Still, I was intrigued because of the crossover aspect. Not in terms of Mega Man meeting up with Sonic, but more with their villains bro’ing it up. Dr. Albert Wily and Dr. Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik are such similar concepts – expressive mad scientists with an army of robots who are always quick to escape in their flying pods – that they themselves sold me on the series. Not that I had much of a choice. The 12-issue miniseries took over Mega Man for four months.
It ended up being well worth my time. The whole epic was written by Ian Flynn, who you can tell is brimming with passion for the two characters and has probably been wanting to write this meeting since 1991. He leaves virtually no potential stone unturned and writes with such zeal that you have to love what a great time he’s having with it.The setup is that due to space-time nonsense, Dr. Wily gets his hands on a Chaos Emerald. He ends up conversing with Eggman, discovers the concept of alternate realities, and the two hit it off upon realizing that they share a goal to bring order to their worlds via robot soldiers. They meet up in a neutral reality of their design called the Skull-Egg Zone and use the Chaos Emeralds to remake reality so that it better fits their needs. Once the Chaos Emeralds are fully charged up, they’re going to scramble reality even more for the purpose of remaking it in their images.
This idea has two purposes. On the Sonic side, there’s some legal issues going on with a previous author so by doing this crossover, they can finagle their way into a soft reboot. On the Mega Man side, it pops reality forward a dozen games. See, Sonic has over 300 issues at this point, but Mega Man’s comic has just over twenty issues prior to Worlds Collide. Flynn’s been taking his time with it and only now is it getting into the storyline for Mega Man 3. The reality-warping plot allows characters like Bass and Duo to exist, as well as all the robot masters from Mega Man 4 on.
It makes sense to do this, but it also kind of hurts the flow of the Mega Man comic series. The crossover is ultimately about the comic incarnation of Sonic crossing paths with the video game incarnation of Mega Man rather than the comic version. Original characters for the Mega Man comic like Detective Stern and Quake Woman are swept under the rug for the sake of playing with the more iconic names who have yet to be properly introduced. I know enough about Mega Man to understand it, but there are readers who must be scratching their heads. I’ve seen kids get into the series without knowing much about the games, so I can only wonder what kind of questions they’re asking. Who is this Duo guy who came out of nowhere and why is he such a big deal? Why are Pharaoh Man and Splash Woman suddenly evil? The whole thing is a double-edged sword. I get why they do it, but it’s like watching Batman Returns and then being shown Superman/Batman: Public Enemies with the claim that it’s the direct sequel.
Sonic and Mega Man pretty much go through the motions of your usual superhero team-up, though to be fair, one of the humor strips at the end of the issues calls this out. The real stars here are really Wily and Eggman, whose interactions are infinitely more entertaining than that of the Blue Bomber and the Blue Blur. One thing that tends to annoy me in supervillain team-ups is how the heroes don’t so much win, but the villains lose on their own because they have to stab each other in the back in the name of greed and ego. This isn’t the case in Worlds Collide. Not to say that Wily and Eggman stay completely tight. There is some major conflict brought up between the two that is a rather fascinating look at how different the scientists really are. They’re just capable of keeping the wavering alliance together until the day is officially theirs.
Even at twelve issues, the story never gets tired. Mainly because by the time things should be winding down, Flynn completely kicks it into high gear. Like I said, there’s no stone unturned when it comes to mixing the talking rodent with the altruistic robot. He has a whole bunch of crossover concepts and he uses ALL OF THEM! The bad guys kidnapping Sonic’s friends and turning them into “Roboticized Masters” (such as Tails Man and Knuckles Man)? You got it. Mega Man being able to copy the powers of Sonic’s entire supporting cast? You got it. Merging Chaos and Yellow Devil into one unbeatable beast? You got it. Sending an unending army of Robot Masters against Mega Man, Sonic and all their friends in one crazy-ass melee? Damn straight, you got it!
It becomes a serious who’s who of Robot Masters, ironically making Sonic the Hedgehog’s 250th issue so memorable because of the other property’s roster.
That’s where the art really brings it all together. Jamal Peppers does a big chunk of the pencil work for the three books and really makes everything fit. Under his pen, Sonic’s world and Mega Man’s world look like they belong together and nothing sticks out like a sore thumb. Same goes for fellow penciller Ben Bates. Matt Herms’ vibrant colors really stick out for both of them, making it look near perfect. Unfortunately the third art team doesn’t hit quite as hard. Tracey Yardley draws the Sonic cast really well, but his Mega Man looks really off. His physique appears to change by the panel, but most of the time he has a jacked upper-body and thin everything else. He looks like he’s wearing clothes that don’t fit him, especially because Yardley turns his Superman-style briefs into a big, bulky, blue diaper. He isn’t the worst choice for the crossover, but it definitely hurts when seeing his art juxtaposed with Peppers and Bates’, who are able to take the concept and hit its full potential.
A term that comes up with big stories in comics is that the writer is playing in the sandbox with their action figures. Considering how many Marvel events were based on hero vs. hero, some variation of that phrase gets tossed around a lot for hype and interviews. This brings up the stigma of good guys acting completely out of character and horrible stuff happening as a way to show how important everything is. Flynn isn’t like those Marvel writers. When he plays with his toys, he plays with them lovingly. Heroes and villains remain perfectly in character and play off each other as they should while he hits the right chords and turns his ideas into an explosive adventure.
This really is what a crossover should be. Even if the final issue ends just a little too abruptly – after all, this is partially an excuse to mess with Sonic’s continuity and they need to settle that in his own book – most everything about this arc put a gigantic smile on my face. Easily the best Archie Comics crossover since that time Frank Castle went to Riverdale.