Archive for the 'reviews' Category

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After Before Watchmen: What Happened to Then? We Passed Then. When? Just Now.

April 25th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Yesterday saw the release of Before Watchmen: Comedian #6, ending this big experiment and going out on a whimper. The whole Before Watchmen concept was announced 15 months ago to a tornado of controversy and online arguments. One of the things that kept it so prominent in the internet news cycle was how many talking points it brought up. Some were mad because DC Comics screwed Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons out of the rights to the series. Some were annoyed because Watchmen was such a self-contained classic that you can’t really add to it. Some felt that even if you did add to it, what’s left to be said? Some noted how desperate for money DC came off as when a 12-issue series was prequelized into 37 issues, plus a backup.

(Sorry, it’s my nature.)

The announcement appeared to be one of the straws that broke the camel’s back for David. David’s since stopped reading any and all new Marvel and DC titles and hasn’t looked back. I’m not so affected by the im-Moore-ality of DC’s actions and I’m more enthralled by the circus of this move than the comics themselves. As a comic blogger, my own philosophy is that I would love for every comic I read to be good, but if it isn’t, I hope to God it’s at least interesting because that can sometimes be even better. Whether you loved or hated the idea of more Watchmen comics, you have to admit that the audacity of it is interesting as all hell, else nobody would be talking about it.

I decided to give it a fair enough shake. I didn’t read every single comic. I didn’t even read every single series. After the fact, they announced a one-shot of Dollar Bill (which I merely flipped through) and a two-part Moloch story. From what I understand, the Moloch one wasn’t bad.

Nite Owl by JMS and Joe Kubert was something I gave up on two issues in. It had its moments, but it just didn’t grab me. I guess it lost me because the origin aspects of the character are pretty good, but then JMS rushes through that so he could get to Nite Owl and Rorschach being a team. If anything, I did like an idea introduced about how Nite Owl and Rorschach don’t see eye-to-eye because of the way they remember their mothers affecting how they see women. I just found the series pretty boring and I was already feeling anti-JMS from his more recent DC work.

I didn’t feel the need to pick up Dr. Manhattan by JMS and Adam Hughes because I just didn’t have any faith in JMS at this point. I’ve heard mixed reviews swaying towards negative, but the art is apparently pretty.

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Crossover Celebration Part 7: Robocop and Terminator Duke it Out Over the Decades

March 7th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

I can’t think of a more fitting mixing of properties than Robocop and Terminator. Both 80′s movies are perfect opposing sides to the same coin. Robocop is a robot on the outside with a human on the inside. Terminator is a human on the outside with a robot on the inside. Robocop is about the extreme dangers of mankind. Terminator is about the extreme dangers of technology. Robocop is a machine bent on protecting humans. Terminators are machines bent on destroying humans. Robocop’s theme rings of optimistic victory. Terminator’s theme rings of impending doom. Robocop saved Sting from the clutches of the Four Horsemen. The Terminator failed to save us from Axl Rose. You get the idea.

There have been two comics about the two sides clashing via two different companies with two decades in-between. One of them is exceptionally good. The other one is not. The first one is by pre-insanity Frank Miller with Walt Simonson on art. That should spell it out pretty easily, I’d say.

The four-part series Robocop vs. the Terminator was released in late 1992 by Dark Horse. It’s released a year after Terminator 2 and just months before Robocop 3, which also has Miller’s name on it… whether he wants it to or not. Interestingly enough, Robocop vs. the Terminator has virtually nothing to do with Terminator 2 despite the movie’s immense popularity. Going further, this isn’t even a traditional crossover in the sense that none of the Terminator cast appear at all. The most we get is references to the adult John Connor. There’s no sign of him, his mother, his father or even the T-1000. The most we get is a T-800 that may or may not have the same appearance as the one from the movies. Though he does steal a blind man’s shades, so I guess it’s supposed to be an Arnold-bot.

It’s a unique mixing of properties where it’s simply Robocop and his world interacting with the world of the Terminator. Not the characters, but the concepts.

Several decades into the future, the war with Skynet is all but finished. The last remaining humans are overwhelmed by the machines and the last survivor is a tough-as-nails female soldier with a bowl-cut named Flo. She uses the diversion of her comrades’ deaths to find out for sure what caused Judgment Day to happen.

Uh oh.

With more robots on their way to get her, Flo drops trou and runs into a time machine. She goes back in time to not-so-distant-future Detroit, where she’s almost run over by a cab driver. Strangely, nobody bats an eye to the fact that she’s nude and instead her inability to look where she’s going (by teleporting in front of a moving car) causes the driver to pull out his gun. Many onlookers get ready for the showdown by taking out their own pieces, but Flo disarms the cabbie and steals his gun. Everyone backs off and goes on with the rest of their day. The thing that really gets Flo about all of this is the very sacrilegious idea that man would threaten man with violence. Then again, Skynet hasn’t happened yet.

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Crossover Celebration Part 6: Turtles Forever

February 8th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

It’s really pretty amazing how Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one of the more versatile properties in comic history, ranking up there with Batman and Wolverine. Remembered mainly for the popular 80′s and 90′s children’s cartoon, you have to remember that the foursome started out in a comic where Leonardo impales Shredder with his katana in the very first issue. He even drinks some beer a few issues later, which feels off in retrospect. The property has taken some strange turns over the years, even to the point where the more kid-oriented comic series by Archie Comics featured a storyline where they go back in time, beat up Hitler, convince him he’s in Hell and trick him into shooting himself in the head. Around the same time, Michelangelo was teaming up with the Muppet Babies, Alf and Bugs Bunny to get a kid off drugs on a Saturday morning TV special.

When the Turtles fad died down, the cartoon still remained on TV for a long, long time. How long? There was an episode that featured April O’Neil looking stuff up on the internet. Jesus. I even remember stumbling upon the very last episode one Saturday morning, surprised that it was still around. The ending was rather nice, with Splinter telling the four that he had nothing left to teach them. They were all his equals and would no longer be able to call him “Master”. They tried to keep the franchise around just a little bit longer with a live-action show, but with that failing, the Turtle stuff took a break for a few years.

In the early 2000′s, a new Ninjas Turtles series was created by 4Kids that revitalized the concept. It decided to go back to basics, throwing away all the ideas and characters from the 80′s cartoon and basing everything on the original Mirage comics. In fact, there’s an almost purist distaste you can feel from the series in their refusal to pay any lip service to the first cartoon, outside of a couple Easter Egg references. Though it is rather cool that by revealing their version of Shredder to be an Utrom alien, he’s essentially Krang and Shredder in one character. Regardless, it was a good show and lasted a rather long time, even after jumping the shark and going into the future for a season.

It was announced that Nickelodeon was buying the rights to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and if the 4Kids series wasn’t already on its way out, this made it definite. The creators decided to go out the best way possible: an animated movie in the style of a crossover between the 4Kids TMNT and the 80′s cartoon TMNT.

The movie begins with Hun, leader of the Purple Dragons and go-to muscle for Shredder, as he steals some tech stuff at a lab. The Ninja Turtles appear to stop them. Later that night, the situation makes the news, distressing Splinter, who can’t believe his students would be so careless. What’s extra strange is that all four turtles have been home in the sewer all night. They figure out that the Purple Dragons are involved and go to find out what’s going on.

We find that the Purple Dragons won that little pre-credits skirmish and have the Turtles as prisoners. Hun sees them and is completely confused.

“You were expecting maybe someone else?”

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How Mike and Joel Saved Christmas: The Top 9 Holiday Riffs

December 13th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

It’s the Christmas season and amongst all the joy and laughter comes the utter strangeness that is the Christmas concept. Whether you’re talking about Jesus or Santa or whoever else, the whole season is a cultural mixing bowl of strange pop culture. That makes it all too fun to laugh at.

Throughout its many decades, Mystery Science Theater 3000 and its many spinoffs have given us much to celebrate. So many bad movies have been pointed at and made to look even more foolish. Like all good TV shows, there would be the occasional Christmas episode. These Christmas-themed riffs are always fondly remembered by the fans and tend to be revisited every December.

But what’s the best? I’ve decided to rewatch all of them and rank them based on my own fair and just rating system pulled directly out of my ass. I’m covering all corners of the Riffverse for this: Mystery Science Theater 3000, Mike Nelson’s offshoot Rifftrax and Joel Hodgson’s Cinematic Titanic. I wish I could have included the Film Crew – the other offshoot created by the Rifftrax guys – but with only four episodes, nothing really fit with the season.

I’m also disqualifying any of the Rifftrax shorts releases as individual entries. Everything on the list has to be at a minimum of 20 minutes. As for the ratings, each entry will be graded on four things:

- WTF Factor: Sometimes the best fodder come from movies that are just so strange that you have just as much fun explaining them to others as you do watching them.

- Watchability: I enjoy a good bad movie, but sometimes a bad bad movie can be a bear to sit through no matter how funny the jokes are.

- Riff Quality and Extras: The movie may be a mess, but how funny are our guys giving it the business? Not to mention the stuff that isn’t part of the movie itself, like skits and such.

- Christmasness: You’re watching this because of Christmas, right? Well, how much does it really have to do with Christmas?

I wanted to go with a top 10 list here by including Space Mutiny to round it all out, but I decided against it. It didn’t feel right that it would rank so highly when the only reason it’s on the list is because one of the supporting characters looks a bit like Santa Claus. So let’s get going with the Top 9 Best Christmas Riffs!

9) NESTOR THE LONG-EARED CHRISTMAS DONKEY (1977)

Rifftrax (2006)
Mike Nelson

Rankin/Bass, the people behind such holiday classics as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and A Year Without Santa Claus, go in a more biblical direction by telling the story of Nestor, a donkey born with exceptionally long-ears. These ears end up getting him in trouble and make him the laughing stock of the animal kingdom. After the death of his mother, he’s greeted by a cherub who gives him an important mission to find Joseph and Mary, as he will be instrumental in the survival of their baby.

- WTF Factor: There’s an awkwardness to the special based on the desperation to reinvent the wheel on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The basic concept is incredibly similar, only it has none of the charm and fun that makes Rudolph such a holiday staple. There’s not much else to mention other than the truly bizarre ending. In the beginning, Nestor and his mother are taken care of by a really abusive donkey breeder named Olaf, who angrily throws them out into the cold, where Nestor’s mother dies. After Nestor’s journey to Bethlehem, the story ends with him returning home and all the animals – AND OLAF – are all happy to greet him, like they somehow heard news of Jesus being born over Twitter or something. 4


“All those of you who rubbed raw my soul with your bitter mocking laughter: THANK YOU! You truly are my friends!”

- Watchability: Despite being 25 minutes long, Nestor is rough to get through. Like I said, it’s Rudolph with none of the charm. Remember the beginning of Rudolph when the other reindeer make fun of him for his nose? Imagine that for about twenty minutes straight. Mix that with Nestor’s mother’s death and the whole thing is teeming with depression. Even worse is the soundtrack, made up of the same forgetful song played again and again with different lyrics. It isn’t even weird enough to be enjoyable. But hey, at least it’s short. 2

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Black Friday Memories: Legend of the Hawaiian Slammers

November 23rd, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Black Friday is upon us and as an adult, the day is about the horrors of the retail world as people run over each other for the sake of getting the best deal. As a child, the day was different. It was that odd day of the four-day holiday weekend that didn’t have its own identity. Thursday is Turkey Day and the weekend is the weekend, but Friday was just that extra day that you didn’t have school. Yet in the early 90′s, it was a special and forgotten time of post-Thanksgiving cartoon blocks.

I don’t recall what channel this was on or if it was even multiple channels, but somebody in TV realized that there were countless children home with nothing to do on the day after Thanksgiving and for one day, they needed to rein in that demographic. Instead of soap operas, we’d get a 2-3 hour block of cartoons. But not just any cartoons. These would be failed pilots that the network would have lying around. Just random cartoons that would never be heard from ever again.

Even to this day, I can only recall three off the top of my head. One was something called the Moo Family Holiday Hoe-Down, which was about a family reunion of sorts with a bunch of musical cows where two of them got thrown through history over the course of the half hour until making it back to the party. Another – and easily the most famous – is Battletoads, an attempt at animating the nigh-impossible NES game. The cartoon was memorable for having one of the stranger battle cries: “LET’S GET HORNY!” I kid you not.

But 1994, the final year I can recall ever seeing one of these cartoon blocks, gave us Legend of the Hawaiian Slammers.

Released by DiC Entertainment, Legend of the Hawaiian Slammers was an attempt to capitalize on the mid-90′s fad that was pogs. Yes, pogs. Remember pogs? They’re back. In superhero form.

Despite how forgettable the blocks of Black Friday cartoons were back in the day, I always recalled this show, partially because of the hilarious opening theme song. The lyrics went a-something… a-like this.

Slammers of Darkness
Slammers of Light
When they come together they FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT!
Hawaiian Slammers!
Hawaiian Slam-Slam-Slammers!
They strike like hammers!
Hawaiian Slam-Slam-Slammers!

And then repeat. You know you’re in for fun when all of the action is taken from the lone episode itself, leading to repeat shots because they ran out of interesting footage.

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Crossover Celebration Part 3: Archie Meets the Punisher

October 24th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

When I talk to non-comic reading friends about comics, one thing I like to mention to mess with them is that Archie Meets the Punisher is a thing that happened. That always seems to get a little bit of a reaction out of them, but not as much as my claims that it was actually quite good! The usual follow-up to that is, “How could that possibly be good?” and it hits me as a loaded question. There are different reasons why it works so well, but it wasn’t for years until I found out the perfect way to explain it to the uninitiated.

Archie Meets the Punisher came out in 1994, just prior to the explosion of Marvel/DC crossovers that we’d see throughout the era. The Archie and Marvel camps were friendly with each other and there was a joke going back and forth that there should be a crossover where Riverdale becomes a darker and more violent place and Archie becomes a vigilante after his family is killed. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but writer Batton Lash came up with an outline that pleasantly surprised everyone involved and they moved forward with it.

Many crossovers are meant to be a look at the similarities and differences between the two parties involved. This book is less about the former and very much about the latter. On one hand, we have Archie Andrews, the optimistic and corny lead character in a town where the sun is always shining and the biggest tragedy is the decision over which hot girlfriend he’s going to ask out on any given night. Then you have Frank Castle, the dead-inside Vietnam veteran whose family was murdered by the mob, leading him to dedicate his entire being to showing no mercy to the criminal element. Granted, these are still the days when Marvel and DC weren’t overly violent, even in murderer anti-hero comics, and the only blood you’d see was a shadowy spray of black with no shot of the wound, but it’s still entirely messed up to do a story that mixes these two very, very different characters.

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Crossover Celebration Part 2: The A-Team and the WWE

October 11th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

The big urban legend says that a long-lasting fight between Muhammad Ali and virtual unknown Chuck Wepner inspired Sylvester Stallone to write the screenplay to Rocky. Some say that that isn’t true and that he was inspired by Rocky Graziano’s autobiography Somebody Up There Likes Me. Whichever is true is a pretty heavy incident as like a prime event in a butterfly effect, it had major ramifications on pop culture. I’m not even joking. The creation of Rocky led to the sequels. The third movie springboarded the career of a former bouncer trying to make his way into acting, as well as a lesser-known professional wrestler who would become a household name after a fairly small role in the opening minutes.

As much as I love Mr. T, I’ll concede that his budding career isn’t exactly the most important thing in the world. The rise of Hulk Hogan, on the other hand, is a pretty big deal that may not have happened had he not been given that role opposite Stallone. Mr. T’s fame would increase as part of the ever-so-popular A-Team and he’d have a major role in the World Wrestling Federation’s increasing prominence, including the first two Wrestlemanias. Such a major output was created, possibly because a man refused to go down so easily against the greatest boxer in the world. It’s crazy to think about.

In the mid-80′s there was a time when Hogan and Mr. T seemed inseparable. Mr. T joined Hogan in his war against “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, but that was as his stage self. When Hogan would return the favor, he wouldn’t be teaming up with, “First name: Mr. Middle name: Period. Last name: T.” No, he and the world of the WWF would step into the reality of the A-Team.

The A-Team shouldn’t need an introduction, as the opening credits explains things so perfectly. It was probably the manliest of all shows, giving dudes four characters we wish we could be. The calculating genius, the suave ladies man, the lovable lunatic and the take-no-guff badass. All of them helping people while sticking it to a corrupt government. What’s not to love? Well, other than some of the first season and most of the fifth season? Luckily, when Hulk Hogan shows up, it’s during the fourth season when things are still going strong.

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Crossover Celebration Part 1: JLA vs. Predators

October 7th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

You know what I love? Crossovers.

Really, when you look at it, it’s such a fun concept. Write a story where the main selling point is that two pre-existing parties cross paths and interact. It says a lot about the power of fiction and the properties that come from it that you can even do that. At worst, it’s a cheap cash-in. At best, it’s an interesting character study.

I think my admiration for crossovers is similar to why I’m drawn to Marvel’s What If series and to a lesser extent DC’s Elseworlds. It’s a celebration of the characters and ideas that have been built up over time while lovingly stretching them in fantastic ways. Like, I’ve never seen Star Trek. At all. Never watched any of the shows or seen any of the movies. I think I tried watching the cartoon when I was really young, but it bored me into a coma. Anything I know about the series comes from pop culture. That said, when they did an X-Men/Star Trek crossover and had a scene of someone busting into the room to yell, “DR. MCCOY?!” and both Leonard McCoy and Beast react to it and then glare back at each other, I still laugh about it because it’s almost like that was the entire reasoning for doing the comic. If it wasn’t, you know that writer had that on the top of his idea list, just over, “Spock takes out Wolverine with the Vulcan Neck Pinch and then Wolverine gets back up because of his healing factor.” Story came secondary at best.

I figured that if crossovers are a celebration of the characters, then maybe it’s about time that I celebrate the crossovers. One of the great things about crossovers – and another similarity with What If – is that they’re all so damn fascinating. It’s hard to make one that’s dull and uninteresting. You might find a crossover that works out great for everyone involved and tells a good story to boot. More than likely, you’ll get a bizarre mess that’s fun to look back at.

I’m not going to strictly talk about comics here. I’m talking crossovers in all media, whether it be comics, TV, movies and so on. I’ll only count stuff that’s official. Fan works and the like don’t count. Avengers fighting the Squadron Supreme, who themselves are Marvel’s stand-ins for the Justice League, doesn’t count. Also, in-universe crossovers don’t really rate here. Spider-Man meeting the Hulk isn’t very special. Regular Spider-Man meeting Ultimate Spider-Man? Yeah, maybe. I’ll at least use DC/Wildstorm crossovers.

For this debut entry, I’m going to go with JLA vs. Predators from 2001, drawn by Graham Nolan and written by John Ostrander. Ostrander’s a guy who I respect enough that I did a double-take when I realized he was behind it because he’s better than this.

This is one of the six times the Predators have crossed over with DC, five of the times in stories involving Batman. It hits me how safe the Predators are in this situation as the story is already written the moment you come up with the title. The Predators have a little more substance and likability than the Alien xenomorphs, but at the end of the day, in situations like this, they’re just high-profile cannon fodder. It’s a race of nameless creatures made up of some loose traits created from scenes from the first movie and, to a lesser extent, the sequel. When the xenomorphs aren’t around to make them the lesser evil, the Predators are simply, “those assholes from space”. They’re cool as hell, but there’s no mystery on who will win and who will die while laughing and exploding.

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4 Elements: Captain Atom

October 2nd, 2012 Posted by Gavok

12 months after DC’s problematic reboot made its way onto the scene, we finish the month of getting various #0 issues of DC properties. A couple comics are canceled as of their #0s, which includes the clever use of which in Resurrection Man. For years, that guy’s been wandering around while wondering who he really is and where he comes from and to have his story end in the origin issue is kind of perfect.

One comic I’m disappointed to see go is Captain Atom by JT Krul and Freddie Williams II. Not at all surprised, granted. In fact, I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did (I had similar feelings about ill-fated comics Azrael and Magog). The series was selling terribly and did even worse than Hawk and Dove, which makes me incredibly disappointed because that means at least two people were buying Hawk and Dove before that got the axe.

I feel Captain Atom got a bad rap and was far better than most gave it credit for. It’s no surprise why. Captain Atom is a bunch of comic book wrongs somehow making a right. That’s excluding Williams, who while there are a couple issues that seem a little too fluid and melty, his art is great stuff. I mean, this is a comic written by JT Krul. That is NOT a name that makes you optimistic. You can reboot continuity all you want, but people will still remember a tripping Roy Harper holding a dead cat and thinking it’s his daughter. The fact that he hasn’t worked on anything notably good since then keeps that red flag flapping.

Then you have Captain Atom himself. Captain Atom is one of those guys who I really want to like, but know it’s a hard sell. He’s pretty boring most of the time. He’s a Superman-level hero without much of a spark. He’s so boring that they’ve given themselves no choice but to try and turn him into a villain three times and all three times it went horribly wrong. There have been times when he’s shown promise. I thought he was the perfect ambassador character to interact with the Wildstorm Universe during Captain Atom: Armageddon. I’ll even say that I didn’t hate his portrayal in the days of Extreme Justice. Judd Winick was able to make something of him in Justice League: Generation Lost but, oops, Flashpoint happened and that character growth no longer matters.

You put a character that’s hard to pull off with a writer who can’t pull off something readable and… you get something good! There’s something inspiring about that. I still won’t buy anything with Krul’s name on it that involves a bow and arrow, but I’ll be a little more open-minded to his future work.

I feel that Captain Atom is the best use of the New 52 concept trying something new. New 52 is essentially DC’s Ultimate Universe, only it’s the new mainstream instead of a parallel. Too many characters are nothing more than a reset button for the sake of telling the same stories, but you have guys like Morrison’s Superman who go in a slightly different direction. Captain Atom strays away from the original concept while holding onto just enough, making him a cross between pre-Flashpoint Captain Atom, Dr. Manhattan and the Sentry.

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4 Elements: Mega Man

April 26th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Kids these days with their video games don’t know how good they have it. They have fully-realized stories right off the gate, treated to enough exposition and neat-looking cutscenes to paint a picture of what their game is all about. Guys like me and our Nintendo Entertainment Systems only got two paragraphs in the second page of the instruction manual and an ending. And if you were renting the game? Chances are you had to make a guess at what was going on.

The Mega Man games always had the barest of plots with just enough to make the sequels different in some way to what came before them. It got to the point where it would be, “The villain is this guy Dr. Cossack… oh, wait. It’s just Dr. Wily,” followed by, “The villain is Proto Man… oh, wait. It’s just Dr. Wily,” and so on. Just an excuse to keep giving us more of the same addicting gameplay. The endings were pretty dull until the SNES days with Mega Man X and Mega Man 7. The latter of which had the crazy-ass moment where Mega Man downright threatened to murder Dr. Wily on the spot.

While the later games introduced more story and cutscenes and even alternate futures and realities, the original games remained pretty barren. That is, until they released Mega Man: Powered Up in 2006, a PSP game that recreated the first game with new graphics, included a couple new characters (one of which being pretty racist-looking), gave everything a personality overhaul and allowed you to play through alternate versions of the game where the different boss characters switch places with Mega Man’s role and act as protagonists. While it crapped the bed in terms of sales, the ideas from it would be reused in the current Mega Man series released by Archie with Ian Flynn on words and Ben Bates on art. It’s a great comic and my only wish is that I’d be able to send it back in time to my ten-year-old self.

The series has finished its first year with twelve issues and three story arcs. The first covers the story of Mega Man 1, the second introduces Time Man and Oil Man from Powered Up (they fix the Oil Man controversy by putting a scarf over his mouth) and the third goes through the plot of Mega Man 2. The gist of the origin is that in the future, Dr. Light and his friend Dr. Wily have created a bunch of “Robot Masters” to help perform duties that will help out the human race and make the world a better, safer place. Due to Wily’s checkered past and notoriety in the public eye, Light insists that he stays out of sight for the press conference and the lack of limelight drives Wily over the edge. He rewires the six Robot Masters to do his bidding, has them attack the general public and plans some world domination. The only robots left unaffected are Rock and Roll, two housekeeping robots of Light’s who Wily felt were under his notice. With great reluctance, Rock volunteers to have himself turned into a battle-ready robot so he can bring his brothers back home and prevent Wily’s plot to take over the world.

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