Thursday, September 11, 2008

What's This Life For? (Image/Namco)
Where: Tekken Forever #1 When: December 2001
Why: Dave Chi How: Paco Diaz

The Tape...
Strength: Bryan Fury 5 (Superhuman)
Intelligence: Lei Wulong 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Lei Wulong 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Bryan Fury 6 (Generator)
Agility: Lei Wulong 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Lei Wulong 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Bryan Fury 2 (Projectile)

Math: Lei Wulong Ranking: Draw (NR)

The Fix...
In the couple of years we've had with the Infinite Wars, we've learnt there's an inevitable sentimental throughline that creeps into each year. Previously it was the underlying ranking support given to Daredevil (2006) and Black Adam (2007) that defined our years, but with the release of four 'now generation' sequels from major fighting game brands; 2008 has been the year of the beat 'em up.

Namco's share of the market has been two-fold, boasting new additions to both the Soul series, and more importantly for us, the sixth core sequel to Tekken!
Yet to make it's way home to the Playstation 3; Tekken 6 has been part of what might be described as a mini arcade revival, expanding this week [September 18] to include a brand new iteration dubbed, Tekken 6: Bloodline Rebellion.

Like the PSP/Arcade expansion for the last game, ("Dark Resurrection"), Bloodline Rebellion boasts a host of updates, including; two new playable characters, expansions to the customization system, and new fighting arenas. As would be expected, it also contains everything Tekken 6 does, including newly introduced projectile attacks - a first for the Tekken series!

As with Tekken 6; Tekken Forever centres it's twenty-two pages on the struggle of wills between Kazuya Mishima and his estranged son, Jin Kazama. In that respect, it might seem unusual that we would first shine our quick fix spotlight on the dangling subplot of Bryan Fury's superhuman rampage, but stay with me!

For those who came in late: Tekken Forever was the product of ill-fated licensing by now defunct publishing studio, Dark Design Works.

Despite grand plans revealed on their website - DDW's attempts to reveal the truth behind mysteriouso Tag Tournament boss, Unknown, along with expansions to other game plots, failed to reach beyond the introductory content of the first abrupt issue of Forever. This failure to release subsequent issues and spin-off mini series, (King of Iron Fist and Tekken Infinity), was the subject of curiosity in our last entry on the issue [February 05].

I chose this particular fight because it allowed us to stick to our conventional format, while also highlighting several relevant points. The scene, built around Interpol maneuvers against Kazuya Mishima's forces in Egypt, contains examples of the typical best and worst of what DDW had planned for the Tekken franchise.
It also features Lei Wulong in combat with stalwart cyborg, Bryan Fury, whose nigh indestructable form gives him the edge to overcome Interpol's armed forces, including an M-16 packing Wulong himself.

In follow-up to Knightstone Comics' dismal Tekken 2-inspired efforts; DDW undoubtedly lined up a far more impressive visual take on the gaming icons, putting forward solid, contemporary comic artwork with an attention to the designs of then-looming Tekken 4. Alas; visual competence could not accomodate a mediocre script that, by admission of the creators, struggled to connect the dots of available information in the games. Making cheesy dialogue the more difficult to read, lettering that defies industry standards, let alone any moderately experienced Photoshop user.

On the subject of the newest game, the comic prophetically makes a comment on the decision to include projectile attacks into the standard fighting platform of the game. Wulong's gun-toting advances, proving insufficient, are quickly replaced on the advice of his antagonist with martial arts prowess -- something that's always been a unique backbone to the series, in contrast to previous icons of the genre, like; Street Fighter, King of Fighters, and Mortal Kombat.

Like most of the major franchises hitting shelves in 2008; it seems Tekken has failed distill it's sequel with the necessary balance of progress and consistency, continuing a stylistic vein introduced in Tekken 5, that has now removed the series from much of it's asthetic and core focus.

Projectile attacks, some of which quite pleasantly play to established character beats, are but an incidental accompaniment to larger concepts. In painting an apocalyptic vision of the blood war between inheritors of the Devil-gene - Kazuya Mishima and his son, Jin Kazama - the series has opened up to an asthetic reminiscent of the Mortal Kombat series. T5, in truth, bore many subtlties common to their American counterpart in music, stage design, and some characters - like the newly introduced Chinese kung fu antagonist, Feng Wei; whose design and concept echoed the inspirations of vintage MK.

I wanted to talk about details like these in more detail, but, in researching the fate of DDW, I found myself compelled only to touch on the necessary details that would entail in an honest, respectable review and discussion.

This issue and series is dedicated in loving memory to Linda B and all those whose flame of life was extinguished by acts of terrorism.

The issue bares a publishing date of December 2001.
Linda B, as far as I know, was Linda Baker, a moderator on the message boards excitedly patrolled by DDW staff. In pursuing what became of these comics, the epigraph took on unfortunately obvious post-9/11 meaning.

Sadly, and maybe disturbingly, information on Dark Design Works is exceptionally scarce. Usually a Google search will touch on something vaguely related, but if it's there, it isn't turning up for my searches. Perhaps, despite the group's online presence at the time, it's a symptom of the revolutions of short attention spans that have dictated the modern face of the internet. 2001 was quite a while before Wikipedia, after all. Maybe someone with the facts will create a page later, because finding people who were there to know is like pulling teeth.

Comics, with their spirit in New York City, was irrevocably touched by the impact of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Centre. I don't doubt that there were many in the industry greatly affected, but for me, this is the first time I've come close to encountering any direct link to this horrific event.

As a fan and critic I probably have more things negative, than positive, to say about this comic. I imagine direct market sales were unimpressive, as would be the general reception of the issue by the few even aware of it. That really doesn't seem to matter, however, in the context of this particular review.

Lei battles valiantly, but is overpowered by Bryan Fury's cyber-organic strength.
Yoshimitsu, another popular cyborg character from both the Tekken and Soul Calibur series, comes to the Hong Kong hero's aid, with no conclusion.

I'm sure I would have liked to have known how the story ends.
If, as I'm led to believe by word-of-mouth, that DDW, or at least one or more of it's representatives, were located in the Twin Towers, I'm pretty sure it shouldn't have ended like this. This is the footnote that makes this issue more than a licensing oddity in a collection of martial arts video game tie-ins. This is what makes Tekken Forever #1 a very important milestone, I'm sure, to the people who made it, and a piece of comic book history.

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 4
Winner: Draw

Tekken Forever boasts a considerable amount of martial arts action, moreso than many of it's genre licensed counterparts. We will almost certainly take another less dramatic look at the content of the issue at a later date! If you have more information about DDW, why not contribute it to a Wikipedia page, and inform us in the comments. Cheers!

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