Street Fighter mania grips an unsuspecting nation as feverish anticipation builds to levels on par with Street Fighter II’s original early 90’s arcade heyday for next week’s release of Street Fighter V on PS4. Long the stalwarts of the franchise on the printed page, especially in the dark times between the late 90’s commercial failure of the woefully underappreciated Street Fighter III and 2008’s Street Fighter IV led fighting game resurgence, Canadian Comics Studio Udon Entertainment is here to bring us up to date on the latest story developments between the somewhat divisive fourth installment and the excellent looking fifth iteration, in the awesomely illustrated western manga format that they helped create and perfect since their formation in 2000.
Issue 1 focuses on Ryu and his continuing struggle to control the murderous intent inside of him after the events of Street Fighter IV, where he fully ascended to the wickedly deformed Evil Ryu, first glimpsed in the 2011 Arcade Edition. The story goes that the last thing he remembers is he and Akuma battling to a standstill as Bison’s island headquarters burned to the ground, and a hallucination (or was it?) that he was saved by his long dead Master Gouken. Against Ken’s wishes he seeks the council of former arch nemesis Sagat, but another mysterious mentor, one with close ties to Gouken, may be the only one with the answers he seeks. Elsewhere, masked and clawed murderous narcissist ninja Vega informs Shadaloo’s new commander, in full Bison garb but not the man himself apparently, of a new hostage on base, none other than Chun Li!
Issue 2 forsakes Ryu’s quest to join up with Ken, Guile and Cammy’s search for Chun Li, and a hard hitting battle with Balrog, whose new gig finds him at the head of a seemingly legitimate company that secretly launders funds for what remains of Shadaloo and SIN. The highlight for me though was the appearance of oddball SFIII villain Gill, here preparing for his final solution against the world, impressing his followers by crushing a meteor and revealing his possession of the machinery used to create SFIV boss character Seth.
I love where this series is going. With more incorporation of the characters and concepts from Street Fighter III in the main storyline, not to mention short back up stories featuring Alex and Necro, these new Street Fighter Unlimited books look to be following right along with Street Fighter V and I couldn’t be happier as an SFIII diehard who SFIV never quite clicked with. Ken Siu Chong’s writing neatly gets us up to speed and effortlessly flows into the current set up, with dialogue that never feels corny or forced, seeming appropriate for each of the numerous and varied individual personalities on display. The art here is beaua sight to behold, Joe Ng and Espen Grundetjern expertly presenting how perfectly Udon’s house style meshes with Capcom’s 80’s anime meets 90’s Marvel aesthetic, and the fight scenes are beautifully fluid and easy to follow, displaying lots of little touches from the games even outside of the big special moves, showing an infectious love of the source material on the part of these creators.
Udon’s initial mid-aughts Street Fighter work set a high bar for video game adaptations in all other media and they continue to not only live up to but also exceed that standard. Issues 1 and 2 of Udon’s Street Fighter Unlimited are available now. Issue 3 is out this week, so look for our full review soon, and of course, the mighty Street Fighter V drops next week on the 16th.