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Mega Man Megamix, Vols. 2 + 3

September 28, 2012 1 comment

Mega Man Megamix, Vols. 2 + 3
By Hitoshi Ariga
Udon Entertainment
Rating: Not Rated

Hitoshi Ariga’s retelling of Mega Man’s exploits and battles against the evil robots of Dr. Wiley continues in the final two volumes of Mega Man Megamix! These two volumes cover events from the various games and come complete with two collections of of Mega Man comedy strips.

Despite these being the final two volumes there’s no real closure on the adventures of Mega Man. We get some thematic climaxes with regards to why Mega Man does what he does and what makes him special amongst the various robot characters, but people looking for a more complete finale may find themselves disappointed. Game wise these two volumes seem to cover up to Mega Man 6 or so, though it doesn’t really adapt them so much as retell and brush over. Many of the events in the climatic volumes don’t really line up perfectly to in game events but the tale’s are so engaging I can’t imagine it’d matter to any but the most hardcore of Mega Man fans.

Ariga’s artwork seems to improve with each volume as does the intensity of his action scenes throughout these two books. His style seems to fit the world of Mega Man perfectly and his character designs look faithful to the original and are slick and eye catching. It’s a bit of shame that the later robots were so ornate and over done that they really seem to clash with the earlier, streamlined designs. Despite this Ariga manages to make even the more ornate designs fit in with the rest of the robots regardless.

It’s not life changing but Mega Man Megamix has been a fun, upbeat and enjoyable series. It also deals with some rather interesting material such as what it means to be a robot, free will and more without being too angsty or depressing. It’s been a good, solid read and I’m hoping to track down volumes of Ariga’s follow up, Mega Man Gigamix in the near future.

Mega Man Megamix, Vols. 2 + 3 are available now from Udon Entertainment.

Mega Man Megamix, Vol. 1

July 25, 2012 1 comment

Mega Man Megamix, Vol. 1
By Hitoshi Ariga
Udon Entertainment, 220 pp
Rating: Not Rated

Udon Entertainment continues it’s trend of bringing out classic manga adaptions of Capcom video games with this, the first volume of Hitoshi Ariga’s Mega Man Megamix! Witness the creation of the legend and his earliest adventures, spanning moments from the first three Mega Man games and beyond!

I have to admit up front that I’m not a huge Mega Man fan. I played it when it first came out, sure, but I was never a huge fan who followed the story religiously and could pick up on subtle references to previous games and the like. That said Udon’s success with the various Street Fighter manga series had me curious about this series and Jason Thompson’s fantastic review of Ariga’s works in a recent House of 1,000 Manga finally tipped the scales for me. With that in mind I have to admit that I did find myself enjoying this even if I wasn’t blown away by it. The story itself is straight forward enough as a massively compressed version of the events of the first three games. We get to see Mega Man confronting most of the memorable robots and learn of his origins and such and it was all done in a nice, all ages friendly action adventure way. Still, there was just something about it that didn’t quite click for me. Maybe it’s because it was focused so heavily on the action that Mega Man and the rest of the cast end up feeling like flat, one note characters. Maybe it was the slightly stilted dialogue or the way certain events like Mega Man 3 and the first appearance of Proto Man are given a single page. I just know that while I enjoyed it I didn’t fall head over heels in love with the book.

Hitoshi Ariga’s adaption and plot might not have blown me away but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a damn good looking book. The art’s clean and all the characters are true to their original character designs. Their special attacks are all present and Ariga makes the action scenes fun, exciting, clear to follow and enjoyable to read. Sure, they might be super fast and Mega Man might not take a full volume to defeat whoever but that doesn’t make them any less enjoyable to see played out on the page. There’s a lot of visual humor and gags and while I’m generally not a fan of over reactions and the like for comedic affect they definitely work here and don’t feel at all out of place. That’s probably due in large part to the nicely cartoony look of the artwork to begin with. It means that sudden and weird reactions or goofy expressions don’t break the visual flow or stick out like a sore thumb.

No, I didn’t fall instantly in love with the series but I definitely enjoyed it enough to want to read the next two volumes if nothing else. The action scenes are fun, the stories are simple and straight forward and the artwork is lovely and eye catching making the most of the simple, iconic and memorable designs of Mega Man and his friends and foes. Long time fans of the game series will clearly get the most of the book but it’s pretty new comer friendly and people coming in cold to the world of Mega Man shouldn’t find themselves too lost or overwhelmed. Mega Man Megamix, Vol. 1 has an undeniable charm and purity to it that helps over come it’s short comings in other areas and the result is a enjoyable, light read.

Mega Man Megamix, Vol. 1 is available now from Udon Entertainment.

Street Fighter Legends: Ibuki

July 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Written by Jim Zubkavich, Art by Omar Dogan
Udon Entertainment, 128 pp.
Rating: Not Rated

Street Fighter Legends: Ibkuki is the the third installment of the Street Fighter Legends series which focuses on individual characters from the popular fighting game franchise. In this case it zeroes in on the young ninja giro, Ibuki, from the Street Fighter III game. Written by Jim Zubkavich with art from Street Fighter Legends mainstay Omar Dogna, Ibuki’s tale is one of a young girl struggling to maintain a balance between her duties to her ninja clan and her own desires to live like a normal teenage girl.

This book is a bit uneven and Jim Zubkavich simply has too many balls in the air. The main thrust of the series initially seems to be Ibuki’s desire to lead the life of a normal girl, something that alone would be a fine topic for the miniseries, but then you add in a ninja revenge plot, a friendly rivalry with the karate heiress Makoto, ninja tests against Oro, which in turn connects to Makoto’s own backstory, tensions with her best friend, the arrival of Elena and the story just becomes cluttered. Nothing is really given any time to develop properly and the result is a story that feels disjointed and uncentered. At times it almost feels like certain aspects were included without any real reason. Elena is a good example of this as she doesn’t really add anything to any of the plots. She’s simply there. Likewise the ninja revenge plot does a good bit to expand upon her backstory, but it’s introduced early on and by the time it’s reintroduced I had pretty much forgotten that it even existed in the first place. Despite my quibbles the book still manages to entertain though. The interaction between Makoto and Ibuki is generally pretty amusing and fun to watch and there’s a nice light hearted feel to the humor and the story in general that makes it pretty enjoyable.

Omar Dogan’s artwork is fantastic, but that’s to be expected. He handles the action scenes well and does a good job at keeping each characters likeness close to the original game designs while adding his own artistic flares. That said I did feel that his Makoto could have been a tad more butch, I seem to recall her being a bit more stocky in the game. The action scenes are clean and easy to follow and fans of the franchise may recognize some of the characters signature attacks and moves. In addition he handles the humor and quieter moments wonderfully as well, with a moment where Makoto is forced to choose between her duty and her desires being a particularly stand out moment.

Street Fighter Legends: Ibuki is hardly going to be mistaken for high literature of life changing material. While I can’t deny that it was a light and enjoyable read, I’d also be lying if I said it was a totally satisfying read. Some of the plot resolutions feel forced and I was left with the feeling that it was more of a collection of cool moments and good ideas held together by a rather shaky framework. It’s a fun read, but one with some glaring flaws that are hard to ignore.

Street Fighter Legends: Ibuki is available now from Udon Entertainment.

Street Fighter Gaiden, vol. 1

June 20, 2011 Leave a comment

by Mami Itou
Udon Entertainment, 170 pp.
Rating: Not Rated

In the spirit of Darkstalkers/Red Earth: Maleficarium comes Street Fighter Gaiden, vol. 1, a collection of short stories featuring your favorite characters from the Street Fighter franchise courtesy of Mami Itou! The first volumes focuses on some of the more well known figures, featuring tales involving Ryu, Ken, Guile and Chun Li among others.

The stories are mostly of the stand alone and done in one variety, often attempting to illuminate the back stories of some of the characters or attempting to take a look into their psychology and motivations. A look back at the life of Ken and Ryu is told in a flashback framed by Eliza, Ken’s wife, explaining the idea of fighters brotherhood and how it’s a special world that women may never enter. Another touches upon the rivalry between Ryu and Akuma, but focuses on Ryu running across a local karate master and their ensuing duel. Likewise the Chun Li tale, the longest story in the book, features her taking down a drug ring with nary another Street Fighter to be seen. The decision to use more original characters to populate the existing characters stories threw me for a loop at first but I got used to it as the story went on. For long time, hardcore Street Fighter fans the weird continuity of the tales and the introduction of original characters may stick in their craw, particular the bizarre Fei Long story.

Mami Itou’s art in this volume is quite lovely and incredibly dynamic. It also seems a bit cleaner and easier to follow then it was in Darkstalkers/Red Earth: Maleficarium. While that’s generally a good thing I found myself longing for the thatch heavy style Itou used for the Red Earth stories. We get a little of it in Fei Long’s tale, but not nearly enough. Still, it’s engaging, true to the original character designs and the action sequences are engaging and fun and easy to follow while maintaing a nice flow and energy throughout the book.

Street Fighter Gaiden, vol. 1 is a weird little book. Unlike the other Street Fighter manga I’ve read, this one is a bit harder to place within the world of the Street Fighter franchise due to so many tales being only tangentially connected to the franchises main story. While bits of the series lore are touched upon, it’s really a volume of side stories that have only minimal plots that don’t do much else but entertain.

Street Fighter Gaiden, vol. 1 is available now from Udon Entertainment.

Darkstalkers/Red Earth: Maleficarum

June 5, 2011 Leave a comment

by Mami Itou
Udon Entertainment, 200 pp.
Rating: Not Rated

Darkstalkers/Red Earth: Maleficarum is one the latest manga releases from Udon Entertainment. It’s a compilation of short stories created by Mami Itou featuring characters from the two Capcom franchises named in the title. The Darkstalkers material consists mainly of short, barely connected tales while the Red Earth material is a single, multi chapter story.

It pains me to admit that the writing is nothing fantastic or terribly memorable. The Darkstalkers material are odd one offs featuring some of the key players from the franchise, Jedah, Talbain and of course everyone’s favorite succubus, Morrigan. While there are hints of the greater story and tales that make up the back story for the Darkstalkers game franchise, for the most part they’re forgettable one off’s giving us some basic information of the characters and the world while containing ominous tones and speeches that don’t actually go anywhere in the stories themselves. The Red Earth section fares a little better as it’s a complete story. Unfortunately it’s pretty short and feels awfully rushed in places. Additionally the characters have no chance to develop beyond their names. Apparently this is partly due to Itou not having access to any information to the Red Earth world beyond a few rounds at a game expo in Japan prior to it’s release. That really makes me wonder why Capcom would even bother producing these stories in the first place. If they were hoping to use them to generate interest in the game at the time, then wouldn’t it have been helpful to have let the creator in on the game’s story and character histories? Another thing that truly shocked me is that in a few panels words are cut off and letters are missing. I honestly can’t recall ever seeing this before in any Udon manga to date, so encountering it here was pretty shocking and took me right out of the story.

While I’m really harsh and underwhelmed by the writing, the artwork is actually quite lovely. The Red Earth section in particular look absolutely gorgeous as Itou employs a wonderfully detailed thatch heavy style. The result is beautifully, rough and gritty artwork that does a terrific job at conveying the fantasy setting of the world and which give the action scenes that extra little oomph that makes them explode off the page. While Darkstalkers features a slightly cleaner style with toning here and there, the action sequences still stand out as being incredibly kinetic and bursting with energy. Sadly for both stories this energy comes with a price and on more than one occasion the sequences seemingly devolve into a mess of lines and blobs of ink making what’s happening in said panels virtually undecipherable.

This book is a real mixed bag. People unfamiliar with either franchise will probably find themselves lost and confused, attempting to figure out whether to two tales are meant to connect and if they’re not why it starts off with a chapter of Darkstalkers before sliding into the Red Earth story. As such it feels like a truly niche title, something that will most likely only appeal to fans of the original video games. But aside from some lovely artwork I’m not sure what this book has to offer even those hardcore fans.

Darkstalkers/Red Earth: Maleficarum is available now from Udon Entertainment.

Silent Möbius: Complete Edition, Vol. 3

February 17, 2011 Leave a comment

By Kia Asamiya
Udon Entertainment, 200 pp.
Rating: Older Teens (16 +)

The third volume of Silent Möbius picks up right where the second volume left off. The groups resident psychic, Yuki, has been kidnapped by figures from her past. Just what secrets do they hold about her powers and will she survive? Afterwards Lemia Maverick takes center stage as we get a glimpse into her life and her contribution to the team as a series of cyber attacks threaten to down Tokyo’s entire network.

I think this is probably the most uneven volume of the three so far, but it’s still a very good read. Both Lemia and Yuki’s tale not only give us glimpses into their lives and characters, they also give us some rather interesting looks into the non-magic aspects of the world Silent Möbius inhabits. Experiments in engineering human weapons, the first look at the world’s internet and a glimpse of the subculture’s that surround it all turn up. Unfortunately it’s not all bells and whistles as Yuki’s story didn’t do much to engender sympathy with me. While it does provide for some interesting fight scene’s and has a strong core concept, Yuki comes off as a bit too helpless and pathetic. She’s largely an observer and does little to help herself out of the situation. It’s actually the other ladies of AMP and some figures from her past that end up protecting and saving her. Meanwhile Lemia’s tale, while very interesting, suffers from an abundance of technobabble that feels awkward and can be a tad confusing at times.

That said, Asamiya’s artwork is lovely and both chapters are quite a treat to look at it. The setting’s been gushed over in the past, but it still bares mention again. The city looks fantastic, from the dense crowds on the street, to the abandoned Tokyo Tower and more. Asamiya’s action sequences feel a bit clearer here as well, especially in Yuki’s tale which features a psychic battle full of rampant property destruction. Lemia’s story is heavily dependent on Lemia’s infiltration of a computer network, something that occurs in manner similar to that of Ghost in the Shell with Lemia projecting herself into it. Sadly, unlike Ghost in the Shell, the visual depiction of online/network work is less than breath taking. It’s dark, a bit muddy and seems to rely heavily on random shapes floating about that are meant to represent bits of data. It’s just not terribly interesting to look at and feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.

Three volumes in and I’m still really enjoying this series. The mixture of sci-fi and supernatural elements gives the series a nice “anything can happen” feel that really clicks with me. That said, it’s been quite a while since this volume came out and outside of a TBA 2011 mention on Udon’s site, there’s no sign of volume four on the horizon. Hopefully there will be news about it soon, but for right now there’s plenty of time to go and grab the three volumes out so you’ll be all caught up whenever the fourth one drops!

Volume three of Silent Möbius: Complete Edition is available now from Udon Entertainment.

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