The Mortal Kombat comic books series included the official comics by Midway Games and a licensed adaptation series by Malibu Comics, published between October 1994 and August 1995. There are thus two different lineups of Mortal Kombat comic books: the tie-ins published by Midway that closely followed the storyline of the games, and the Malibu series, which took a few liberties with the source material.
Comics published by MidwayEdit
The Midway comics were tie-ins published to coincide with the launches of Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II, Mortal Kombat 4, Mortal Kombat: Deception and Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe. They offered insight into the backstory to each of the games as well as providing exposition of events occurring before each game.
Mortal Kombat Collector's EditionEdit
Midway's comic book adaptation of the original Mortal Kombat was only released by mail order when the original arcade version was released in 1993. The mail order deal was displayed during the attract mode of the game. (This mode of advertising was also used in Mortal Kombat II.) The comic book would later be sold normally around the country, although it was close to impossible to get a copy outside of the United States.
The comic was written and illustrated by John Tobias, the early Mortal Kombat series' designer artist. The final few pages offer character profiles for the seven playable characters in the original MK and the boss, Goro.
The comic begins by filling in the backstory of Shang Tsung, the Great Kung Lao, and Goro, and tells us that Goro's victory in Mortal Kombat meant a new beginning for the tournament, bringing a dark new era. There is a cut to the present day, where Liu Kang requests—and receives—permission from Master Wu to fight in the Mortal Kombat tournament. Wu warns Liu Kang that Shang Tsung is treacherous and Goro, while overconfident, is to be feared. Two weeks later, at a harbour in Hong Kong, Liu Kang boards a boat that will take him to the island where the tournament will be fought. Johnny Cage is seen preparing to board, reassuring his agent and personal secretary that they have nothing to worry about, though they're clearly fearful for the Hollywood star's safety and disbelieving of the legitimacy of the tournament. A few miles away, Kano and some members of his Black Dragon gang are in a jeep, attempting to evade Sonya Blade, Agent Beran (whose name is not revealed here), and a man who is apparently Jax, as well as the rest of a U.S. Special Forces unit. Kano begins to flee on foot but Sonya follows. After creating a distraction, Kano leaps aboard the aforementioned boat, all in accordance with his plan to loot all the riches he can find from Shang Tsung's palace.
In the mountains of rural Japan, Shang Tsung issues a challenge to Raiden, God of Thunder, inviting him to compete in the tournament. After Raiden accepts, Shang Tsung reminds Raiden that the tournament will be fought in his domain and under his rule. Back on the boat, Kano is trying to use intimidation tactics on Cage and a fight breaks out, but Liu Kang takes down Kano's associates before any further fighting can ensue. Watching from above, the Elder Sub-Zero surveys the scene, unaware of the lurking ghastly spectre of Scorpion, who ambushes him from behind. Scorpion vows to kill Sub-Zero just as Sub-Zero killed Scorpion exactly two years ago. However, he states he is no mere murderer and, instead of killing the Lin Kuei warrior on the boat, he will do so at the tournament. Sub-Zero says Scorpion is a fool to spare his life. At the island, after a day of practice and training, Shang Tsung and Goro welcome the participants in the tournament and introduce the latest entrant, Sonya Blade, who had been trying to track Kano down to the island, but was captured and brought in by guards. Shang Tsung says that not only does Sonya's life depend on her performance in the tournament, but so do the lives of her accompanying unit, who have also been captured. Goro then announces the start of the tournament and the story ends with the caption "To be continued...at an arcade near you!"
Mortal Kombat II Collector's EditionEditMidway's comic book adaptation of Mortal Kombat II was published by mail order during the release of the arcade version, much like with the original game's comic. Likewise, the second comic book reflects the events that were raised in the game. This book was too written, penciled, and colored by John Tobias.
The story begins with Johnny Cage recounting the events of the final moments of the first game. He explains that Shang Tsung unleashed a horde of warriors on the Earthrealm fighters following Liu Kang's victory over Goro; and that Kano, Sonya, and himself were rushed by Goro at The Pit. Suddenly, an explosion knocked out the bridge from underneath them and everyone fell. Cage was saved, however, by Raiden, who informed him that Liu Kang had killed Shang Tsung and the island, which was held together by Tsung's presence, is self-destructing. Raiden further elaborates that Liu Kang has already escaped and, following the battle with Tsung's army, Sub-Zero was killed by Scorpion, who then burst into flames and burned to ash before Raiden's eyes. The ensuing explosion apparently knocked Cage out. The next thing he recalls is seeing a U.S. military vessel. He then snarls, "And that's the last time I'm telling you the story." As it turns out, Cage has been telling the story to a disbelieving Jax and Agent Beran (a reference to Mortal Kombat series art director Steve Beran), who is more open to the story considering Cage has recounted the story five times with the exact same details each time. Jax doesn't believe Cage's story on account of a distress signal from Sonya pinpointed to where they found Cage. And, more precisely, because he doesn't believe Sonya would ever fight alongside Kano, even if, as Cage says, she had no choice. He releases Cage due to lack of evidence.
Meanwhile, in Outworld, Shao Kahn is being addressed by King Gorbak, who laments his son, Goro's apparent death and places the blame on the shoulders of Shang Tsung, who is alive and well (for the moment) in Outworld. Liu Kang apparently only killed Tsung's form in Earthrealm, before the sorcerer escaped to Outworld. Gorbak calls for Tsung's death, but Kahn gives the shapeshifting sorcerer one chance to impress upon him why he should not personally slay him. The always wily Tsung instantly comes up with a plan: to lure the Earthrealm warriors to Outworld by breaching the dimensional gate and challenging them to Mortal Kombat. Only this time, the tournament will take place in Outworld and will be against the wishes of the Elder Gods. Kahn consults a Shadow Priest for advice and is told that due to the plan being against the wishes of the Elder Gods, it is impossible to clearly foresee the outcome. He states that should Kahn be victorious, his power will be unmatched and he will live for eternity. If the plan fails, however, Kahn will face eternal damnation. Gorbak says that if Tsung is to live then he will offer the services of Kintaro. As Shang Tsung's presence on Earthrealm no longer exists, Shao Kahn gives him a new physical form, one that is much younger in appearance. Kahn then sends Mileena, Kitana, Baraka, Kintaro, and Shang Tsung to destroy the Wu Shi Academy.
At the U.S. Special Forces base, a recording is received from Sonya and Kano that confirms Cage's story as true. Jax decides to make a trip to Hollywood to track down Cage. In China, Liu Kang has returned to Shaolin to find it ruined. The apparent sole survivor of the attacks, Kung Lao, appears from the shadows and sides with his friend by offering his word that he will fight against Outworld. At that moment, a Lin Kuei hover jet lands and a man in a suit claiming to be Sub-Zero hands Liu Kang his calling card. Liu Kang states that he saw Sub-Zero die and this man cannot possibly be the same person, but the ninja says he is the brother of the original Sub-Zero and remarks that his brother's unwillingness to adapt to technological change within the Lin Kuei is what made him obsolete. He shows the monks surveillance pictures the Lin Kuei took of a man claiming to be Shang Tsung (Tsung in his new form), who appears to be searching for Cage, and the three then decide to journey to Hollywood.
Cage is on set, filming a commercial for "Cage Cologne." (As an interesting side note, the director's name is "E. Boon" and bears resemblance to the franchise co-creator of Ed Boon whilst the cameraman looks like fellow co-creator John Tobias.) At this point, Shang Tsung and the Outworld warriors sent by Kahn, flanked by numerous Masked Guards, arrive through a portal in the studio. In the hallway, Jax and Agent Beran demand to see Cage, who is then, coincidentally, blasted through the wall right in front of them. A huge fight breaks out. Sub-Zero's hover jet arrives about this time, being piloted by Smoke and a red-clad Lin Kuei member (possibly a pre-automation Sektor). Kung Lao and Liu Kang join the fight on Jax's side. After Smoke makes another pass in the hover jet, Sub-Zero (now in his ninja uniform) leaps down and makes an attempt on Shang Tsung's life, but is rebounded off an invisible Reptile. Before Reptile can kill Sub-Zero, however, Scorpion intervenes and attacks Reptile, saying he will defend Sub-Zero as pennance for killing his brother.
Before anything else can happen, though, Raiden arrives to stop the conflict. Shang Tsung now makes his challenge before returning to Outworld with his allies, leaving the Earthrealm warriors with the choice of accepting the challenge or forfeiting. Raiden informs Liu Kang that forfeit would weaken Earthrealm's standing with the Elder Gods and Liu Kang must accept the challenge. Jax is reluctant to join Shao Kahn's tournament but is spurred on when Cage reveals Agent Beran has been killed. Sub-Zero also offers to compete. Raiden tells the gathered group of Jax, Liu Kang, Kung Lao, Johnny Cage, and Sub-Zero to "Prepare yourselves, Mortals—for Kombat in the Outworld!" The comic ends with the caption, "To be continued on a game screen near you!"
Mortal Kombat 4 Limited EditionEdit
This comic, written by Ted Adams and based on a story by John Tobias, explains the general backstory to the game, and gives strong hints towards which of Mortal Kombat Trilogy's character endings held true.
The comic begins in Edenia with the unrepenting Reptile being sentenced by Sindel to a lifetime of hard labor in the Cobalt Mines of Shokan for committing genocide in the name of Shao Kahn. He swears vengeance before being taken away. Sindel then holds a meeting with the Edenian Ambassador to New Realms, whose daughter, Tanya, introduces Sindel to a man from another realm seeking help. The man wears a hood to cover his pale, white face and the markings on his forehead. He claims to be from the realm of Treche (likely a play on "treachery"), taken over by the sorcerer Shil Kaad. When Sindel becomes apprehensive, claiming she has heard neither of Treche nor Shil Kaad, the man gives her a "gift," an orb which almost mystically draws Sindel's gaze to it, to the point she cannot look away.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Edenia, Princess Kitana is trying to settle a dispute between the two former favorite races of Shao Kahn, the Shokan and the Centaurians, as a mysterious figure watches from the rafters. Just as one of the Centaurians is about to attack Kitana, the mysterious figure leaps down and subdues him. The figure turns out to be Goro, who states that while he was thought to have been killed (following the events of the first game), he was, in reality, hiding—ashamed at his loss to Liu Kang and unwilling to serve Shao Kahn. With Kahn gone, Goro says he is now back to take his father's place as leader of the Shokan and the war between the Shokan and Centaurians must stop. As peace is reached and rapturous applause for Goro and Sindel fills the building, an explosion erupts from the direction of the Capital City. The orb given to Sindel had transformed into a huge portal to the Netherrealm. Shinnok, ruler of the Netherrealm, is the first to emerge from the portal, followed by hundreds of demons, as well as the mysterious Reiko, and Scorpion, who is likely looking for another chance at life outside the Netherrealm. As Quan Chi, the man who gave Sindel the orb, discusses the success of the plan and says Tanya is to be thanked, Shinnok claims his true goal is to reach the heavens and confront the Elder Gods, and now he has that chance.
Several days later, in Earthrealm, Sub-Zero has traveled to the Temple of Elements in China. He recalls what his elder brother, the original Sub-Zero, said: that the temple is home to an amulet designed to keep Shinnok in the Netherrealm, yet still has the power to set him free from his eternal imprisonment. The amulet is protected by the elements of Wind, Earth, Water, and Fire (a reference to Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero). As Sub-Zero prepares to make peace with the elemental Gods, he sees what he believes to be a sign falling from the sky and decides to follow it after symbolically donning his mask once more out of respect not to the Lin Kuei, but to his brother. Miles away, Liu Kang and Kai are sparring. As Liu Kang quickly gets the upper hand, Kai jokes that this is easy enough for the Immortal Champion of Mortal Kombat. Suddenly, what Sub-Zero had seen falling from the sky collides with the ground near the monks. They inspect the scene and discover demons about to slit the throat of a white-haired man. Elsewhere, Sonya Blade is battling Jarek. Unable to get the upper hand over the last remaining Black Dragon member, Jarek escapes. Jax then contacts Sonya and tells her she is needed to investigate an interdimensional flux in southwestern China and a helicopter piloted by Johnny Cage is sent to pick her up.
At the crater, Liu Kang and Kai battle the demons well, but are outnumbered, until Raiden shows up and electrocutes the demons to death. Raiden then explains that the man who fell from the sky is Fujin, God of Wind. He elaborates that he and Fujin are the last two remaining of Earth's Gods and that the Elder Gods have been weakened by Shinnok. He and Fujin withdraw to the Eternal Palace to formulate a plan of attack, after telling Liu Kang and Kai they must go to Edenia. Just as Kai is lamenting the impossibility of such a task, the helicopter carrying Sonya and Cage arrives. Not long afterwards, Sub-Zero shows up to offer his help, correctly guessing that his brother may have played some part in Shinnok's return. Sonya uses Outer World Investigation Agency technology to open a portal to Edenia. On the other side, they are all greeted by Quan Chi, who welcomes the humans to a "Mortal Kombat like you've never seen before." The comic ends with the caption, "To be continued in Mortal Kombat 4."
Mortal Kombat Deception Limited EditionEdit
This comic was written by Brian Hill, Walter McDaniel was in charge of the draws, and John Vogel is the story advisor.
This comic is a interquel between the Mortal Kombat Deception's Konquest Mode and after its intro.
The comic has a narration that explains some characters' actions:
- Mileena being freed by Baraka from Edenia's Dungeons.
- Kobra fighting some thugs in the streets.
- Shujinko smashing a Dragon King's statue in a temple.
- A wounded Kenshi being helped by a someone's hand.
- Kabal after killing Mavado offscreen.
- A Tarkatan (perhaps Baraka) attacking a soldier.
- Nightwolf hunting a bird.
- Scorpion being thrown by Drahmin and Moloch into the Soulnado, afterwards he appeared in front of the Elder Gods who turned him into their Champion.
- Noob Saibot infiltrated to Shao Kahn's Fortress, he climbed down the stairs to the bowels where he found the inert Smoke.
- Sub-Zero holding Frost's body, found the ruins of an holy structure; then inside, he laid her body in a sarcophagus, saw a deadman sitting on a throne wearing an armor and Sub-Zero left donning the armor of his newly discovered heritage.
- Finally, the narrator is revealed: Onaga, the Dragon King who is sitting on his throne in the Dragon King's Temple.
Mortal Kombat VS DC Universe: BeginningsEdit
This comic was illustrated by John Tobias and written by John Vogel, another of the original four co-creators of the Mortal Kombat franchise, merging the worlds of Mortal Kombat and the DC Universe. This was a return for John Tobias, who hadn't worked with Mortal Kombat for nine years.
Comics Published by MalibuEdit
While the comic books by Midway depict the game's official storyline, Malibu's Battlewave and Blood & Thunder story arcs are official publishings of the game providing alternative scenarios for the early Mortal Kombat series, thus favoring the "what if" theories. Malibu Comics canceled their line after 10 months and 27 issues (published in several mini-series) due to increasingly low sales.
The Malibu comic books were a sort of "re-imagining" of the Mortal Kombat franchise as numerous details were altered. Characters with no particularly defined background at the time (e.g., Smoke and Jade, who were paired-up in the comics) were radically different when comparing their comic book appearances to their in-game appearances. In addition, certain characters were tweaked, mostly for the sake of the plot. For example, in Mortal Kombat II, Baraka is subservient to Shao Kahn and follows his orders without question. In the comics, however, he joins an alliance with Kung Lao, Kitana, and Sub-Zero, among others, who wish to bring Kahn down.Throughout the Malibu series, interesting concepts are raised that, while not always part of the game's official storyline, are, in fact, part of the "what if" hyperextension of the game. For example, it is revealed (just as it was in MKII) that Mileena was specifically designed by Shang Tsung, through sorcery, for Kahn as an imperfect clone of Kitana. However, despite being created artificially, Mileena considers herself to be "Shao Kahn's true daughter" and refers to herself in this way throughout the series, even after she learns the truth. Kung Lao and Kitana share a love relationship instead of the more canonic relationship between Kitana and Liu Kang in the later games. Johnny Cage and Sonya also share a love interest in the series, and, while the concept is highly supported by the game's storyline, there has been no official confirmation that it exists within the games. Raiden does not appear to take an active part in the second Mortal Kombat tournament. This idea would be used again during the Mortal Kombat (film) and the retconned story of MKII in Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks. Sonya, who absolutely hated Kano and did all she could to ensure his capture—if not his death—becomes fully focused on aiding her friends and Raiden, and even shares a rivalry with Mileena, who tries to kill her on many occasions. Scorpion wants to kill not only Sub-Zero in revenge for killing him, but also his family and his clan; which was not his original intention.
Sub-Zero's treatment in the Malibu comics is particularly interesting. In the games, the original Sub-Zero had been killed early on (prior to Mortal Kombat II), turning into the wraith Noob Saibot, and substituted by his younger brother. However, the older Sub-Zero is portrayed prominently throughout the entire run of the comic book series; while the younger brother makes only a small appearance in the last page of the Tournament Edition II issue. In the series, the older Sub-Zero has the traits of both himself and his brother. For instance, in the beginning, he is loyal to the Lin Kuei and always speaks highly of his clan; yet later in the story he becomes more humane and, instead of being a ruthless assassin, he assists Kitana, Kung Lao, Liu Kang, and their friends. He is portrayed as heroic (in contrast to the original Sub-Zero's soul being tainted in the games), while Scorpion is made to look purely evil (as opposed to his neutral alignment in the games). On the other hand, Noob Saibot is not mentioned or featured in any of the comics except in a special Baraka issue, where he shows up in a small role as a completely separate character (at the time, his identity as the original Sub-Zero was yet to be established in the games). The final issue sees the new Sub-Zero rise to avenge the death of his brother—which largely brings things closer to the game.
List of Comics Published by MalibuEdit
Mortal Kombat: BattlewaveEdit
Where The Wild Things Are
A Fighting Chance
No Guts, No Glory
Days of Thunder
Nights of Pain
The Killing Fields
Light and Darkness
A Slow Boat to China
Test Your Might
The Art of War
Mortal Kombat: Goro, Prince of PainEdit
Stranger in a Strange Land
Down and Out in Outworld
Armed and Dangerous
Mortal Kombat: Raiden & KanoEditEye of the Storm
The Evil that Men Do
When Part the Heavens
Mortal Kombat: Tournament EditionEdit
Tournament Edition: With Friends Like These...
Tournament Edition II: A Cold Day in Hell
Mortal Kombat: U.S. Special ForcesEdit
Secret Treasures & Kano in “Break Out”
Secret Treasures II
Character Special EditionsEdit
Kung Lao: Rising Son
Kitana & Mileena: Sister Act