Friday, August 28, 2015


Featuring the Work of: Jo Chen, Julian Choy, Jeffrey "Chamba" Cruz, Marshall Dillon,
James Ghio, Espen Grundetjern, Edwin Huang, Takeshi Miyazawa, Joe Ng, Ludwig Olimba,
Gonzalo "Genzoman" Ondonez Arias, Rob "Robaato" Porter, Kevin Raganit,
Arnold Tsang, Ken Siu-Chong, Hanzo Steinbach, Long Vo, Jim Zub
Chief of Operations: Erik Ko | Managing Editor: Matt Moylan
Project Manager: Jim Zubkavich

SUPER STREET FIGHTER volume 2 leads off with a really weird short story in which Akuma and Gouken duel as they discuss Ryu's recent challenges, and Akuma reveals his plans to use Sakura to unlock Ryu's dark potential. Buuut... isn't Gouken dead? Is this fight occurring in the afterlife or something? If so, does Akuma have the ability to teleport back and forth between the realms of the living and dead, a la DRAGONBALL Z's Son Goku? It's maddeningly unclear, and never gets explained in the rest of the book.

The second leadoff story, chronicling the Secret Society's absorption of STREET FIGHTER IV's S.I.N. organization, is at least a bit more satisfying from a continuity standpoint, as it reveals that in the years since Bison's tournament (remember, SFII TURBO and SFIV took place concurrently), with Shadaloo dissolved, S.I.N. has been operating autonomously -- until Bison, the Secret Society's envoy, arrives to take back the organization he founded for the Society's leader, Gill. I enjoy when these STREET FIGHTER comics acknowledge their own continuity trails, so I like to point out when it happens.

The majority of the remaining backup stories are inconsequential filler, chronicling a meeting between Ken, his apprentice Sean, and Chun-Li in Hong Kong; a goofy tale of Dan Hibiki's daily life, and a wrestling Match between Rainbow Mika and Hugo's manager, Poison. Then the final backup gives us a bit of backstory on the Secret Society and explains how Gill became their leader, taking his rival, Urien, as his second-in-command.

And then there's the main story, which is... unsatisfying, to say the least. It begins with Akuma battling Sakura to unlock the dark hadou within her, while elsewhere Guile, Dan, and Alex mount a mission to rescue the captive Ryu from Bison, Urien, and the Secret Society. Dark Sakura shows up, Ryu is freed and absorbs her darkness into himself to save her, then Akuma arrives to fight Ryu, releasing his own dark hadou to become... double dark Akuma? I mean, hasn't Akuma already embraced the darkness within? Apparently not enough, because there's some dark Super Saiyan form he attains here, turning him into an even match for Ryu.

At which point Gill arrives, reverts both Ryu and Akuma to normal, drops some cryptic remarks about Alex's destiny, and departs. Then our tale ends with Guile and Alex debriefing while Ryu, Sakura, and good ol' Dan walk off into the sunset together. The End. (Seriously -- not "To Be Continued", simply "The End". Was this always intended as a two-volume OGN line, or did the long delays for volume two sour UDON on the idea of continuing the series?)

Now here's my beef with this story: nothing happens in it. The characters all hang around one nondescript location, fighting each other, for the majority of the book. And yeah, it's a STREET FIGHTER comic, but so many of the past stories involved a large cast globe trotting and dueling in interesting locations. Here it's just a small group of fighters, confined to one spot. It really makes the fights feel even more like filler than they normally would.

Now, there are a few bits of plot advancement in these pages: First, my concern about Bison last time was ill-founded, as it turns out he's still dead (for now, but see below for more on that) and the "M. Bison" we've been following through SUPER STREET FIGHTER is a robotic mimic of the type that fought Dahlsim in the previous volume. So that reveal was cool and genuinely unexpected. Plus we get all the cryptic hints about Alex, and we're teased with Guile planning to check in on Vega and Balrog to learn more about the Secret Society by way of its association with S.I.N.

The book also ends with an epilogue that sets a few more threads into motion, as Cammy and her new special forces team, Delta Blue, go after S.I.N. and learn that the organization is cloning high ranking government officials from around the world, and we see that Gill has operatives inside the White House.

So essentially, this is a series of two expensive original graphic novels in which very little happens other than setup for future stories (which, at the rate UDON is producing these things lately, may not materialize for years to come). I don't know what caused it, but the quality of storytelling has dropped dramatically since UDON's first STREET FIGHTER series began all those years ago. The original comic series, while crammed with nonstop fights, at least contained some moderately paced plot developments too. But something about the original graphic novel format has caused Siu-Chong to favor action over plot, and the result is a stagnant story that doesn't seem to have much cause to exist, much less to carry the price tag it does.

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After a 2014 edition that featured stories soon to be printed in SUPER STREET FIGHTER volume 3, in 2015 UDON released a "Free Comic Book Day" issue containing a story (so far) unpublished anywhere else. It's a nifty little tale following several fighters as they cross paths over the years. We begin with a novice Ryu fighting Charlie Nash, which movies into Charlie sparring with Guile, which then transitions into Guile battling Crimson Viper, who is next shown in combat against Ibuki, who closes out the tale fighting a veteran Ryu. It's a neat narrative trick; probably the most creative UDON's STREET FIGHTER comics have gotten on that front.

And while most of the story seems to be just for fun, there is one potential plot kernel dropped, as we learn that Crimson Viper's employers have tasked her with locating Bison's body following his death at the Street Fighter Tournament years earlier. It seems writer Matt Moylan, like Ken Siu-Chong, just can't resist planting these little tidbits, and I honestly hope they all lead someplace. At least, with a STREET FIGHTER V videogame on the horizon and UDON having already released one Comic-Con exclusive graphic novel tie-in to the game (to be covered here next week), I'm hopeful we'll see all this stuff -- the Secret Society, the mystery of Bison's corpse (which I was unaware was supposed to be a mystery), etc. -- tied together somehow, whether in a new OGN series, a comic series, or something else entirely.

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