Friday, August 15, 2008

Kombat Zones (Malibu/Midway)
Mortal Kombat: Blood & Thunder #4 When: October 1994 Why: Charles Marshall How: Patrick Rolo

The Story So Far...
Once every generation an ancient martial arts tournament gathers the greatest warriors to defend the Earthrealm from the invading forces of Outworld. This dark dimension is ruled by the tyrant emperor, Shao Kahn, whose insatiable apetite for conquest seems endless.

The sorcerer, Shang Tsung, ensures the presence of a variety of warriors at the tenth, and potentially final, Mortal Kombat tournament, luring many with opportunities of personal glory and vengeance before their battle with reigning champion, Goro. Sonya Blade is one such fighter, whose pursuit of underworld figure, Kano, sees her boldly storming the vessel to Shang Tsung's island.

There, she encounters Liu Kang and Johnny Cage; other warriors chosen to defend Earthrealm by Tsung and the protectoral god of Earth, Raiden.
Shortly after the tournament begins, Shang Tsung's plans for victory see him ambushing the various warriors of Earth, all part of a plot to unlock the mystical powers of an ancient book called the Tao Te Zhan. This breach of protocol allows Raiden to interfere on the benefit of his warriors, allowing them to escape into the wastelands of Outworld.

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Johnny Cage 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Sonya Blade 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Draw 4 (Athlete)
Agility: Draw 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Draw 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Power: Sonya Blade 4 (Arsenal)

- 1992's Mortal Kombat established many new tropes in the one-on-one beat 'em up fighting genre. Among it's popular influences on the vernacular was the concept of the "mirror match," an attempt to lend some assemblence of logic to the game's potential to pit the same fighter against themselves in combat. While subsequent games dropped the specific event, the first boasted a mirror match in the final stages of it's arcade tournament ladder.

Malibu's licensed comics incorporated the mirror match concept into it's narrative version of the Mortal Kombat story.
Queen Aynos is a none-too-subtle mirror of Sonya Blade, a tribal queen of Outworld who not only possesses many of the same abilities, but even dresses identical to the Special Forces fighter. She rules over a race of purple troll-like warriors.

- Lieutenant Sonya Blade is a dedicated member of an American Special Forces unit tasked with dismantling the ancient criminal organization, the Black Dragon clan. This mission becomes Sonya's sole driving purpose when Kano, leader of the clan, is responsible for the murder of her partner and several other ambushed operatives with the Special Forces. Her pursuit leads her to take chase onto the Nethership, which ferrys warriors to the hidden island of Shang Tsung, where mortals do battle to defend the Earth from the forces of Outworld.

Thus, Sonya is dragged into a battle not only for revenge, but for the fate of the world. Joining Johnny Cage, and eventual tournament winner, Liu Kang; Sonya becomes embroiled with Earth's chosen warriors, to the point of being captured by Shao Kahn's forces when Shang Tsung's island crumbles after his defeat.
The event forces a brief alliance with Kano and familiarizes Sonya with the ream of Outworld, which, upon her rescue, would become the domain of her and her partner, Jax, as founding members of the secret government exploratory division, the Outer World Investigation Agency.

Sonya is a highly trained operative of the Special Forces, skilled in the martial arts and tactical procedures of urban warfare and hand-to-hand combat. Her role with the military and OIA grants her access to an arsenal of weaponry, as well as her own ability to harness her chi to inflict energy based attacks.

Math: Sonya Blade Ranking: Sonya Blade (#92)

What Went Down...
Deviating substantially from the established canon of the brand; Malibu's Mortal Kombat tournament is halted after the disappearance of Goro, and the escape of the briefly entrapped Earthrealm warriors. Scattered across Outworld in their escape by Raiden, the fighters attempt to regroup and find their way home.

Stumbling across the wastelands of Outworld, Johnny Cage comes across a small village ruled by a warrior Queen identical to Sonya Blade. When Cage makes the mistake of kissing the Queen, she launches an assault on the unsuspecting actor, but he soon finds himself rescued by the real deal.

Sonya attracts the attentions of Queen Aynos with a rock and confronts her mirror head-on. The two share a brief exchange of words, before the Queen launches the first attack, striking with a kick that Sonya promptly blocks.

The Special Forces trained fighter lets her fist provide the reply, springing out of the defensive into a stiff right hook. She ducks a roundhouse kick and takes full advantage, striking her embattled doppelganger in the back of the skull.

A charged kick to the head finishes Queen Aynos off, prompting her to call the aid of her tribal warriors. Numerical advantage lets the purple men take Sonya and Johnny Cage hostages, positioned to suffer a kiss of death energy ball from their Queen. Cage and Blade prove agile enough to evade their captors and leap free, leaving the blast to decimate Aynos' own forces!

Alone against the combined might of the Earth warriors, the Queen knows her fate, seeing it come in the form of a double teamed flying kick!
With the Queen defeated, the two fighters are able to deduce their locale, no longer on Shang Tsung's island as they had believed. Together, they trek into the unknown! "... I'd say that this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

The Hammer...
Johnny Cage picks up the assist, but in this mirror match, the winner is Sonya Blade!
For those playing along at home, there are still a couple of other battles from this issue that will be revisited sometime in the future as part of another quick fix megamix!

By the wonders of being extremely late, you'll probably have already read our brief MKvsDCU one-on-one with Jimmy Palmiotti! For those of you still chomping at the bit for more MKvsDCU, we've got another Q&A discussion coming up, this time with the writers behind the MK portions of the game! So stay tuned!

If you've recently come out of a coma, or for some reason, aren't a regular reader of the Infinite Wars, you might like to know that November will see the release of the shock crossover video game - Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe.
Over the past few months we've done our darndest to help broker an understanding between the two universes, and if you're still unsure, you can check back through our plethora of fantasy match-ups: rounds one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. If that isn't enough for you, there's also our bonus round addendum posts that feature one, two, three, and four rounds of extra glimpses into the DCU, and the special decyphering of clues that may or may not have done well to allude to the cast of the DC roster.

Top 25 Femme Fatales
#1 Invisible Woman (Marvel)
#2 Catwoman (DC)
#3 Storm (Marvel)
#4 Rogue (Marvel)
#5 Wonder Woman (DC)
#6 Wasp (Marvel)
#7 Zatanna (DC)
#8 Elektra (Marvel)
#9 Kitty Pryde (Marvel)
#10 Hawkgirl (DC)
#11 Tara (Marvel)
#12 Spitfire (Marvel)
#13 Hellcat (Marvel)
#14 R. Mika (Capcom)
#15 Phoenix (Marvel)
#16 Black Cat (Marvel)
#17 Black Canary (DC)
#18 Sonya Blade (Midway)
#19 Black Widow (Marvel)
#20 Lyja (Marvel)
#21 Tabitha Stevens (Marvel)
#22 She-Thing (Marvel)
#23 Powergirl (DC)
#24 Stargirl (DC)
#25 Sayd (DC)
Today our focus is on Sonya Blade, a character whose course as an iconic MK female has been tumultuous, to say the least. Sonya's inclusion in MKvsDCU has been well received, but the ebbing flow of perception within the fanbase hasn't always looked as favourably, as is now being felt by her male counterpart, Jax.

As the only female presence in the original 1992 game; Sonya carried less responsibility as a female icon, and more as the representation of the genre stalwart of a cop seeking revenge for the death of a partner.
It was probably this incidental treatment of gender that made Sonya and instantly accessible and admirable inclusion into the tradition of the gaming female that was jump started by characters like Chun-Li.

Sonya's personal vendetta against Kano successfully transitioned to the big screen when Bridgette Wilson took up the role for 1995's, Mortal Kombat.
It was arguably here that the attitude of the character was solidified in a film that's still regarded by many as one of the greatest representations of a game-to-movie adaptation. The success of the film and characterization of Sonya, however, was not without it's drawbacks.

The mid-nineties had not yet seen the violent franchise fully develop it's ironic relationship with death, prompting widespread speculation (and petitioning) for the character's death circa Mortal Kombat 4. The heart of the issue: a stagnant plotline that had carried from the apparently dead Kano, to new character, Jarek.

Initially one of the least popular characters in arcades; Sonya was pushed aside for the first Mortal Kombat sequel, appearing only as a cameo character shackled in one of the arena backgrounds along with arch-rival, Kano.
Ironically, despite being one the only original character not to return playable in the sequel - Sonya's demotion to cameo sponsored a fever pitched interest in the character which made her one of the first confirmed for 1995's, Mortal Kombat 3.

The drop off came with the fourth instalment of the series and the subsequent Special Forces spin-off exclusive to the Playstation, which, due to extenuating circumstances, was conceptually aborted, leaving Jax to inherit much of the story that would have been shared with, or exclusive to, Sonya.

This redundancy of plot, particularly once shared between the two law enforcement protagonists, was understandably responsible for a negative shift in the perception of Sonya as a character. While Jax established new key plot and rivalries with 2002's relaunch title, Deadly Alliance; Sonya was still to be identified by her interchangable rivalries with criminals.

If any criticisms can be made of MKvsDCU as the first step into this generation of gaming, it's the continued stagnancy of the characters and their development.
2006's much maligned compilation game, Armageddon, hampered the individual progress of plotlines, but the central story deserves credit for grafting a new era onto the adventures of the Special Forces. This renewed potential came from the expansion of Sektor as a villain, who now represents a Matrix-esque threat of technological ego with his expanding army of Tekunin cybernetic warriors.

MKvsDCU - despite being removed from and having no known interactions with the central canon - draws specific inspiration from the unversally praised MKII era of the series. In doing so it attempts to match-up with the broad iconography of the DC characters, who will enter the game with the weight of their long printed histories, but not with any specific frame of reference. One wonders if this isn't a discredit to the MK portion of the game, which does not have the dense characterization that implies a continuity-free appearance for the licensed characters.

MKvsDCU essentially takes place on MK's home turf, and after Armageddon's vague conclusion, the opportunity to insert an unlikely crossover into the central plot was better than ever. We'll be asking the MK team what their motivations were for removing the game, but one assumes the meta response would simply be that it's conventional wisdom. The constraints of licensed properties means lasting effects from crossover stories are rare, but not without example.

Comics fans can look to crossovers like the original Spawn/Batman for a very specific model that might have done more for the MK franchise. In the hellacious meeting, a batarang lodged in Spawn's face led to a new instalment in the character's iconography, leading to the affectionately known shoestring face.

Future references to Superman or Batman might be unlikely, but the opportunity to develop the MK story and characters remains. Characters could very naturally develop through the usual channels of individual arcade endings, if not vague elements from the DC crossover story mode. Specifics aside, even interactions with DC's well established criminal underworld (ie; Gotham rogues) might have been the perfect opportunity to develop reference to Sonya as a character, broadening her associations beyond Kano and comparable facsimiles.

Needless to say, Sonya's brief appearances in the Malibu comics did very little to expand appreciation of the character. Comics will be another subject we breach when the Infinite Wars goes one-on-one with the MK team! In the mean time, we look forward to new reveals from the game, and the "80% of the game" we have no knowledge of!

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 3

Can't stand the thought of missing out on Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe upon release? Amazon have the game available for pre-order, or, if you fancy a John Tobias comic, t-shirt, and cell, you can pre-order the Kollector's Edition for either Playstation 3 or Xbox 360. Hey, by using links provided on the Infinite Wars, you help sponsor future kombat, like the other MK reviews you'll find in the Secret Archives! Outstanding!

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