by Matt Moylan, popular culture (2010)
UDON, $13.99, ISBN 978-1-926778-01-3
Matt Moylan, the managing editor of UDON Entertainment who is also the writer of Street Fighter: World Warrior Encyclopedia, claims that he may not be an adept player of the popular Capcom beat-'em-up game franchise but he's a keen follower of the story lines. Let's be nice and assume that he is really sincere in saying that, and not, say, he is just laying things a little too thick because he drew the short straw and had to work on this project. Yes, when it comes to the Street Fighter games, the popular consensus about the story lines is "What story lines? Hadoken!" Still, some people can be very good at reading between the lines, heh.
This is a compendium of every character that has ever graced the games, from Street Fighter back in the old days to the current incarnation of Street Fighter 4, along with some Final Fight and even Capcom Fighting Evolution (hello, Ingrid). So it's Abel to Zangief, with some major characters (mostly those that started the whole ball rolling in Street Fighter II: World Warrior) getting a two- to four-page spread while the minor characters are stashed into the appendix. Most of the characters get a two-page spread, with one page of copy and one full-paged illustration showing each of them in his or her pugilistic glory. I have to give the artists credit - the female characters actually look like they are going to kick rear ends. I count only two "Camera on my rear end please!" poses among the ladies. Of course, the fanservice aspects remain. Just look under C for Cammy and E for Elena. The illustrations are of varying quality - some are really good, some are just lame. That's to be expected, I guess, from a collection featuring several illustrators at work.
I haven't read the UDON comic adaptation of the series, but I suspect that much of the lore here comes from there. Even if there is some faithful adaptation going on, I am pretty sure that there is just as much creative liberties taken. After all, there are so many games in the series, but the story lines remain basic at its core. For a long time, Chun Li is an Interpol agent wanting to avenge her father by planting the heel of her stiletto into evil dictator M Bison's rear end. M Bison started out as a crime lord based in Thailand, but by today, he has become this megalomaniac wanting to harness some force called "Psycho Power" (really) that will allow him to leave his aging body and inhabit that of some clone - which is either a naked white blob-like guy like Seth or a nubile teenage girl like one of the Dolls. Don't ask.
Hilariously enough, because Ken and Ryu are the signature characters, poor Mr Moylan has to find enough padding to fill up their four-paged features. Ryu is easily the most boring character ever created for any video game as his sole story line is "I'm a hobo looking for someone to fight with... Hadoken!" while Ken's story is "Hello, I'm the other guy - blond, rich, knocked up my wife, and is reviled by many because the kids using me tend to be super lame... Shoryuken!" In contrast, those that do have an interesting story - such as Guile, Chun Li, Cammy, Abel - all get the standard two-page spread.
Throwing together all the characters from so many different games creates a rather incoherent bunch. Ingrid, for example, is horribly out of place with her magic powers and what not. Joke-like designs like R Mika reside alongside more serious street fighters like Guile and Chun Li in bewildering contrast. On one hand, we have the pathos of Abel's story, and then we have fighting schoolgirls that apparently got their abilities by watching too many Sailormoon cartoons. Trying to make sense of everything is a pointless task.
But because Mr Moylan tries to do just that, the result can be perplexing. He establishes that Charlie is the one that found Abel after Abel escaped from Seth's lab. Charlie is within the same age range as Chun Li and Guile, right? That means when Abel is kicking people's heads in Street Fighter 4, he should be in his late teens. But he doesn't look his age, I have to say! And don't get me started about a 226 cm-tall muscle-bound Sagat weighing only 78 kg.
After looking at the whole thing, all I can say is that this book is at its very best a novelty item for fans of those games. And if you find yourself reading the text - like me - you're probably not doing it right with this book. Just look at the pictures.
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