Blaze blue, baby!
There are no words to describe the excitement I felt when Archie Comics announced that Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man were pairing up for a massive 12-part epic. It was a childhood fantasy I had long since accepted would never exist, yet here I am today, holding the first three issues in my quivering palms. Nothing is beyond reach anymore, I muse as the rest of my withered dreams sprout fresh buds once more.
I may have already been a fan of Archie's Sonic and Mega Man adaptations, but this event isn't just for regular readers. It's also for everyone who's ever enjoyed the blue duo's videogame exploits but never thought to give the comics a chance. This is your opportunity to step into the circle and enjoy the spectacle with no strings attached.
Over the next few months, new issues will be released under the Mega Man, Sonic Universe, and Sonic the Hedgehog banners in turn. Parts One (MM #24) and Two (SU #51) are available on newsstands, while Part Three (StH #248) has only recently arrived in subscribers hands. Allow me to share my early impressions of what it's like when "worlds collide"!
Part One opens with Sonic and Mega Man already locked in battle. If there existed a list of comic crossover laws, pitting the heroes against one another as the result of misunderstood intentions would most likely sit at the top. Rule #2, of course, would state that neither hero has a clear advantage so as not to disappoint their respective fans. It's nonetheless an important step to establish both as equals with complementary abilities.
While the boys in blue are occupied, Drs. Eggman and Wily are watching the fight via monitor, celebrating their nemeses assured destruction with champagne flutes in hand. Sonic and Mega Man may be the headliners, but these mustachioed maniacs are the true stars. If not for their joint machinations, there would be no crossover. Plus, watching them pal around as though they've known each other for years is an unexpected delight.
Shortly thereafter, the comic turns back the clock a few weeks to explain how these events came to pass. At his secret Amazon jungle base, Wily happens upon mysterious gemstone that is in fact one of the Chaos Emeralds. When he tries to analyze it, he accidentally opens a trans-dimensional communication line with Sonic's home world of Mobius. None other than Eggman picks up the call, and the two become fast friends. You would think that such egocentrics would attempt to assume sole authority, but so far their relationship has been 100% amicable.
Using the power of the Emerald, the dastardly duo construct a device that emits a "Genesis Wave," a space-time warping energy that can rewrite the memories of everyone in a universe and even fold the past, present, and future upon themselves. A similar device was used by Eggman during the "Sonic: Genesis" mini-series (StH #226-229), in which history temporarily reverted to a point just before the original Genesis game. This time around, both Mobius and Earth were affected.
The "cosmic reset" is a familiar comic trope typically used to tidy up long-running series that have become too convoluted. Here, it serves the purpose of maintaining the events of "Worlds Collide" as canon while allowing new readers to jump in without the need to brush up on hefty backstory. In the case of Mega Man's universe, characters that have yet to appear in the series proper -- most notably Bass -- are treated as if they've always been around. So while I would normally consider a soft reboot to be a sign of shoddy writing, I believe this to be the best way to invite fans previously only familiar with the games.
The next phase of the doctors' plan is to capture Sonic's friends and force them into the front lines or their new army. Tails is the first victim, subdued by a swift left cross from Bass -- the brazen brutality against a child is actually quite hilarious when you think about it. He is then transformed into a Roboticized Master, a fusion of Eggman and Wily technologies, charged with collecting the remaining Chaos Emeralds.
In Part Two, Proto Man tangles with a squad of Roboticized Masters: Tails Man, Knuckles Man, Rose Woman, and Shadow Man ("Shadow" as in the hedgehog, not the Mega Man 3 bot, and I will be greatly disappointed if the comic doesn't humorously address this discrepancy later on.) Overwhelmed by their alien build and techniques, Proto is forced to retreat and allow Mega Man an opportunity to test the invaders' might. It's not long before Mega finds himself in pursuit of a "blue blur" through a portal leading to Green Hill Zone.
Meanwhile, the hunt for his missing compatriots leads Sonic to a mysterious purple-scarfed android. Sure enough, this android is Mega Man's clone, Copy Robot from the original NES adventure, while Mega's "blue blur" is none other than Metal Sonic. Once the devilish doppelgängers converge, they give their pursuers the slip, leaving Mega and Sonic on a collision course of mistaken identities.
We return to the present in Part Three, where the soon-to-be-allies are exchanging blows. Though his sensors indicate his opponent is organic, Mega refuses to believe that any living creature could be so fast. Similarly, Sonic gauges that this robot may be the most resilient foe he's ever faced. As the battle rages, they seriously consider the possibility of their own failure.
The deadlock doesn't last long once Sonic begins using the environment to his advantage. When it seems that Mega may be on his last legs, another portal opens up thanks to the Dr. Light's tinkering back on Earth. Mega manages to drag Sonic to his home of Mega City, where Rush, Eddie, Beat, and Tango teleport on the scene. Sonic's comeuppance will have to wait until the next issue, unfortunately.
Needless to say, I've been enjoying the ride thus far. There have been some questionable narrative decisions for the sake of expediting plot development, particularly the ease in which Sonic's friends were imprisoned and roboticized. If even a powerful character like Shadow was unable to escape capture, why would Eggman and Wily then decide to leave Sonic and Mega Man to their own devices? It's the classic villains' trap -- overconfidence shall be their undoing -- but this particular scenario seems like too much of a risky oversight.
That criticism aside, it's incredible how well the characters and mythos of both franchises play against one another. Clearly, Eggman and Wily are in complete sync, and their childlike glee and banter will be incentive enough to keep tuning in to future issues. But then we have the main heroes, each possessing a wealth of similar fighting experiences. It'll be fun to see not only how their abilities are put to use but also how their contrasting attitudes -- one brash and impulsive, the other humble and restrained -- affect their partnership.
I'd also like to shine a spotlight on Proto Man, who at this point in the main Mega Man storyline is still in the employ of Wily and still furious that his father seemingly discarded and replaced him. This "rebooted" Proto Man is the heroic loner we know and love from later games, though he remains resentful of Dr. Light. During Part Three, Proto begrudgingly returns to Light Labs to offer data on his confrontation with the Roboticized Masters, but as Light goes in for an embrace, Proto coldly gestures to keep their distance. It's such a simple scene, yet it effortlessly demonstrates the complex inner conflict that Proto continues to endure.
I have every confidence that "Sonic & Mega Man: Worlds Collide" can maintain this momentum through the remaining nine issues. I only wonder if I can maintain my own momentum. I'm geeking out on all cylinders here!