Earlier this week, UDON Entertainment Director of Publishing and Series Editor Matt Moylan passed along a digital copy of this week's new release, Mega Man Mastermix #1, for me to have a look at and possibly review -- and I've decided to do just that.
As a matter of full disclosure, I will add that Moylan and I have been friends for a number of years, and as some of you may remember, I've even written for UDON previously in the Mega Man Robot Master Field Guide. Not that I intend to let this color my opinions, but just the same, there it is.
For those who aren't already aware, Mega Man Mastermix is a full comic-size (versus the smaller digest-size of most manga compilations) printing of several of the stories from Mega Man Megamix by Hitoshi Ariga. Whereas most normal comic books run about 32 pages (of which around 20-22 are the actual story), this one is 80 pages long (with 64 pages of story content), lending itself to a price of $7.99 per issue.
However, it's not the size that's the draw, nor the all-new art featured on the six variant covers (well, not entirely, anyway). Rather, the main attraction is that for the first time ever, the stories contained within are now presented in full-color, thanks to the skills of one Josh Perez.
Well, I suppose that's not entirely true. You see, we'd been teased at the prospect of colored versions of Ariga's work as far back as the original collected Japanese print run of Rockman Megamix, such as the panels featured on the back cover of one volume, seen at right.
Interestingly enough, that's part of what makes Perez's work on Mega Man Mastermix so enticing, as his coloring style seems reminiscent of -- if not outright replicating -- what we saw on those dust covers so many years ago. It not only feels like the full realization of the concept, but also manages to appear distinct from most comic coloring styles one sees today -- including those used on Archie's own Mega Man book from a few years ago.
The story to kick things off is, as one might expect, "The Birth of Mega Man." This story loosely adapts the events of the first Mega Man game, including the moment when lab assistant Rock volunteers to be converted by his creator into a super fighting robot.
Unlike Archie's version, which was quite faithful to the game over its four-issue story arc, Ariga's version is much more condensed and truncated, largely focusing the main setting of the conflict into one location with all the Robot Masters and their underlings accounted for as Dr. Wily's mobile fortress rolls right on through the city.
The story features the kind of tone a lot of us imagined Mega Man having when we were growing up back in the day, which is basically something that arguably fits in a little better with the likes of the Mega Man X series and beyond; a little more serious, with lives and more at stake.
Unlike most adaptations, Ariga's version of the Mega Man cast features very unique and expressive designs which really bring the characters to life. Some appearances differ from what fans have come to know and love in the games, from Dr. Wily's sunglasses and skeleton tie to the caution markings across Guts Man's construction site-ready body, as well as all the other various panels, vents, and other technical detailing seen throughout the cast. As one might expect, the addition of color goes far in highlighting the level of detail featured here.
Plus, one can't overlook that a key attribute of Mega Man himself hasn't been able to be fully realized in Ariga's stories until now. That is, when he acquires and equips a new weapon, his body changes color to go with it, complete with a neat color-changing effect that wasn't in the original black-and-white version.
While you can often tell through one method or another of which weapon Mega Man has equipped, often through others' reactions, it's nice to be able to see what's going on for yourself and piece it together without being told.
Beyond the main story, there are also colorized versions of Ariga's character designs, complete with explanations for what a lot of that tech detailing that's been added to the designs is actually meant to do. Little touches like this are part of why Ariga's designs are so beloved and have held up over time, as well as satisfying certain science fiction-type curiosities about this high-tech world that we're so happy to lose ourselves in time and again.
Okay, so I realize this review is pretty glowing, but in truth, I only have minor quibbles regarding a couple of the color choices, and everything looks exceptional regardless.
And if I'm being perfectly honest, I am a longtime fan of Ariga's work with Mega Man, so I as long as the colors were good (and I think they are), I was pretty much predisposed to like this from the outset -- as pretty much any fan of Ariga's work probably will be. By that same token, if for some reason you're not a fan of Ariga's work? I doubt anything here will change your mind, though you never know -- maybe a splash of color is just what you needed to bring you over?
With that exception aside, I can't imagine why any Mega Man fan wouldn't want this on their bookshelf. It's one of the best Mega Man adaptations ever, made even better.
The first issue is available in comic shops now, and in addition, Protodude is giving away the whole lot of six variant covers! So go check that out, and wish him a happy 10th anniversary while you're there!