Friday, November 03, 2006

Tao (Malibu Comics)
Mortal Kombat: Blood & Thunder #5 When: November, 1994
Why: Charles Marshall How: Kiki Chansomone

The story so far...
For centuries the purity of Mortal Kombat has preserved peace and order among the realms, requiring ten tournament victories of any invading force.

Each tournament spans a generation, and after nine victories, the Shokan champion Goro was defeated by Earthrealm champion and descendant of Kung Lao - Liu Kang. Thus, Shao Kahn and the forces of Outworld are thwarted.

The chosen warriors of Mortal Kombat exist beyond the tournament, and when Kano steals a powerful mystical book known as the Tao Te Zhan, it begins a new battle for omnipotence.
When Scorpion steals the book one of seven riddles has already been solved, and he has just solved the second...

Previous Form:
Rayden & Scorpion: Neither character has been featured previously.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Rayden 3 (Trained Athlete)
Intelligence: Rayden 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Rayden 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Rayden 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Rayden 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Scorpion 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Rayden 6 (Mass Destruction)

Avid followers of Secret Earths will be at least loosely aware of my love for beat 'em up video games. In the past, MK's rival, Street Fighter, has been twice featured based upon it's comic book escapades, from Tokuma and UDON respectively.

Even though I probably fall on the Street Fighter side of the fence, I've been with Mortal Kombat from the first video game, and have a great affection for the relatively unique and extensive story and characters they have cultivated.

The latest wave of Mortal Kombat games have been a tremendous step forward, and while Mortal Kombat: Armageddon has been quite disappointing in contrast, it's still compelled me to grab a taste of these characters.
These two in particular are very great representations of the MK franchise, and two of the more interesting of the mainstream exposed characters.

In terms of the usual statistics, Rayden raises some interesting questions.
He himself is a God, and within the context of the storyline, he does not really take an active role, pledged to instead maintain a non-intrusive advisory vigil.
His powers are certainly extensive, and for example, while I did not feel it would be accurate to represent his fighting speed excessively, he can travel from one point to another in an instant.
Likewise, Rayden can die, even though he is a God. It is just quite unlikely.

Scorpion, for those who don't know, is an undead spectre from the Netherrealm. Which means he has a lot of nasty, spooky, hell-related powers.

Unlike a character like Ghost Rider or even Spawn, Scorpion differs in that much of his arsenal existed prior to becoming a hellspawn. Scorpion was simply unable to rest due to the circumstances of his death, and thrived as a spectre of vengeance.

As a spectre, he doesn't really die, which is pretty handy when running head long into "mortal" combat. Death is the kind of stress that can cost you the match, and that's something he doesn't have to worry about, and makes him hard to intimidate or stop.

Ultimately, while Scorpion has a range of powers revolving around teleporting and summoning hellfire -- Rayden is a god of thunder and lightning. Being a God kinda trumps even a character as powerful as Scorpion, based purely on the nature of the beast, and the energy at his disposal.

And in closing, for anyone wondering, yes -- I realised Rayden was only spelt with a Y in home versions. I just have a problem with the pronounciation if it's spelt Raiden -- which is specifically derived from the Japanese Rai.

Overall: Rayden (+4)
The Pick: Rayden

What went down...
Having come into posession of the Tao Te Zhan, Scorpion retreats "many miles away" to a cliff face where he examines the mystic text. Troubled by his own inner demons, Scorpion is distracted by lust for revenge against the Lin Kuei warrior that killed him - Sub-Zero.

Desire to drive his roped spike into the throat of his nemesis presents an unlikely answer to the riddle, "Ten men's length, ten men's strength. Ten men can't tear it, yet a little boy walks off with it." The answer being: Rope!

The mysterious book turns another page, and with energy glowing across his face, Scorpion gets a special taste of electric energy from a true God!

Scorpion assures he will fight for possession of the riddle book, and tosses his modified trademark spear (with spiked ball) into the air in declaration of kombat.

The thunder god evades the attack, disappearing in a swirl of crackling electric energy.

Scorpion scowls the act of cowardice, and demands Rayden return to face his attack. Rayden's teleport proves to be a maneuver of tactic, rather than fear.
He emerges behind the ninja spectre, and blasts him with a hail of electric energy - promising Scorpion a new meaning of pain, unescapable through death.


The hammer...
Rayden wins! Flawless victory!

There're a lot of peculiarities about Mortal Kombat, but I think one of the greatest has to be it's overall popularity and longevity.
Granted, there have been quiet patches, notably around the release of the mediocre Mortal Kombat 4, but somehow MK has managed to stay relevent in the Western world of gaming.

The gimmicks of gore and violence probably played their crucial part, but I would probably say the saving grace of Mortal Kombat has been the characters, and notably their growth and evolution in an expanding universe of characters. Without those, I just don't see how it survived. Until Deadly Alliance, I don't think anyone could accuse MK of having extraordinary graphic and gameplay advantages, and in a world of Tekken and Virtua Fighter, they were just arcane.

The Mortal Kombat comics kind of bring together the lesser qualities of nineties comic books and the MK video games of the same time. In fact, peculiarly so, two years after the release of Mortal Kombat II, the comic book still uses the economically designed sprite costumes of the first game. Costumes that are far less designed and interesting.

Presumably this is to better connect the timeline of the comic's story, but really, this just adds to what is already a fairly uninspired visual experience.
One certainly notes the extreme Image Comics style clear and present in these books, with emphasis on extravagent, if sparsely detailed, action splash pages.
Dialogue is wooden and clunky, and story is just too generous a word to use for what is essentially an opportunity to string together licensed characters in various fighting combinations.

It's in this respect that the Malibu MK comics fail in much the same way other licensed trademarks disappoint. They truly were an exercise in capitalism. I remember the comics ack being dominated by MK comics, and even an entire table section mapped with the various series and mini-series and spin-offs and one-shots... Each even less connected to the property than the last.

The books, like many unsuccessful licensed efforts, also features a variety of characters and concepts 'original' to the comics. Among the better known ideas is the light-blue Lin Kuei ninja Hydro, and Shao Kahn unmasked as a Tarkatan mutant, rather than something entirely different all together.

The benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing, though, and it's easy to forget that Mortal Kombat has since produced around ten additional videogames that further the Mortal Kombat story and legacy. Which is perhaps why these characters have been able to be identified and characterized so vidialy.
It's disappointing, with that in mind, to see a recent effort to create MK comics go southbound in a similar fashion. Stories revolving around the release of Deception were to be released by a small publishing company, but unfortunately they allowed the license to expire before producing finished material.

I know as both a fan and writer, that's a license I would love to get a hold of.
I'm not quite sure what the circumstances of the recent effort's demise were, but I wonder how it may be similar to the likewise mysterious disappearance of the ill-fated Tekken comics. If anyone has info, be sure to drop a comment.

I have to say I do still regret passing thes Malibu books up.
I'm pretty accepting of any half decent adaptation if I at least get to see the characters moving around in full colour, and participating in some kind of story, and like many nineties comics I missed, these truly were fun.

I imagine as I indulge in my ever changing fad-like interests, you'll probably see more of the three issues of Blood & Thunder I have in my boxes. Prized $1 box finds that occurred months apart.

On a slight note, I am doing this entry on the fourth and fifth of November.
People reading will know I was stuck on the end of August's entries in November, so this might be a little odd. Hopefully I haven't left any gaping contextual snafus that will ensnare me in the future during past entries.

This was just a way to curb falling further behind, by using current interests.
From this point on, you'll probably be seeing more like this, avoiding my usual month-by-month forward planning.
Likewise, you'll notice I'm including more images in entries. Hopefully this makes it a more complete experience in enjoying and lightly reviewing these past comics. I'm using these as more fluid visual aids than the previous 'two highlights' method.

Anyway, see you in the future-past! :-D

The Fight: 1 The Issue: 2.5

No comments: