"This is a war universe. War all the time. That is its nature. There may be other universes based on all sorts of other principles, but ours seems to be based on war and games." -William S. Burroughs
"I'm back, bitches!" -Vegeta, Dragonball Z Abridged by Team FourStar
Hey, everybody. Welcome back to The Blue Ink, done by yours truly, Erico. Didja miss me?
Now that we're past the debacle of Worlds Unite, I can look back and say with confidence that... yup, I was right when I made the claims in my last Blue Ink Editorial. I found it to be a cluttered, forced crossover which failed to spend enough time developing in the ways it should have. Still, when word comes down that you're doing a crossover to try and raise subscription revenues... what can you do?
You wait it out, and then you get back to business as usual. My thanks to Mighty No. X, who took over reviewing the crossovers in my absence. I am saddened that it seems we won't have very many of these Blue Inks left to do before the comic gets cancelled... er, goes on hiatus. So, let's press on and see what's happening in this issue.
From the previews, we know that Mega Man is as jittery as a cat in a rocking chair factory. We can't really blame him: it's the world he lives in. Having been active as a warrior for so long, Mega Man finds it hard to shut that part of him off. When Guts Man calls for assistance, he comes in with his Buster ready for battle, only to find they needed a little extra muscle to help move stuff around for the Robot Museum. Mega Man is discovering what so many returning war veterans know: when you come home from the war, you aren't the same person you were when you deployed. The war comes home with you.
Mega Man isn't the only person left emotionally drained after everything that's happened. Dr. Light, who time and time again extended his hand out in friendship and camaraderie to Dr. Wily, relives the first time he sought to keep his curmudgeonly associate within the fold. Perhaps Light has come to regret all his charity, in view of all that's happened.
Mega Man is also troubled by the realization that so many of his robot friends are set to be decommissioned after an arbitrary expiration date, which rightly drives him up a cliff. Between feeling guilty about having to fight them, not being able to stop being Mega Man and just be Rock again, and realizing his friends don't have the same capacity for thought and worry as he does, our Blue Bomber's a fair mess in dire need of some psychotherapy.
Too bad he won't get any, because the wheels of evil never stop turning.
Back in Mr. X's hidden base, wherever it may be, we find Wily confronting our enigmatic billionaire terrorist with the truth of his real identity. After some exposition about Mr. X learning that some aspects of fate are immutable, at least when it comes to pets, we learn that Xander Payne pulled a Biff Tannen to become filthy stinking rich, all for the express purpose of preventing a robotic future.
To accomplish this, he freely admits to Wily, he plans on helping the mad scientist achieve every dark scheme possible. This may not be the smartest idea; never inform a mad scientist he's just a disposable pawn. They start getting creative.
For the moment, Wily is happy to work within the program. You don't burn a bridge until you no longer need it, after all... and with the field reports coming in from Shadow Man, Wily is kept well informed of the goings-on of both his former Robot Masters as well as his current scheme. And who doesn't love getting high fives from an alien robot?
But that brings us back to Mega Man, who as always, must shoulder the burden of putting insane schemes down before they can cause terrible harm upon the innocents. This time, though, it isn't Wily stirring up the pot. To the shock of the entire Light clan, it's an old friend of theirs who we haven't had a good look at since the first Emerald Spears story arc. World, meet Dr. Cossack. Dr. Cossack, the world.
And just like that, the frail peace ends. Rock has to stay on the sidelines; the world needs Mega Man.
The Blue Bomber is headed back to war. If only he didn't seem so happy about it.
We've dealt with minor examples of the split personality between Rock and Mega Man. The thinker and the fighter. We shuddered when Mega Man gave in to his darker impulses and blew Heat Man's head off. We cringed when Mega Man risked all to stop Ra Moon and save the world, regardless of the cost to himself.
This isn't the same cheerful, reluctant soldier we started with fifty issues ago, no. Now, Mega Man has become the default personality, while Rock is little more than an afterthought, something that our hero is never quite comfortable staying in the shoes of.
There was always room for exploration into the psychological condition of Mega Man. I perused it a little over a decade ago when I wrote "Whispers In Time," and my fellow "Legacy of Metal" co-author Magus kept it up in his original novelizations, reaching the point by Mega Man 7 that he had Rock actually going and speaking to a psychiatrist about his existence and identity.
At the same time, though, Mega Man was always more of a cheerful, bubblegum world, while Mega Man X's time period was made to be darker, edgier, and more dangerous. Mega Man fought one madman and his puppets. Mega Man X lived in a world torn apart by the fires of species conflict. In hindsight, I often asked myself, by taking the "Legacy of Metal" to its logical conclusion... had I gone too far? Had I made what was once a simple tale of a young robot saving the world from an evil doctor into something so starkly divided from the source material that I had, in fact, dishonored it?
What is culturally acceptable changes all the time. We know this from history. People once believed owning slaves was moral. People once believed that keeping their ethnicity pure was preferable. And in terms of sexuality, what is culturally acceptable has bounced from one end of the spectrum to the other since the time of the Greeks and Romans, and even before that. Take a good look at Egyptian dynasties sometime, if you don't believe me. They took "keeping it in the family" to new extremes. By that same measure, what is acceptable in terms of deviation from the source material has also changed.
We no longer care for straight "novelizations" of things anymore. We crave something different, we seek originality in thought and plot when we search for stories to read... and in my case, to write. I wrote an entire novel for Mega Man in which the titular character only appeared in the epilogue, and never spoke a word, focusing on Light, Wily, and the world which allowed the Blue Bomber to be developed. In spite of this, it's perhaps the Mega Man story I'm proudest of.
So am I offended, or worried, to see Ian Flynn and the team spending an issue focusing on how much Rock has changed, and how much Mega Man dominates his consciousness? No, not particularly. I think it's worth examining, and discussing. I think it's an issue within the issue that deserves additional attention.
What is the cost of taking someone and asking them to be a soldier, to be a hero, to stand up and risk their lives so others might have a peaceful existence? For some, the cost is their sanity. For others, it means never being able to truly feel at peace. Once they've been out there, in the thickest parts of combat, they never really come home. My grandfather was never able to talk of his experiences in World War II. I have known friends who were never the same after their tours.
This is the price that Rock has had to pay; the mantle of Mega Man is dominant, and he is now more comfortable in armor than he is in shorts and a t-shirt. Regardless of the wishes of his family, or even the lingering half-baked wishes of his own, he can't go back. Indeed, his restlessness indicates he would prefer for the fighting to continue. Perhaps it's easier after a while to not think about what comes after. As Tony Stark said in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, "there is only the mission."
Appalling cover art aside, I don't qualify this issue as filler, if only for that reason. Once again, Flynn, Jamps, and the others have given us an issue which wears two faces: the simple story our kids can enjoy, and the deeper, hidden conversation we adult fans can see playing out.
We only have a few issues left. The Archie team plans on making them count.
And so do I, for whatever it's worth.
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.