"The strangest and most wonderful fact about negative emotions is that people actually worship them." --P.D. Oupensky, The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution
My, my. This was quite a fun little issue to read. Not so much about explosions this time; we're diving into the madness of the mechanical mind, because it seems everyone in this issue has something to see a shrink about.
Let's start with Mega Man. As he leads the archaeological team of Drs. Light, Cossack, and Astil (along with Pharaoh Man, Plant Man, Rush, and Roll) to investigate whether Ra Moon is well and truly dead, he's plagued by what could only be described as robotic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The others are a source of comfort and consolation to him. They offer up understanding, and as Dr. Light explains to Mega Man, we all live with fear. Dr. Astil got over the trauma of the initial expedition's disaster, which led to his team all being killed and him losing his arm. Mega Man has to do the same, and Light even praises that he is able to show guilt over his actions, even if Ra Moon was evil. And sure enough, when they reach the inner sanctum, they find that Ra Moon is really, most sincerely dead.
More than that, they find evidence to back up Wily's claim that Ra Moon used him, and that he tried to stop the machine from destroying the world. While Cossack is incredibly dubious about Light's insistence on always leaping to Wily's defense, he keeps it in check after voicing his opinion.
That brings us to the second story arc in the 20XX setting: The unexpected arrival of Break Man at the home of Quake Woman/Tempo and Dr. Lalinde. At the conclusion of the past issue, he demanded to know why the female robot called Dr. Lalinde "family."
Bringing him inside, Quake Woman attempts to explain why she calls Lalinde mother in spite of everything that's happened, but Break Man is forever argumentative, blurring the lines between his life and hers. More importantly, while he insists that it's not about him... it clearly isn't. He came to Quake Woman trying to get a bearing on his own problems.
Finally, in a mix of rage and exasperation after Quake Woman powers down to Tempo, Rock's older brother slams his fist into the wall and breaks a painting. Unable to stand by and listen to any more, Lalinde storms in and gives Blues a final point in the argument which makes him leave. She tells him that perhaps, just perhaps, Light made Rock and Roll not to replace him, but to give him a brother and sister-- a family to belong to. Break Man doesn't enjoy the thought much at all, because he leaves without another word.
Even with all that's happened, Lalinde and Tempo show something that Break Man himself refuses to even try for: A willingness to try and heal their relationship, acknowledging that family is too precious to be lost.
And then there's what's happening in 21XX.
While most of reploid society in Arcadia (hah, I see what you did there, Ian Flynn) is a positive part of the city, with Blast Hornet even rescuing balloons for snot-nosed brats, there have still been a few troubling incidents of reploids committing acts of violence, and most recently, murder. These irregular reploids, which have become nicknamed "Mavericks," are a serious enough issue that Arcadia's city council calls Dr. Cain in to testify on the situation. With Mega Man X watching from the cheap seats, we are witness to a singularly important moment in reploid history...
The birth of the Maverick Hunters.
Two months after this council meeting, Dr. Cain's best and latest reploid, Sigma, leads the Maverick Hunters in rounding up Mavericks and dragging them into custody. He's already had his eventful duel with the 'crazy red Maverick' who we'll come to know as Zero in a flashback panel, and emerged with the scars from that fight... and perhaps something more. Still, all seems somewhat in control. Sigma and the Maverick Hunters continue their work to maintain the peace, but X, forever searching for a better way, isn't entirely convinced that Sigma's way is the right way.
And here in those last two panels, we see the psychology at work in Sigma's mind. Maverick Virus or no Maverick Virus, depending on your interpretation of events, he has already begun to distinguish his mindset into am "us" and "them" mindset. He doesn't talk about protecting the humans. He talks about protecting the reploids. He says that he will keep the reploids safe. Not that he'll keep Arcadia safe, or keep the peace safe... just reploids. A sense of superiority has already gripped Sigma's heart. Hubris, that most ancient ingredient of all Greek tragedies, makes its appearance.
And there's nothing we can do except wait... and watch.
As I get older, I learn to appreciate certain aspects of storytelling more than I did before. While I relish a well done battle scene, more often my attention is drawn by well thought out interludes and moments between characters, be they humorous, serious, or romantic. Perhaps that's why my later works in the Legacy of Metal are so unlike the first fanfics I wrote fourteen years ago. These 'downtime' moments show the depth, not only of the characters, but of the chronicle and the authors themselves.
Blues is such a fantastic character to read in these comic books. From his early days of happiness to his bitter retreat from Light to keep his individuality, we witness a robot coming into a sense of self that is entirely unlike that of anyone else. Now, as he struggles to deal with the inner turmoil of his own heart, he reaches out, in a flawed fashion, to try and make sense of his own life by looking through the lives of those who came before him.
It's hard to say which way he'll go from here. Like a rock balanced precariously atop a mountain, he could fall in either direction. One thing Flynn and the rest of the Archie team have shown is that they take nothing for granted. There will be no handwaving as to his sudden shift in allegiance. When Blues does inevitably decide to help Mega Man, albeit in his own fashion, it will be at the end of a long and arduous mental journey.
Then there's Mega Man himself, who like so many of my friends, neighbors, and countrymen, return from overseas with a damaged sense of self. Even if they sustain no lasting physical injury or disability, so many combat veterans carry the scars in their minds and hearts, and I couldn't help but draw a connecting line between them and our fictional hero.
Perhaps a child reading this comic book will make that connection themselves; they will see how traumatized Mega Man was by Ra Moon, and realize that this is why their mother or father seems so different from how they were before they came back. Whether they intended to or not, the Archie team created a moment in this issue that kids could discuss with their parents. There are some discussions we should have with our kids. Talking about how our experiences can change us is definitely one of them.
And that brings us to Sigma. Even though he only appears for two pages in this month's issue, the impact his life and experiences will have on others are immense. The transition, even only hinted, of his prideful fall from defender of Arcadia to a rebellious warrior for the reploid cause willing to commit genocide, is one whose beginnings are witnessed fully in the last two frames. A shiver ran down my spine. His form in silhouette, the glow in his eyes, and the feigned smile as he told X that until the forebear of the reploid race found a better way, he would protect them all.
This is an entirely different beast. Sigma's motivations have never fully been explained, but I doubt that, even if the Maverick Virus had a hold on him, he would have succumbed to the urge to go Maverick just on that alone. Like a whispering demon in his ear, pride, hubris, and folly are his guides. Sigma's presentation is similar to other fallen angels and knights in sour armor. What causes a good man to turn? What makes a paladin become a blackguard? We know Sigma's at last, and we realize that his soul was not as dark as some thought, nor are ours as white.
Comic book writers and artists always have my respect. What I might do in 30,000 to 40,000 words, they have to show in 30 to 35 pages. The ones who can do it well create something others will harken to. As a generation grew up with Neil Gaiman and Frank Miller, so too is a generation growing up on the work of Flynn, Jampole, and Spaziante. Make no mistake, this is good material we're seeing here. This is a comic worth reading, keeping, remembering, and discussing.
So keep discussing. Keep talking about it. We're a part of a once great fandom, after all. Just because the games are dead doesn't mean that the stories and lessons have to die also. There are still things we can learn from Mega Man and all that comes with him. There are aspects that connect to our lives, and which can enrich our understanding, if we let them. If we listen for them.
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.