This article contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Street Fighter Issue 000, and perhaps for Street Fighter games as well. Proceed at your own risk!
Street Fighter – A terrible game that somehow spawned Street Fighter II, one of the greatest games ever made, which itself would spawn one of the best fighting game series ever made, Street Fighter. As of the time of this writing, it has been two months since the release of Street Fighter V. In celebration, I was asked to go back in time and retrospectively review the Street Fighter Comic by UDON. Initially I balked at the idea, seeing as I know nothing about comics other than Rob Liefeld can’t draw proportional feet or waists. However, I happen to know quite a bit about Street Fighter. I think I’ve played every major game in the series (including god awful spinoffs like Street Fighter EX and Capcom Fighting Evolution), and I remember the halcyon days of my youth reading unnecessarily detailed Street Fighter plot guides. Therefore, I decided to take on this challenge and review the original UDON Street Fighter comic until either I finish them all or get bored.
In 2003, Capcom hired Canadian studio UDON Entertainment Corporation (going forward, referred to as “Udon” cause typing it in all caps is annoying) to produce comics based on Street Fighter as well as two other Capcom properties, Darkstalkers and Rival Schools. This was significant in that it was the first time Capcom themselves were involved in making a complete retelling of the Street Fighter story , which had at that point become a confusing mess of conflicting events and plot points like most fighting game storylines.
Capcom had tried to weave some sort of meaningful canon through bits and pieces of various expensive Japan-only art books and compendiums released throughout the years, but they never really tried to tell the entire story until this comic. I remember at the time that the Udon comic had a lot of groundswell, and I think it was even considered the main canon for a while. It is most likely no longer canon, especially considering that Street Fighter IV and V didn’t exist yet and directly conflict with some comic events. Udon can’t see into the future, so it’s hardly fair to pin the blame on them. In fact, they deserve a commendation for trying to piece together a story from scraps that were largely written after the fact by the developers as excuses to have fan favorite characters in newer games.
Anyway, it’s time to move on and talk about the first issue, #000. Triple Zero is actually pretty short compared to the other issues in the series. It’s designation as 000 means it was probably used as some sort of teaser for the main comic. I was originally planning to review both 000 and 001 in the same review, but I ended up writing too much because I’m a huge dork so we’ll just treat 000 as its own thing.
Something to note, the plot that’s covered in this review may be different from what is in the actual paper version of Issue 000. I’m reviewing what is listed as Issue 000 on the official Street Fighter Comics website, where you can read all of the comics for the first series for free. I chose to review in this order since this one is freely available, and I think it makes more chronological sense overall than some other versions I’ve seen.
Somewhat Meaningful Review
Issue 000 begins at the end of Street Fighter 1. Two unknown figures talk about how an undefeated fighter from Japan has gotten to the final round of the Street Fighter Tournament. That fighter is Ryu, a young martial artist/professional hobo with promising natural skill.
His final opponent is Sagat, a gigantic monster of a man who is the reigning champion and “King of Muay Thai.” The fight goes pretty evenly until Sagat gets the upper hand, knocking Ryu down. Sagat pounces forward to finish the job when Ryu suddenly becomes overcome with a violent urge to win. Ryu unleashes a powerful “Shoryuken” (roughly translating to “Rising Dragon Punch”, “EGM Hoax Character”, or “Dragon that appears when you get all 7”) which tears through Sagat’s chest. I’m sure it will not leave a giant scar that Sagat will totally obsess about for the rest of the series.
Ryu is happy he won, but questions the strange, possibly evil power he felt during the match. As he leaves, a mysterious person in the crowd takes an interest in Ryu’s abilities. Through some snazzy speech bubble styling, it is revealed that this person is one of the people talking in the opening of the comic. People familiar with Street Fighter will instantly recognize the mystery figure as M.Bison, the main antagonist of the series, though you shouldn’t know that yet so forget I mentioned it.
The story starts with an exciting and pretty violent fight. It’s a good way to introduce the main character to the comic and show at least two of his signature abilities right away. Personally, I would have liked to have seen a few shots of Ryu progressing through the tournament, probably a collage of single panels showing Ryu kicking Street Fighter 1 only characters in the face. A few more callbacks to the first Street Fighter game would have been nice in general, considering how little it gets referenced by anything. I know that Street Fighter 1 was terrible and no one remembers Geki or Joe or Retsu or Aryan Nation Birdie, but an origin comic like this would have been great for SF1 callback fan service for more hardcore fans, and not having any is a missed opportunity.
The only thing that gets referenced for Street Fighter 1 is the fight between Ryu and Sagat, which interestingly enough is recounted here differently than the previously canon version. Here, Ryu feels the evil power during the match and uses it to wound Sagat. According to the previous canon, Sagat actually defeats Ryu first cleanly. When Sagat went over to help Ryu up after the match, Ryu feels the evil energy from being pissed he lost and wounds Sagat, later being worried about what caused him to lose control and lash out someone helping him. I think both ways of telling the story have their merits. Having the evil power rise up during the match makes a more exciting sequence (even if a little cliche), which is probably why they went with it for the comic. However, the chest-slice-after-match version is interesting because it makes the mysterious evil power more sinister since it causes Ryu to go out of control at any time, making it seem like more of an unpredictable threat rather than something to be tamed. I think the version of events you would prefer also depends on how you view Sagat’s character considering this is a pretty big moment for him as well. The series has flip-flopped over the years on whether Sagat is an honorable and wise fighter or just a petty evil fight man like the other villains. Having Sagat help Ryu up helps to rationalize his actions in Street Fighter Alpha 3 where he tries to help Ryu control his evil power, while having him be defeated during the match makes his character seem more motivated by revenge and the need to defeat a powerful rival, which I personally feel is less interesting. All of that is fan wankery, since as far as the comic itself is concerned, we’re like 5 pages in and know basically nothing about Sagat in the comic universe other than he is large and got destroyed, so I’ll move on and we’ll hopefully see how Sagat develops in the future. In any case, the comic gets across the main idea of ME HAVE EVIL POWER NOW ME TRAIN FOREVER TO CONTROL IT, which you had better get used to since you’re going to see it a lot across all Street Fighter media of all time periods (yes, even now).
At this time, I want to point out some of the quirks about Udon’s art. In my experience, Udon has a tendency to overexaggerate large muscular characters. This is especially obvious here with Sagat, where on one panel Sagat’s head looks like it’s shrinking into his body like an inverted nipple.
Why do I have the sudden urge to play Dr. Mario?
Some of you may point out that they were going off of Sagat’s Street Fighter Alpha design, in which he was much more buff looking than he was in Street Fighter II. Even so, at least his art in Alpha gave him a torso that was large enough to support the upper half of his body (well, more or less). This leads into the other problem with Udon art in that it tends to be all over the place with perspective, exaggerating which parts of the character are near or far to the point of comedy.
I remember the perspective was also kind of wonky in Card Fighters Clash DS, which Udon also did the art for. I don’t remember if this improves at all as the comic goes on, but considering that game came out in 2007 and this current arc ended in 2005, I’m going to say no.
Moving on, we get to the second part of Issue 000. During what looks like routine training, Ryu remembers (imagines? It’s not clear) the words of his master, Gouken. Gouken praises Ryu for mastering the ability to stand far away and throw fireballs while baiting the opponent to jump so they can get uppercutted. However, Gouken warns Ryu that his thirst for power may cause him to turn to the dark side. About halfway through Gouken’s monologue, Ryu’s evil color palette swap shows up and basically wrecks him in a display of heavy-handed symbolism. Before Evil Ryu crushes Good Ryu’s head like a melon, Actual Ryu is awoken by the screams of his master, Fat Ryu. Surprise! This whole part was a dream sequence! Ryu runs to his master’s aid only to find that he has been brutally murdered in what is the best panel of the issue, and one of the most memorable scenes in the whole comic. The only clue to the killer’s identity is the Japanese symbol “Ten” (meaning “Heaven”) written in blood on the wall. End of Issue 000.
GAME SPOILERS: He gets better.
For this second half, despite most of the scene being just a dream, I felt that the sequence was still interesting and well done. The long monologue of Gouken works as a final word of warning to Ryu and sets up what is Ryu’s main motivation throughout the series. The battle sequence between Ryu and Evil Ryu was also good, mostly lacking the awkward perspective and musculature issues that were in the Sagat section. Watching characters from the game do their moves in non-game battles is always neat. I especially like seeing Evil Ryu use his teleport while sporting a big dumb M.Bison grin. This fight scene as well as the fight with Sagat earlier shows that the creators know about their characters’ cool moves and tries to incorporate them as much as possible, which makes me interested to see the fights coming up later on.
That being said, I would have liked to have seen more scenes of Gouken interacting with Ryu in this weird dream sequence. Perhaps some shots of them training together, or sharing dinner, or something of that nature. In fact, we don’t even get to see what Gouken looks like until the final panel where he is dead. Not to mention that Gouken isn’t even really the focus of this section at all, even when it ends with his own death. Instead the section almost entirely focuses on ME EVIL POWER and another fight scene. Considering the death of Gouken, Ryu’s master and father figure, is a defining moment of Ryu’s development as a character, the admittedly awesome final panel would have been even more admittedly awesome if we as the audience could build up more of a bond with Gouken before he becomes Dead Body MacGuffin.
Overall, Issue 000 is a nice intro to establish some major characters but not much else. Both stories are really quick, and it might have been better to split them both into their own separate issues just for more development. Since I do believe this was used as a teaser, I’m willing to give it a pass, but I hope going forward they spend more time on developing future characters, even if it’s just one or two panels of flashbacks. Both fight scenes were interesting, but I’m going to need more than just cool fight things to keep my interested. if I really wanted to see these cool fight characters doing cool fight things, I could just be playing the cool fight games. I still have to say that even though I have some reservations about issue 000, the comic does do its main job of making me want to see where the story will go and what will be shown, which is what any good teaser should do, so kudos for that. I’m looking forward to the first official comic in the series, and the debut of a few more Street Fighter mainstays.