Friday, September 19, 2008

Mortal Mayhem (Malibu/Midway)
Mortal Kombat: Blood & Thunder #6
When: December 1994 Why: Charles Marshall
How: Patrick Rolo

The Story So Far...
When Lt. Sonya Blade followed career criminal, Kano, onto a docking ship, she could have had no notion of the destiny she was about to fulfil. Unwittingly chosen to represent the realm of Earth, Sonya was to be ferried, along with Kano and other fighters on board, to an ancient tournament called Mortal Kombat!

Held once every generation; the sanctity of Mortal Kombat was intended to be Earth's saving grace by pitting their greatest warriors against the forces of Outworld in controlled one-on-one contests. Representing their evil emperor, Shao Kahn, Shang Tsung and Outworld's fighters need only win ten straight tournaments to be granted freedom to invade the Earth.

Shang Tsung's desire for victory led him to the mysteries of an ancient book of power called, the Tao te Zhan. This deviaton has corrupted the tournament in which Earth's final hopes dangle. Now, scattered across the realm of Outworld, the warriors of Earth wage their own personal battles in Mortal Kombat...

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

- 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.

- As a leader in the ancient organization of the Black Dragon clan; the Australian mercenary called Kano is one of the US Special Forces most wanted criminals.
By murdering an entire Special Forces unit, and also the partner of Sonya Blade, Kano earned the personal vengeance of the fiesty Lieutenant, and her subsequent replacement partner, Jax, as well. This rivalry led Sonya to pursue Kano when he joined the Mortal Kombat tournament to steal the lost treasures housed within Shang Tsung's island fortress.

Kano's involvement in the ancient tournament brought him into conflict with warriors from both the realms of Earth and Outworld. A new era began as Kano used his guile and fighting expertise to endear himself to the emperor, Shao Kahn. This would be but the first of Kano's allegiances held in Outworld, his quest for power bringing him into the service of other warriors, such as Shang Tsung and Quan Chi; the Deadly Alliance.

Kano is skilled in a range of weaponry, including munitions, blades, and cybernetic enhancements that grant him additonal powers, such as a laser fired from his artificial eye. Despite being a highly skilled martial artist, Kano's mystic associations have allowed him to escape death many times.

Additional: Since their first appearance Kano and Sonya have been tied together by the archetypal struggles of a cop and her partner's killer. This rivalry, established in the first game, carried over to film, television, and indeed, comics. Malibu's Blood & Thunder #2 adapted the relationship within their microcosm of characterizations, isolating Sonya's personal investment to events occuring during Shang Tsung's tournament. This prompted their only recorded encounter on the Infinite Wars, where Sonya proved the victor.

History: Sonya Blade (1-0-0)
Math: Sonya Blade Ranking: Sonya Blade (#51)

What Went Down...
In the wastelands of Outworld, Kano reclaims the mystic Tao te Zhan stolen previously by Sub-Zero. His celebrations are short lived -- enter Sonya Blade!

The Special Forces operative launches into a diving kick that telegraphs her promise to bring Kano down once and for all. In desperation, the Black Dragon killer tries to broker a deal, but his leverage in the transaction proves lacking...

A crunching blow to the nose puts Kano on the backfoot, with another jumping kick seemingly securing victory for the embittered heroine. Kano shows tremendous resilience, swiping back with a left hook, but Sonya ducks it with grace and ease, returning fire with a rising stiff right!

Kano scoffs Sonya's dedication to the kill; something she is forced to acknowledge, albeit, with a little excessive force for good measure.

The pair battle on, unaware of a recovered Sub-Zero, who makes an attempt at retrieving the unguarded Tao te Zhan, but another warrior lurks, and in time, they are all teleported from the planes by the will of Shao Kahn!...

The Hammer...
Admittedly, the conclusion of the fight is somewhat vague, but I think we're granted more than enough to declare Sonya Blade the victor on the points of her dominance.

Continuing our whirlwind tour of the Mortal Kombat franchise, we're making another stop in the comics! Actually, at this point, we've now touched upon every issue of what essentially serves as the central series in Malibu's catalogue of mini releases.
Blood & Thunder presents the established conceit of the Mortal Kombat tournament, but interrupts it with side plots exclusive to the series, and presumably someone's idea of an appropriate sequential adaptation.

Final MKvsDC Roster:
#1 Batman (DC)
#2 Superman (DC)
#3 Flash (DC)
#4 Catwoman (DC)
#5 Green Lantern (DC)
#6 Wonder Woman (DC)
#7 Sonya Blade (MK)
#8 Raiden (MK)
#9 Deathstroke (DC)
#10 Darkseid (DC)
#11 Lex Luthor (DC)
#12 Captain Marvel (DC)
#13 Kano (MK)
#14 Scorpion (MK)
#15 Joker (DC)
#16 Liu Kang (MK)
#NR Sub-Zero (MK)
#NR Shang Tsung (MK)
#NR Jax (MK)
#NR Kitana (MK)
#NR Baraka (MK)
#NR Shao Kahn (MK)

Infinite Wars rankings
are based on win/loss
records derived from
reviewed fights. Follow
character links for
available data!
One of the many curiosities of Malibu's licensed projects is the treatment of Liu Kang. While the bulk of the work preceeded the first feature film (released in 1995), there was some established reference within the MK canon that Liu Kang was one of the central players in the series -- not to mention eventual tournament victor in the first game.
In later inclusions Malibu caught up with Kang's importance to affirm his role as chief protagonist, introducing other elements from the 1994 game sequel, Mortal Kombat II, such as the defining representation of characters.

Shortly after our Q&A with Hans Lo the final roster for Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe was released.
Confirmed was the strong presence of characters from the first and second games. Missing were some very interesting cuts, such as Quan Chi, but even he has since emerged in a screenshot [posted on] from the hotly anticipated story mode.

Glancing the list inevitably inspires fans to observe the presence and omission of their favourite characters.
It's a factor common to any interpretation, and as we browse the variety of modern sequels to the major fighting brands, it's an issue that seems to arise time and again.

Story telling is a basic mathematical principle: characters + conflict = plot. What seperates the good from the bad is the details and dressing hung on this basic frame.

In the past, fighting games have successfully broached the requirements of design, placing great weight on the first bite taken with the eye. Characters in early games were encapsulated and mythologically defined by their appearances, and the insinuations they made. A fine example: the chest scar -- worn by Sagat in Street Fighter II as an indication of one of the few lasting legacys of the very first, ill fated game -- Ryu's shoryuken! [Depicted; Street Fighter #1]

The interactive mechanics of a game substitute 'conflict' in our equation.
Despite the freedom afforded by current technologies we see an increasing disinterest in devices exclusively dedicated to plot. Novelty gaming; encapuslated by Nintendo's incredibly popular Wii console; shares the market with less casual gamers steering toward the barren platitude of shooting games.

Malibu, despite their best efforts, reflects on the lacklustre reputation video game plots have earned. Presumably the misconception stems from an admission shared by many fans that gameplay is the sole interaction required, replacing the reception of ideas and details that drive story.

Despite removing itself from previous instalments of the MK saga, Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe joins Street Fighter IV in reintroducing the important presence of a narrative to the plot. Divorced from recent history, this game will rely on conventional story telling that pits these vividly recognised characters against a conflict familiar to both brands: interdimensional crises.

Jimmy Palmiotti, in another Infinite Wars Q&A, made the bold claim of another eighty percent awaits keen fans. I hope he's even half right, because this generation of gaming needs a reminder. The mashing of buttons makes these games lasting trinkets in the annals of gaming, but I think we can do a little better. A little better than Malibu's valiant efforts to combine the mindless flashy narcisissm of the nineties and the higher narrative concepts MK so often teases.

For more on Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe, check out the official website, and our series of character spotlights and discussions: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, clues special, bonus one, two, three, and four!
Looking back, we can be very critical of this comic, and even the origins of the Mortal Kombat plot in the games. As we meander toward some sort of point to all this discussion, I suppose it's the positive: look at all the brilliant characters!

The Fight: 3 The Issue: 3

Malibu didn't last long enough to collect it's licensed MK comics, but the Infinite Wars is happy to bring you all the important details in this year of the beat 'em up franchise. Be sure to hit up the Secret Archives for more MK comics nostalgia, and browse through our many introductory entries on the heroes and villains of both the MK and DC universes! It's the perfect primer before heading in to the collision of worlds in the upcoming video game, available for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, with the pictured collector's edition including a bonus collector's comic featuring art by the returning prodigal series co-creator, John Tobias!


Anonymous said...

Again with this Malibu lousy stuff? Looks like someone likes Sonya and Kano, who are just as believable as my grandma as fighters.

Mike Haseloff said...

@anonymous: As is noted in the entry, the prominence of characters like Sonya (and Kano) is a curiosity of the series.

October will hopefully deviate into some Halloween inspired entries, but I'd expect more MK in the lead up to the game's release, if anything's actually going to get done around here.