By Davey Nieves
MORTAL KOMBAT X #1
Story: Shawn Kittlesen
Art: Dexter Soy, Veronica Gandini
Letters: Saida Temofonte
Cover: Ivan Reis, Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics
There used to be a time where people gathered at laundry mats, donut shops, and yes arcades in order to pop quarters into a fighting game. At least that’s how long I’ve been playing them for. One thing that’s remained true about them all these years is you don’t really play them expecting a nuanced story. Especially when it comes to the heavy-handed Kung-Fu clichés that drive Mortal Kombat’s –to the death– fights. Don’t get the wrong idea, like many of you I enjoyed ripping out people’s spines with Sub-Zero or watching Liu Kang uppercut his opponent’s head clean off. MK has always delivered an enjoyable level of cheesy bombastic action that’s good for a laugh. With developer Netherrealm Studios set to release the highly anticipated next chapter of the game later this year, DC Comics is continuing to capitalize on Warner Bros acquisition of the property with a prequel comic book series. Releasing first digitally, Mortal Kombat X will bridge the gap between the game released in 2011 and its follow up (also titled MKX) this year.
Written by Shawn Kittelsen, the book opens with a blind swordsman named Kenshi on the run with his son from members of a mercenary clan known as the Red Dragon. These events set up for one of the franchise’s most popular characters to intervene and begin the road of training for Kenshi’s son. The story (at least the first arc) follows a similar blueprint to Kill Bill or the Van Damme classic Bloodsport; just with none of the emotional hooks either film had. It caters to die hard fans of the Mortal Kombat franchise but at the cost of alienating new readers. From the moment you take in the first few pages; the readers are dropped in a story that feels like it’s years along in unfolding. Which wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the execution had been on point. While the action is as brutal as a Mortal Kombat story should be, there’s hardly any tension on the pages. It should be easy to play on familiar rivalries in this universe and set up the stakes, but by the end of the first chapter it’s all just absent.
One of the few things the book does land well is the art. Drawn by Dexter Soy, the action is as gory and barbaric as one would expect. The artist even draws x-ray panels of bones shattering just as in the video game. It helps to familiarize the material to its source but such connections are too rare within this first chapter. Another fix for the series going forward would be to play with the camera angles a bit more. The game is known for capturing extreme violence through lenses you wouldn’t have thought to use. Mortal Kombat X the comic could play with the same identity.
In order to understand, or even pick up, this comic you have to be already vested in the mythology behind it. Even doing so, there’s nothing going on here to rekindle your interest in it. Going forward the book can’t parallel the game’s mindless appetite for blood. Hopefully the creative team quickly realizes that the series can’t be gory because it has to be, but instead earn its moments like any of quality narrative. Wait for the series to become readable by letting it work out the kinks and jump on later.
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