Review: Street Fighter Unlimited #1

Ever get the feeling fighting games are poor foundations upon which to build complex narratives? I mean, I love Street Fighter but the story therein boils down to a person fighting another person until one of the persons falls down. The individual motivations and back stories are filled in based on the character designs. Their motivations are relegated to brief before and after segments. So expecting expanded fiction material to... expand upon superficial plot points and traits might be asking a writer to make something out of basically nothing. Street Fighter Unlimited seeks to build upon that, perhaps faulty, foundation to ask questions about what we need to let go of and where our efforts are best placed when forging new paths in life. That’s a lot to lay upon a fighting game comic. Street Fighter Unlimited #1The roughest part of Unlimited is at the book's front. It plays out like a fighting game story mode. By which I mean it features minimal setup before the punching starts. Fights happen for little reason beyond, "Hey, I need to talk to you... with my fist" and away we go. That's not to say there's a lack of setup or emotion. Much like the various works of anime and manga it draws upon for influence, Unlimited's early pages feel very introspective, to the point of being off-putting.

Main dude, Ryu, talks to the spirit of his dead master in a section that feels like it goes on for about twice as long as needed. Also, it's really hard not to read this issue through the lens of Star Wars lore. Ryu spends a great deal of time espousing the value of the Dark Hado. And it's all dark side rhetoric we've heard before. Though the book does make an effort to explain why a dogged pursuit of power is dangerous and still perhaps necessary for some people. Maybe being a monster is what works for some folks. It’s a legitimately decent amount of thoughtfulness. However, some of the game's silliness bleeds into the comic. The supposed menace of the character Gill is somewhat hurt by the fact that he is a half blue, half red, fabulously coiffed, swimsuit-donning bodybuilder. Named Gill.

Unlimited hits its stride at more than halfway through. The dialog doesn't pick up until other dude, Ken, comes around to deliver some common sense and a bit of levity to the otherwise -- up to that point -- stolid and predictable writing. Our characters actually pull of in-battle chatter in a way that moves the plot and elucidates their personalities. Their postures and styles are well-illustrated. The fights are easy to follow. And Unlimited takes advantage of its medium to convey Ryu's inner turmoil through combat and words simultaneously. I'm looking forward to seeing where Ryu's path takes him, even if I probably know most of the story beats already.

Score: 4/5

Street Fighter Unlimited #1 Writer: Ken Siu-Chong, Jim Zub Artists: Joe Ng, Edwin Huang Colorist: Espen Grundetjern, Josh Perez Publisher: Udon Entertainment Price: $3.99 Release Date: 12/9/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital

Street Fighter Unlimited #1 is available in stores tomorrow!