Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Aubrey Sitterson
Artist: Emilio Laiso
Release Date: 24th February, 2016
Round one… FIGHT!
Ahh, the franchise crossover – the hallmark of every good bedroom floor action figure skirmish. Whether it’s seeing if the Power of Grayskull can take down Hogan’s Hulkamaniacs, or whether Lion-O’s Sword of Omen is a match for Action Man’s AK-47 Assault Rifle, there has always been an innate appeal in pitting characters from different franchises against one another to see who comes out on top. Thankfully, we can now experience that childhood joy in comicbook form, as Aubrey Sitterson and Emilio Laiso are pitting the worlds of Street Fighter and G.I. Joe against one another in a head-to-head battle for our reading and viewing pleasure.
However, rather than trying to craft some clunky, contrived story that sees these two worlds jammed awkwardly together, Sitterson has stripped things back to the basics; a sixteen-person elimination tournament (actually thirty-two, although the first round of eliminations have already taken place by the time we join this first issue) to crown the ultimate champion. It’s truly brilliant in its simplicity, and while Sitterson makes sure to include all manner of sinister collusions and inter-character rivalries, this essentially comes down to a massive game of “who would win…?”, and in that respect, it delivers exactly what I hoped it would.
Sitterson is a massive professional wrestling fan, having written for WWE.com and worked on previous WWE video games, as well as hosting his own wrestling talk show “Straight Shoot”, and his clear affection for the sport shines through here as he manages to add a totally different dynamic to each of the four eighth-final matchups contained within this first issue. Artist Emilio Laiso also does a tremendous job with the visual side of the book, managing – like Sitterson – to give each of the matchups their own distinctive ‘vibe’ as the different personalities and fighting styles are pitted against one another. His gift for fluid choreography is utilised to its maximum potential here, with Laiso proving to be equally at home with the slick, acrobatic ninja stylings of Snake Eyes as he is with the Hadouken-launching Ryu or the hard-hitting, gatling gun-wielding Roadblock. This book is truly fantastic from a visual point of view, with a satisfying solidity to the instantly recognisable characters, and some terrific representations of some of their trademark abilities.
While this is a title that could potentially have been written-off as a cheap, clumsy attempt to jam these two franchises together, Sitterson has done a masterful job of making this a worthy series in its own right. Structuring the book as a good ol’ fashioned elimination tournament, with the remaining field of sixteen combatants gradually being whittled down to a single victor, is an absolutely genius decision, and provides the reader will all kinds of speculative fun as they look ahead to the rest of the brackets to find out just who is going to face who in the issues to come.
Also, while it could perhaps be easy for the casual comic book reader to turn their nose up at this series, dismissing it as a tacky, superficial action romp without any real substance to it, Sitterson and Laiso have instead crafted a dynamic, scintillating series that brings out the best in each of these titanic franchises. Yes, the action is very much at the forefront of the story, but as lifelong WWE fanatic Sitterson will readily attest to, sometimes the best storytelling in the world can happen just by seeing two distinctive, intriguing characters going blow-for-blow. You can count me in for the rest of this tournament, that’s for damn sure.
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