I’ve always considered myself a fan of Mega Man. Ever since I was a kid I remember playing the Blue Bomber’s games on the NES and thinking they were the epitome of what a great game should be. While my tastes in games has undoubtedly changed since then my love for Mega Man has never waned. So you can imagine my exuberance upon seeing the Mega Man manga sitting on the shelf of Barnes & Noble (along with it’s two subsequent volumes). Though I himmed and hawed, I ended up caving in on my love of all things Mega Man and bought the entire series. Not being the biggest fan of manga (surprising, considering I have a Japanese degree) I was a bit hesitant to the content of this one, but I was extremely happy with Hitoshi Ariga’s art, story, and overall awesomeness conveyed in the pages of the series’ first volume. Let me explain further, so you’ll want to go out and get your own copy!
**There are SPOILERS in the following passages. Read at your own risk.**
Mega Man Gigamix is the first of three volumes, and volume 1 is actually a transition between the original manga series, Mega Man Megamix. There are two stories told in this first volume: Asteroid Blues and Burning Wheel. The first story (Asteroid Blues) is an explanation of the events that lead up to Megamix’s story arc. Burning Wheel is a stand-alone story that revolves around the game Mega Man Battle & Chase, of all things.
The story of Asteroid Blues goes a little something like this: Dr. Wily is imprisoned after the events of the first two Mega Man games on the NES (society sees him as a psychopathic madman). But a terrible asteroid is heading towards Earth, and the world needs a way to divert the giant rock or else it’ll suffer great damages. Dr. Light is called upon to create a robot to take care of destroying the asteroid from the inside. Though a genius himself, Dr. Light cannot accomplish this task himself and calls upon Dr. Wily to help him. Wily agrees, as anything is better than sitting in a cell. While traveling to the asteroid, Dr. Light and Dr. Wily work on a giant robot known as Gamma. Things are going well until Dr. Wily gets up to his old tricks and escapes his guards. Before Mega Man can do anything about it, every Robot Master from Mega Man III is aboard this ship, and the journey quickly becomes a fight for Mega Man and Dr. Light’s lives.
I like what Ariga did with the story, and by that I mean I like how he made a story as paper-thin as Mega Man compelling. In the video games, Mega Man goes to each Robot Master’s stage and fights his way through to an eventual battle with the boss, but in this comic it’s all eight Robot Masters attacking Mega Man at once. It makes for a lot more action and creates a lot of tension in the situation. I found myself feeling overwhelmed for Mega Man when all the enemies were ganging up on him, and that was awesome!
One other thing that really sets the tone for the comic is the art direction. Character models from the games (so Mega Man, the Robot Masters, and even side characters like the guards of Dr. Wily) look like they were modeled directly from the source material. The only exception here are Dr. Wily and Dr. Light, who Ariga took a few more liberties with. Dr. Wily looks especially sinister and Dr. Light looks more Japanese, for lack of a better way to put it. All in all though, seeing the Robot Masters from my favoriteMega Man game on the pages of this manga made it all the better, and fans of the game’s original artwork will surely be impressed with it as well.
Having not read the Megamix series, I was a little lost at the end of Asteroid Blues (it ends on the worst cliffhanger!). A recap for each story in the earlier manga is given at the beginning of the book, but I have a strong feeling one or two paragraphs don’t do the original writings justice. I wanted to see what happened at the end of this story, but unfortunately I’ll have to wait until I can get my hands on the earlier manga. That being said, I still feel Asteroid Blues is a good Mega Man comic that will surely please fans of the games.
Asteroid Blues is a very serious story, dealing with deception, destruction, and dastardly deeds. The other story included in this first volume, Burning Wheel, is entirely the opposite.
This story is totally separate from the former, and focuses on the Battle & Chase video game for inspiration. An organization is hosting a robot race across the Pacific Ocean thanks to a road linking Japan to San Francisco, California. The grand prize for coming in first place is $100,000. Naturally, Dr. Wily wants that money for himself, and he will stop at nothing to get what he wants. By rigging the road with traps, recruiting Robot Masters to help him in the race, and attaching a bomb to Roll’s (Mega Man’s sister) racer, Dr. Wily appears to be up to no good again. Mega Man enters the race as well to protect Roll and keep Wily from winning.
Burning Wheel’s story is much more comedic in it’s approach and also works out well. I think because the situation itself (a race from one continent to another starring the Mega Man crew) is ridiculous the story here being humorous was a smart move. There were more than a handful of times where I caught myself chuckling or laughing at some of the dialogue or scenes. Bass’ adamant hatred for the Blue Bomber, the relationship between Ice Man and Freeze Man, and how many Robot Masters give long, drawn out introductions only to be zoomed past by Mega Man.
Much like Asteroid Blues, in Burning Wheel Ariga does another fine job of capturing the look of the Mega Man series. Robot Masters and backgrounds look like you’d expect from a Mega Man game yet again, although you can tell the art isn’t as complicated as Asteroid Blues’ (something the author admits to at the end of the book). I can best describe the animation style as being lifted right out of Mega Man 7, the first game in the classic series on the SNES. And though I didn’t care for the Robot Masters in the game, they are well represented here, looking good and delivering some funny lines. Shade Man and Shadow Man (from MM3) in particular come off as great villains.
What I liked about Burning Wheel was that it ended well and told a good story. For a game about driving cars, Ariga did a fantastic job making a fun and memorable story. The comedy bits weren’t overused and I thought they were legitimately funny. There are also plenty of inside jokes and references for Mega Man fanboys to lap up (and I did!). Overall, Burning Wheel is a fun read and probably my best chance of getting anywhere near the source material since the game wasn’t released in America (outside of the Mega Man X Collection which I currently do not own).
To wrap this all up, I was very happy to have read Gigamix vol. 1. The two included stories do the Mega Man series justice, and offer up entertaining and wholly original stories for fans to eat up. If you haven’t read the Megamix stories (much like myself), then you’ll be missing out on some of the content and references given in the stories, but it’s not totally detrimental to your experience. I’m excited to delve into the next two volumes and the newest American comic book series which I also picked up this week: once I finish up those I’ll be happy to upload some more artwork and story panels. Speaking of which…