Holy balls, Street Fighter and G.I. Joe are linking up again?
Last time this happened? 1993. Ten year old me was snatching up every Street Fighter II action figure that Hasbro released under the G.I. Joe mantle as fast as chore money would allow so that my friends and I could huddle around our newly consolidated action figure hoards, staging epic military campaigns and shouting “What’s a Dhalsim?” the entire time.
Can this new series from IDW rekindle my love for the fighting game of my youth (the one that invented combos) and a bunch of Real American Heroes? Round One: Fight!
Street Fighter X G.I. Joe #1 (IDW Publishing)
Street Fighter X G.I. Joe #1 kicks off in media res at the “World Warrior Tournament,” (nod to Street Fighter II) hosted by respective franchise villains M. Bison and Destro.
In media res is no exaggeration either: By page two we’re already in the thick of a heated “Final 8” battle between G.I. Joe’s iconic, silent ninja bad-ass Snake Eyes and battle-suit sporting undercover agent Crimson Viper.
Writer Aubrey Sitterson (editor at Marvel Comics, WWE.com and host of the Straight Shoot pro wrestling talk show), much like our ninja friend establishes the tone of this issue very early: Less talk and more action. There are twenty pages of straight up scrapes in this issue, divided between four battles (Snake Eyes vs. Crimson Viper, Rufus vs. Baroness, Hakan vs. Roadblock and Ryu vs. Jinx), and to quote good ol’ JR — they’re all slobberknockers.
Sitterson, thanks largely in part to his pro wrestling wisdom, knows well the art of relating a story through battle: “Fight scenes shouldn’t just be two people taking turns hitting one another until someone wins,” he says in the issue’s post editorial. “That’s boring, shallow and cheap. A good fight scene, a true fight scene, uses the beauty of motion, the profundity of combat, to tell a story all its own, a story that if done well, carries weight not only on its own, but as a piece of a larger story.”
Sitterson’s passion for the balletic, visual spectacle of battle is evident; the fight scenes in Street Fighter X G.I. Joe #1 are lively, masterfully choreographed and rife with trash talk. Every maneuver, each special attack and every reversal holds significant weight and the team of Emilio Laiso (pencils and inks) and David Garcia Cruz (colors) provide art that is every bit as vivid and energized as the video games. (Each battle even starts out with a slick, traditional side-view of both fighters.)
The amount of characterization evoked through the fighters’ various quirks and contrasting techniques is also impressive. Even old school fans that haven’t been keeping up with both franchises will find plenty to chew on in the form of Snake Eyes’ freakish ninja acrobatics, Rufus’ hilarious lard-assed lecherousness, Hakan’s over the top oil-slathered antics and of course — Ryu busting out what might be the most universally recognized fighting game manuever of all time:
That being said — that’s all Street Fighter X G.I. Joe #1 really has to offer: a bunch of video game-esque battles back to back that pray proper reverence to the source material. Bang for your buck? Hell yeah. But ultimately, we’re left with a sort of hollow feeling and detachment because A. The overarching reason for why this tournament is taking place hasn’t been established, which diminishes the importance; B. We don’t know why or how these characters have come together nor do we get any mention of the preliminary rounds that led to these ones except for a two-page written postscript at the end and C. The next issue looks like it’s going to follow the same exact same formula.
Then again, this is a comic book called Street Fighter X G.I. Joe, which begs the question: How much narrative build-up do we really need?
If you’re a fan of both series, you know that Destro and M. Bison have some sort of devious trick up their sleeves or will eventually turn on one another in Machiavellian fashion; you know that Ryu and Snake-Eyes will end up marvelling at one another’s exceptional fighting ability (Snake-Eyes’ praise of course being in the form of some well-placed exclamation points and nothing more) — but even so, fans of G.I. Joe might be a little disappointed at how the premise is extremely Street Fighter-centric in that it’s a basically a Street Fighter tournament with some G.I. Joes thrown in the mix — none of the militaristic flavor from the latter carries over.
Is It Good?
Street Fighter X G.I. Joe #1 is an issue that boasts plenty of action, visual panache and surprising amounts of characterization.
Worth a look as there’s plenty of fun and energy within, but those fans of both franchises looking for something more than a bunch of fight scenes strung together might end up feeling a little disappointed.