Thursday, November 13, 2008

Street Fighter II Turbo #1

After a hiatus of almost two years, UDON's Street Fighter comic returned in October with Street Fighter II Turbo #1.

During those dark years between the release of Capcom vs. SNK 2 and the announcement of Street Fighter IV, UDON's comic was one of the shining beacons that sustained interest in the franchise. It probably even helped to spark the current revival of the game series, when it drew the attention of Capcom itself, who commissioned UDON first to do the ending artwork for Capcom Fighting Evolution, and then assigned them the considerable task of completely updating the look of Super Street Fighter II Turbo for the upcoming HD Remix version, an all-consuming job that has likely been a major factor in the slowed pace of the comic's production.

For me, the book's greatest strength had been the artwork of Alvin Lee, who, in my eyes, provided near-definitive takes on the Street Fighter crew with his bold manga-inspired designs. I was initially disappointed, therefore, to learn that Lee would not be returning, but, thankfully, his successor, Jeffrey Cruz, is no slouch. Cruz does not attempt to imitate Lee's style, opting instead for much softer lines that give the characters a highly three-dimensional look, despite a noticeable lack of backgrounds. Lee's characters had more personality and his style was probably a better fit for a book founded on the charisma of its cast, but Cruz's art is still very clean and his characters sufficiently recognizable.

The real disappointment of the series continues to be the story, which is just a tired rehash of material that its core audience already knows by heart. It's a difficult position, I'm sure, for writer Ken Siu-Chong. In his endeavor to make this THE comic adaptation of Street Fighter, he does not wish to betray any fan expectations by mucking with the source material. As much as I adore the games, however, the story, to begin with, never had the depth to really sustain a lengthy narrative. Of course, that hasn't stood in the way of numerous video game, film, and cartoon retreads of the same simple plot, and this comic unfortunately adds nothing new or surprising.

In any case, this issue serves primarily to set up the World Warrior tournament, the legendary centerpiece of the Street Fighter mythos. If nothing else, future issues will hopefully provide the exciting bouts that most fans have probably been looking forward to all along.

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