Don’t Call It A Comeback

At my local comic book store, there is a section dedicated to adaptations from other media aptly titled, “TV/Movie/Video Game Comics.”  Alongside fresh titles for recent tie-ins, I have noticed a surge of comics that are providing dormant properties with a rebirth.   It is here that I have found newer comics based on cult classics like Army of Darkness, Firefly, and Galaxy Quest.  I am pleasantly surprised to see these comics, if for nothing else to know that there are other fans who adamantly wanted more adventures for these beloved characters.  The same warm fuzzy feeling takes over when I hear news of an old favorite game getting ported to a newer console (or better yet, any HD re-release by M2).  Naturally, when these two media intersect, the feeling is only magnified.

svchaosSNK vs Capcom: SVC Chaos was first released by SNK-Playmore for the arcade and Neo-Geo home console in July 2003.  For most of us in the States, we wouldn’t experience the game until it made its debut as an Xbox console exclusive in October of the following year.  As the only SNK-developed game in this particular Vs. series, SVC Chaos stands out from its predecessors.  The game looks and plays more like King of Fighters rather than so many other Capcom-developed titles.  Perhaps it is because of this difference that the game never had lasting (or immediate) appeal.  More likely, it is the extremely unbalanced character tiers and limited release that doomed SVC Chaos to the land of underwhelming games.

SVC1In spite of all of these flaws, I loved SVC Chaos, particularly for its interesting character selections from the more obscure titles.  Amongst the usual Street Fighter and Fatal Fury rosters were oddball gems like Firebrand from Ghost and Goblins and Mars People from Metal Slug.  The game had a much darker look compared to the Capcom-developed Vs. titles, which made it stand out and seem just a little bit cooler to a college-aged kid.  To top it all off, there was a comic series released to further chronicle the in-game story; something that Capcom never seemed to get off the ground for their other Vs. games.

The first volume of SVC Chaos hit stateside in April 2004.  Originally written and illustrated by Chi Wan Shum of Happy Comics in Hong Kong, these comics were translated into English and published by the now defunct ComicsOne Corp.  The series was released over eight volumes of graphic novels, with the final book published in January 2008.

SVC2The story of the SVC Chaos comics takes a bit of a leap from the very sparse plot details of the video game (people from tons of fighting games get together to punch each other), adding the idea of a limbo realm where epic battles take place.  During the opening pages of the first volume, the reader (and Ryu) is introduced to the Parallel World Tournament.  In this tournament, warriors past and present can do battle with one another to earn a single wish that can change their fate.  There is a catch to all of this potential glory: the only way to enter the Parallel World… is through death.

SVC3Don’t worry: the rest of the comic doesn’t involve classic fighting game characters offing themselves in order to battle in the Parallel World (save for Iori on the last page).  The remainder of Volume One introduces many familiar faces who have equally familiar motivations.  Bison still serves as the head of Shadaloo, maniacally conducting genetic experiments to create a race of superhuman soldiers to take over the world.  Vega and Balrog are his ever-present cronies, with Guile and Chun-Li working against the evil group.  Terry Bogard joins the battle against Shadaloo, but he is quickly defeated by a clone of Riot Iori.  Meanwhile, Kyo from King of Fighters has already crossed into the Parallel World, where he is locked in a losing battle with Dimitri from Darkstalkers.  Finally, we meet with the two heavyweights of the respective Capcom and SNK universes: Akuma and Mr. Karate.  The pair of warriors are trying to mutually destroy each other so they can fight endlessly in the Parallel World.

It may seem like I am just skimming over story details, but most of the comic focuses on the various battles between these characters.  In fact, the explanation of Parallel World reveals that the rules of this realm are basically the rules from the video game.  Paired battles occur once daily, the fighters have three heals per day, and a single “Exceed” attack to be used in each encounter.  So even in the context of the plot, fighting is all that seems to matter.

SVC4On the plus side, the gorgeous artwork makes each battle quite worthwhile.  Individual fighters are drawn to great detail, with a full-page splash for every introduction.  Brilliant colors are used throughout the comic, especially to highlight elemental attacks.  The panel work varies between multiple smaller frames for single hits and half-to-multi-page displays for special and super moves.  Many of the backgrounds contain minimal details, opting instead to focus on the action between characters.  Striking full-page illustrations are rather frequent in SVC Chaos, making the entire comic seem just as much of a poster book as a graphic novel.

Unfortunately, no amount of well-illustrated comics could save SVC Chaos from its fall from favor.  The game never really caught on at the tournament level of play, which seems to be the benchmark for fighting game success.  I am at least happy to read that the comic series continued for years after the game’s initial release.  Even though this title is locked away in gaming’s past, perhaps some developer will find a dog-eared copy of the graphic novel in a comic book shop and feel inspired to revisit this series once again.

For more bits and pieces on video game comics, be sure to check out Geek Force Network every Monday.  More info can be found here.

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