Friday, September 11, 2015


Story: Ken Siu-Chong
Line Art: Alvin Lee, Arnold Tsang, Kevin Lau, Joe Vriens, Scott Hepburn, Eric Vedder
Colors: Gary Yeung, Espen Grundetjern, Susan Luo,
Christine Choi, Shane Law, Omar Dogan, Kevin Yan, Arnold Tsang
Inks: Crystal Reid | Lettering: Simon Yeung, Marshall Dillon
Bonus Stories: Mark Brooks, Danimation, Alan Wang, Lesean Thomas,
C.P. & Patara, Joe Ng, Skottie Young
Managing Editor: Matt Moylan | Project Manager: Jim Zubkavich
Chief of Operations: Erik Ko

And then there's DARKSTALKERS. Another Capcom property whose rights are held by UDON, and to my knowledge, the only other such property to receive a serialized comic from the publisher, this series is set on a modern-but-gothic Earth, where demons and monsters are making a comeback after millennia in hiding. DARKSTALKERS received two mini-series from UDON, one circa 2005 and another from 2010, but both told one continuous story.

Unfortunately, that story is a bit muddled. We have, more or less, two protagonists: Morrigan, a succubus and princess of the demon realm called Makai, and Donovan, a warrior monk from Earth. Both are "Darkstalkers", beings of supernatural, and apparently evil, origins, though Donovan has harnessed his power for good as a "Night Warrior", one of the people who hunt and kill Darkstalkers. Morrigan spends the majority of the story searching for Demitri Maximoff, a Makai exiled to Earth with plans to return to the demon realm and depose her father, while Donovan travels the world in search of a suit of demonic samurai armor called Bishamon, which killed the family of his young ward, Anita.

Seems pretty straightforward, right? The problem arises when we randomly follow a cat girl named Felicia, with dreams of becoming an actress, who hooks up with a werewolf named Jon as she travels to California for an audition. And then, after the first series, with their story completely unresolved, these two vanish entirely from the series.

And then there's Victor, a monster created by a mad scientist, who gets a whole issue of backstory to himself before fighting Donovan and disappearing forever. And beyond these are numerous other characters introduced for quick backup stories or single page interludes, which ultimately lead to no payoff. The backups are fine; this worked in STREET FIGHTER as well. But, for example, an issue of STREET FIGHTER would never dedicate a full issue to the backstory of someone like Adon, who is a minor character in the grand scheme. The STREET FIGHTER lead stories concentrate on the development of the lead characters, not random one-off guest-stars.

And above it all, as if all this wasn't enough, there's a plot about an elder god named Pyron coming to Earth to devour it. In the end, he interrupts Morrigan and Demitri during their big climactic fight, beats them, and is defeated by Donovan and Anita -- after which Demitri steals his power and is stranded on Earth by Morrigan, who returns to Makai to claim her departed father's throne. Dimitri is then exiled from the planet by Anita (she has strange psychic powers), and apparently all's well that ends well.

So what happened here? It seems evident Ken Siu-Chong had more in mind for DARKSTALKERS. UDON probably felt it could be another STREET FIGHTER, a franchise to last for years across multiple comic series, with a huge cast of characters. It seems evident Siu-Chong was setting it up this way, anyway, with the randomly disappearing storylines in the first series. I'm sure he was trying to develop sub-plots to revisit later on. But I suspect this stuff just didn't sell as well as STREET FIGHTER, leading to cancellation of the first series after six issues, followed by a very short (three issue) miniseries to wrap it up for the hardcore fans five years later.

But that's all speculation, and ultimately it doesn't matter why this series came out as it did. The bottom line is that, especially as a collected edition, it's little more than an unfortunate mess with some decent ideas buried within. I like Morrigan; she's sort of anti-heroine -- a protagonist, but purely for her own reasons. She wants to kill Demitri not to save Earth, but to protect her father. She's a succubus, and merrily travels our world draining life from men wherever she encounters them. A "bad girl", I guess, which is an archetype for which I have a bit of a weak spot.

(Some years back I read several old Warren VAMPIRELLA stories, and while I liked them somewhat, I was disappointed that the title character didn't live up to my expectations. I had long assumed Vampirella was this type of Morrigan-esque character: a sexy vampire having adventures, but killing people, innocent and otherwise, as the need arose. I was disappointed to find she was pretty squeaky clean in those old stories.)

Otherwise, none of the other characters hold my interest. I want to like Demitri as a villain, but we barely see him in these issues, and he remains a sketch of a character up to the very end. And Donovan is just boring. Victor brings some black humor to the proceedings, but he's hardly a main character in the series, and the same goes for Felicia and pretty much everyone else as well. In the end this turns out to be Morrigan's story more than anyone else's, which begs the question of why so many other characters are crammed into these pages. (It's rhetorical, of course; this is a Capcom property and I'm certain UDON was expected to utilize as many cast members as they could.)

DARKSTALKERS doesn't have much re-reading value, though the artwork is at least beautiful. As usual, the ULTIMATE EDITION does not clarify which artists drew which chapters, but the work is pretty uniform throughout, and the colors are magnificent as ever. I actually think much of this material looks better than the majority of the STREET FIGHTER stories, due mainly to the animation-quality colors.

All that said, no one's life will be poorer for failing to pick this up.

But if you want to... Available now at

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