This no-holds-barred nostalgia-filled brawl manages to encompass the best of both its influences to create something even more fantastical and fun.
Written by Aubrey Sitterson
Illustrated by Emilio Laiso
On a hidden island in international waters, 16 combatants enter a secret tournament… one that pits Street Fighter vs. G.I. JOE! M. Bison and Destro have joined forces, and taking them down will require the world’s finest warriors: Ryu, Snake Eyes, Guile, Scarlett, Chun-Li and Duke. New challengers Aubrey Sitterson (Hulk, Superman, Tech Jacket, Worth) and Emilio Laiso (Hack/Slash: Son of Samhain) bring the visceral combat of the world’s most popular fighting game series and the real world military action of America’s fighting elite together for the first time!
Marvel VS Capcom, Super Smash Brothers, Mortal Kombat VS DC Universe. Game designers are clearly aware that, when inter-fandom conversation rears its head, the question at the forefront of every debate is usually “Yeah, but who’d win in a fight?” Sitterson and Choi have brought this concept barrelling into the pages of “Street Fighter X G.I. Joe,” a book that wastes no time pitting the brawlers of the SF world against the high-tech assassins and well-drilled special ops fighters of the G.I. Joeniverse. Other than being franchises that both ruled the world during the eighties, it could be argued that these two properties don’t have that much in common, but as Sitterson points out artfully in the backmatter of this first issue, the thing that truly unites the two worlds is ‘struggle, combat, fighting.‘
And fight they certainly do. The premise for this first book is a relatively simple one, M. Bison and Destro are hosting “The World Warrior Tournament” – because that’s the kind of thing that deranged billionaire pyschopaths do for fun – and the best fighters in this combined universe have turned up to throw their collective hats into the ring. That’s pretty much it, in terms of exposition. Sitterson doesn’t waste any time trying to justify the meshing of these two worlds with some kind of convoluted plot device, he just dives head-first into 20-something full pages of visually stunning violence.
That’s not to say, though, that there’s no storyline to be found in “Street Fighter X G.I. Joe”. Sitterson is a longtime fan, commentator, and contributor to the world of WWE, and a vocal believer in what he refers to as ‘fight-based storytelling’ as the key to a good action story. As a result, what we get in this first issue is series of gleefully rendered match-ups between seemingly disparate Joe and Fighters in which key story components are discovered (as if by chance) in the heat of battle, each time shifting the pace of the fight back and forth between opponents.
And these fights are brought to life in blistering form by seasoned artist Emilio Laiso. His glossy, almost cell-shaded style fits perfectly with this opening issue, feeling instantly dangerous, but never deadly. He manages to capture the OTT fighting styles of each character with hugely dynamic movements that flow across panels and crackle with energy. But what elevates the action in this book from the melange of fighting comics that come out every week is the care that’s been taken to make it recognisable and unique. Laiso has clearly studied the techniques of each fighter, and he’s not afraid to give the audience what they want. As a result we’re treated to some signature moves from the Street Fighter crew that translate beautifully from screen to page. This is fan service done right, with action that builds naturally until the obvious next step for characters are their signature moves, played out in a way that feels earned, even in a single issue.
The strength of this book’s aesthetic definitely feels like a team effort, and special mention needs to be made to David Garcia Cruz’ colour-work. The book starts off striking, but builds slowly as the fights get more intense, so that the climax of each bout is rendered in a glorious technicolour that all-but melts through the page. This build in the pressure of the fights is further assisted by Robbie Robbins’ additional sound effects. each firey ‘Fwaaasshh’ and meaty ‘Krakt’ help cement the cartoonish force of these fighters, keeping the battles buoyed with a truly heightened sense of ridiculousness.Continued below
One of the strongest components of this issue is Sitterson’s ability to pair up unexpected match-ups in order to keep these fights interesting. Rather than focussing on similar battle styles to keep fights evenly matched, we get to see C. Viper’s flashy, fire-and-electricity stylings against Snake Eyes’ evasive Ninjitsu, and a battle of culinary techniques between G.I. Brawler Roadblock and Turkish oil enthusiast Hakan. But, without a doubt the best pairing is the battle between femme fatale and mistress of manipulation Baroness, and famed plus-sized lothario Rufus. Sitterson manages to maintain a cohesive internal logic for his competitors, all the while without losing any of the vibrancy and tongue-in-cheek tone that is needed to keep a mad-cap mash-up like this afloat.
This book is thoroughly, completely ridiculous, melding the bombasticism and duplicity of the the Joes and Cobras with the hyperviolent looney-tunes beat-em-up stylings of Street Fighter, but, perhaps because it pushes it so far, somehow, it works. The silliness and willingness to run with the premise of this book may not appeal to every comic book fan, but if you do like it, chances are you’ll really like it!
Final Verdict: 8.8 – A surprisingly delightful book that runs the thin line between ridiculous and right on the money.