic, considering it's a blue Chaos Emerald which allows them to even talk to each other), Robotnik gives Wily a crash course in life, the universe, and bifurcations; for every possible outcome of every decision, as some believe, there is an alternate universe. Star Trek uses this to a fair degree, but nobody does alternate universes like comic books. Famously, DC Comics got so cluttered with alternate universes that they had to go back and destroy all of them, James Michener-style. Not like it lasted: The newest DC Comics cartoon, Young Justice, took place on Earth-16. Gar, sorry, deviating, deviating...
Put simply, Robotnik has enough experience with Chaos Emeralds that he is able to help Wily use it to pierce the fabric of reality so they can meet in an artificially manufactured dimension. This is important: If you're going to be a real pain in the neck, it's important to have a hidey hole that's really tough to get to. And as Dungeons & Dragons peeps know, nothing is quite as satisfying as your own personal demiplane.
They argue over the name, of course; it's the one chafing point between them. Wily likes skulls, Robotnik likes eggs. They settle on a compromise: Skull Egg Zone. And then the real work of combining Badniks and Robot Masters begins. Guess it's time for a 1980's action montage!
Aww, isn't that cute? Wily finally got his rice cooker Metool, but he's eating it with a fork. Infidel! Not like Robotnik's any better; apparently chopsticks are something that bad guys just don't have the time for. And that poor Met... he looks so damn depressed. Don't worry, I'm sure that a few grains of rice won't accidentally get embedded in your circuit boards and short out your limited AI matrix. Almost entirely positive. Well... maybe it had better write out its will, just in case.
Once construction is finished, the resulting flying fortress/battle station/Death Egg is a sight to behold. A perfect union of their unique traits, here is the site of certain doom and gloom. And since it's hovering in a pocket dimension of manufactured origin, the good guys are going to have a devil of a time finding it.
Ah, now that's how you solve problems: The old Jan-Ken, the classic Rock-Paper-Scissors. Although I'm surprised Wily would ever throw rock, given how much trouble he has with the blue twit. They settle on another compromise and call their fortress of doom the Wily Egg, Now the real fun starts. Oh sure, they could just put their forces together and cause havoc in one reality and then the other, why not? But they like to think big. With the power of a Chaos Emerald, they can afford to think big. What's better than defeating your enemies? That's easy. Reshaping reality so you never had to.
The mathematics behind this grand act of restructuring at the macro and micro levels are mind-boggling. I couldn't even attempt it, because to be honest, quantum mechanics is not my thing. I dink with it as a theoretical coffee shop topic, but when you start whipping out the numbers, something breaks. Of course, that's the beauty about quantum mechanics: Observing something in a quantum state is enough of an influence to cause it to change, which keeps it indeterminate and makes the exercise a moot point. Or have they disproven that yet? It's so hard to keep up... for our purposes here, remember what I said earlier: "It's a Chaos Emerald." Deal with it.
They hit the cosmic reset button, which overrides both of their universes with a new set of events. They can't completely overwrite and eliminate the people in them, but they can cause more subtle alterations which are perhaps even more damaging. They're somewhat sheltered in the Death Egg Zone; they remember what happened before and what current events say happened. Time travel uses this hypothesis a lot, that somebody who causes the changes is somehow immune from the "rewrite" that results because of their actions. It's rarer to see this kind of cosmic rewriting without the memory retention than with it, actually.
The "Genesis Wave Part Deux" causes a brilliant flash of white which spanned across all the comic continuities. We saw it happen in Mega Man issue #23, right as Break Man and Mega Man were finishing up their fight. The flash passes...
And everything's changed. Imagine it. We're in a completely new frame of reference now. Everything that's happened so far in Mega Man is now a moot point. They may not have happened at all. They may be so changed that we'll be caught blinking. That's the beauty of switching things out: It's suddenly virgin soil all over again. And having the proverbial blank slate to work with, Robotnik and Wily are keen on avoiding their former mistakes and starting out with a bang. The first thing on Robotnik's agenda: Add to their forces and cut Sonic off at the knees. How do you do that?
You go after his friends. Crap, it's Bass. Well, we've known from the previews for months now that old "Not a Fish" was going to make an appearance here, but now he's tag-teaming with Metal Sonic? Definitely not good, and it gets worse. It seems that with Wily's help, Robotnik has made some further modifications to the Roboticizer. This is for one reason above all others: They need agents that can cross into, and operate, in both their worlds. They have to retrieve all the scattered Chaos Emeralds, after all. More on the science of this later. So our little flying buddy and invincible punching bag Tails becomes something worse: Tails Man. Ten minutes into the new world and already they've taken away Sonic's right hand man. And they aren't done yet.
Time to show Mega City and Earth of 20XX a little love.
After the Genesis Wave, Mega City has one big difference from the continuity we've seen so far: Blues isn't Break Man. He's identified as the "Heroic Brother of Mega Man", and guess what? It seems that most, if not all, of the tragic missteps he and Dr. Light had never occurred. He seems hale and hearty to me. He's roaming around the city looking for bad guys. That's when trouble strikes; it seems that somebody's breaking into the First National Bank and tearing the first responders new ones.
Naturally, this is a job for Proto Man! The door to the bank vault gets thrown out at him, and it's only with his Proto Shield that he's able to keep it from caving his head in. And then he sees who's responsible for the mayhem. It seems four unusual robots have come in to the bank to steal a particularly large gem from the vault. Large as in the size of a guy's head. Large as in "Sweet buttery Jesus, not even the Hope Diamond could stand up to it." And Proto Man suddenly has reason to be afraid.
Hell, if I had Knuckles, Shadow, and Tails staring me down all at the same time, I'd be pretty worried myself. Oh, yeah. Seems Amy's there too with her little Piko-Piko hammer hands. I'm soooo scared. Do they still squeak when you hit people with them? (Not exactly... --Ed.)
It's the conclusion of Part 1 of this 12-part crossover arc, and already, we're in deep trouble. Sonic's main helpers? Converted. Sonic and Mega Man? Battling it out in the Green Hill Zone. And Proto Man is outnumbered three and a half to one, with no farging clue about what's going on. In other words, the bad guys are three steps ahead of the good guys and two steps from total victory.
Business as usual.
I remember when the Higgs-Boson was just a theoretical concept, the so-called "God Particle" which supposedly was the foundation for all matter in the universe that followed the Big Bang. Astrophysicists dreamed of it, salivated for it. It was the lynch-pin in the standard model, the missing piece. And now, thanks to the Large Hadron Collider, they think they've finally found it. Of course, you know scientists: They have to redo the experiment hundreds of times before they finally move from the tentative to the affirmative. It's why I love regular scientists so much: They're so precise.
But let's be clear: Dr. Ivo "Eggman" Robotnik and Dr. Albert W. Wily are not regular scientists. They are that most derivative and outlandish of the white coats; the mad scientists. "They called me crazy! Insane! Mad! Well, I'll show them!"
See, mad scientists operate by different, less responsible principles. To them, science isn't a search for truth, meaning, and the fundamental questions of existence. To mad scientists, their genius and their discoveries are always applied to more self-serving ends. Most importantly, they don't like to redo experiments unless they fail. One success, and they move on. No peer review, no papers published in journals, just a success and a search for how it can help them in their schemes for world or universe domination.
Above all else, mad scientists do not play nice. Most people of above average intelligence have an ingrained flaw in their personalities, that being they're solo acts. They don't like to cooperate, they bicker and they argue, and they hate not getting their way. You can rest assured that while everything seems rosy for the partnership of Wily and Robotnik at the moment, it will eventually crumble. They can't help it; it's in their nature.
Conversely, most good guys operate by a more cooperative model. Unlike the mad scientists, who more often than not are obsessed with their own preeminence to the point of narcissism, the good guys can be relied upon to put their own machismo aside and get the job done when it needs to absolutely, really, happen. This is why the Justice League always comes out on top. It's why The Avengers can save New York from an alien invasion. It's why you never, ever, ever allow the Power Rangers to pull out every Red Ranger that ever existed and drop them on the same field of battle. If you are the bad guys, you will lose. You will always lose.
The genius of this particular world-altering scheme that Robotnik and Wily have cooked up is that they anticipate this sort of a counterattack happening. How many times has Robotnik lost, not because of Sonic himself, but because of the timely intervention of various Freedom Fighters? How many times have Elec Man and the Sunshine Seven been there to back up the Blue Bomber so Mega Man can focus on the main problem and not get beaten up too badly on his way to Objective Alpha? These sorts of failures stick with a person, and you can count on mad scientists to learn from their mistakes.
To begin with, they rewrote events in their universes. And then, to make it hard for Sonic to do anything about it, if he can even remember why he's fighting Mega Man in the Green Hill Zone and where his friends are and why do I suddenly crave chocolate milk, they dispatched their top agents to kidnap and Robot-Master-Roboticize his four most powerful, if not closest, allies. You can bet your sweet patoot that further rewriting's happened in Mega City, but we just haven't seen it yet.
This was a chunky issue. This was a foundational issue. We had to know what the heck was going on, and how these two mustached twits even got together, before we could move on. Most importantly, they had to try and make sense of both universes for those who don't normally read the "other" comics. I myself am one of these "don't normally read Sonic" peoples: My focus has always been Mega Man, but here in the crossovers, it's my duty and my obligation to cover both fairly. That means I had to go back and do some research, since I haven't followed the comics since Bill Clinton was still POTUS, but what the heck, isn't that why we have the internet?
Things certainly do seem dark for our two heroes, especially since they're clawing at each others' faces to begin with. The Great Will of the Macrocosm isn't around to rescue them and put things back to rights. It's the bad guys who have their thumbs firmly set on the Giant Reset Button, and it's been pushed good and hard. It's going to take everything they have for Mega Man and Sonic to come together, reunite their buddies, and overcome the mad scientists. But what the Hell, they've got eleven more issues to do it in. And the Standard Model of Heroic Writing dictates that they will come out on top. They have to. The universe abhors a vacuum, and more importantly, comic book universes abhor irregularities that can't be undone. Most importantly, the clues are present even in part one about what will be their saving grace.
Villains may act and heroes may react, but good guys can work together.
Bad guys argue, overthink, and self-destruct. And that is the Cosmic Joke.
For The Blue Ink.
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.