Hedging Your Bets #10: Worlds Collide, Vol. 3: Chaos Clash
With almost 300 issues in the core series, Archie's Sonic The Hedgehog stands as the longest-running uninterrupted American monthly comic book that's currently being published. In Hedging Your Bets, I attempt to get up to speed on Sonic the Hedgehog, challenging the odds to hopefully make it all the way to the finish line.
This week, the Sonic/Mega Man crossover comes to its thundering conclusion, and everything goes back to normal. For Mega Man. Only for Mega Man.
Sonic the Hedgehog #250 - 251, Sonic Universe #54, Mega Man #27: "Worlds Collide, vol. 3: Chaos Clash"
As we head into the final act of the world-shattering Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man crossover, I've got a little bit of bad news. It seems that my annual wintertime cold has finally arrived in full force, meaning that I am reading and writing about these comics through a haze of sniffles and cold medicine. And while that's not so bad in and of itself, I do feel that I'm really wasting the opportunity to experience Sonic the Hedgehog in an altered state.
I mean, I would never advocate the use of over-the-counter cold medicine to enhance a reading experience, but you can't tell me that it wouldn't at least be interesting to get all zonked out on the 'Quil and attempt to find out more about how Mobius is actually a post-apocalyptic Earth that's been taken over by giant-eyed cartoon animals, and how the place where I actually live in real life is apparently something called "The Robo-Hobo Jungle." If that's what's canon, can you even imagine what pseudoephedrine would help me make up to fill in the gaps?
Instead, I've just got this, which is a relatively straightforward story --- by Sonic standards, anyway. I mean, it's still a comic where two different universes have crashed together in a way that almost completely ignores the established timeline of at least one of the franchises and then does a hard reboot of the other. So, you know. All things are relative, I guess.
But what's pretty set in stone here is that Ben Bates went all out in this comic:
As you might remember, the second arc of Worlds Collide ended with the promise of Sonic, Mega Man, and their allies --- Proto Man, Amy Rose, Tails, and a bunch of other people, like this alligator man that I want to say is named... Franklin? --- having to take on literally every Robot Master from the entire Mega Man franchise. And with eight bosses per game and 10 games to work with, that makes for a lot of bad guys.
It seems like a pretty daunting task --- and it feels like another example of my theory that the creators wanted to go all-in and do everything in case they never got another chance to do this --- but Flynn and Bates really do deliver. They open this thing with the fight that features darn near everyone, including this guy, who I had completely forgotten about:
That's Blade Man from the retro-styled Mega Man 10, and I love him as a product of the design philosophy that if you can make one body part a sword, why not go ahead and make every body part a sword?
But that's also where a little bit of weirdness comes in. If you've read Archie's dearly departed Mega Man series, then you already know that while there were a couple of flash-forward stories, it ended before they even got to Mega Man IV, let alone the games that came out 20 years later. That's something that's easy to write around when you're working with a plot that's explicitly built on timelines being rebuilt, but it's still pretty weird to see stuff that the core series never got to referenced as happening in the past.
There's something else here that feels like a missed opportunity, too. As great as these scenes are, and as genuinely fun as it is to see Bates drawing Sonic taking on armies of Robot Masters like a super-speed Billy from Family Circus, complete with a nice little joke about Ring Man...
It ignores the core mechanic of the Mega Man games, which is that Mega Man can copy his fallen foes' weapons, something that never comes up when he's confronted with what is essentially a buffet of saw blades, explosives, and ice beams he could throw at his opponents. I don't think there's a canonical upper limit to the amount of weapons that he can carry at once --- although Flynn did write a very compelling reason for him to get rid of them after each story arc --- so why not go for it?
I mean, spoiler warning, but Mega Man and Sonic are going to go into their "Ultimate Forms" at the end of this story, and while Sonic's DragonBall-inspired Super Saiyan form is pretty solid, Mega Man just sort of ends up with the Rush Adapter. And look, the Rush Adapter's great, but it's really just a jet pack and a slightly more powerful gun. I realize that the focus here is on Mega Man using the Sonic characters' "Roboticized Master" weapons, and that's great...
... but I still feel like a better ending for this is that Sonic gets the Chaos Emeralds, and Mega Man shows up with literally everything. Just bristling with guns and swords and elec beams like a tiny little big-eyed Cable.
Far more interesting, though, is the relationship between the Doctors --- not just Wily and [sigh] Eggman, but Dr. Light, too.
One of the best moments in the entire story is when Eggman decides to just go ahead and circumvent genre tropes and drop Dr. Light to his death rather than keeping him around long enough for him to inevitably give Mega Man and his crew enough information to save the day.
This is something that I don't think comes up nearly as often as it should in this kind of crossover, but it's really done well here. There's an idea in superhero comics --- rooted in the fact that we need to have these characters around to star in comics indefinitely --- of the villain who doesn't want to kill the hero as much as they want to humble them or prove their superiority, which is very difficult to do to a corpse. The thing is, Light isn't Eggman's arch-nemesis, and Eggman could not possibly give a dang whether he's around to suffer through his humiliation or not. For him, there's a pragmatism on display here that's rooted in the fact that Light is just an obstacle standing in the way of finally killing Sonic --- and considering how little pragmatism the bad guys show in every other way, that's really interesting.
It doesn't work, of course --- Light ends up being rescued by Shadow the Hedgehog, marking the very first fact that I know about Shadow the Hedgehog --- but Wily's reaction, too, is pretty key.
I don't necessarily think this goes as far as sliding into the "Bad Guy Is Actually In Love With The Good Guy" trope, but it does serve as a pretty interesting callback and indication to their history.
One of the things that Flynn, Bates, Chad Thomas, and co. get into a lot in Mega Man is this idea that Wily and Light used to be not only partners, but friends. It's something that they really get into in their adaptation of the plot of Mega Man III, which involves Wily repenting his evil ways and joining back up with Dr. Light despite trying to murder the world from skull-shaped fortresses twice by that point.
There's a history there, and while I don't know if it quite gets to the level of, say, Nimona, but the idea that there is --- or used to be --- an affection there is really key for how compelling Archie's Mega Man makes those characters. And like they say, there's no hate like the one that used to be love.
In the end, Sonic and Mega Man realize their Final Forms and pretty much just beat the pants off the Doctors, something that's a lot easier to do because they --- of course --- have simultaneously betrayed each other and disabled the defenses in each half of their battleship. And with that, we're done.
... sort of.
See, before the crossover can actually end, the Super Genesis Wave (not to be confused with the Super Nintendo Wave, which, let's be real here, had way better games) is unleashed upon both universes, leaving Mega Man and Sonic to split up in an attempt to preserve their worlds. For Mega Man, it works, and we essentially just drop back into the ongoing storyline right where we left off before the crossover. For Sonic, however...
Well. We'll get to it.
This Week's Odds:
- Chris finishes the whole project: 75 to 1
- Chris decides this is a good opportunity to make a deep dive into Sonic lore anyway, since he is currently incapable of telling canon from fan theories and might as well learn about the Chaos now since he's not going to remember anything next week anyway: 3 to 2