UDON’s own version of the Street Fighter timeline continues to zig and zag over the games’ official storyline.
UDON’s ongoing Street Fighter comic book universe exists in an unusual state that can be viewed as a sort of alternate timeline of SF continuity; while the characters fill much the same roles as they do in-game, and the overall plot concepts are very similar to the games’ own, they can be dramatically different in detail — even while true in spirit. As much as this is a natural result of their own production timeline, and likely mixed access to of Capcom’s own story/character plans, this ultimately makes them a more interesting read than if they were simply a verbatim retelling of the game lore. In many cases, UDON’s extrapolations are much more satisfying looks into these characters and their stories — and they because they still cover the same general concepts, they explore the world of Street Fighter in a way that — while different — still feels authentic.
The most recent “main line” releases (predating the Street Fighter vs. Darkstalkers crossover series) are the third and final volume of the STREET FIGHTER UNLIMITED series, THE BALANCE, and Cammy’s own entry into the STREET FIGHTER LEGENDS collection.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Street Fighter Unlimited series, you can also check out our review of Volumes 1 and 2.
[Some spoilers ahead for the story contents of both these two comic collections, and Street Fighter V‘s General Story mode! – Editor]
Street Fighter Unlimited: The Balance brings UDON’s own version of the rise (and fall) of Gill and his Secret Society to its conclusion, and — much like Street Fighter V‘s General Story “A Shadow Falls” — seeks to find an answer to Ryu’s struggle against Akuma and the Satsui no Hado. Whereas in SFV Ryu calms the murderous intent by following Gouken’s example and discovering how to calm himself and focus through the Mu no Hado, the UDON storyline takes a very different approach to the idea of “balance”.
I’m going to geek for out a minute about how much I like the different angles The Balance and SFV’s own A Shadow Falls took to the next step in Ryu’s evolution. While the Mu no Hado — and the idea of embracing “nothingness” as a unifying force — is much more in tune with a Zen Buddhist approach to the concept, the idea of Shin Ryu embodying both the light (regular Ryu) and dark (Evil Ryu) aspects simultaneously, melded into one entity, seems to borrow inspiration from Taoism and the philosophy of yin and yang. I find it outright fascinating to see these two outlooks comparatively applied to Ryu’s character design, and the different answers they provide to the problem of the Satsui no Hado. Each with their ties to martial arts philosophy over generations, they both feel appropriate in their own ways to what Ryu — the consummate martial artist — is supposed to be about.
(This is revisited — albeit briefly — in UDON’s 2018 Free Comic Book offering Ultra Street Fighter II #1, and with Violent Ken as its focus, shows another angle entirely on the concept of reigning in the destructive urges of the Satsui no Hado and its like.)
The third volume of Street Fighter Unlimited doesn’t skimp on the character development for classic characters alongside the main arc. The (admittedly one-sided) rivalry between Urien and Gill is central to the tale, as is Alex’s connection and role in the Secret Society’s plans, but fans of Necro and Effie will get to see how strong a bond these “unusual” characters have formed while fighting together. The opposing outlooks of Adon and Sagat are also explored in a side-story. The volume closes with the inevitable face-off between Shin Ryu and Akuma, as well as setting up the events for the Street Fighter vs. Darkstalkers crossover that follows. Overall, Street Fighter Unlimited was a spectacular series, and this send-off doesn’t disappoint.
A Killer read?
With Street Fighter Legends: Cammy, the former Killer Bee gets her own book alongside other legendary Street Fighter ladies such as Chun-Li, Sakura, and Ibuki (all previously getting their own Legends mini-series and collected volumes). The approach for these stories has typically been to give us a look into the formative days of the fighter: we see Chun-Li’s training and early work as a police officer; we see Ibuki learning to balance her ninjutsu training with her desire to live as an “ordinary” girl; we see Sakura’s developing rivalry with Karin. The latest take goes a slightly different way, and seeks to link into the UDON continuity’s version of current events — that is, F.A.N.G’s reformation of Shadaloo and revival of M. Bison.
This story is positioned alongside an examination of the relationship between Cammy and Decapre, as well as the other “reformed” Dolls that make up Cammy’s new unit, Delta Blue. The Shadaloo storyline is essentially a catalyst for these characters to explore and question their place after what they’ve done as part of Shadaloo — and may do again — as opposed to a direct look back at Cammy’s origin. This choice makes sense, as Cammy’s creation is a major focus of UDON’s prior main Street Fighter storyline.
Ultimately, it still feels somewhat flat, however: Cammy ruminating about Shadaloo and her past, and her feelings of responsibility for former Dolls like herself, is indeed central to her character — but it’s been all been seen before, and pretty much every instance any time is taken to address Cammy’s character. Between ensuring that all gets in there, along with the Shadaloo revival plot, there is little room to demonstrate that Cammy has actually grown past any of it, which is somewhat disappointing. The introduction of F.A.N.G and the return of M. Bison also lack any drama in this setting — we know that the UDON continuity is moving to adjust to something closer to what is reflected in Street Fighter V, so there is no sense of stakes. (This is a little ironic, seeing as the General Story in the actual game sees Bison destroyed again, anyway!) Where Street Fighter Unlimited provides some interesting contrast and differentiation between the comic and game worlds, this volume seems to be going through the motions to move the continuities closer together.
F.A.N.G is also a bit of an issue — he’s a love-or-hate character as it is, and I personally fall toward the former, but his sycophantic devotion to M. Bison after being brought to heel (with a touch of potential future betrayal) is a big part of what makes him so entertaining to me… and that doesn’t really work as well when, as in this new comic continuity, he’s reviving Bison without us seeing that prior history. F.A.N.G can be menacing, but without that context, he’s just another random thug. Hopefully UDON fleshes this out and works more of F.A.N.G’s canonical origin and history into their own version of the character. Besides all this, Street Fighter Legends: Cammy is still worth a look, even if it pales in comparison to the prior Legends volumes.
UDON production is still top-notch.
Story beats aside, both books sport fantastic artwork, from Omar Dogan in Street Fighter Legends: Cammy, and from Joe Ng in Street Fighter Unlimited: The Balance. Ken Siu-Chong fires out the story and dialogue in Unlimited, providing an engaging read throughout; the legendary Jim Zub provided the story for Cammy’s Legends outing, and while I’m not a fan of the overall tale, the character dialogue and pacing are still on point from this master storyteller. And as per usual with UDON’s books, these are gorgeous, hefty hardcovers that do justice to their source material and the efforts of the creators. Both are still available from online retailers such as Amazon and Focus Attack (UDON Entertainment’s official merchandise outlet), and of course at a comic shop near you. Go check them out.