"With trembling hands, I made a tiny breach in the upper left hand corner...widening the hole a little, I inserted the candle and peered in. At first I could see nothing, the hot air escaping the chamber causing the candle to flicker. Presently, details of the room emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues and gold-everywhere the glint of gold. For the moment-an eternity it must have seemed to others standing by-I was struck dumb with amazement, and when Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand in suspense any longer, inquired anxiously, "Can you see anything?" it was all I could do to get out the words, "Yes. Wonderful things." --Howard Carter, on finding King Tut's tomb
It's one of those double feature days, folks! A taste of the Blue Bomber, and then a hint of the madness that would follow in the century after. I shall do my best to split my attention between them, but as someone who grew up writing Mega Man X fan fiction, and who got pretty good at it, the editorial portion of the review will focus exclusively on our Azure Hunter (A note from some lawyer-y looking types suggests we refrain from further referring to Mega Men as "azure" for what will be known simply as "reasons." --Ed.).
Wily's in jail, and Mega Man has made it a point to return to the Lanfront Ruins to determine once and for all the aftermath of it all. At his side are Roll, Rush, Plant Man, Pharaoh Man, and the good doctors Light, Cossack, and Astil. From the start, we know it won't be easy for them. There's still plenty of traps left scattered around the ruins, and Pharaoh Man can't help but chide Mega Man for tripping one and then blowing the priceless artifact to pieces. Hey, let the tomb raiding archaeologist robot handle point. You're the paladin and he's the rogue, it's party dynamics!
His reason for returning is noble, at least. He wants to find some kind of information that will give credence to Wily's wild theory that while he shot the sheriff, he did not shoot the deputy. They're not alone, though. The Series 3 Wilybots are also present, and thanks to Snake Man's little scouting buddies, they're keeping tabs on the group. And a good thing, too. They've come to find Shadow Man, and they've been hunting him for days... the arrival of Mega Man and crew is just the nudge in the right direction to get our ninja robot to come leaping out of the shadows and try for a sneak attack.
While Mega Man and team remain oblivious, the Series 3 Wilybots put the hurt on Shadow Man something awful, finally ending with Hard Man doing a butt-press to pin Shadow Man to the ground. He expects death, but something else is waiting for him...
And so Shadow Man, desirous of belonging to something, anything again, after Ra Moon was destroyed and his purpose in life vanished, agrees to join them. The Robot Masters make for the "building site" (presumably the third Skull Castle), but Break Man has other things on his mind.
All of this happens while Mega Man and his friends dive deeper into the ruins. Expecting trouble, they're still equipped with the EMP protective coating. And will there be trouble? We don't know.
Of more interest is Break Man's diversion. While the rest of the Wilybots made for the build site of their new Skull Castle, Break Man took a side trip to Geoworks International, where Dr. Lalinde makes her home with Quake Woman.
Walking out of the shadows, Break Man asks a question that has long been burning in his mind:
And then it was the time of Mega Man X... 21XX, and what's archaeologist Dr. Cain up to?
Why, he's digging in the dirt and looking for fossils. But he doesn't find fossils, at least not the kind he's looking for.
This is all taken directly from the Mega Man X instruction manual, from all the way back in 1993. They add flourishes to it, of course... Ball de Vouxes are apparently preexisting, and not a development based on reploid technology. This means other mechaniloids are likely around as well. Cain digs into the forgotten lab of Dr. Light, finds X's capsule, opens it, and it's Pandora's Box time. Things start out smoothly, as we expect them to. They make a reploid based on X's design notes, and then it goes international. Reploids get built everywhere.
But that's when the trouble starts... isn't it?
One of the reasons so many of us in the Mega Man fan community were drawn to Mega Man X like moths to a flame was that it was a grittier, nastier, faster paced version of the game we had played when we were kids. Suddenly, it wasn't just run/jump/shoot, it was dash/wall jump/charge shot FIRE FIRE FIRE FIRE. Writing stuff for Mega Man X is always tough. Things only ever seem to get worse in the world as the series progresses, leading up to the cataclysmic events that take us to Mega Man Zero and 22XX. One of the toughest things I had to deal with as I went along was, "Just how much of a crapsack world do I really want to write about?" For all the angst and drama bombs I threw into my decade old stuff that teenagers love, I still tried to leave smidgens of hope and happiness. If you follow the logical chain of events, the Maverick uprisings and insurrections have one inevitable outcome: Total collapse of the world order, and a severe depopulation and loss of natural and energy resources. A self-inflicted extinction. My "Legacy of Metal" co-author, Magus, put together a capstone story to end the tale along this course of apocalyptic events.
It got so bad that I finally broke down and said, "Hey, that's one way it could go... what needs to change to keep the world of 21XX to maintain just a little more hope and prosperity?" And that was where "Mega Man X: Maverick Hunters" came in. A reboot to keep the world from going to hell in a handbasket. One of these days, I should get back to that... but my new career path has kept me extremely busy with classwork and practical skills. But then again, it's health care and medicine. You wouldn't want a half-assed person trying to keep you healthy now, would you? (Why not? That's the kind of person who replicated X, and look how that turned... oh, right. Never mind. --Ed.)
The Archie crew, in doing this small Mega Man X preview story arc, has two goals that I can sound out:
1) They're testing the waters. Do people want more Mega Man X? Does it deserve its own comic book?
2) Can they do it in such a way that it doesn't end up as a crapsack world full of blood and death and violence and hopelessness and a Hell on earth? This is a kid's comic, after all. We don't want to introduce our young'uns to wangst too early in their lives. They already have cell phone glazeface and socialization problems, we don't want to make it worse.
The challenge is great. The writers on the Mega Man team will always be asking themselves, "How much is too much?" Where's the line? What things can they never do? What's the wall?
I imagine that Ian Flynn and the others thought long and hard about these issues before they ever attempted this short side-story arc. They have a chance here to establish a version of Mega Man X that doesn't want to slit his own wrists every second day of the week, and make a world that still has a chance. Personally, I'd recommend avoiding the "Day of Sigma" story arc. Sigma nukes the city and kills off Cain, all in one fell swoop? Don't go there. That's a red line.
Where this all leads, I don't know. I know the risks and the possible benefits of this course... but like everyone else, I'm simply an observer to the passage of time. That it should be a timeline where there's still a chance... that is our hope.
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.