Sunday, September 16, 2007

Stage 01 (UDON/Image)
Street Fighter #1 When: September 2003
Why: Ken Siu-Chong How: Alvin Lee

The story so far...
His name is Bison, and he is the megalomaniacal leader of the world's most vile criminal organization -- Shadaloo.
Involved in every facet of criminality, Shadaloo funds Bison's desires for world conquest, and his interests in fostering the martial arts and his psycho power.

It was during an investigation into Shadaloo that Bison uncovered and brutally murdered Charlie, partner of Interpol agent, Guile. Ever since, Guile has had the burning desire to personally put an end to the Shadaloo empire, and the evil M. Bison.

Patiently working his way through the various branches of Shadaloo, Guile and agents like him pick apart the pieces of the puzzle, working their way closer to the source. Wannabe street toughs, like the English street fighter, Birdie, represent the lower rungs, all useful for tracking back to Bison.

Previous Form:
Guile, Birdie: Each making their Infintie Wars debuts.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Birdie 4 (Steroid Popper)
Intelligence: Guile 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Guile 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Guile 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Guile 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Guile 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: Guile 3 (Explosives)

Hmmm, well, that was a particularly clunky introduction.
Yes, it's the weekend again, which means it's time for some Street Fighter action, and we're heading straight back to the very first (or second, depending on your opinion of #0) issue of UDON's Capcom licensing agreement.

We've got a couple of new inductees into the Street Fighting ranks of the Infinite Wars. Guile was acknowledged, but uninvolved in a previous battle between Ryu and Balrog [Street Fighter II #1], emerging mysteriously to save Ryu from sniper fire after he defeated the Shadaloo boxer.

When I think back to the days of Street Fighter II in the arcades, and even beyond, I can't help but remember the popularity of Guile. In certain circles he has been regarded as the main character, superceding even the poster boys from the series, Ken and Ryu. His story of vengeance for the death of a law enforcement partner, classic in design, certainly makes him one of the most specifically involved fighters in the Street Fighter tournaments.

Birdie's a popular cat, and actually a fighter who predates Guile, having made his first appearance in the original Street Fighter game. He was able to find a new lease on life as part of the Street Fighter Alpha (or Zero) reinvigoration of the property, featuring as one of many new and reinvented characters.

Birdie, interestingly enough, has gone on to bigger and better things, having a starring role in the second-half of the Street Fighter Alpha "movie," and also a feature spot in the recent translated manga, also available through UDON.

Okay, before this turns into The Hammer, let's roll on to the tape, because the sooner we get this part over, the sooner we can get to solid street fighting!

It's a pretty straight forward scenario of two fighters.
Guile is a powerful customer, but Birdie represents the epitomy of the street fighter of impressive size and strength. He's the kind of fighter who plays to overpower, and will do it by any means necessary, even resorting to less than honorable tactics that include a massive chain -- yeah, not just for bling!

Guile's been around the block plenty of times. He's a mature and strong fighter. Much like the character in the games - who could propose a devestating combination of sonic booms that lure the opponent into avoid their way into a flash kick - Guile is well prepared to out-think and strategise his way through characters.

Birdie's at the bottom rung of the Shadaloo outfit because he isn't the smartest tool in the box. He'll give any fighter a run for his money, but at the end of the tournament, Guile's going to be standing far ahead of the British brawler.

The Math: Guile (Meta Class)
The Pick: Guile

What went down...
Having apparently taken out rival gangs in the area, Birdie and his crew strut into a restaurant to demand protection money. The owner, tired of handing his profits over to thugs, refuses, and suffers the consequences!

Ryu, dining with Ken, steps up to stop Birdie, grabbing his fist as he pulls back for another swing at the helpless owner. Before Ryu has the opportunity to take the fight, an authorative voices calls from the entrance, ordering all to freeze.

Ken calls his friend off, leaving Guile to arrest the Shadaloo thugs, but Birdie has no intentions to accept arrest. The mighty Brit leaps into action, throwing his massive weight into a chain attack, but Guile dodges it with ease.

He slides around the clumsy attack with ease, and throws a hard backhanded fist at the thugster. Though less than elegant, Birdie is competent enough to lift his impressive fist, blocking the impact of the blow, with chains and all.

He leaps into the air again, looking to use his impressive height and strength advantage to crash down on Guile with an axe handle smash.

Guile proves agile enough to leap out of the path of the move that reduces the furniture to pulp.

Guile stops to casually pull a comb through his hair, taunting the burly brawler whose attempts continue to be unsuccessful. He laughs at the prospect of Bison even knowing a wannabe's name, sending Birdie into a further rage.

Birdie rises in a dishevled state and leaps into the air, throwing himself at the cool and composed Guile. Guile can't help but smile, a steady contrast to Birdie, roaring like a ferocious animal.

The tactic proves to be all part of Guile's cunning plan, luring the undisciplined fighter into the range of his devestating sommersault kick. The blow snaps Birdie's jaw back and sprays blood in the air.

Birdie comes to lands on his head and neck, out for the count. Guile brings his foot to rest on the defeated Birdie, relishing the victory to the delight of onlookers, and store owner alike.

Unfortunately the defeat does little to intimidate the other Shadaloo thugs. One of the gangsters elbows his way out of custody, and makes a break for the kitchen! Guile orders pursuit, but the thug is too quick -- or so he thinks!

He makes for the back door, only to walk into a blur of yellow and blue -- a flurry of super-fast kicks! On his back, the Shadaloo runt can only stare up at the refined fighting machine that is - Chun-Li!

The hammer...
Guile wins! Perfect!

Actually, I cheated a little bit, and we'll condense a quick fix into this one by also counting Chun-Li for the assist. I didn't plan to, but heck, I'm feeling generous, and I want to give the Street Fighter's a well deserved shot at making top five before the end of the year.

If you missed us last week, you won't know that the challenge has been issued to the Street Fighter alumnists to use the weekends to earn a top five spot before the end of the year. Considering not only that there's only three months left to do that, and that they're up against eight months of competition, that's a big, and exciting ask!

As much fun as it would be to run through the UDON comics from start to finish, there are a lot of gaps in my collection. Aside from a couple of quick fixes held within the pages of this issue, it might be a while before we see any of the Image published Street Fighter action. Still, that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of Street Fighting to come, from both comic and film.

Y'know, say what you will about any of UDON's faults, you couldn't come up with a better group to tackle the Street Fighter license in American comics. Already tied to a kinetic, manga-inspired style, the artists of UDON slide fluidly into reproducing the Capcom style of games like Alpha, adding that extra layer of familiarity that makes the difference between a good adaptation, and a great piece of licensing.

Over the course of production from the first series, to the self-published Street Fighter II, you can see a really exciting process of evolution and learning in the UDON production team. In these early issues, there's a sense of experimentation in the pages, featuring a lot of familiar frames, and digital effects.

While I think this approach is probably a little heavy-handed, I'm actually really glad that they did it. I wouldn't want to read it in every issue, but it's just a nice quality to have seen tried. It's all too rare to see experimenting and evolution in the process of a comic in such a finite space of time.

Pictured above, you see Guile's famous match-winning taunt of the hair comb.
It's scenes like, and moves utilized by the fighters taken directly from the games, that probably made this such an easily acceptable read. As I said, I think it's maybe a little heavy-handed to literally recreate frames of animation from the gaming sprites, but without it I wonder if the series could've enjoyed the instant acceptance that can be so hard to garner from hardcore fans.

This first volume of Street Fighter represents a lot of fantastic things, and while UDON themselves acknowledge it got a little distracted at times, they did well to bring it all back to the tournament with Street Fighter II, and this remains a fantastic inclusion for any fan's collection.

That's probably about all for this week, but be back here next weekend as we continue to test the strength of the Street Fighting fraternity. We saw them go head-to-head with the Marvel heroes in the games, but this is the true test!

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 6
[Street Fighter has the unlikely honor of being the first issue published by Image Comics to be featured in the Infinite Wars. Granted, that's a true oddity on a site dedicated to superhero fisticuffs, but also a testament to the Street Fighter brand. We'll find our way to something else Image one of these days...]

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