One-on-one fights of an over-the-top and often backbreaking capacity are common in comics. So, what video game genre is there more fitting than fighting to adapt into the printed pictorial medium? In fact, I’m a little surprised it’s taken me this long to open the pages of a comic based on one of the many famed fighting series – there are so many out there they’re practically a comic book sub-sector.
Right, forgive me purists if my knowledge is little flawed – I don’t have instant recall of years of fighting game canon just waiting to be unleashed. The series I’ve been reading is… [to be read in a booming announcer voice]
Street Fighter IV!
Another miniseries from Udon Comics, the Canada-based art studio behind much of Capcom’s Western produced print materials that shot to fame with the launch of their first Street Fighter comic serial in 2003. The team responsible for the SFIV miniseries includes Joe Ng (art) and Ken Siu-Chong.
Being someone who’s not followed Street Fighter’s 20-year history I suspected I’d come across tons of references and be stumped by inexplicable unnamed entrances. That all happened but to a lesser degree than had I original expected. Centred on Crimson Viper, Abel and Seth (the new additions to the Street Fighter roster), the story concerns, long-time baddie, Bison’s shady organisation, S.I.N., stealing fighters from around the world to harness the dark energy within them.
It’s not the most ambiguous comic out there when it comes to plot, but I guess it’s suited for what the Street Fighter audience expects. And apparently, what Udon expect is for you to invest in every one of their series if you wish to enjoy the full breadth of the Street Fighter universe. There are a couple instances that refer you to issues in the Street Fighter II Turbo and Street Fighter Legends: Sakura series. These are mostly references to character back-story stuff, so it shouldn’t spoil your enjoyment of the SFIV comics.
My favourite moment came in issue #2 which sees student, Sakura, and lucha libre, El Fuerte, ambushed by Dan, Rufus and C. Viper on the set of a Japanese game show. After all, exclaiming combos out loud and random fighters challenging candidates to do battle for no apparent reason are part of why fighting games are so deliciously absurd. Akuma popping out of a jungle forest purely to do battle with the toughest person he can find (which happens to be Seth) is ridiculous in my view – but it’s no more outlandish than SFIV’s character arcs.
Forgetting the plot, the art really is the high mark throughout this series. Power, brooding gut punches, flaming kicks and specials that could fry you a prefect omelette make SFIV an ever stunning comic to look at. The artist has a way of drawing characters coming out of the frames which really makes things feel larger than life – mixing up the arrangement of action in a way I’d not yet come across before. The variant covers of the four-issue series, all drawn by Arnold Tsang, have this wonderful distorted quality to them, which I really dig, gives things a real sense of motion. Some great art, which anyone with an ounce of love for martial arts can appreciate, but all in all, this miniseries is definitely best left for Street Fighter lovers.