Mortal Kombat X’s April 2015 release has got its fans howling on the edge of their seats, and all over series co-creator Ed Boon’s Twitter. Who will be in the next Mortal Kombat? Why does Goro never, ever die? Can someone else PLEASE use bicycle kick attack? Boon is loving it, too, as his recent prank to fans showed–when he released “the Kung Lao trailer,” that was actually a travel trailer with Kung Lao painted on the side. Fear not Earthrealm warriors, Shawn Kittelsen and Dexter Soy have decided to pity your merciless pleas. For those who’ve long since punched Shao Kahn’s laughing neanderthal excuse for a face, the pair arm you with prequel knowledge to equip you for the upcoming game.
Written by Shawn Kittelsen
Illustrated by Dexter Soy
Once, the realms of all existence threatened to be ripped apart by evil. Yet, Earthrealm rallied the best fighters imaginable under Lord Raiden’s guidance to fight, and win the Mortal Kombat tournament that saved the universes from destruction. A peace was forged through the blood and sweat of these fighters, unprecedented to all of existence. But, it is now threatened…
“Mortal Kombat X” #1 throws the reader immediately into back-story, hinting that the series will mimic the game’s arc– where sole chapters devoted are to the development of characters that will ultimately cross paths (read:fight) with on another– and this first issue is running with Kenshi.
Soy delivers Kenshi on the page with wild abandon, throwing us into a sprint up the Himalayan Mountains. Kenshi, with his son Takeda trailing behind him, is on the run from the Red Dragon clan, or so it seems, until Kenshi delivers them into a trap set up by his friend Scorpion. His arrival, of course, is marked by his signature throw of chains with an arrow point stabbing through the heart of any who dares to cross his path. Sorry Red Dragons.
HOLD UP. A nice Scorpion? Hold up. Lin Kuei clansmen have friends? Kittelsen is already tossing caution to the wind as those who have lore-wise taken up opposite sides converge, and new friendships are uncovered within this MK storyline. Although some fans might be confused or irritated by this, MK is not particularly known for singularity in history or time, as it often throws magic and time-flux and alternative histories as superior to that.
The kind-hearted (while still murderous) spin to the GET OVER HERE man is welcomed by this reader. Under Kittelsen’s approach, Scorpion is shown to have a heart (who woulda known). His character, in particular, is written as a man who is not only compassionate, but a fighter for all those left behind without a clan to speak of, that that is what Shirai Ryu do…as opposed to violently killing everyone because he is yanno sad that his people are all destroyed. Boring. In previous stories where Kenshi and Sub-Zero were allied, Scorpion was nothing but a vengeful man devoid of the subtleties of character that seemed to be more present in other fighters. Also, Kittelsen’s take on Scorpion makes Takeda’s backstory much clearer. Within this world, he is left to train with a sympathetic caretaker Scorpion who trains him in the Shirai Ryu way. It honestly makes more sense than the previous loyalties of Takeda being at one time Lin Kuei, and also Shirai Ryu (though no one is quite sure how that works).
Kittelsen and Soy, arguably, have Elder God like control on the MK world. Since the last MK game created an alternate timeline, the pair can decide what ripples in time, characterization, or plot could be changed within this upcoming game and depicted in these ferocious issues. They are also charged with explaining some of our bigger questions, like: KITANA LIVES? KUNG LAO LIVES? WILL SHAO KAHN STOP LAUGHING, PLEASE? Soy is clearly having fun in the panels, filling in transitions with glass-splintering action and fists of flame and ice, with god-like confidence and a devil-may-care attitude. Bones crack. Blood spurts. Soy is not holding anything back, and the pacing of MKX is winning hard because of its brutal fatalities and minute focus on each hit, recoil, and damage point.
Tackling a series like Mortal Kombat is no easy feat, but Kittelsen writes with verve and vivacity. Few words are said by the highlights, and no time is wasted in delivering words that are unrelated to the current flight or fight at hand. As the first issue shows us, this will certainly be a story that has to choose between versions of history and decide which are relevant to Mortal Kombat X and the legacy of these characters. My only fear for a series with a structure like this is: We will only dip in toes-deep into each character, and then race to the next chapter. Perhaps, that is half the fun.Continued below
Final Verdict: 6.5–an adventurous tale that reinvents our favorite ass-kicking warriors, button-smashing kinda reading that will propel you from fist to face to looking over your shoulder at next opponent/tale readied to hit