Friday, August 21, 2015


Featuring the work of: Rob Armstrong, Andres S. Blanco, Jeffrey Cruz,
Steven Cummings, Marshall Dillon, Omar Dogan, Sean Galloway,
Espen Grundetjern, Andrew Hou, Edwin Huang, Joe Ng, Gonzalo Ordonez Arias,
Chad Porter, Rob Porter, Chris Sims, Ken Siu-Chong, Arnold Tsang,
Eric Vedder, Long Vo, Jim Zub
Managing Editor: Matt Moylan | Project Manager: Jim Zubkavich
Chief of Operations: Erik Ko

Note: Though it was published prior to STREET FIGHTER ORIGINS: AKUMA, I elected to cover SUPER STREET FIGHTER volume one after, in order to keep it together with volume 2.

UDON's first original graphic novel in the STREET FIGHTER world is a real mixed bag. But before we get to a critique of the content, a quick rundown of the story:

It's four years since Bison's Street Fighter tournament ended (putting this book's publication in something resembling real time, as STREET FIGHTER II TURBO began in late 2008 and SUPER STREET FIGHTER volume one was released in early 2013). The "World Warriors" have moved on with their lives, many leaving their adventuresome careers behind.

But Guile is the first fighter drawn back into the world of martial arts intrigue when he learns a group called the Secret Society, led by the mysterious Gill, is making a play to kidnap the world's greatest martial artists as part of their plan to inherit the Earth when mankind's time passes. Guile learns from Tom, his man inside Gill's organization, that Ryu tops the list of targets, and heads for Japan. There he finds a distraught Sakura and chats with E. Honda and Dan Hibiki in search of clues. Along for the trip is Alex, Tom's foster son. Guile learns where Ryu is being held and prepares to go save him, while Sakura works to harness the power of the Dark Hadou to go after her master herself, but her interest in that art draws the attention of Akuma.

Strewn throughout the book are short "bonus" stories, functioning in much the same fashion as did the backups in previous UDON issues. Among other things, we meet a female assassin named Juri, we see Honda petitioning to make Sumo an Olympic sport, we watch as Balrog boxes against a gentleman fighter named Dudley, and we see Dahlsim fight a bizarre shape shifting organism. Some of these tales seem to be tied in with the main storyline, while others are pretty clearly just one-offs.

And that's a small part of my problem with this volume. In the past, most of UDON's backups had at least some tangential relation to the main plot at hand, whether it was showing us another side of a confrontation or flashing back to events related to the main action. And on the rare occasion the backups didn't tie in with the main story, they were still just a small part of the full collection.

But here, the backups feel like a waste of premium space in a book with a very limited page count. Unlike the STREET FIGHTER ULTIMATE EDITIONS, which clocked in at about 350 to 450 pages each, SUPER STREET FIGHTER volume one is 144 pages and roughly fifty of those pages are decisted to indicia, house ads, and an extensive "sketchbook" section. So we're looking at just shy of a hundred pages of actual story here. Every page counts, and dedicating eight of those pages to Honda's appeal to the Olympic subcommittee or Ibuki showing off to her monkey friends as she fights a ninja trainee from a rival school is cheating the reader out of development that could have gone into the actual main story arc.

Not that I'm particularly excited to read the main story this time. It's based on STREET FIGHTER III, but since UDON's SFIV series was published first, this book feels like a rehash of that. But regardless of which came first chronologically, one of those stories bears too strong a resemblance to the other. Remember just a couple weeks ago, as we covered SFIV and learned that Shadaloo's R&D arm, S.I.N., was kidnapping fighters for some mysterious purpose? And remember that the new young protagonist of that series was a blond kid with a mysterious past? Sound familiar? Because that's exactly the plot of this story so far. Sure, maybe it'll go someplace else this time, but still -- whether UDON's fault or Capcom's -- this rehash is incredibly lazy.

On the plus side Jeffrey Cruz's artwork has become a bit more palatable since STEET FIGHTER II TURBO. I still wouldn't say I'm a fan, but he's at least taken to using black lines once in a while, which was my biggest issue with his previous work. Still, STREET FIGHTER IV was lavishly illustrated by Joe Ng, and SUPER SF feels like a huge step down from Ng's beautiful work. I can't understand why, when they have brilliant guys like Ng and Omar Dogan at their disposal, UDON has given Cruz the headlining gig again. His style clashes with the traditional UDON house look as seen in most of the backups -- and I feel like UDON knows this, too, as the book's cover is drawn by Ng in their regular look, rather than being illustrated by the guy who did the bulk of the interiors.

My last complaint here is UDON's return to the well on the villain front. I don't know what characters were actually in the STREET FIGHTER III videogame, but in any case, did we really need to see Akuma again? Sure, we didn't know for certain whether he survived his duel with Ryu in TURBO, but why not give him a story arc off? And for that matter, we learn in SUPER STREET FIGHTER that Bison's pretty definitive death in TURBO has apparently been reversed, as he shows up serving the Secret Society as a villain. Now I like Bison a lot, but I feel like his time was done after the conclusion of TURBO. Bringing him back now, apparently only to prop up the new bad guy by showing that he's pledged fealty to him, cheapens his arc from the previous series.

I hold out hope things will turn around with SUPER STREET FIGHTER volume two, but not much could really accomplish that other than a complete change in the story's direction and a new artist working on the main story chapters. Unfortunately, these developments see, unlikely. But then again, the book was delayed more than a year, so maybe UDON spent that time repairing their missteps.

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