Friday, May 19, 2006

RYU versus SAGAT
(UDON Comics)
Street Fighter II #2 When: December 2005
Why: Ken Siu-Chong How: Alvin Lee

The story so far...
Having already tasted defeat at the hands of the murderous Akuma; Ryu sets out to better prepare himself for avenging his master, Gouken.

Seeking balance and means to protect himself from being engulfed by the same dark hadou that seduced Akuma, Ryu follows his nemesis Sagat to India.

There he finds the yoga master Dhalsim, who has taken Sagat as his student. Ryu is intrigued by Dhalsim's passive teachings of strength of mind, and ponders how such uncharacteristic techniques could be employed by Sagat.

Just a he asks his question, the answer emerges from behind the curtain.
Ryu stands face to face with his nemesis: the Muay Thai champion - Sagat.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Sagat 4 (Steroid Popper)
Intelligence: Sagat 2 (Normal Human)
Speed: Ryu 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Ryu 4 (Athlete)
Agility: Ryu 2 (Normal Human)
Fighting Ability: Ryu 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Ryu 3 (Expolsives)

Like so many times before, these stats do not accurately capture just how tight a match up this is. Like so many classic feuds, this is potentially a see-sawing situation, with both characters being incredibly well matched.
These stats are, however, probably somewhat indicative of Ryu's legendary victory over Sagat.

Perhaps the most notable gap between the two is strength.
Though there's a legitimate argument that strength in a human fight is only so effective, when possessed by a fighter as skilled as Sagat, it regains it's credibility as a supreme advantage.

Sagat's strength is inherently connected to his incredible size, which also extends to give him an advantage of reach. This makes his Muay Thai kicks all the more formidable, not to discount his mighty punches.

Ryu's superior speed is a potential counter for some of Sagat's advantages of size and strength. Particularly in the case of tiger energy attacks, where Sagat is perhaps slightly slower and less naturally gifted with harnessing his chi.
The hadou techniques employed by Ryu are also a distinct advantage, quite apparently more powerful than Sagat, particularly before his extended training.

It was Ryu's sho-ryu-ken attack that scarred Sagat's chest.

Rounded down, Sagat is an incredibly formidable opponent by any measure.
That said, Ryu's skill and development characteristic to many Japanese martial arts heroes places him ahead of the pack. His earnest, good nature always ensures a potential comeback in the face of adversity, also.

What went down...
Energies crackle as the two mighty world warriors clash.
Sagat's newly grounded focus makes his tiger fists surprisingly effective in an energy clash against hadou chi.

Ryu hurtles through the wall of Dhalsim's temple, rolling with the blow to ready himself for the stalking Sagat.

Sagat throws a verbal assault, questioning Ryu's motives for seeking him out before the next Street Fighter tournament. It was there he had intended to reveal to Ryu his true power, under the situation of a rematch.

Struggling to block a diving foot, Ryu throws a kick and reveals that he sought Sagat out because he respected his prowess as a fighter, and needed his help in order to tame the dark energies threatening his soul.

Ryu leaps a tiger blast, countering with a tornado kick, which Sagat blocks.
He continues to compliment Sagat, whilst ducking a roundhouse kick, but the Muay Thai king is only insulted by Ryu's implication that he provided little more than a sparring opportunity.

Sagat shows just what kind of sparring partner he can be, delivering a thunderous knee to the jaw of the rattled Ryu.
Ryu notes the greater focus and controlled strength in the once brazen fighter. He delivers a fist, but the "effortless" strokes of the Muay Thai king continued to be too much for the Japanese shotokan fighter.

Ryu was able to block an elbow, and dodge a roundhouse, but Sagat's fluid motions connected into another devestating knee, this time to the stomach.

As Ryu begins to desperately question his ability to avenge his murdered master, Dhalsim solemnly declares that Sagat's victory is guaranteed.
"Ryu... You are fighting with despair and rage in your fists. You have already lost."

As Ryu looks to land a distracted punch, Sagat finds an unlikely opening and seizes it.
With energies crackling, Sagat unleashes the science of the eight limbs on Ryu in a devestating Tiger Raid combination. The finishing attack is so powerful, it sends Ryu into an adjacent wall.

With his opponent hunched against the wall, Sagat moves in, but does not finish him. Instead, to Ryu's surprise, he strikes the wall beside him, and walks away.

Sagat tells Ryu that he will be granted the same opportunity to train under Dhalsim before they meet again, and when they do, it will be at the rightful place - the upcoming Street Fighter tournament.
He tells Ryu that if it is the darkness in his soul that he must master, then Dhalsim's sage training is the answer.

Sagat then bows before Dhalsim, thanking and acknowledging all the truths he spoke. And then, he leaves Ryu to train.

The hammer...
Well, who would've thought back at the beginning that it would be Sagat who not only walks away victorious, but also takes the moral high ground.

In various mediums the character has been interpreted many different ways, and I have to admit, initially I wasn't entirely sure how I felt about this righteous Sagat. Ultimately, I think he's probably handled quite superbly, and faithfully to the source material of the video games.

Although not necessarily very poignant or trendy, I'd have to call this one of the best books coming out right now. Having grown up loving Street Fighter and it's characters, I'm probably not the most impartial source to ask, but I honestly think this just has to be one of the most exciting books going around.
In fact, it joins Blue Beetle and Nextwave in a month of picks that were chosen just because they made me so enthusiastic.

UDON's long awaited venture into publishing brings with it it's own special advantages and disadvantages.

Being an artist driven venture highlights perhaps both the good and the bad.
One of my first criticisms would be the multitude of variant covers coming from the group. This remnant of the collector's boom of the nineties has begun to make itself a prevelant fact of our industry once more, but unlike some other fans, I'm not one to change my mind on the matter because of trends.

While not one to support variant covers, I won't let a second or third cover stand in the way of availability. I was only able to pick up the "2B" cover of this particular issue, and I have to give full credit to UDON and Skottie Young for a pretty superb piece of art. In fact, that is true of the entire production.

Utilizing space and resources well, UDON offers up a truly cinematic experience with it's CG laced, Capcom inspired art. Any fan of the Street Fighter series will be thoroughly impressed by the art direction Alvin Lee follows.
This style truly grounds every punch, kick, and yoga flame in the Street Fighter universe, and as a diehard fan, I love every minute of it.

The adaptation process deserves further praise on the writing side, also.
While not the most subtle or refined piece of writing, the overall character arcs and traits are asthetically pleasing. Drawing from a canon that is far less specific than a Tekken or Mortal Kombat, UDON and Ken Siu-Chong do well to steer close enough to the canon of the video games, while still telling an original and linear story.
Fans of the video games won't be spoiling the next page for their friends, but this touch ensure an extra fanboy buzz where projects like the Street Fighter II V animé series, or the previously reviewed Tokuma effort, don't have the joy of familiar characterization.

Of course, as I said, being so art driven, this might not be for the ilk particularly attracted to the thick, dialogue driven contemporary books that sell so well.
This certainly isn't the book for the insecure comic reader. Sometimes a little obvious, but always entertaining, I would strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in over the top martial arts, and/or pretty fight books.

No doubt you'll be seeing more Street Fighter reviews (and praise) from me in the future. I love it!

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 6

NEXT: We wrap up the three-month DC versus Marvel madness, and examine just who really won the war. It's a Secret Wars on Infinite Earths spectacular! Be here!

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