CHRONICLES OF COMICS – STREET FIGHTER LEGENDS SAKURA #2

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sflegends3The entirety of the STREET FIGHTER LEGENDS comic series focusing on Sakura focuses devotedly and singularly on some of my favourite things in the world – hot-dog eating contests, pro wrestling, colourful costumes, martial artists who can shoot fireballs and Dan Hibiki. It’s a riotously funny and exciting comic book, one that is indebted to its source material in an earnest and uncompromising way that reads like a breath of fresh air, especially in comparison to the lifeless and relentlessly dark affair that licensed comic books tend to be.

Issue two begins with Dan trying to make his way back into Master Gouken’s dojo – he’ll have to defeat Ryu and Ken in battle in order to get back in. It’s a hilarious scene, but it’s worth ruminating on what makes it so funny; writer Ken Siu-Chong has taken the time to consider what makes Dan work as a character. For those of us drawn to the clad in pink warrior, the answer was clear – it’s his resilience, his complete and naive belief in himself that enables him to rise above angst or self-awareness and instead focus only on <em>trying</em>, no matter how many times people tell him to stop. Siu-Chong and artist Omar Dogan embarrass and abuse Dan in the battle, but oddly, you never feel sorry for him.

sflegends2“This is enough – I believe Dan understands now.” Gouken says after Ken and Ryu have barraged him with fireballs – “I understand that the battle has just BEGUN!” Dan leaps up and responds. Maybe it’s easy enough to say we sympathize with characters who refuse to give up despite all odds – after all, that’s the central argument as to why Marvel characters like Spider-man are more relatable than the DC gods like Superman – but Siu-Chong really reminds you of why a character like that works in the fighting genre, and it’s only natural that he’d bring in the most theatrical of underdog stories to further underline his point; pro-wrestling.

After an IM chat (well, it was 2006) with Ryu, Sakura would like to expand her knowledge of martial arts training by exploring all kinds of fighting styles. She’s decided to give the over-the-top style of wrestling a shot by reaching out to Rainbow Mika, the superhero costumed blonde cheesecake champion of the SF’s universe version of the WWE. The gag is that Zangief, the burly Russian hater of bears, thinks that wrestling is real and demands a rematch with Mika after the staged ending of their title match catches him off guard.

Dogan gives us a fight scene as cartoony and bombastic as any pro-wrestling match – Sakura fights dirty, Mika brings in illegal help from a fire extinguisher, and of course, an unexpected fighter shows up – Dan Hibiki. There really isn’t a better face than Dan, a passionate and tenacious fighter who can’t overcome the big dogs, but would lose a lot of his unique attributes if he did.

sflegends1STREET FIGHTER LEGENDS SAKURA #2 is a lot of fun – it feels like you imagine a STREET FIGHTER comic should, which is something you can rarely say about license comics. It seems the publishers that get their hands on these properties end up focusing so stridently on making sense of barely established continuity and characterizations. Siu-Chong and Dogan go right in focusing on the visceral feel and thematic strengths of the franchise, as opposed to the in-game (and often ridiculous) story lines. SAKURA #2 explores why we want to root for the underdog, why fighting games, superhero comic books, competitive eating and pro-wrestling maintain a healthy and passionate audience despite their reputation as being the laziest forms produced for the lowest denominator. It has wacky action, lowbrow humour and insane action – and that’s what a STREET FIGHTER comic should be about.

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