"That's what it takes to be a hero, a little gem of innocence inside you that makes you want to believe that there still exists a right and wrong, that decency will somehow triumph in the end." -Lise Hand
This issue has a lot going on...I mean, a lot. So, it'll help for us to keep everything straight by dividing it into three sections: 20XX, the Maverick Hunters, and who else but Payne.
Thankfully for sanity's sake, the section concerning 20XX can be summarized easily and quickly: Wily's a lying, backstabbing jerk who's doing everything he can to stymie Light's frantic attempts to provide much needed chopper backup to Mega Man, Bright Man, and Pharaoh Man. Cossack still doesn't trust the wild-haired lunatic farther than he can throw him, which is a good thing, and Mega Man can't really make a dent in the Wily Walker. Considering that his little brother and pals are having just as much trouble with it 100 years later, that's understandable. The only really memorable segment of the 20XX storyline is this:
Oh, ha ha... I see what you did there. Let's move on to what really counts: My favorite Azure Hunter and pals.
X has been busy down inside the ruins of the mesa making sure that rubble doesn't squash Dr. Cain like a bug while the archaeologist is digging around for any useful information on the enormous Maverick mechaniloid (though we know it's a robot) moving towards Arcadia City. That's left Vile and Zero of the 17th Unit to deal with slowing the thing down. Their weapons are more powerful than Mega Man's Mega Buster from 100 years ago, but the Wily Walker is tough as nails. It also clues us in about Zero's origins with a not so subtle hint.
It seems that somehow, even back when he first built the Wily Walker, prior to all his Robot Masters, Wily had the forethought to make sure that every one of his creations had a unique IF/F marker built into it that every other one would recognize. The Wily Walker takes one look at Zero and goes, "Nope, not fighting you..." and moves on to Vile. Of course, that safeguard's thrown out the window once Zero gets ticked off enough to get serious and make the thing override the "Do Not Kill" order. After that, it's a free-fire zone.
Meantimes, Cain's been examining the relic he found in the last issue, and discovers that the robot's more than a walking death machine: It's a walking death machine with enough chemical weapons in it to wipe out Arcadia City's human population if the Hunters crack it open in the wrong way. X quickly BWOO-WIPs to the surface to warn Zero and Vile that the thing's an enormous bomb just waiting to pop. Zero, of course, tries to come up with a plan to stop it without endangering humans.
Vile, on the other hand, just stops it. He whips around his shoulder mortar, fires a big old Front Runner multishot, and destroys the entire highway system that it's currently stomping through... concrete, cars, and humans all. This doesn't sit well with X or Zero, as you'd expect, but for Vile? It's just collateral damage.
And at last we get to the meat of the 21XX Hunters arc. It's not about X. It's not about Zero. It's not even really about Sigma. No... it's always Vile that this story's been leading us to; his fall from grace. Vile believes that to save a city, it's all right to break a few heads that just happen to be in the blast radius.
Small wonder he gets branded a Maverick and stuffed in a prison cell... or why he hates X.
Of course, Vile's act of random chaotic heroics also has an influence on the third important storyline. Remember that Xander Payne guy?
Well, after being poofed onto the exact highway where Vile sets us up the bomb, he finds himself dangling to a bit of broken suspension bridge high off the ground, and then falling when he loses his grip. Luckily for him, X is there to save him. Unluckily for X, the guy he saves is Xander Payne, who takes one look at him and then pulls one of those "It's all your fault!" moments. X rolls his eyes, not sure what the eyepatch goon is smoking, but identifies his outfit as one of the Emerald Spears terrorists, and hauls him in to be arrested and taken away from the danger zone.
Ooh, and he gets to ride in a Bee Blader? I wanna ride in a Bee Blader! Daddy, daddy, I want one! (If you're a good little Erico, then maybe Santa will give you one for Christmas. --Ed.)
And here I thought that Xander Payne was stuck in the future... Hmm, seems I was wrong. The same phenomena that kept bouncing him forward in time ends up pulling him away from 21XX again. The question is, will it keep sending him forward, or will it operate like an enormous bungee tether pulled to its limit, snapping him back to his original time and the Chronos Institute? More as it develops.
Back to giant robot fighting time.
Having finally decided that the other Maverick Hunters have been awesome enough, Sigma teleports into the ruins to check in on Dr. Cain before rejoining his three errant comrades. The recording device Cain found sputters out, but is active long enough for Sigma to get a precise look at the chemical weapons deposits that the Wily Walker is carrying. Armed with the information needed to disable the thing safely, he runs over and meets up with the other members of the 17th Unit and X.
When Sigma arrives, he whips off his cape and brandishes his beam saber. That's right, boys and girls. Sigma, Vile, X, and Zero are all fighting on the same team, and we all squee in high pitched voices.
This just got fun.
Two things to talk about today in the editorial section of this review: Vile's personality traits and the time travel misadventures of one Xander Payne.
As we've said before, Vile is one smug, cocky, gun-totin' maniac. Why, it's his defining characteristic. But here, we've been given a glimpse into what clearly delineates him from other smug, cocky, gun-totin' maniacs. Unlike Zero, he doesn't mind a little collateral damage, civilian casualties, or destruction. His philosophy is that you crack eggshells to make an omelet, so why not injure a few humans to save a city?
This is against the more Captain Kirk philosophy that most other Hunters espouse: Not believing in the no-win scenario, nobody dies on my watch, that sort of thing. It could be said that Vile is a bit of a pragmatist. It's just too bad that pragmatism in a reploid, when it comes to human life, is a bad trait to have. I guarantee you that it'll come back to haunt him later, and most likely in the next issue. Vile probably sees himself as someone willing to make the hard choices, which the soft-hearted X can't. So if X ends up being the big damn hero, and all Vile gets is a reprimand or worse, it's gonna set him off.
His vendetta against X lasts through every video game he features in, and it's nice to see an explanation for it.
And we find ourselves once again talking about Xander Payne... but this time, not about his personality or his mindset. Let's talk about his time-jumping. Starting with what we know:
- Xander Payne went forward in time.
- The Emerald Spears are still operating in the future.
- He's promised to stop this apocalyptic robotic future, and then he poofed again.
Does he keep poofing forward and see more weird stuff, or does he, like I postulated earlier, get "snapped back" to 20XX with a full memory of all the "nightmares" he's witnessed? And here's the big kicker: Did his time travel trip change anything? Well, it depends on the kind of time travel framework you're using.
If you were using Bill and Ted logic, all he'd have to do is say "When I get out of here, I'm going back in time and I'm going to do Y instead of X" and then POOF, the changes would happen right in front of his eyes, surprising everyone. You remember that scene in the second movie when Chuck De Nomolos poofed up a key to get him out of the cage that Bill and Ted time-traveled to drop on him... and then time traveled to get himself another space gun, and the thing appeared right after he said he would? Yeah. Well, obviously, that didn't happen, so Bill and Ted time travel is out of the equation.
The next two are the Back to The Future time travel framework and the Gargoyles time travel framework. If Xander Payne's little chronoton-induced trip follows BttF rules, if/when he goes back in time with the knowledge of the future, he'll move forward to change things, resulting in a bifurcation, or alternate timeline that completely skews away from the 21XX we've seen so far. Like alternate 1985... the only way to reset it was to stop the change in 1955, meaning the only way to stop his changes is to stop him in 20XX.
My personal favorite look on this situation, however, is the Gargoyles time travel framework. This is the one that states that he was destined to come forward in time and see things, that his fate is immutable... just as Goliath was destined to travel back in time to the Battle of the Blitz, rescue Griff, and bring him forward in time to 1995. Well, using that framework, Xander Payne is destined to see the future, then go back and do whatever he does... and he changes nothing. The Emerald Spears still exist in the future as an ineffective countermeasure to the ongoing turmoil of race relations and Maverick violence.
One reason I like using the Gargoyles framework for figuring out how all this time-hopping relates is that the Emerald Spears are still alive and kicking in 21XX, and as I've stated before, I doubt very much that his brother and his brother's girlfriend have the cojones to continue to lead the fight against the march of technological progress.
Of course, all of this is just a theory... a Game Theor... whoops, almost went there. Bad Erico. Bad. (Shh! You want to get sued? --Ed.) Suffice to say, I'm just guessing here. An educated guess, but a guess nonetheless. I won't know for certain until I see more data. You can't really figure out a graph of an equation from two data points alone. We haven't seen the bigger picture yet.
When we do, knowing the team at Archie, we'll all be raising our eyebrows and going, "Oooh... didn't see that coming."
Not even me.
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.