Friday, July 17, 2015


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

The time has finally come for the Street Fighter Tournament, the event to which Ken Siu-Chong has been building since the first issue of the first STREET FIGHTER series. This tournament is based upon the original, beloved STREET FIGHTER II video game, and features all the same contestants (plus the additions from SUPER STREET FIGHTER II): Thunder Hawk, Cammy, Guile, Blanka, Dhalsim, Dee Jay, Ken, Zangief, Chun-Li, Fei Long, Ryu, and E. Honda, as well as the "bosses", Balrog, Vega, Sagat, and M. Bison.

Siu Chong groups the fighters into brackets and, after an opening speech from Bison, the action begins. T. Hawk is the first to go, defeated by Cammy. In short order, Blanka loses to Guile and Dhalsim defeats Dee Jay, freeing him from Bison's control (Dee Jay was captured by Shadaloo way back in the first series, rescued by Delta Red near its end, recaptured in the second series, and brainwashed in the third). Ken then defeats Zangief as the tournament's first day comes to an end.

But there's more happening on Shadaloo Island besides the Street Fighter Tournament. Cammy reveals to Guile and Chun-Li that she's only pretending to serve Bison, and helps the two concoct a plan to free Delta Red from captivity and take out Bison's protective force field. Meanwhile, Bison is troubled by Dhalsim's abilities and attempts to assassinate him between rounds, but Dhalsim defeats Bison's Dolls and withdraws from the tournament.

I like that Siu-Chong keeps things moving behind the scenes, because devoting this entire arc simply to the tournament would've made this material feel a bit sparse. Seeing Dualism's confrontation with Bison while Chun-Li and Guile sneak around the base gives a nice little break between the matches which would otherwise be overly repetitive.

But even these little tidbits aren't enough to totally kill the repetition, as the next day sees Ryu defeat E. Honda, Chun-Li throw her match against Fei Long to gain freedom to explore the island, Guile do likewise against Cammy, and Ryu defeat Fei Long. About the only narratively satisfying fight in the tournament to this point comes when Ken has a rematch with Vega, continuing their rivalry established back in the first volume. Ken has a definitive victory over Vega, but when his back is turned the villain attempts to kill Ken. Fortunately E. Honda intervenes, thus gaining his own vengeance on Vega following their fight which also occurred in the original series.

Chun-Li and Guile throwing their fights in order to explore the island makes sense -- or at least it would, if the story didn't tell us that it shouldn't work. See, as the fighters are defeated, Bison abducts them before they can leave the island and uses his Psycho Drive to brainwash them. So why doesn't he do this to Chun-Li and Guile? While Ken, Honda, and T. Hawk are all imprisoned, these two have free rein to explore Shadaloo Island and ultimately mess up Bison's plans. Is it because they didn't announce their intentions to leave, and therefore Bison couldn't abduct them for fear of raising questions about their absence? The story never explains this, so as it is their activities, wandering the island while the other losers are captured, makes no sense.

An issue break makes the timing of the next fight unclear. After Ken beats Vega, we get a "Later" caption and Ken bids farewell to Ryu in what appears to be the evening. Another "Later" and Ken is captured by Bison in an issue-ending cliffhanger. When the next issue begins, Bison awakens from a dream about Rose, presumably the next morning. This is backed up by the fact that when Cammy fights Balrog in the next scene, it's daylight outside. Cammy and Balrog defeat each other a double K.O., and then "Later," Bison checks on the brainwashing of his captives. Then, suddenly, it's "The next day" as Ryu and Sagat meet for their long-awaited rematch. So was there really only one fight the day before, Cammy vs. Balrog? Or, more likely, did Siu-Chong fall into that trap which seems to plague so many comic book writers, and not keep a detailed calendar of exactly what is happening when at all times? Seriously, how hard is is to do this? You can be creative and be anal about details at the same time. These traits aren't mutually exclusive. And, I would argue, being so anal would probably make one a better writer for detail-oriented readers like myself.

Anyway -- it's Ryu vs. Sagat in the rematch we've been told we've been waiting for ever since the first issue of the first series. This would probably have been a little more meaningful if they hadn't crossed paths a few times already and even fought on one other occasion prior to this. Nonetheless, the rivals have the longest fight scene of the tournament, with Sagat very nearly winning until Ryu's drive to survive until Akuma's appearance kicks in and he pulls out a win. Sagat departs, humbled but not angry.

Allow me to stop for a moment and state that I really like Siu-Chong's version of Sagat. He's a noble rival, bringing to mind comparisons to, say, Piccolo from DRAGONBALL Z. Sagat started out as a thuggish foe, out only to avenge himself by beating Ryu. But his travels, concurrent to Ryu's but barely glimpsed by the reader, have mellowed and enlightened him to the point that now, like Ryu, he simply wants to test himself against the best fighters he can find. If he wins that's great, but if he loses it only increases his desire to better himself and return for a rematch. Most versions of Sagat I've seen are noble but still black-hearted. This characterization resonates much better to me.

With Sagat defeat, Bison reveals to Ryu that he's brainwashed T. Hawk, E. Honda, and Ken. This drives Ryu nuts, and he demands his fight with Bison immediately. Their duel begins, but Akuma interrupts and the fight becomes a three-way struggle. Meanwhile, Cammy fights the brainwashed warriors while Chun-Li and Guile spring Delta Red and destroy Bison's Psycho Drive. With the source of his power gone, Bison becomes easy pickings for Akuma, who pretty clearly kills him, but not before he attempts to transfer his consciousness into Cammy as per her original reason for being. I don't know if Siu-Chong intended this as a hint that Bison could still exist in Cammy's mind, but I guess we'll find out (or not) in future issues.

Then, as U.S. reinforcements ferry Guile and the others away from the self-destructing Shadaloo Island, Ryu remains behind to fight Akuma and avenge his master. He nearly succumbs to the Dark Hadou but ultimately refuses. And apparently Gen and Akuma have been right all along, because as soon as Ryu drops that killer instinct, Akuma gains the upper hand and prepares to finish Ryu off. It's only the deus ex machine appearance of the ghost of Master Gouken (!) which saves him. Dhalsim then appears and teleports Ryu to safety as Gouken and Akuma fight it out on the crumbling island.

Seriously. Even in a series which has featured some level of mysticism and supernatural elements, this is a downright bizarre and surreal conclusion to Ryu's journey. Essentially all his travels and training have been for nothing, because he was about to lose to Akuma anyway before his dead master returned from the grave to save him. What, exactly, was the point of all the Ryu stories we read up to now? I don't know if this was Capcom's continuity or Siu-Chong's idea, but whoever's responsible for it deserves a few lashes with a wet rice noodle.

The story concludes with Chun-Li recapping the fates of the various fighters for her chief, and then Ken traveling to Japan to fetch Ryu for his wedding, leading to the lifelong friends engaging in a sparring match for old times' sake.

And that's it. STREET FIGHTER comprised fourteen issues plus a #0. STREET FIGHTER II was six issue plus a #0. And TURBO brought us twelve more issues and another 0. That's about thirty-five total issues to cover six months' time leading up to the Street Fighter Tournament. This tournament is, in my opinion, the lynchpin of the STREET FIGHTER universe. I know there have been other STREET FIGHTER games since II, but that one remains the gold standard, storywise. Unfortunately I just don't think Siu-Chong does the tournament justice here. Partly the artwork is to blame. I described my issues with Jeffrey Cruz last time, and they're still on display here. But more than that, the pacing is just wrong. The tournament seems rushed and the story feels like it's just going through the motions; like Siu-Chong knows we all know how it's going to end, and he simply wants to get it over with. It should feel like a big deal, but it doesn't at all. And after all the build-up, much of which -- especially in the first volume -- was quite good, that's a shame.

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