Building up to this week’s release of Mortal Kombat X, DC Comics has been releasing a weekly digital comic for the past few months. Every three issues of that has then been released as a single physical issue. Today, the first twelve digital issues (four physical) have arrived in trade form as Mortal Kombat X: Blood Ties. If anything, synergy aside, I’m rather shocked to see a DC trade come out so quickly after the actual issues hit. That’s a total Marvel move. Usually, you’d have to wait another six months.
The comic iis written debuting writer Shawn Kittelsen and artists Dexter Soy, Geraldo Borges, Igor Vitorino, and Daniel Sampere. The series acts as a prequel…or interquel…of Mortal Kombat X. The game has a bit of a Godfather 2 thing where it begins right after the last game ended, but also flashes forward a few decades. This comic shows what’s been going on in-between, though more towards the latter era.
There are two overarching stories here, both of which will probably link up in the second volume. On one hand, you have stuff going on with Scorpion, Raiden, and Sub-Zero. Then you have stuff going on with Kotal Kahn’s entourage, the Cage family, and the Black Dragon. During all of this, various Mortal Kombat characters from the series’ past show up to liven things up, such as Frost and Mavado.
What’s interesting to me is that Blood Ties is ultimately a different reading experience now that the game has hit shelves than when the issues first hit the digital store. When the issues were originally released, we knew very, very little about the game and its story. The comic was like a cryptic piece of marketing meant to trigger speculation, offer smatterings of backstory, and hints of what we’d get in the game. Is that silent Erron Black guy going to be in the game? Is that Jax in the background? If so, how is he alive? Reiko seems pretty important. Will he be in the game? At the time, it was a neat guessing game.
The trade does not have that novelty. In fact, might now be even better to read the book after you’ve finished the game for a better understanding of what’s going on in these pages. The opening story with Scorpion and Takeda, for example, is filled with unexplained pieces of dialogue and references to stuff we haven’t played through yet. The book is front-loaded with confusion far too often, and if it weren’t for Scorpion being a total badass with an interesting and much-needed new direction, more people would just shrug their shoulders and move on to another series.
Once it gets past that opening story, Blood Ties is accessible where it matters: the new characters. Characters like Takeda, Cassie Cage, Jacqui Briggs, and Kotal Kahn are introduced extremely well.
In fact, the book sold Kotal Kahn better than any of the promotional in-game footage, revealing him as a Black Adam type who isn’t outright evil, but will tear the world apart if you mess with his kingdom. When he takes center stage, the comic is at its best, especially because he surrounds himself with interesting – if underdeveloped – characters like D’Vorah, Erron Black, and Ferra/Torr. Even returning character Reptile feels like he has a new coat of paint due to the way he’s loyally serving a ruler who isn’t a total monster for once.
Kotal Kahn has a major fight about halfway into the book that’s outright brutal and visceral, and it’s easily the #1 reason to check it out. The dude rides into battle on a T-Rex!
The art is great for a digital comic. Dexter Soy’s stuff is easily the best of the artist cluster here, his pencils looking especially expressive and entirely metal. While the others can get the job done, something about Soy’s work makes it feel right at home airbrushed on the side of your van. Then again, there’s something off about whenever he draws Hanzo (human Scorpion) screaming at someone.
Originally, Geraldo Borges’ issue – the origin of Kotal Kahn – stuck out like a sore thumb due to following several issues of Soy’s work. Luckily, the pages look an awful lot better in physical form now that they’ve changed up the coloring and muted it more. The digital form looked way too saturated and off-base, but there’s a definite improvement this time around.
I suppose this goes without saying, but if you have little to no interest in anything Mortal Kombat, this book really isn’t for you, outside of the badass Kotal Kahn stuff. In fact, you might not even want to look at this unless you’re in it all the way because, outside of a couple character arcs with Scorpion and Kotal Kahn, there’s nothing self-contained about this comic. It ends abruptly because it’s the halfway point of the series, and there’s no real closure. There’s no climax leading to another chapter in the story. Just a cliffhanger that probably won’t mean a lot to you.
If you’re into Mortal Kombat, I’d say either skim the beginning of the trade at the store or maybe just download the first couple issues (they’re only a dollar each), just to see if it’s your thing. Also, if you’re getting it for a kid, be warned. Even though there’s no rating or anything on the cover, this is definitely hard-R. Not only with the expected violence (which isn’t all that much worse than what we’ve come to expect from DC these days), but there’s a surprising amount of salty language thrown in there. Brutalities and everything.
Gavin Jasper will never get tired of Scorpion calling Raiden out for being the biggest dumbass ever. Follow Gavin on Twitter!