Monday, September 16, 2013

Review - Street Fighter Origins: Akuma


"I want to find a path of my own."

Akuma is a legendary character in the Street Fighter franchise ever since his debut in Super Street Fighter II Turbo. The mythic fighter touted a devilish sensibility about his way of living life and he parlayed that into a sheer brutality and technique in fighting that is rarely matched within the Street Fighter universe. UDON Entertainment has made Akuma the star of both their 150th published book and 10th anniversary of publishing Street Fighter comics in Street Fighter Origins: Akuma.

The saga is written by Chris Sarracini, with art by Joe Ng, inks by Rob Armstrong and Kevin Raganit, colored by Espen Grundetjern and lettered by Marshall Dillon.

Akuma and Gouken were two brothers who tragically (and narrowly) escaped the death of their father. The man they believed to be nothing more than a simple rice farmer ended up being so much more, his shady past catching up to him. What followed for the brothers was a difficult journey in hiding, with Gouken seeking to care for his mother and Akuma seeking to care for himself. It's not quite as cut and dry as that, but the two brothers definitely handled the tragedy in different ways. All that matters in the end is that Akuma was forever transformed by the dark energy he learned to harness.

Akuma is a character with a following akin to that of Wolverine. Both characters come from very gritty beginnings, amplified by a world of violence they're essentially born into. Sarracini does a great job providing backstory for Akuma's seemingly pessimistic approach to life. He showcases an emotionally broken fighter who pieces together a persona of himself that he feels most comfortable with. It's one that comes with years of pain and heartbreak though, offering the beastly fighter that fans have come to know and love. There's a lot of devastating growth obstacles that Akuma must overcome, courtesy of quality writing.

It wouldn't be an Akuma book without Ryu and Sarracini makes sure that he gets some billing as well. He appears at the end, beginning his training from Gouken. It's a nice touch from both a continuity standpoint and a nod to the fans. Akuma and Ryu have always been linked (their fighting styles are almost exactly the same), so it's nice to see that Sarracini and UDON worked that into the story. To a lesser extent, Ryu and Ken are similar to Akuma and Gouken, with the main exception being that Ken doesn't go completely dark in his training.

Ng's art is fantastic. Akuma maintains his familiar look from his youth, depicting what's almost a "This is Your Life" for the demon fighter. Fight sequences are illustrated with great kinetic feeling, giving readers something contextual to grab onto as they envision the fights in their head. It's a good bet that most (if not all) of the readers of Street Fighter Origins: Akuma, so seeing the moves play out in the book as they've seen them play out on screen is welcome. There are also some great scenic views that really depict the majesty of Japan as Akuma is raised in it, offering a great contrast in terms of the ugliness that resides within the fighter.

Akuma is a very popular character and those who are keen on him will definitely want to check out Street Fighter Origins: Akuma. Street Fighter fans in general will also find something of interest in the book, considering Akuma's place within the Street Fighter universe. It's a great story that gives fans the background to a fierce fighter, illustrated beautifully that fits within the readers' mental images of the game itself. It's a solid addition to anyone's library that successfully represents the Street Fighter universe.

Street Fighter Origins: Akuma is available now.

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