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Darkstalkers Double Feature Review

Darkstalkers Double Feature Review

-Written by: Matthew DeFelice

Halloween has long since passed, but we’re still craving something a little darker as we prepare for the upcoming holidays! That’s why we’re serving up a double feature of Darkstalkers in today’s Right Stuf Anime Review!

Darkstalkers Rise Of The Night Warriors Manga (Hardcover)

Rise of the Night Warriors was originally released a decade and a half ago back in 2004 before receiving a hardcore collection by Udon Entertainment. It’s a hardcover collection of the entire series written by Ken Siu-Chong of Marvel and Street Fighter comic fame, and it attempts to recreate the spirit of the now twenty-five-year-old fighting franchise. The question is: how does it hold up in 2019?

Darkstalkers introduces us to demonic successor Morrigan, arguably the most famous character the series has spawned, as she investigates her father’s backstabbing nemesis. I use “investigate” lightly here, as her detective work almost always takes the form of physical melee. There are plenty of other subplots that are often given more attention than the main plot. There are three standout subplots here: the first involves Victor, the Frankenstein’s monster with a heart of gold, and the second centers around Felicia, the catgirl who dreams of becoming an actress. I will discuss the third later in this review.

Darkstalkers is a hard comic to review. The primary reason for this is that the comic is based on a game with a razor-thin plot and a roster that rivals that of a small army. The lack of depth and a large amount of characters manifest themselves in the form of multiple subplots competing for attention, with the main storyline feeling less significant than it should. It’s also difficult to nail down the tone of the series. The closest character to a central protagonist is a homicidal succubus who is often seen killing seemingly innocent or well-meaning characters, yet Felicia’s subplot is often filled with humor (somewhat cringeworthy humor I might add). Some storylines, such as the human world’s xenophobia towards cat people (Ken Siu-Chong did write several X-men comics), never go anywhere after they are introduced. In short, placing emphasis on everyone and everything has the opposite effect: it feels as if nothing is important. With one exception: Bishamon.

Ken Siu-Chong’s ability to craft interesting stories and characters comes out in the tale of Bishamon, a ghastly samurai wearing a blood-craving suit of armor. As the lore unfolds, the duality and sad fate of the monstrous marauder are revealed, and I was genuinely anticipating seeing him from issue to issue. Once my time with Darkstalkers had ended, I felt that Bishamon was by far the most interesting and fleshed out of not just the antagonists, but out of any of the featured characters.

Moreover, delivering a compelling, interesting plot isn’t what Rise of The Night Warriors is trying to accomplish. The numerous battles that make up the bulk of the issues feel as though they are ripped right from the game. The characters are drawn in ways that mimic their video game counterparts, and seeing what special attacks would make an appearance next kept me excited for the next inevitable showdown. Fans of over-the-top, shonen-style action will love these special-ability-themed encounters.

Unfortunately, the ending must be addressed as it wholly unsatisfying. The final act feels rushed, and the pace only intensifies as the remaining page count shortens. The plot is tied up so quickly, in fact, that I began flipping back and forth wondering if I had missed a page. To add insult to injury, Rise of the Night Warriors also ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. This was more problematic back in ‘04 when the series was released as it never received a sequel. Fortunately for fans, the issue was resolved when the story was continued last year⁠—almost fifteen years later. Better late than never.

A lamentable final act and weak overarching story will probably keep anyone not familiar with the series from finding this hardcover collection worthwhile. On the other hand, excellently crafted fights and consistent artwork make this recommendable to fans of the cult-favorite fighting game or anyone looking for some quality action.

Street Fighter Vs Darkstalkers Underworld Warriors Manga (Hardcover)

The direct follow-up to Darkstalkers: Rise of the Night Warriors and Udon’s own Super Street Fighter, Darkstalkers vs Street Fighter focuses on the attempts of demon Jedah Dohma to create a world-ending god using the life force and spirits of the world’s greatest warriors. Naturally, Jedah and Morrigan’s evil half Lilith begin preying on the various fighters of the Street Fighter universe, leading to panel after panel of crossover combat.

While Rise of the Night Warriors was initially published in 2004, the follow-up series is fairly recent, having been released just last year. Ken Siu-Chong has once again been enlisted to finish what he started all those years ago. The artwork is provided by a different team this time around, but they deliver more of the professional digital artwork that Udon has become known for. It’s nothing special, but it isn’t distracting.

The quantity of characters per panel is even larger than before. It is more common than not to see a half-dozen to a dozen characters involved in mystical battles for supremacy. The fight sequences are about as fun as any other comic book bouts you’ll find, and the sheer variety of characters keeps them feeling fresh from page to page. However, you may find yourself doing doubletakes as you try to remember which characters are traveling with each other as they fight their way through a gauntlet of undead foes towards the inevitable finale. Thankfully, the ending is much more satisfying this time around.

As one might have guessed, there isn’t really much in the way of story, and that’s OK. Siu-Chong gathered a lot more experience under his belt by the time he wrote this interdimensional clash, and it shows in his dialogue. The head-scratching side plots and embarrassing attempts at humor are long gone. In its place stands short, witty banter that helps direct the action sequences.

The variety of characters is typically viewed as the highlight of crossover versus titles, which makes it a bit disappointing that some of the biggest names in Street Fighter don’t make an appearance here. The most glaring omission is Ryu, the world-beating protagonist of the Street Fighter games, who aside from brief cameos in the middle and ending, is nowhere to be found. The questionable roster of characters leaves the comic feeling like a missed opportunity.

Although created by a different company nearly a decade after the initial series, the artwork and author aren’t the only things that keep Darkstalkers vs Street Fighter feeling like more of the same. The action sequences are cool, the artwork is quality, and the story is thin. If you absolutely have to have anything with the Darkstalkers or Street Fighter logos on them, this certainly won’t be the worst item in your collection.

Darkstalkers Rise Of The Night Warriors Manga (Hardcover)

New hardcover collection celebrating the 25th anniversary of Darkstalkers! Morrigan, Demitri, Felicia, Donovan, Victor, Talbain, and more of your favorite Darkstalkers battle it out for control of the night. Featuring both the complete Darkstalkers and Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors comic series, this oversized collection also includes every Darkstalkers bonus story and variant cover.

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Darkstalkers Vs Street Fighter Underworld Warriors Manga (Hardcover)

New hardcover collection celebrating the 25th anniversary of Darkstalkers! When the World Warriors meet the Night Warriors -- they'll raise Hell! These time-tested combatants have met many times in the arcades, but nothing can prepare you for their first action-packed, fan service-fueled comic crossover! Villains will unite, friends will become foes, and the worlds of Street Fighter and Darkstalkers will be changed forever! Collects the complete Street Fighter VS Darkstalkers comic series, plus all bonus stories and variant covers.

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