Friday, July 10, 2015


Story: Ken Siu-Chong | Artwork & Color: Jeffrey "Chamba" Cruz | Lettering: Marshall Dillon
Guest Artists: Arnold Tsang, Skottie Young, Chris Stevens, Kevin Yan, Mark Lee, Sven
Project Manager: Jim Zubkavich | Managing Editor: Marshall Dillon | UDON Chief: Erik Ko

At last it's time for the Street Fighter Tournament. STREET FIGHTER II TURBO presents UDON's take on the storyline of the classic STREET FIGHTER II video game. In that game, a mysterious organization called Shadaloo organized a tournament of "World Warriors" and set them against each other in single elimination format. At this point in UDON's storyline we already know plenty about Shadaloo, so there's no real mystery this time: Bison is holding the tournament so he can gauge the world's greatest fighters and eventually brainwash the best of them to serve him.

The volume's initial issues provide quick check-ins with the cast, and let us know just how long it's been since this whole thing started. According to Chun-Li, six months have passed since the start of UDON's first STREET FIGHTER volume. I'm not sure if I think that's too short or not. I generally like ultra-compressed timelines, but in this case a whole lot has happened, including Ryu traveling the world, and six months feels a bit short. But it doesn't not work, so I'm okay with it.

As the story begins, Cammy has been re-brainwashed to serve Bison again, and he plans to enter her in his tournament. But he needs a few more fighters to join in, so he's holding preliminaries at three locations around the world, looking for nine more warriors to come to Shadaloo headquarters for the main event. After Ken tracks Ryu down in Alaska, the prelims begin. Each location is presided over by one of Bison's lieutenants. First, in Hong Kong, Sagat watches as Chun-Li, Fei Long, and Dhalsim defeat all challengers to secure their places in the tournament.

I'm displeased with Siu-Chong's handling of Chun-Li here. As I've mentioned before, she was always my favorite Street Fighter. In this preliminary bout, Dhalsim and Fei Long are shown to beat their opponents with incredible ease. Chun-Li, meanwhile, struggles against her foes, gets blinded by one of them, and is only able to win by a narrow margin when her "nephews", Yun and Yang, assist her from the stands by shouting out her opponents' locations and even throwing their skateboard at one of her enemies before as he leaps at her. It's a poor handling of a character who Siu-Chong had thus far done excellent work with, making her a helpless target, only able to advance with outside assistance which essentially amounts to cheating.

At the prelims in Japan, Edmond Honda and Zangief impress Vega and win their places in the tournament. Sakura puts in an appearance here as well, knocking out perennial loser Dan Hibiki to win a place in the tournament, but then forfeiting her position to take Dan to the hospital. Sakura's scene makes little sense to the story and is somewhat confusing. Vega declares that he must return with three fighters, but when Sakura departs, he doesn't choose a runner-up to replace her. So does that mean Bison's tournament is one fighter short? Unlikely, since if Sakura had made it, there would be an uneven number of fighters. The next prelim chooses four fighters to advance. Was that always the plan, or was it revised when Sakura bowed out? Some clarification would've been nice.

Also strange in the Japanese match is the fact that Honda and Zangief both have special word balloons: Honda speaks with red letters in his white balloons, while Zangief bellows everything he says using yellow letters in red balloons. There's no reason for this. Now, look: Bison and Akuma both have special balloons too, both being black with white and red lettering respectively. But they're both semi-superhuman beings, and villains to boot. For them, it makes sense. Honda and Zangief are normal human beings; there's no logical reason why they should have special word balloons. The only thing accomplished by giving them such is confusion and distraction when reading their dialogue.

In the United States, in Metro City (site of Capcom's side-scrolling FINAL FIGHT series), Ryu, Ken, Guile, and Thunder Hawk secure their passage to the finals under the supervision of Balrog. Siu-Chong uses this scene to introduce Cody, a character from FINAL FIGHT who was transplanted to the STREET FIGHTER series in the STREET FIGHTER ALPHA games. Along with Cody are a few other FINAL FIGHT crossover characters, Rolento, Hugo, and Poison (and, putting in a cameo appearance earlier in the story is Mike Haggar, an old friend of Cody's and the mayor of Metro City). This isn't the only spot where Siu-Chong populates the preliminaries with familiar faces, either. In Hong Kong we saw the brief return of Adon, while Japan gave us a look at STREET FIGHTER ALPHA characters Rainbow Mika and Sodom. As in previous volumes, it's nice to see the world enhanced by these cameos. We know none of these characters are fated to move on, but their presence is appreciated.

But the prelims aren't the only action going on in these pages. Back at Shadaloo's headquarters, Vega secretly deprograms Cammy, explaining that, like him, she is too beautiful to be someone's slave. Now posing as her brainwashed self, Cammy begins plans to spring the captive Delta Red and thwart Bison's plans for the tournament. I really like Siu-Chong's handling of Vega throughout all these stories. He's cunning and devious, but is also a hair-trigger psychopath, prone to brutal violence if someone so much as looks at him the wrong way. Why Bison keeps him around, I don't know, but I'm glad he does. He's a terrific archetype of the villain you love to hate.

And as for Bison: he's in full Cobra Commander mode through these issues. He's holding the tournament on Shadaloo Island, but he won't let anyone else come near it. With his Psycho Drive in place, Bison is capable of firing energy beams from satellites in orbit, obliterating any aircraft or ships that come near his base. He even goes on TV, warning the world's powers against interfering in his tournament. I love this. It's got a real Saturday morning cartoon feel to it, which seems totally appropriate to Bison, the despotic warlord with the perpetual sadistic grin on his face.

Unfortunately, none of this stuff looks as nice as it could. Artwork for STREET FIGHTER II TURBO is handled by Jeffrey Cruz, and his work is mostly... not good. His fights are okay, but nowhere near as nice and fluid as those in previous volumes. His characters are more-or-less on model, but lack the clean polish of past installments. He spots no blacks into his work, choosing instead to draw in an "animation cel" style, using colors to provide light and shadow. As a result, the work looks like it's missing something. Every page is way too open for color, and it all looks extremely lightweight, for lack of a better term, without some good solid blacks strewn about. Besides that, some of his anatomy is off, his backgrounds are often nonexistent, and he seems to lack the ability to draw normal clothes and civilians with any real skill.

The story remains interesting, though a little thin as usual. The problem is that, in the past that thinness was hidden by breathtaking artwork -- but here, under Cruz's less than expert skill, the artwork can't cover for the deficiencies in Siu-Chong's pacing. It's unfortunate that the most iconic storyline in all of STREET FIGHTER gets the worst artist the series has seen so far.

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