"It began of nothing and in nothing it ends." -Cornelius Gallus
"Gone-glimmering through the dreams of things that were." -Lord Byron
What do Dust Man, Shade Man, and this issue all have in common?
They all suck.
This is the fifty-fifth issue, my friends. The very last issue. Archie even mailed out a flyer with it, informing those of us with subscriptions that our 'remaining issues' are being shifted over to Sonic Universe, which is just a shameless act for more issue revenue if there ever was one. A refund would have stung less than the stunt they pulled, because if I wanted Sonic Universe, I would have subscribed to it.
But let's get down to brass tacks, and follow the strange, myriad issue to its last moments.
We find ourselves, once more, in the Chronos Institute. Considering how much trouble it's caused, I'm amazed the place hasn't been shut down. While messing with the Time Skimmer, Dr. Light finds himself exposed to a particularly troublesome burst of tachyons. It's two pages of quick setup for the saddest slideshow ever.
Light sees glimpses of the future, all of which are familiar to the fans. Mega Man 4. Mega Man II. Mega Man 5. Mega Man 6. Mega Man V. Mega Man 7, 8, 9, 10. Amid the brain scrambling, he realizes Dr. Wily is still alive, and that he's destined to cause no end of trouble.
Not just in their own lifetime. He sees ahead into the future. A century.
Two centuries. Three. From Mega Man X, to Mega Man Zero, to Mega Man ZX... and to the shattered remnants of civilization that follow, after everything else, all history, has been wiped from existence. And in so doing, he realizes something we all know.
Things don't get better. The strife of the ongoing battles against Wily's machinations, the conflict between man and machine, organic and synthetic, never stops. Millennia from now, all that will be left of the world is ruins buried under water, their heroes forgotten.
But glorious occasions, this powerpoint presentation of peril is finally, thankfully, brought to an end, leaving Light contemplating a midlife crisis. Yet like a dream, it flickers and fades away.
With the visions of what he's witnessed lost to his conscious mind, all that Light is able to keep is a lingering sense of unease... and confidence that no matter what happens, he will be able to count on individuals like his son, Mega Man, to stand up and face against injustice and those that cause it.
But then, that's the sin of the father... it becomes the burden of the son. Light can feel reassured that tomorrow will be brighter, because he's able to forget.
We aren't so lucky.
As they say, all things come to an end. Television shows. Book series. Then there's Schmendrick's position, that there are no endings, because the story never stops. For this comic book -- and for our favorite blue robot hero -- there is most definitely an end. And it wasn't the sort of end I would have gone with.
Perhaps this last issue's content, a wishing well vision of everything that might have been if the comic book had been allowed to continue, is a form of grief therapy, a coping mechanism carried out by Ian Flynn and his team. Or perhaps they just gave up. "Well, it's the last issue, so meh... slideshow? Slideshow. Sure, that works. Have fun sketching out the artwork. I'm going to skimp on the script this time around because it no longer matters."
We'll never get the chance to see how things would have played out; they'll never get to write it. So instead, we have all these poster images of what might have been. Of what has been. I can't help but compare how this comic book ended to how other intellectual properties brought themselves to a close.
Gargoyles had Goliath and Elisa finally admitting the depth of their love for each other upon the clan being outed in public and returning to their ancestral home. M.A.S.H. had the Korean War draw to a close, at last, with Hawkeye flying away on a chopper and looking down to a message his friend BJ Hunnicut laid out in white stones: "Goodbye." Danny Phantom saved the freaking planet, was internationally declared a hero, and got his storybook ending.
Then there were the endings that just... weren't satisfying at all. SWAT Kats got canned, and the last episode was a freaking trip down memory lane with nothing but re-used segments from past shows. seaQuest DSV spiraled out of control after the first season, and instead of dying nobly, waned on until there was nothing about it worth to admire. And Neon Genesis Evangelion... good lord, that show. I knew a guy in college who damn near committed suicide from how they let that series conclude. No, really -- we had to put him on watch.
I've known for a while that this comic book was ending. I learned about it the same time you all did, but I suppose I was figuring that they'd finish out strong. This wasn't a bang, it was a whimper. And the message, while one I used myself 14 years ago in "Whispers In Time," wasn't really applicable in Light's situation. After learning how things were going to turn out, most men in his position would do something dramatic. Xander Payne saw only a few minutes of 21XX, and was so shaken by it that he created a new identity and started funding Wily to make things worse so they'd turn out better. What did I expect Light to do when pushed through a similar epiphany?
Anything but what happened. Stab himself in the chest. Put a bullet through his own head. Call for the complete decommissioning of every robot. Become an even more maniacal overlord than Wily ever tried for. But his experience gets handwaved? He forgets it? And his final statement is, "It doesn't matter how badly things get pooched over, because there'll be folks to pick up the slack?"
2015 must be the year of 'disappoint the fans', because between this and Season 5 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, I am thoroughly not amused. But then, we're Mega Man fans. We're used to disappointment. Mega Man Legends 3. Mega Man Maker... oh, sorry, I meant Mega Man Universe. Wonderful job, Capcom, Nintendo's making bank and you screwed yourselves out of that golden goose. The fact is, Mega Man is a niche market. I've accepted this. And game companies, perhaps, have all gotten a little too big for themselves. Or their executives have been wearing ties for so long, they've choked off the oxygen to the parts of their brains not dedicated to raw sales numbers and their self-awarded bonuses.
The last Mega Man comic book, done by Dreamwave, lasted four issues. This one by Archie lasted 55. That's four and a half years. Four and a half years of really terrific storytelling. I've loved this comic since issue 1. Aside from the crossovers, they have been an enjoyable romp, and their take on characterizations, on the development between individuals, the bold decisions of Flynn and the gang to do more to expand the universe beyond just novelizations, were all marvelous.
For them to stumble at the finish line like this is sad... but perhaps expected. When have we ever had a Mega Man series which concluded on a good note?
Answer: We haven't.
This will be the last "Blue Ink" I'll ever write. I'm sad that this comic is coming to a close. I'm angry that Archie decided to cancel it, regardless of whatever other 'projects' may or may not be in the works. And I'm resigned, I suppose, to the entertainment industry at large never doing anything meaningful with Mega Man ever again.
But you know what? Maybe that's just fine. If Archie can't keep the love going, if Capcom is content to squeeze the last drops of sentimentality and cash out of the die-hard fans by doing re-releases of old games and never committing to another game again, then it's time for another revolution.
For more than a decade, I wrote Mega Man fanfiction. I wrote so much of it, it became this thing called the "Legacy of Metal." I got better, the more I kept at it. And I'm at a point in my life where there isn't much else I can do with it.
But others can. We have people who still write music. Who come up with fantastic fan games. "Mega Man X: Corrupted" is my current project I keep on watch. And there are those of you out there who, like I once did, still want to write about it. To try and come up with something new.
I hate the notion of Light passing off responsibility for the chaos he's had a large hand in creating to the generations yet to come. In a way, his sentiment mirrors that of Mega Man's parent company. So, you all have a choice.
Let it lie and rot... or pick up the torch, and keep running. A day will come when intellectual property left abandoned and besmirched can be revived and salvaged by those who still care about it. Did we stop telling the legends of Odysseus and Gilgamesh just because their authors perished? Is Shakespeare off-limits to reproduction or reinterpretation? To all of that, the answer is an emphatic "hell no."
And so it will be with Mega Man. So long as there are still fans who care enough about a little robot in blue willing to risk all to preserve the peace for however long it can last, we'll take his heroics, and the lessons instilled in us, along with us. We'll pass on these stories. And new stories, new adventures will be written. Not by those who stand to profit from it.
By those who care about it.
So, for the last time, faithful readers...
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.