Writer/Artist:Wing Yan / King Tung
Translated by:TJ Zhao
Adapted by:Gayle Tan
What They Say
SNK's most famous characters come to life in The King of Fighters 2003! Ash Crimson's true ambition is much darker than anyone had imagined. Can the stylish and metrosexual Ash be defeated?
Having reviewed Street Fighter II recently, I find it difficult not to draw comparisons between that title and this one. Fighting manga based on video games can usually count themselves lucky if they aren't egregious, and King of Fighters succeeds at not being egregious. But not by much.
Adaptations of this sort tend to be by fans for fans - they are written with an expectation that the reader will come to the material with a certain amount of knowledge about the characters, their relation to one another and their situation. This is not an idea I can fault. Who, after all, would read a book like this without at least a passing familiarity with King of Fighters? Well, a reviewer would. And while the lack of information is an asset to the intended audience, it doesn't help me know what's going on. This brings me to one of the things I appreciated about Street Fighter II: the plot was simple and required no previous knowledge of the characters or the world of Street Fighter. It wasn't a great story by any means; but it didn't have to be. All it had to do was be clear and move quickly. And it did. But here the plot (apart from the tournament itself, where lack of clarity is almost an impossiblity) is almost completely arbitrary. I don't get a strong impression of the characters <i>doing</i> anything. Stuff just happens.
So much for the caveat. Plot is a secondary, or perhaps even tertiary, consideration. King of Fighters is in essense about fighting; by the fights the book will stand or fall. And the fights work. Whether the art has any merits beyond the particular powers it requires is doubtful. What is not doubtful is that it has exactly the powers for this task. The tournament bouts are fast, intense, and spectacular - especially in full colour, where the fireballs, energy bursts and other special attacks look their best.
I can't say King of Fighters is a particularly memorable comic. Even just a couple of days later I find it hard to recall much of anything about it. But I found this volume a quick, pain-free read, and a little better than I expected. One thing I do remember is that it makes the daring move of taking the plot past the end of the tournament. Ordinarly I would applaud the originality - but with the plot being such a head-scratcher my hopes for the end of the series aren't high.