Darkstalkers – Volumes 1 and 2 Review

Technically continuing my look at UDON’s Street Fighter comics we deviate to another CAPCOM fighting franchise in Darkstalkers, mainly because it then crosses over with Street Fighter in the next batch of comics. So does a fighting game series based on monsters and supernatural beings lend itself to a comic easier than one about fighters? Well, you’d think so, but…

Official Synopsis:

In Darkstalkers, the fate of the world seems to have taken a bleak and ominous turn. Slowly, but steadily, increasing numbers of supernatural, inhuman creatures have inexplicably begun to walk the Earth. Coming in numerous shapes and sizes — as vampires, werewolves, zombies and ghosts — these beings that have brought fear to the night have come to be known by one name: The Darkstalkers. Some Darkstalkers prey on humans, while others try to live in peace with them. Still, others are too busy fighting amongst themselves to even care what humans do.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

I’d complain about the second panel’s questionable shot but Morrigan is a Succubus after all…

First thing’s first I really like the artwork, it’s often really on-point and well colourised. At least the main issues, anyway. The side-stories were variable…

In terms of the story it’s very spotty to begin with but eventually they settle on three storylines: Morrigan finding out her father’s old nemesis Dimitri is still alive and recovering his strength so going out to fight him, Donovan and his emotionally dead girl sidekick Anita hunt Darkstalkers and encounter Bishamon, and Felicia and Jon Talbain team up in some comedic adventures. During all this the powerful godlike being Pyron makes his way to Earth in order to consume it, a plot that puts an end point to both the Morrigan/Dimitri and Donovan/Anita stories.

While it is a shame such classic Darkstalkers as Anakaris, Hsien-ko and BB Hood are reduced to mere cameos at best, with such a weird and diverse roster it made sense just to pick a few of the most iconic or more story-heavy ones to focus on and worry about the rest later. Well… if the series had been a success anyway…

The Bad:

As Akuma-ry as Bishamon’s dialogue is, I will once again admit that the artwork is nice!

This was clearly a case of the writer assuming the series would be longer lasting as it starts off slowly, building up the different characters, then ends in an extremely quick and unsatisfactory manor. After a few issues of Morrigan shirking her duties as heiress and having fun on Earth she learns of Dimitri and eventually finds him in his castle, the two fight for like half an issue until Pyron arrives. The two join forces against Pyron but fail, then Donovan and Anita show up, the former also fails but Anita unleashes a massive psychic shock that defeats the Godlike being in one shot. Then Dimitri absorbs some of his power and then is also swiftly defeated with no fanfare, all within the last two issues. Such a disappointment, after multiple pages dedicated to Donovan fighting Victor von Gerdenheim or Felicia and Jon having amusing train conversations it turns out that while those stories were fun they should have been cut or trimmed to give the final showdown some chance to actually have any impact. We do get a tease at the end that Jedah has Morrigan’s excess sealed power and has given it life as Lilith, plus is hanging out with Gill from Street Fighter as we saw at the end of Street Fighter Unlimited, all leading to the Street Fighter vs. Darkstalkers crossover. Doesn’t save the flat ending though…

The big final fight! … Like nearly all of it in two panels…

Morrigan’s characterisation has come under great criticism and I can understand that. In the official game canon she is playful and enjoys her time on Earth, with her power and life-force being restored by the thrill and excitement she experiences. Here Morrigan is a straight up Succubus, absorbing men’s life force by kissing or sleeping with them, leaving their sometimes entirely innocent bodies as husks on the floor… while still enjoying her time on Earth. I can understand why some diehards were upset and it did confuse me at first even if it didn’t make me shake my fists with rage like some, though I guess that comes with being a passing fan of the franchise rather than someone really into the lore. I was far more annoyed by the crap ending, frankly…

Also after countless issues of Akuma being all dark, evil and dull in all the Street Fighter comics I was a little sad to see Bishamon regurgitating the same kind of dialogue with a similar typeface / speech bubble style… Can’t we have a rest from the over-the-top evilness?

Overall Thoughts:

As often pointless as Felicia and Jon’s journey was, it was at least occasionally funny (and once again, always well drawn!)

Darkstalkers has a few moments where it shines, mostly the artwork, but just as the story starts to get going it immediately ends with no time for any impact or satisfying battles. To top things off diehard fans won’t like the rewriting of Morrigan’s personality (it didn’t upset me too greatly, but still…) Basically, it looks pretty, but it’s not worth it. Let’s hope Street Fighter vs. Darkstalkers works better, which given it was a limited series with a specific number of issues should’ve at least eliminated the crap ending problem… Fingers crossed!

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