"Everyone can master a grief but he that has it." -William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing
Top Man and Snake Man are down, and Mega Man continues on his search through the orbiting mining asteroids about Earth to fight the renegade Robot Masters and retrieve the energy elements. The ones he's already retrieved are quickly re-installed in Gamma by Dr. Light and Roll, albeit with some minor consternation. And as our intrepid hero makes for the thermal-powered asteroid, his new foe is a very old robot indeed... Shadow Man. The only one not designed by Wily.
From the previews and the Ra Moon story arc, we know that he was a servant of Ra Moon originally, and he even went so far as to turn against Wily and the others back during the master plan that nearly resulted in worldwide destruction. We get a taste of his past as a foot soldier under the Stardroid banner, back when Ra Moon and the Stardroids were engaged in a (galactic?) war with the "Star Marshals", whose members included robots with names like Quartet, Trio... and likely, Duo. (Dun-dun-dunnnnn! Foreshadowing!)
Shadow Man and his "Kuiper Droids" (named for the Kuiper Belt, no doubt) were tasked with escorting Ra Moon to safety on Earth. They met trouble when Quartet showed up and started pounding through them. But then, who should backstab him but Trio, also known as the robot possessing "Evil Energy" that Duo fights with around Jupiter in Mega Man 8. Apparently, not every Star Marshal was as devoted to the cause of justice.
When Mega Man shows up, Shadow Man can only relive his past failures. He's always needed help, always failed to protect those close to him. In the span of six pages, Shadow Man goes from a mysterious badass-turned-Wilybot to a badass with a troubled past who remains entirely his own entity.
But try as he might, as dangerous as he is, Shadow Man's just no match when Mega Man powers up his Top Spin and goes to town on him. Prideful to a fault, Shadow Man collapses, defeated at last. And this time, no one's there to pick him up.
Meanwhile, you've probably been wondering: What's Break Man been up to while all this has been going on? Answer: Running errands for Dr. Wily, and forcing the Series 2 Robot Masters to scrap themselves.
Ah, the Second Law of Robotics. Gets you every time. And we wonder why Maelgrim set it up that the Second Law is always the first one that Mega Man and others like him break. Auto manages to detect some unusual transmissions, but Wily throws him off the trail by forgetting to flush after his bathroom phone call visit.
That just leaves Gemini Man to deal with. Also known as "He with the Fractured Personality."
Luckily, Mega Man went for my Robot Master visitation sequence, which means he's packing the Search Snakes. Multiple targets, most of them fake? No problem. Even though the fakes are capable of dealing real damage with their Gemini Lasers, it's only a matter of time before Mega Man gets the upper hand. With Gemini Man down for the count, Mega Man decides to go all noble.
We always knew that his sense of nobility would shoot him in the back someday. With Gemini Man able to make a duplicate of himself for a sneak attack, that just happens to be very literal this time around.
The story arc of Mega Man 8 has, for my money, always been one of the most convoluted and rather stupid ones. I mean, even stupider than Mega Man 6's "Oh, no, Mr. X was Dr. Wily all along?!" It didn't help that that game had some of the worst voice acting ever done. I mean, worse than Mega Man X4's voice acting, which was also pretty lame. Compare the original "Death of Iris" scene with the redub done by Lucas Gilbertson sometime. You'll laugh your ass off either way, but come on.
Whoops, lost my train of thought. Yes, Mega Man 8. The introduction of Evil Energy, a nameless evil-looking robot, and Duo, henceforth never to be seen again (Except in Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters... and Mega Man: Battle & Chase... and Rockman Strategy... and Rockman Gold Empire... and he would have been in Rockman Online, had it not been cancelled. Plus he had a CD in Mega Man & Bass and inspired armor in Rockman Xover. But besides all those, never seen again. --Ed.), and with him went a massive unexplained plot hole.
Major props to Archie for figuring out a way to tie it all together. I mean, Magus and I tried to take a crack at Duo's backstory back in the day, but it always seemed forced. Any lack of deeper information from Capcom was definitely a sore spot in the canon. But here's an answer from Archie.
Star Marshals, Stardroids, and Ra Moon as the Stardroids' big bad leader. Now we have answers. It may not be the real answer Keiji Inafune had in mind, but dammit, it's an answer and it works. Their work with Shadow Man and Ra Moon in the past was perfect setup for this issue's "wham" moment.
Time and time again, it's not the main plot that surprises me and drags me back for more. No, not hardly. We know Mega Man wins, it's just a matter of how he gets there that makes it interesting. Just as they did with Agents Stern and Krantz and with Xander Payne and the Emerald Spears, Ian Flynn and the gang have taken it upon themselves to add to the continuity with layers and more layers. This comic book is now three and a half years old, and it's getting more complex... but it all fits together.
Let me repeat that. It all. Fits. Together. Do you know how rare that is in comic books, for everything to work and mesh?
Make no mistake, Blue Ink readers: There's a reason this comic gets mad props from Destructoid. The folks at Archie know what they're doing. I've never been prouder to write these reviews, because they've been pulling junk out of left field and surprising me for more than a full year now. A year full of constant eyebrow raises, chuckles, and me going, "Wow, I can't believe they did that..."
Gemini Man will get his, make no mistake about that. Now my curiosity is fully set on Shadow Man... and his destiny.
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.