Thursday, December 16, 2010

Trade Waiting - Street Fighter Legends: Ibuki

This week I was pleasantly surprised to be sent a review copy of Udon Entertainment’s recently released Street Fighter Legends Volume 3: Ibuki comic. As a former Street Fighter II junkie (more on that later) and a big fan of the comics writer, Jim Zubkavich (who also write the hilariously awesome Skullkickers for Image), I thought I’d check this out. Will this comic be enough to rekindle my love for Capcom’s fight-‘em-up franchise? You’ll have to hit the jump to find out.


Written by Jim Zubkavich
Art by Omar Dogan
Letters by Marshall Dillon
Published Udon Entertainment
US Release Date: December 15, 2010

Growing up, I was a complete junkie for Street Fighter II. If I wasn’t using it to buy comics, the vast majority of my allowance went to playing SFII in the arcade until my mom was finally took pity on me enough to buy me the port for Super Nintendo. I was equally as excited for the Turbo and Super varieties of the classic fighting game. Oddly enough, around the same time that I stopped reading comics, I also lost touch with Capcom’s tent-pole fighting franchise. Much to my surprise, since that time, they’ve released various editions of Street Fighter Alpha, EX, Versus, III, and IV. In other words, I’m coming into this comic pretty cold.

This volume of the Street Fighter legends comic focusing on Ibuki (who, according to Wikipedia, was apparently introduced in Street Fighter III), a young ninja-in-training that is also allowed to live the life of an average teenage girl so long as it does not encroach upon her studies in a secluded ninja glade. Through the course of the series, Ibuki struggles to achieve high marks in school—in hopes of attending university—while maintaining her training and some semblance of a social life with her new friends—and fellow Street Fighter characters—Makoto and Elena. In the midst of this, her ninja clan is targeted by a rival ninja clan and she must do battle with the lecherous Oro, another Street Fighter character I was totally unfamiliar with.

Writer Jim Zubkavich is clearly aiming to be as accessible as possible while keeping the book all-ages appropriate. The book is clearly written and extremely linear, making it easy to follow. The characters themselves are highly engaging and don’t come with any unexplained baggage. Lapsed Street Fighter junkies, devout followers, and even those completely unfamiliar with the franchise will all be able to pick up and read the series without any problem. If the goal is to appeal to as large of a potential fan base as possible, than Zubkavich does a tremendous job.

It helps that Ibuki is an incredibly likable character and is accented by a strong supporting cast. Throughout all that happens to her in this book, she maintains a positive attitude and an unrelenting focus. Even when it seems like she has hit rock bottom, she is able to find the drive necessary to excel. It’s quite admirable without being forceful or annoying—the best analogy I can draw is Hermione from the Harry Potter series, but without the occasionally snotty comments. The main support characters, Elena and Makoto, making strong foils for Ibuki by being polar opposites to one another that are linked by their individual similarities to Ibuki. Makoto is singularly focused and abrasive in her quest to prove herself, but shares the same drive as Ibuki, while Elena is eternally optimistic and good-natured, making her the “lighter-half” balance to Makoto.

Omar Dogan handles the art chores for the majority of the book and does so quite well. His art is extremely clean and heavily influenced by the prototypical “manga” style. That makes it a perfect fit for the Japanese setting and characters. He does a great job of giving his characters a sense of motion and energy, which makes him a perfect fit for the book’s action sequences. His over-the-top expressions make the talking head sequences equally as effective. The most striking aspect of his art, though, is his consistency. Dogan sticks to his style unrelentingly and rarely has an off panel throughout the entire volume.

The only complain I can really muster about the art is that it isn’t terribly original. The designs themselves clearly cannot stray too far from the source material, so Dogan has little freedom in that regard. His actual storytelling style and overall aesthetic feel is similar to dozens of other comics that I’ve seen. That’s not to say that it’s boring, but just that Dogan’s work never really branches out from what is expected of it. Given his tremendous amount of talent that he does showcase here, I’d be interested in seeing what he’d do in a book that would allow him more creative freedom.

Verdict: Buy It. While I am hesitate to recommend Street Fighter Legends: Ibuki to everyone, I feel that it is highly effective in what it sets out to do and is quite entertaining in the process. Jim Zubkavich casts a wide net for his audience and is effective in writing a charming all-ages comic that is highly accessible. He is accented nicely by the strong artwork of Omar Dogan. While I would say a passing interest in the Street Fighter franchise is probably a prerequisite for this comic, those in the target audience are going to find a lot to love here. I guess the best way I can put this is that, after reading this comic, I was so intrigued by the character of Ibuki and the changes made to the Street Fighter universe since the mid-1990s, I ordered a used copy of the Street Fighter Anniversary Collection for my old X-Box and I’m now really intrigued to check out other Street Fighter comics. I don’t think I could give this comic a bigger compliment. (Yes, I still have an old X-Box. I would’ve ordered a more recent game, but apparently there are no Street Fighter games for the Wii).

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Ivan said...

Lecherous? He wrote Oro as a bad guy?

Yeah, the Wii is not the best platform for fighting games. You might want to try Tatsunoko vs. Capcom (it uses the Marvel vs. Capcom style of gameplay).

Midnight Monk said...

I guess it's a good thing you ordered Street Fighter Anniversary Collection since SFIII is arguely the BEST Street Fighter game ever release, while it doesn't have the classic characters, the new one are just great. UDON has done some great stuff in the past with SF series, surprised to see it on the Weekly Crisis

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