COMICSGATE: Aubrey Stitterson – Street Fighter X GI Joe (2016)

Our next contestant here is Aubrey Stitterson, who is known for Skald along with a slew of other indies – as well as his work with GI Joe and in some cases Transformers/Revolution. His GI Joe work is where the controversy came in, particularly his “left-wing” interpretation of a franchise that is about as conservative as the action figure that spawned it. Back in the fifties, or perhaps even earlier, boys were taught to be soldiers/fighters and protectors through GI Joe and girls were taught to be homemakers through Barbie. Those have both changed over the years, but fanbases seem to remain dedicated to those common rubrics. GI Joe is still thought of as “A Real American Hero.” Though it wasn’t only his comic work that turned hardcore Joe fans off – it was a tweet. He’d posted something insanely silly and obviously not well thought, something that could almost be described as a diarrhea of the fingers.

The tweet read simply;

“Oh good. It’s Self-Centered National Tragedy Remembrance From People Who Weren’t Even Anywhere Near New York City Day.”

It had 56 likes and 180 comments. Now, I don’t know who in their right mind would have possibly liked a tweet of this nature, but they probably weren’t thinking critically. First of all, neither Stitterson nor those who liked said post took into account that there were people who didn’t actually live in or near New York City, but had friends, relatives and loved ones perish during the 9/11 tragedy. I mean, it is literally possible to have people you are close to in completely different parts of the country, let alone the entire world. As world borders become more thin by the decade, the sheer stupidity of Stitterson’s tweet here really rings true. Regardless of how this brain fart of a tweet happened, it caused him to lose the support of millions of devoted GI Joe fans, as well as IDW giving him the boot entirely, which cancelled his Scarlet series for 2018. Some fans might very well say “good riddance” for this, especially with him also praising Black Panther as the best movie he’s ever seen. (Read that tweet just a while ago when I went to Google search him).

With this preamble complete, I shall now delve into the fairly entertaining read that was Street Fighter X GI Joe. Now, first of all, I bet you’re wondering how in the hell GI Joe and Street Fighter got together for anything and secondly; if it actually worked – well… that’s difficult to say. I only received these six issues with my bundle, so I don’t know if there was any sort of “road” to this tournament. In any case, we unfortunately saw a lot of great Street Fighter and GI Joe Characters not present in the tournament at all. It was like watching the finals of a sporting event without seeing any of the previous matches that led up to it. I cannot say as to whether or not any of these matches were featured in other issues of Street Fighter or the GI Joe comics, but as far as I can tell, they were not. What we do have however, is a few pages in the back of the first issue explaining what these qualifiers might have looked like. Unfortunately, reading and imagining these fights isn’t quite as interesting as seeing them, so there’s a bit of a discrepancy there. Especially when the participants in these fights are none other than popular characters like Duke (Yes, Duke) Munitia, Elena, Cover Girl, Zangief, Shpiwreck, Overkill, Blanka, Dhalsim, Sakura, Fei Long and… Ken. Yeah, Ken. It’s bad enough that fan-favorites like Dhalsim and Blanka are knocked out of the picture, but Ken? Fucking Ken? Are you serious, Stitterson?

Naturally, Ryu and his female apprentice Jinx made it, to join Baroness, Crimson Viper, Hakan, Rufus, (and he plays a ridiculously major role in this book for some unknown reason) Chun-Li, Scarlet, Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, Croc Master, Dan, Zartan, Cammy, Destro and M.Bison. Do you like any of these characters? Because these are the characters that the book mainly focuses on. We barely even get a glimpse of Rainbow Mika towards the end of the book, which is pretty much sacrilege. The same can be said of Vega. I’m actually giving Stitterson the finger for this infraction, because one might assume that the masked menace would be able to claw through at least a few Joes and fellow Street Fighters. I know, this sounds like an eight-year old’s line of argument, but I am a Street Fighter fan and would have much rather preferred fan favorite characters aside from Hakan and his oil wrestling. It was rather shocking to see him approach Jinx and say in possibly one of the creepiest lines in the book, “You look like my daughter, this is going to be difficult for me.” Keep in mind, Hakan has many wives and many daughters. If that’s not enough cringe for you, then we have Rufus complete with generally slutty arm-candy, Candy (no, that is not a typo) hugging all around him, while at the same time having an infatuation for the BBC that GI Joe’s chef, Roadblock might offer. He doesn’t actually seem to be interested in her however, as it seems that he is a man of good morals and knows not to trust her. I’m wondering exactly what kind of lesson that Stitterson was trying to teach in all of this, especially since arm candy Candy seems to play a big part in this book and not in such a good way. I will add that Roadblock provides necessary comedy relief when he finds that Hakan’s oil is rather tasty and wants it for his kitchen, which is an unsuspected outcome for their fight.

We also learn of a relationship between Destro and The Baroness, which has The Grim Lord here assuming that “they been fucking.” Especially when she calls him by his real name, which is quite plain and hopefully not canonical. (Edit:It actually is.) I actually didn’t ever want to assume that Destro was a human, but according to this book, his name is James. The eighties kid in me seems to like Destro a bit better. As far as Cobra Commander is concerned, he didn’t take part in the tournament, which feels even a bit more like Mortal Kombat than Street Fighter, especially with Bison sitting in the chair where Shao Kahn would have sat in order to watch the fights and observe the fighters. Storm Shadow walks off, The Baroness betrays Destro, Crimson Viper betrays everyone, M. Bison gets his psycho-drive smashed and Rufus manages to steal another one in order to become unnecessarily overpowered. A Dragonball-esque scene then takes place with Ken and Jinx teaming up for a shoryuken fireball. Just as in Dragonball, the smoke clears and Rufus is defeated. Some of these fights are a little weird though, and I have no idea how Croc Master got so far in the fucking tournament at all. Though I will say that the exchange between two military officers in Gung-Ho and Guile was quite respectable. Stitterson might have had diarrhea of the fingers while on Twitter, but here in the comic he at least respected a bond between branches of the military and how soldiers respect other soldiers. That is what GI Joe represents, after all – even when Cobra decides to commandeer a shaving cream factory. (I could have sworn that was a plot point in one of the mid-era GI Joe episodes)

Capcom seems to have played a big role here, so whatever craziness Stitterson inserted later into the ’17 GI Joe books, it doesn’t seem to be here. Hakan mentions that his oil is vegan and cruelty-free, which I found a bit odd; but it’s no deal breaker. There are also surprisingly a large number of female fighters in this tournament and some of the men act a bit silly towards them, in a way that almost makes them feel like predators in some respects. You may not understand what I’m saying here until you’ve actually sat down and read it, but it came off a bit silly to me. It also felt like a sort of engineering for female comic fans, because a lot of people develop a worldview based on what they absorb, especially in their younger years and the book seems to hold at least a few subliminal messages within the context here and there. Again, Capcom oversaw it, but I don’t think that they noticed these instances.

I will say that Guile, Ryu, Roadblock and some other male characters seemed to communicate a strong male archetype in a much better way than Rufus, which I will consider the most exaggerated example of misogyny that I’ve seen in a comic of this type. It is geared to kids, at least, I think? I’m unfamiliar with his back story, so I can’t say as to whether or not this is just part of his natural characteristics, but I will say that this kind of joke character (who reminds me of Mr.Satan, except that he can actually hold his own in a fight) really left a bad taste in my mouth, and I was ready to see him go – but he just wouldn’t leave the story until it was over. Stitterson was bound and determined to show this exaggeration of masculinity and stupidity in a setting that would make young readers consider it more of a “cautionary tale against toxic masculinity” rather than a battle between Street Fighter and GI Joe properties.

Fortunately, the art and coloring were quite strong and I’d compare them to something out of Archie’s Mega Man series, which I loved. It definitely felt that in most cases the Street Fighter characters had the upper hand, but considering the abilities of the Street Fighter characters and the Joes, I’m surprised that it wasn’t a bloodbath. Destro didn’t even get up from his chair to fight – James decided that he’d rather take off during the M. Bison match. I honestly didn’t think that the plot for this comic was even half as good as it could have been, and with social issues in regards to character behavior more important than a good clean brawl between two immensely popular and celebrated franchises, I’m kind of glad that Stitterson is no longer writing for either of them. Judging from what I’d read, (especially the finale) if Stitterson somehow ended up at Archie writing Mega Man as a reboot from the prior cancelled series, I would create my own Mega Buster weapon, charge up to full power and then unleash it directly into my face. GI Joe and Street Fighter have both had their share of politics, but I never cared about who The Baroness was fucking, nor did I want to see Candy and Rufus’s little sexual charade plastered all over what I thought to be a kid-friendly book. Though as I’ve checked the official rating over at Comixology, the book is rated 12+. This is certainly good, as I’d hate to have young minds looking at their beloved characters in this way. There are definitely some mature situations to be had here. It’s worth noting that the Comixology score is a 4.0, but I take Comixology scores with the same grain of salt that I would when trusting a bout of flatulence, and this book might not be far from that.

GI Joe X Street Fighter is not terrible, but it is not all that special either. An unlikely bout of combat between two extremely well-known and celebrated franchises, which will leave the reader more in a state of confusion than anything else. It leaves off for a sequel with Akuma making an appearance, but now that Stitterson is fired from the label, this would come under a new writer. Let’s be thankful for that.

(6 Issues, approx 160pgs – main story)

7/10

Purchase HERE (IDW Website)

7.0

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