One of my best friends, Lebert "Teardrop" Jones, is a huge Street Fighter fan. He's addicted to the video games and movies and is starting to become addicted to the books. Most of the time when he comes over we'd duke it out playing a Street Fighter game. Now I'm not as good as he is but I'm able to get some hits in and a few times have defeated him. I love getting in his face about beating him with Dan, a character who everyone hates and call him a weakling yet he's my best fighter next to Sagat. But anywho, TD came over a week or so ago and gave me both volumes of SF: Ryu Final and asked me to review it so I thought, "Hey, what the heck? I like Street Fighter and like reading different things than the normal standard American comics." So I started reading and began to enjoy it a lot. I was actually really impressed. One reason being that the previous SF series Udon had released I felt left a lot of be desired. Now don't get me wrong. The previous series by Udon captured the characters right and the art was amazing, but I felt more could have been done with the story. The pacing was a bit too fast and there was no meat in the overall plot. But it was still enjoyable in its own way. The art alone was enough to buy the series each month... or whatever month they decided to release it.
Well, this time they give the reigns to Masahiko Nakahira who writes a great tale of a warrior, Ryu, who is in search of the "Power of the Soul" which will then help him to prepare himself to become a true martial artist. But before he could become a true martial artist he must first embark on a journey where he must defeat the true martial artist himself, Akuma - who in a way is a dark reflection of our protagonist. Through both volumes we embark alongside with Ryu and Oro, a hermit who randomly popped out of nowhere and puts Ryu through some torturous exercises and even getting him into trouble. Oro adds a great amount of humor into the story where you just laugh at what the character puts Ryu through. And Oro is just one colorful character among the other numerous characters that help Ryu discover something about himself. Hugo, a giant childish man puts Ryu through an exciting battle with a ending that catches you off guard, Yun and Yang, twins that are willing to challenge the great Ryu in order to test their strength which just leads to hilarity, Dudley, a polite boxer who helps Ryu become one with the Earth, trees, and the wind to help him achieve the ability and strength to form his "Killing Strike" that will eventually help him battle Akuma. And of course I must mention my man Sagat, an honorable fighter who has nothing but respect for Ryu after behind defeated and scarring him but still battle as if bitter enemies. Once the fighting ends, there's nothing but a smile and promises between the two. That is one thing I really enjoy about this book also. Each character is given a humanity to them that helps you get immersed into the character. Even Akuma gets his moments, for example when he and Ryu have a little banter before their final battle and they share a laugh. Once again at the end of their battle there's no contempt, just honorable respect.
Now the art is beautiful. Next to the good writing Nakahira's art helps the story really pop out. The fights are very clear and very breathtaking to watch. He takes advantage of panel placements to help emphasize impacts and the beauty of the specific moves being done, for example the way the Shoryuken (Dragon Punch) is displayed just has you in fascination as you just stare at the page looking at each moment when it's used. And man, some of the fights are just plain brutal! The fight between Ryu and Dudley is a particular favorite of mine as Dudley just send quick blow after blow and you just shake your head wondering how Ryu will get out of this one. There's a part where Ryu sends a harsh blow into his arm that causes his muscles to burst as blood just pops out of the arm. It's truly a sight to behold.
Reading this also help me get into more of a mindset for in case I want to really go for the 24 Comic Book Challenge. I was thinking of a story that incorporated martial arts and just seeing the fights in this book just fascinated me and got me pumped.We'll see if I go through with it, heh heh. Also reading this got me into the mindset to practice more in the SF games. It really inspires me the play the video games more and finally defeat my bastard rival, Teardrop Jones once and for all. Sure, I've had a few victories over him, but let me give you a bit of estimation on our battles. Think maybe 25-250. You can guess who the 25 is, haha! That's if I even got that much to begin with! Sheesh! But I will say, the battles where I do win are always a blast to watch. Heh heh. And I know he hates it when I defeat him with Dan, the weakest character in the game. But that just gives me some bragging rights, heh.