Street Fighter Legends: Ibuki
written by Jim Zubkavich
illustrated by Omar Dogan
This is a great little book with attractive art, an interesting premise, and best of all, a strong, likable main character. It is based on the Capcomm game Street Fighter but is quite accessible to the general reader who has never played the game (I haven't), as the creators provide the back story and keep the action scenes simple.
Ibuki is a ninja-in-training, living in a secret village and honing her skills under the direction of her demanding master, Sanjou. She is not ready to make the lifelong commitment to be a ninja, however, so she has struck a deal with her surrogate family: She can attend a normal high school, as long as she keeps her ninja life a secret.
In a bit of backstory that doesn't come up until later in the book, we learn that Ibuki was found in the forest by ninjas from the powerful Geki clan, who decided they would train her to become the perfect assassin. One of the Geki, Enjo, ran away with the baby because he felt she should have the choice of whether or not to be a ninja—and Ibuki's independence is an important theme in the story. As the book opens, the Geki have succeeded in tracking Enjo down and they have a spy watching Ibuki.
The first half of the story focuses on Ibuki's school life, as she makes friends with the aggressive Makoto, who is determined to defeat fighters from every school to prove her father's superiority as a teacher, and Elena, an Amazon-sized fighter from Africa, and deals with midterms and friend problems. The second half has more action, with Ibuki taking her final ninja exam, a fight with an old master, and teaming up with her friends to help defend her clan from an attack by the Geki. The fights are cleanly drawn, easy to follow, and not particularly bloody, with kicking and puffs of smoke being the two chief means of attack.
Ibuki's personality and her double life lift this story above the common run of gamer comics. She is at once a strong fighter and an insecure teen, and she does her best to balance school, friends, and training as a stealth assassin. It's nice to see a girl-centered comic with more action than angst, especially for the middle school-early teen age group.
One final note: Ibuki's costume has raised some eyebrows, because her pants are cut out in a pecular way to show a lot of skin. The costume is derived from the game art, and the creators of this comic couldn't change it, but they do include a humorous one-page comic of Ibuki explaining that yes, she does wear underwear. The costume never gets more revealing than the image on the cover, and it's not that different from the costumes in many Japanese manga.