Having arrived in the Skull Egg Zone, the bizarre conjoining of Mobian and Wily-esque design, the strike force of Sonic (and pal) and Mega Man (and his brother and his dog) find themselves wondering who's responsible for the landscaping kludge. Tails quickly changes the subject and explains to Mega Man about the wonders of alternate dimensions through a highly technical visual reference known as a Venn Diagram.
Of course, who has time for science these days? Not our heroes, because someone suddenly starts shooting at them.
This is when I personally started blinking at the switch in art styles... more on that later. Copy Robot has arrived to cause all sorts of trouble, and he brought friends: The Genesis Unit. Buster Rod G, Hyper Storm H, and Mega Water S from the Genesis Wily Wars game. The mention of the name also brings a bit of a "wait a minute" moment from Sonic, but he doesn't have time to think through it completely. They have four evil robot villains to take down, and the Genesis Unit comes out swinging.
Meanwhile, in outer space...
Hey, it's that guy! That big Duo guy! And no, I don't mean that Big Duo, I mean the Duo who takes down Evil Energy for a pre-breakfast exercise routine and likes to bounce around a room as a big blue comet.
The writers take into account that transmissions from Earth to Jupiter (yes, he's still sitting around Jupiter, where he had his climactic duel with that Evil Energy-powered purple alien robot thing in Mega Man 8) take a significant amount of time: 42 to 50 minutes for a transmission to get there from Earth. Duo's naturally irritated; less at Dr. Light, more at the situation. His arrival may take some time, but when he shows up, expect fireworks.
The battle between the Genesis Unit and our heroes continues, with Mega Man squaring off against his evil duplicate and the others tussling with the three Robot Masters who bear more than a coincidental resemblance to the Journey of The West heroes. Wily and Robotnik are once more watching the fight being broadcast by more of their minions, but they can't enjoy the show for very long; two more of their Roboticized Masters arrive with the final piece of the puzzle.
Robotnik loves to geek out about his bling. With all seven Chaos Emeralds, he can once more wreak untold havoc upon not only Mobius, but now the multiverse at large. The only problem he has is that once he has them, he's not very good at keeping them, and that will likely (definitely, based on the previews) be the case again here.
Still, for the moment, Robotnik is as gleeful as a child at Christmas, so much so that he unintentionally insults Wily, and the two have a telltale moment of bickering. I've mentioned how their internal dissent will be their downfall in prior reviews, and the Cosmic Joke rears its head again for a moment. They cool their heels and get back to watching the show, putting off the inevitable falling out for a little while longer.
The Genesis Unit is giving the good guys all sorts of trouble. Proto Man is staving off a thorough drenching and harpooning by hiding behind his Proto Shield, Sonic's caught up in a web of mirror image Buster Rod Gs, and poor Tails is discovering Hyper Storm H really does suck... hard.
Mega Man would love to help them, but he has his own problems: Copy Robot is being particularly irritating, and matching Mega Man shot for shot, jump for jump, and insult for insult. Mega Man can only stomach so much sassing, and so he pulls out a new trick of his that I wasn't even sure he had. Remember back when he de-roboticized Tails by Weapons Copying Tails Man?
Looks like he got a little present out of it after all! And this is a good sign, because there are still eight more Roboticized Masters, seen and unseen, to be dealt with... which will give Mega Man another eight weapons to rely on, when the time comes. For the moment, Tail Wind is a potent, Storm Tornado based dose of pain which shreds Copy Robot to pieces. I half-expected Mega Man to utter the phrase, "Looks like you really got blown away!" in the final moments of that fight, but it was over too quick for the James Bond groaner.
He then turns around and uses it to distract Hyper Storm H, giving Tails the opportunity to go on the offensive, and then pulls the same stunt on Buster Rod G to help out Sonic. Two down, and only Mega Water S to go? Well, showing his true colors, Mega Water S decides fleeing is a good decision. Too bad Proto Man doesn't plan on letting him come back again, and a shot from his arm cannon puts the soggy seditionist down. The defeat of the Genesis boys gives the hero gang a little time to discuss the ramifications of it all.
Even more disturbing than Robot Masters being suddenly revived when there's no feasible way of having it happen is what Sonic mentions while he's stretching out his hammies. Robotnik's tried time/space manipulation before during the "Genesis" story arc in Sonic The Hedgehog, which was about twenty-some issues ago. They deduce that the situation's even more serious than they thought, and so they make haste onwards through the Skull Egg Zone.
Along the way, Rush gets to use his Search module, they deal with those disappearing/reappearing blocks, escape flame traps, and use even more bounce springs. And at the end of this parade of game-specific shout-outs, as they stand atop a bluff, floats the Wily Egg positioned between a Robotnik-faced sun and a Wily-bearded moon.
Oh, and then of course, there's the rest of the Roboticized Masters. Team Chaotix (Vector, Charmy, and Espio), Silver, Blaze, Knuckles, Shadow, and Amy Rose, all showing up at once.
Duo, we really could use you about now...
The good thing about a crossover like this is that it can solve a lot of what-ifs. It can, but crossovers don't always answer that question. A crossover like this also has its downsides: You may end up with a lot of rabid fans leaping down your throat and flaming your e-mail with lines such as, "there's no way so-and-so would ever say something like that!", or "you've totally misrepresented ______'s moral compass!"
People give off a lot of flak for the little things, and certainly, I have my moments as well. But that's the nice thing about being a critic: You're expected to be a lightning rod. Artists, on the other hand... they put their heart and souls into what they do, and most days, I think they would just, to paraphrase Colonel Jessep from A Few Good Men, want us to say thank you and then be on our way.
I imagine my style of critiquing grates on some people's nerves. I enjoy giving a brief recap, highlighting the important moments, and then finding some nugget buried in the Issue which I can espouse on at length. I enjoy the Aesop model: Every story has a theme or a moral in it. Great Aunt Elma wanted me to be a preacher, but that didn't happen, so instead I apply that talent, meager as it is, to a field I treasure.
And it is such a dangerous time to be a Mega Man fan, what with no real new video games to speak of coming out of the mother company and the franchise figurehead in exile. So if I come off preachy, view it through the lens I operate under: Someone who has made the Blue Bomber a part of his life for more than a decade, and believes the simple stories and tight controls that went along with Mega Man games weren't a broken thing. And as they say, if it isn't broke, don't fix it.
The focus of the crossover to this point, to the beginning of Issue 5 has been recap and momentary confusion among the ranks. Issue 5 is the beginning of the end for the Badniks, because the good guys go on the offensive, and they're good at it. The introduction of the Tail Wind special weapon was (pardon the expression) a breath of fresh air. I wagered that it would be Mega Man's unique talents that gave Team Hero the upper hand, and that was definitely the case in this first skirmish against the Genesis Unit.
Until Mega Man got his Orange Fox colors on, they were at a stalemate... perhaps even losing. Now they're staring down eight more Roboticized Masters along with the Laurel and Hardy impersonators that are Wily and Robotnik, and you can bet that Mega Man's Weapon Copy is the vital ingredient in turning the tables.
Action-wise, this was a terrific issue. Story-wise and gag-wise, awesome as well. The writing is really taking an uptick for the better here. The only problem is... well, let's face it. Scroll up and look at Mega Man in the first scan from the comic. His face is all angled and squished out, his edges are more jagged. This isn't quite the way I expect my Mega Man to look, and it was jarring for me. The style of artwork for Mega Man, Proto Man, and Copy Robot is so far off on a tangent in this issue that it detracted from the overall presentation.
Sure, I know what some of you might say: "Hey, that's just different artists doing their own thing, get over it!" And certainly, there's precedent for it. I think of Halo Legends, or The Animatrix, or even Batman: Gotham Knight, and all those were collaborations where varying styles of drawing and animation were used quite nicely. There's only one problem with drawing a line between this crossover and those examples: All those movies were individual short stories, compiled into collections for viewing.
The "Worlds Collide" crossover isn't a series of stories, it's one continuous tale. And if you're going to be continuous, then have some continuity. Now, I'm not insulting the artists here. I continue to have mad respect for artists. What they do is to be appreciated, as it is a talent I lack, but am grateful that others have. To even put something this big together, among different production teams, and have it come out as connected as it is? Well, that's a labor of love right there. I would have just hoped that the style of our heroes would have held up between issues. Sonic was drawn perfectly well and perfectly normal by Team Mega Man in Issue 4; why does Mega Man look so damn squidgy around the edges here in Issue 5?
But all negative aspects about the artwork aside, the story here in Issue 5 definitely turns up the pressure. If memory serves, Issue 6 will be under the Sonic the Hedgehog label, and it should be a humdinger of an issue. I'm going to go ahead and make an educated wager against myself here for one cup of tea in my E-Mug: When Mega Man's "Weapon Get!" is used on Shadow, he'll get a teleporting power or a time dilation power out of it. Chaos Control, anyone?
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.