by Mighty No. X
Welcome to the final installment of Mighty No. X’s "Worlds Unite Weekly," your weekly source of Worlds Unite reviews.
The context of this review is somewhat unusual. In most reviews, the purpose is to point out weaknesses and strengths in the work, and to suggest alternate approaches that could have yielded a better product. The same can’t apply for Worlds Unite: writer Flynn was placed under an extraordinarily large number of creative restrictions both large and small. I’m sure that Flynn recognized many of the crossover’s flaws and conceived of many alternative solutions he couldn’t implement.
Worlds Unite and Worlds Collide share a rather similar story structure for their first acts, and it’s worth comparing the two acts to see where each succeeds and fails. At the start of Worlds Unite, I was convinced I liked it a little better than the start of Collide, but as Act Two started I liked Unite’s opening a little less.
Both crossovers spend their first issues detailing how the villains pull together their plans. Collide was able to take advantage of the novelty of bringing together Wily and Eggman for the first time, while Unite tried to recreate that sequence with Sigma’s arrival in Lost Hex. In terms of dialogue, Collide’s introduction clearly wins out; Flynn plays Wily and Eggman against each other in such a playful but believable way that these segments are a delight to read.
Unite certainly has a bit of an edge plot-wise; unlike in Collide, we don’t know Sigma’s ultimate plan, and it’s clearly more elaborate than fusing the plots of a Sonic and Mega Man game as in Collide. Sigma’s machinations provide strong motivation to read later parts of the crossover, but don’t help the first act, which is guided more by Wily and Eggman’s roboticizing scheme than by Sigma.
X’s excursion into the Sonic Boom world is unexpected, but the central focus of this act unfolds exactly as promised at the beginning. We know what Sonic Man and M’egga Man are supposed to do, and they execute their functions perfectly. In Collide, Sonic and Mega Man’s restorations are an interesting turn of events; in Unite, this is what Wily and Eggman wanted to happen, so it feels less meaningful.
It’s eventually revealed that Wily and Eggman botched their plan and are forced to flee, but Unite’s Act One felt very predictable in a way Collide’s did not. In terms of their actual designs M’egga Man and Sonic Man are fascinating “final boss” variations of the heroes, and the combat scenes involving them are fun, if unsurprising.
First and foremost, the second act suffers from a strange sense of pacing. The first issue of Act Two is essentially the end of Act One, and the last issue is basically the introduction to Act Three. As a result, the centerpiece of this act -- the fight against the Deadly Six and assorted minions -- fails to attain its maximum potential. The idea of a machine-controlling race of monsters pushed beyond their capacity by Sigma is highly exciting at first glance, but in application the Deadly Six come across as an obstacle en route to Sigma, rather than a devious threat on their own.
The Deadly Six’s machine control, in particular, feels underutilized. The fight takes a turn for the dark when the Deadly Six possess the Mega Man characters’ bodies, but the situation is quickly resolved without any lasting implications. If someone had been injured by a Robot Master, and remained injured for the rest of the crossover, it could have raised the stakes in an interesting way.
One of the most striking moments of the crossover is Mega Man’s self-inflicted charge shot in the Mega Man Battle Book, and it’s a shame this idea wasn’t explored a little more deeply. Having Wily and Eggman save the day is a clever idea in and of itself, but provided a highly convenient end to the conflict
Things become significantly more interesting when Sigma-2 (or Bigma) appears on the scene. The page spread of every Maverick surrounding Sigma-2 doesn’t have the shock value that the Robot Master page spread had in Collide, but it certainly serves its purpose. The appearance of the Street Fighter crew is well-handled, if irritating in the fact that both issues 6 and 7 tease the team’s imminent appearance, and the ground is laid for a mind-blowing Act Three. Issue 8 is definitely the crossover issue that makes one want to keep reading.
It would be hard not to be excited for Act Three. Much of Unite’s advertising paraded the many guest characters of Act Three, highlighting many of the most (and least) famous characters of SEGA and Capcom’s storied histories, and Bates’ awe-inspiring 12-piece poster only boosted anticipation. Unfortunately, Act Three has many great moments but a number of critical flaws that prove to be the undoing of both the act and the crossover. Its flaws are also the flaws of the crossover as a whole: wonderful individual moments, but frustrating plotting and pacing.
Judging from previous comments many readers deemed issues 9 and 10 -- the “world-hopping” issues -- to give each guest character insufficient time and inadequately distinct characterization. If the crossover were exclusively for die-hard fans of every SEGA and Capcom franchise on tap, that would be completely true. In theory, though, Flynn had to write these issues for every reader, ranging from the SEGA aficionado who still has an original Master System to the curious 7-year-old hooked in by Sonic Boom. Flynn doesn’t just need to show off developed worlds, but rather needs to introduce them; I think he did a very respectable job in this sense. The final product is a little too basic for true aficionados, and a little too heavy on prior understanding for the complete newcomer, but strikes a fairly good balance on the whole, which was probably far more difficult to execute than it might appear.
Even in these issues, though, the great logic flaw of Act Three is made clear: everything that already happened is rendered pointless by something new. The guest characters massively overpower the core fighters during issues 9 and 10, the Super forms massively overpower the guest characters in issues 11 and 12, and Xander’s portal-creating ability renders everything that already happened almost irrelevant.
The biggest victims with this sense of pointlessness are the guest characters. The Sonic and Mega Man characters had their day back in Act Two, with clever choreography that deftly grouped characters together, so it’s no great loss to see the power shift into the hands of new heroes. We only get less than a full issue of such synergistic battle amongst the guest characters, though -- as soon as Sigma-3 arrives, the focus shifts to Super Sonic and Super Mega Man, just like in Collide. I remember enjoying the Super states so much in Collide, but defaulting back to just these two heroes at the end of Unite betrays all the work done to bring dozens of compatriots into the fight.
The Classic-X Crossover Problem
At its heart, Unite is a crossover between two Sonic franchises, Mega Man, and Mega Man X. The sheer amount of time and energy that the creative team poured into the X backup stories during the Ra Moon arc, and the fitting moral ambiguity of the Dawn of X arc left me hoping that Flynn would be able to create something exciting when Rock and X were finally allowed to actually meet.
It’s no secret that I have always wanted Rock and X to team up; in fact, the very first article I wrote for this site is about just that. Probably my favorite individual story of the crossover is the backup story with X and Rock in conversation at the end of Issue 4; it works as a way to bring the heroes together intellectually rather than in combat, but so much potential Is still wasted. The connection between Wily and Sigma is never mentioned; Wily notices Zero once, but Zero certainly never notices Wily; X never interacts with Dr. Light directly.
The strength difference between the eras never emerges in combat. X is nominally stronger than Rock but the two are both overwhelmed at all the same junctions, and in the end it’s X who has to sit back and watch Mega Man save the day. Indeed, only Break Man is able to break free of the Deadly Six’s control. My wish for a deeper exploration of the Classic-X link is wishful thinking that Capcom would never condone, but Flynn probably could have differentiated between Rock and X a little more effectively.
Sigma’s appearance in Dawn of X was effective because Sigma dropped small but certain hints of his true nature; if an X comic were to ever be produced, I’m sure Sigma would be a fantastic antagonist. The Worlds Unite Sigma, on the other hand, comes across (at least to me) as a much more generic villain bent on destruction for the sake of ruling the world. Not once is his anti-human motivation explored (In fairness, Capcom seemed to forget that part themselves. --Ed.); indeed, he has Eggman build him a body in the first place. Sigma’s sense of sadism and the readiness with which he dispatches of his foes don’t become apparent until Sigma-3 appears, well into Issue 11. Sigma needed to unite worlds in Unite, and he did; I just wish the elements that made Sigma work in the X games and in Dawn of X were utilized in Unite.
The Archie Action comics editor, Paul Kaminski, apparently thought that Xander Payne would add a “human element” to the story, and the original draft of Unite gave Payne more page time than any of the other characters. Flynn cut down Payne’s appearances, but his pivotal role in the plot still remains. This creates a bizarre situation: Payne is the most important character in the crossover but has the page time of a B-list supporting character. The way he is presented, Payne is a painfully cheap move on the writer’s part: a portal-creating vigilante who bypasses plot obstacles by simply warping past them, and ultimately uses a portal to prevent the crossover from ever having happened.
For what it’s worth, X, Zero, and Axl are authentically written characters, but the majority of their screen time occurs early on while playing off of Sticks and the Sonic Boom world. These interactions work, but since these segments aren’t counter-balanced by more meaningful characterization later on their inclusion is a bit questionable.
Sticks’ inclusion in Unite and the degree to which she is used (her role in the Boom TV show is much, much smaller than in Unite) might alienate some, but Flynn really did an excellent job with the character. Her indefatigable insanity works, for the most part, and she brings a sense of life to a crossover than can sometimes feel restrained by corporate mandates. Comedy Chimp and Fastidious Beaver don’t add much to the overall equation, but serve nicely as foils for Sticks.
The Battle Books demonstrated a creativity that excelled beyond much of what was offered in the main line of issues. The darkest moments were darker (Mega Man shooting himself in the head), the crazy moments were crazier (the priceless Roll/Sticks debacle), and the introspective moments given the space they needed to play out (the Proto Man/Knuckles “fight”). The Free Comic Book day stories were underwhelming, compounded by the Sonic side’s re-appearance in Sonic# 275.
Each issue also includes a small gag strip at the end, usually written by Bill Freiberger, producer of the Sonic Boom cartoon. Maybe it’s just me, but they aren’t very funny at all. Much of the humor is of the “deliberate bad joke” variety, so this is to be expected, but saying that Mega Man engages in “mega humor” instead of “meta humor” isn’t exactly chuckle-inducing.
When interviewed about a possibility of having a third Worlds crossover, Kaminski jokingly(?) suggested that the final act of the trilogy would involve Nintendo characters like Mario joining in to save the day. Even if such a story were somehow possible, though, it’s not something I would want.
Flynn is the perfect person to write such crossovers, and the individual characters by themselves are rich characters with interesting backstories, but the sum is decidedly less satisfying than the individual parts in the case of Unite. By forcing Xander Payne to take a central role, the tale is resolved through the most unsatisfying route possible; by preventing guest characters from arriving in earnest before Act Three, the crossover was forced to having some severe pacing issues; and by restricting X from using a Super state, the character ultimately feels underutilized.
This is not to say that the crossover is irredeemable; so many frames, pages, and combat scenes are a joy to read. Flynn clearly loves all of the guest characters, and his knowledge and care for them translates onto the page.
As a final note, thank you for following along with these reviews, and thank you to LBD for your excellent editing (and captioning) skills. It’s been a pleasure to write for TMMN, and I look forward to Erico’s coverage of the final comic arc in the upcoming months.
Mighty No. X is a member of The Mega Man Network's User Content Submission System, and the views expressed here reflect the views of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Mega Man Network.