Hedging Your Bets #21: Worlds Unite, Part One
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, we launch into the second world-shattering crossover between Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man, featuring a completely different Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man.
Worlds Unite, Part One: Deadly Fusion (Sonic Universe #76, Sonic Boom #8, Sonic the Hedgehog #273, Mega Man #50, Sonic Worlds Unite: Battles #1, Mega Man Worlds Unite: Battles #1)
Worlds Collide was a pretty weird crossover on a lot of levels --- not the least of which being that it ended with a reboot based entirely on the in-universe reasoning that Sonic is just really, really bad at putting continuity back together --- but the one thing I really appreciated was that it definitely wasn't holding back.
And really, it shouldn't have. This was, after all, a crossover between two licensed properties with long histories that had never actually interacted before, and it wasn't really likely that they'd ever interact again. It was purely a quirk of licensing that brought them together the first time, and despite their shared history as video games where you run to the right and fight robots, they don't fit together quite well enough to make it a natural idea to do this sort of thing all the time. With that in mind, why leave anything on the table when you're not sure if you'll get another chance?
Of course, I wrote that knowing that there was going to be a second crossover --- and, to be honest, not knowing what the discussion was like behind the scenes about the first one. That made the first one seem even more impressive, but it led to the inevitable question of just what you do when it seems like everything has been done. When Worlds Unite finally rolled around, I had my answer, and I have to admit that it's a pretty clever, pretty natural setup: When you've done everything you can with Sonic and Mega Man, you just go and get another Sonic and Mega Man.
The big idea here is that while it's still built around the core characters of the franchises, it also pulls in the alternate versions to make things seem bigger. With Sonic, that's to be expected. Not only are there a couple dozen alternate versions --- including the one about Sonic and his siblings (?!) forming a rock band to find their missing mother who was also the queen (?!?!) where pretty much everyone was voiced by Jaleel White (???!!!) --- but Archie was publishing an ongoing series based on one of them at the time.
In this case, it's Sonic Boom, which as near as I can figure is just regular Sonic but his arms are blue and he wears a bandana. And also he tapes his fists like he's about to do Muay Thai, so I assume he's less about running fast and more about just wrecking Dr. Eggman with a flying knee.
With Mega Man, on the other hand, this is finally where they go to the piece of the franchise that everyone had been expecting and waiting for since the whole series started: Mega Man X.
If you're not familiar with it, Mega Man X was a slightly darker take set 100 years after the core Mega Man games --- in the far-off future of 21XX --- that was introduced after the launch of the Super Nintendo. While the original series stayed on the NES for a little while, its next-gen cousin took advantage of the newer technology to introduce new controls and abilities, slightly deeper storytelling and theming, and explosions that looked at least twice as good as its 8-bit counterpart.
The core idea was that in the future, a scientist called Dr. Cain discovered Dr. Light's final magnum opus, a version of Mega Man codenamed "X," and then replicated that technology for a whole new line of robots called "Reploids." The problem was that if reploids were activated too soon, they were prone to going "maverick" and trying to kill everyone.
Long story short --- about eight games of long story --- there's a bad guy named Sigma who used to be a Maverick Hunter until he was exposed to a computer virus created, of course, by Dr. Wily when he made his magnum opus, a robot named Zero. Get it? X and 0? Now, Sigma is a sentient computer virus, and for the purposes of our story, he can also control Genesis Portals, which leads him to try to conquer the entire Sega/Capcom Multiverse. Sure, why not.
On the one hand, I actually really like this idea --- Sigma is an intimidating villain that takes Dr. Wily's usual MO one step further, and the fact that he exists beyond a physical form makes him a really interesting character. The idea that he could be a villain even more dangerous than Wily and Eggman is one that holds up.
On the other hand, this is a really weird way to introduce him into the comics. Fans love Mega Man X and the (slightly) less silly, (slightly) deeper mythology that it brings to Mega Man's world, and Flynn & Co. had been teasing the idea of doing an X story for almost the entire run of the comic. Getting it here, while it definitely adds to the appeal of the crossover and takes it past the original "THIS IS EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE!" aspect of Worlds Collide, feels like a weird place to put in what is arguably one of the most important elements of the larger Mega Man franchise.
Then again, the Mega Man comic would be over inside of six months, so it's pretty clear that Worlds Unite might've been their last chance to get him in there at all. Either way, it's complicated.
For now, though, they're just waiting in the wings. In this first act, we're mainly focused on something that feels like the natural extension of what we had in the previous crossover.
See, while he recruits Eggman and Wily to do his nefarious bidding, Sigma is also experienced enough that it's easy for them to convince him that he's not really going to get anywhere as long as Mega Man and Sonic are out there, so he just uses the Genesis Portals to send the Zeti after them at the start of things.
Oh, the Zeti? Yeah, they're Sigma's henchmen that are also Eggman's henchmen who live on a floating continent and get tricked out robot armor and can also control machines with their brains. What, did you miss that?
Yeah: So did I, and I've read the comics reading up to this thing. Those dudes came out of nowhere, and while a little bit of weirdness is to be expected when you're heading into a crossover, I really do feel like I shouldn't have to go look up an entirely new bunch of characters on the Sonic wiki after reading like three years worth of this comic. But they're here, and they're going to be important later.
What really matters is that Sonic and Mega Man are once again roboticized, with Sonic being redesigned by Wily and sent to cause trouble in Mega Man's world, and Mega Man being redesigned by Eggman and sent to cause trouble in Mobotropolis.
Under the name
(THE HEAVIEST POSSIBLE SIGH.)
Despite the names, there are some really great ideas in play here, especially when Mega Man starts using Mega Man-style versions of Eggman's weaponry from the Sonic games, like the big checkerboard wrecking ball or the big springs from the Casino Night Zone. Just.. just that name.
Eventually they deploy a couple of Crisis On Infinite Earths-style dimensional tuning forks that cause the Worlds to both Collide and Unite, and then --- per Eggman and Wily's programming --- turn on each other, which causes them to revert back to their original forms.
It's actually a pretty clever bit of plotting, even if it makes no sense: Wily and Eggman realize that Sigma is a much bigger threat, and so they rebuild their versions of Mega Man and Sonic with a weakness to each other's weapons that will disable their after-market modifications. Because apparently you can just shoot a robot with a laser and turn it back into a hedgehog. Sure, why not.
And that's where we end Act 1: With the two worlds combined, Sigma catching on to Wily and Eggman's plan, and Shadow the Hedgehog apparently killed in the collision.
Oh, and in case you were wondering how Sigma and the Zeti managed to kidnap Mega Man and Sonic, those stories are told at the end of this volume, and Mega Man's involves one of the characters who can control robots essentially forcing Mega Man to shoot himself in the head.
It is dark.
This Week's Odds:
- Chris finishes the whole project: 15 to 1
- Chris forgives Sonic for being really bad at putting his world back together because honestly, who among us could get history right if we had to recreate it from scratch: 2 to 1
- Chris somehow manages to get the Sonic Underground theme unstuck from his head: 1,000,000 to 1
- THEY MADE A VOW THEIR MOTHER WOULD BE FOUND!!!