For the past 13 years, Udon Entertainment, a collective of Canadian artists, has been producing comic books based on Capcom’s Street Fighter games and characters. There have been breaks from time to time between storylines, and a shift from monthly releases to graphic novels, but with the December launch of Street Fighter Unlimited, Udon has returned to a monthly, single-issue format. And what a return it is! The story picks up after Ryu’s transformation into Evil Ryu, a form consumed by the murderous power of the Dark Hadou. Also referred to as the Satsui No Hado, or “Surge of Murderous Intent,” Ryu has battled to keep this demonic force at bay within himself, choosing to seek revenge against the evil Akuma without succumbing to its lure. Ryu ultimately failed to keep the Dark Hadou in check, and as a battle between he and Akuma raged, the mysterious Gil intervened and brought an end to their fighting, as well as the possession of Ryu by his dark side.
The first issue does a good job of recapping previous events across the spectrum of Street Fighter series that Udon has produced over the years, catching up longtime readers and newbies alike. Is there a lot of story to catch up on? Certainly, but anyone who’s picking up Udon’s Street Fighter for the first time with this series isn’t going to be left in the wind. Actually, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that anyone who is familiar with the Street Fighter games won’t be left in the wind; admittedly, I think that someone who’s walking into Street Fighter Unlimited and knows nothing of Ryu, Ken, Akuma, Guile, or any of the other characters and elements of the franchise might have some trouble following along. In that sense, Udon could stand to clarify who the cast is a little better rather than taking for granted that the average reader is already going to have a rudimentary understanding of Street Fighter, but outside of that, Street Fighter Unlimited #1 is an excellent springboard.
Writer Ken Siu-Chong deserves a nod of respect here, as he’s been helming Udon’s Street Fighter comics since the line’s inception. That Street Fighter Unlimited chooses to embrace Udon’s established continuity is a clear indicator that Siu-Chong has a defined vision for where he wants these characters to go, which is refreshing considering how reboot-happy the comic books industry in general has come to be. Cracking open these first two issues of Street Fighter Unlimited was a great reminder to me of why I enjoy Udon’s Street Fighter comics so much. Siu-Chong’s writing here is as endearing as Ian Flynn’s work on Sonic the Hedgehog over at Archie Comics, because he similarly just seems to get all of these characters, giving them voices and personalities that perfectly fit within the decorum established in the actual games. Granted, at this point the story is slightly cliched, with vague mystery bad guys in the background and some repeated elements from previous stories (seriously, when is Ryu going to not be on a quest for inner-peace?!), but I’m enjoying the comfort food that it offers because it’s fairly well-written.
As ever, the artwork is of the top tier quality that Udon fans are accustomed to. Joe Ng is doing some gorgeous work here that’s evocative of Japanese manga art, but with a flair that’s decidedly Western. The fusion of the two styles results in some very pleasing eye candy, not to mention flowing, kinetic fight scenes. Udon is one of the best companies in the business when it comes to depicting fight sequences in its comics. Part of that is owed to the studio’s strong relationship with Capcom; Udon is so tight with Capcom, it’s even been asked to lend a hand in producing art assets for Street Fighter games, in the past. It’s because of these ties, at least in part, that I think Udon’s stable of artists is so good at presenting all this brawling. Watching Ryu and Sagat going at it in the water was a real treat, and the fight between Ken and Balrog in the second issue was just as compelling. I would argue that some of Ng’s facial work in quieter scenes could use some improving, but it’s a small gripe, for sure. Street Fighter Unlimited is a visual feast.
With only two issues on shelves, now is the time to head to a comic shop and get on board this series. Street Fighter Unlimited is a welcome return of Udon to monthly comics (not that its collected editions are anything to sneeze at, as they’re astounding), and I highly recommend fans of the series give it a look. There doesn’t appear to be a direct link on Udon’s website to order the comic, but websites like Comixology are offering copies, and of course nothing beats heading to a local comic shop (the comic shop locater website is especially helpful for anyone who doesn’t know where to look!). Hit up the links we’ve provided and get to reading Street Fighter Unlimited!