"The Night Warriors: Chapter 06"
Story: Ken Siu-Chong
Art: Joe Vriens, Alvin Lee and Kevin Lau
Backgrounds: Scott Hepburn
Publisher: Devil's Due
The Capcom fighting games have a surprisingly rich backstory; the various titles and series each have their own storylines, and those occasionally cross over with each other, much in the manner of a superhero shared universe. However, since there's only so much story you can tell in a fighting game, much of the plotting and characterisation occurs in supplementary material. So it was with an eye to finding out more about the Darkstalkers world that I picked up this comic to review, and it's rather disappointing, as there's probably less depth here than in the game series that spawned it.
Like so many of these anime/manga-tinged series that the US industry puts out, there's an emphasis on the visuals over the writing, which would be fine if the art was stronger; it's not bad work by any means, but it's of a rather bland and generic sort, and the pages are very static, seeming more like a series of posed single images than snapshots of characters in motion. It's possible that the creators are going for some sort of house style that multiple pencillers and inkers can easily mimic, and the fact that the three artists on this book donít produce vastly different work speaks well of that approach, but it also apparently leads to flat and uninteresting art. Given that the art more directly associated with the games (box art, promo art, etc) is not slavishly tied to any such house style, often leading to some stunning imagery, it's ironic that the comics look so bland.
Similarly, the writing is not offensively bad but nonetheless unimpressive. I'll admit to not having read any earlier issues of the series, but even so, it feels as if there's almost nothing going on in this issue; the many ongoing plots seem as if they're only just getting started, although it is possible, I suppose, that the first five issues were packed with stories and characters and that this issue is dealing with a whole new set of both. Alternatively, it could just be a sign of painfully glacial plotting. Characterisation is superficial, resulting in an inability to really engage with the cast; perhaps if I had some residual affection for these characters from the original games, then this would be less of a problem, although still inexcusable. Unless the characters are truly iconic (and they're not), you can't rely on another work to do your characterisation for you; you might get away with it with Superman, but not John Talbain (who? Exactly). Clunky and obvious scripting hardly helps matters, particularly the utterly redundant thought bubbles that seem to be everywhere. Again, it's not bad writing as such, just well below what I expect from a professional comic.
By far my favourite part of the entire issue was the short back-up tale concerning the Darkstalkers universe's version of Red Riding Hood, and that's only due to Skottie Young's energetic art, as again the writing is rather flat and unimpressive. I should perhaps not expect too much from a video game tie-in, but when the game's own manual and end sequences provide a better look at the backstory of the characters and setting than an actual work of narrative fiction, then there's a problem. There's potential in these characters and their world, and I'm quite baffled by the creative team's inability to capitalise on that potential.
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