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MKK: Jax

What you have to understand here is that, even before he existed, Major Jackson “Jax” Briggs had the absolute worst luck.

No metal arms

First of all, Jax was originally supposed to be in Mortal Kombat 1. The character that would become Jax was initially named Kurtis Stryker (bad sign), and was supposed to be a military dude that entered the tournament to hunt down Kano. However, one day Ed Boon was sitting in his parlor smoking a pipe, and a woman crashed through his open window. Boon exclaimed, “A woman! That’s it! Gamers are a superstitious, cowardly lot, and this shall strike terror into their hearts. I shall include a woman!” Thus, Stryker/Jax was replaced entirely with Sonya. Why not just include both? Well, likely because that would cause the roster to include eight playable characters, the same number as Street Fighter 2. And no one wanted a world where arcade rats compared Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat. That would just be silly.

Regardless, Jax saved his debut for Mortal Kombat 2. But Jax production issues did not stop! Jax’s signature bionic arms were intended from the beginning, and the designers had apparently already worked out a cool personal sound effect system for Jax pounding on opponents with metal fists. However, the design necessitated a Jax that was mostly covered in long sleeves, because no one had an idea on how to make the full “metal arms” effect look decent. And, further bad news, the motion capture actor for Jax, John Parrish, was a bodybuilder that was swole as hell. So, in a move that is surprisingly 100% not a lie, it was determined that it would be a goddamn waste of a beefcake to cover Parrish in a lame hoody or whatever, and Jax’s metal arms were dropped. Thus, Mortal Kombat 2 Jax was forced to enter the tournament without what would become his signature armament (and a shirt), because he was hella ripped.

Totally metal

Let’s back off behind the scenes bodybuilding and focus on kanon Jax. Jax is a member of the same Special Forces organization as Sonya, and, yes, he entered Mortal Kombat 2 to rescue Sonya from Shao Kahn. And he did! It was probably pretty easy! She was right there in the background of that one stage, and she can naturally shoot lasers out of her hands, so they probably had a simple time escaping while Liu Kang was fighting a multi-armed tiger man. Jax returned to the Special Forces top brass, explained that there’s a centuries-old fighting tournament featuring dudes with swords for arms fighting ninja reptiles for the fate of our world in another world… And nobody bought it. So Jax did the only logical thing: he equipped metal arms. And then he looked like a real (vaguely metal) champ when Shao Kahn did invade Earth with his knife-arm based hordes, and Jax was all ready to go. As an apology, Jax was allowed to punch one (1) horse man.

Jax was involved in his silly rehash plot in Mortal Kombat 4. Once again, Sonya was dispatched to hunt down a Black Dragon thief. Once again, Sonya went missing. Once again, Jax equipped the ol’ metal arms to save Sonya and defeat a Black Dragon member. In the end, Jarek the Thief accused Jax of brutality, but, no, it was a fatality. And scene. Neither worked in Hollywood ever again.

Nice beret

And then some really bad stuff happened to Jax.

Jax earned a starring role.

As has been stated before, the Mortal Kombat franchise has long desperately wished it wasn’t all fighting games. Despite being one of the titles that defines the genre, Mortal Kombat has, again and again, attempted to branch out in “new” directions. Mortal Kombat: Special Forces was going to be one of those new directions. Hot on the heels of Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero (a game successful enough to sell seven whole N64 units, doubling N64 sales for 1997), MK: Special Forces was intended to be the next big spin-off title. This Playstation 1 adventure would see Sonya Blade and Jax fight their way around the Mortal Kombat universe, and squash threats to Earthrealm with fists, guns, and probably a fatality or two. It would be a thing of beauty, and a fine extension of the greater MK mythology.

Unfortunately, Special Forces never came together. Almost literally! First of all, Sonya was completely dropped from the project at one point, so Jax was forced to go the whole adventure alone. Second, apparently the level design budget was cab fare and half a pack of Oreos, so a game that could have featured the titular Special Forces (aka just Jax) venturing across the many realms of the Mortal Kombat universe instead included such amazing levels as the warehouse, the building, and (everyone’s favorite) the sewers. And, while Kano and Jarek are prominent players, the entire rest of the incomparable Mortal Kombat kast is ignored in favor of new and exciting kharacters like Tremor (a poop-brown recolor of Scorpion) and No Face (a living monument to how difficult it was to render believable faces on the Playstation 1). The plot isn’t any great shakes either, as it is simply the story of Jax battling the Black Dragons, and, aside from one eensy trip to Outworld at the end, it is basically nothing more than an unusually violent episode of GI Joe. Kano was once a man!

Very special forces


Special Forces was great for featuring Jax and providing a backstory for why he hated Kano so dang much (it was because he was a bad guy who murders people, natch), but it was a massive failure as a videogame. It was also a significant failure for the very concept of fun. So, as one might expect, this all but buried the Mortal Kombat franchise for a couple of years. Nobody wanted to see anyone involved in this mess ever again, and, good job, Jax, you were the coverboy for that project.

While it has never been stated plainly, I always assumed this was the reason Jax was consistently featured in future Mortal Kombat games, but always had the absolute worst time.

(Incidentally, since Special Forces chronologically takes place before Mortal Kombat 1, it is apparently 100% kanon in two different timelines. Insult to injury!)

Mortal Kombat was allowed to return for Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. Jax returned, too, having his beloved Special Forces almost completely obliterated because he trusted Hsu Hao, a heartless double agent of the Red Dragons. Incidentally, I’m being completely literal here: Hsu Hao has a mechanical, strobing robotic heart that somehow did not tip Jax off to the whole “bad guy” thing (NOTE: if any readers have glowing, mechanical weak points, I apologize for profiling you as evil). Jax then ventured forth to avenge himself upon Hsu Hao, and successfully killed the dork. But kharma is a jerk sometimes, and Jax was killed shortly thereafter.

Jax!

Now, you may have noticed that Jax is not the only kharacter to be murdered during the climax of Deadly Alliance. Jax, like his other dead buddies, was revived as a malevolent zombie by the Dragon King at the start of MK: Deception. But! Jax was returned to “actual” life for Mortal Kombat: Unchained, the PSP enhanced port of MK: Deception. This “twenty minutes later” redux of the plot acknowledged that Jax had been an angry revenant like his buddies, but Liu Kang’s divine spirit returned him to life. However, he retained all the memories of the evil he did as a flesh puppet, so he basically had Dragon King-based PTSD. And, despite the fact that nearly every other “good guy” had the same back-from-the-dead status at the start of MK: Armageddon, Jax was the only one to develop a psychosis as a result of the trauma. This is not because Jax had some mental issues compared to the other kombatants, but likely simply because the universe at large hates the poor guy. Bad news: the universe rebooting did not help that.

The new timeline of Mortal Kombat 9 is rough on ol’ Jax. Now, Jax gets to participate in Mortal Kombat I. Kinda! He is kidnapped by Shang Tsung about twelve seconds into the tournament, and Sonya is forced to rescue her teammate. Good for Sonya’s agency, not great for Jax. Then Jax is back to rescuing Sonya for Mortal Kombat 2 Redux. That goes fairly well until Jax encounters Ermac, a telekinetic ninja that has no time to dawdle, so he immediately tears Jax’s arms off. To be clear, those are Jax’s actual, fleshy arms. Despite everything I understand about human biology and blood-loss, Jax survives being disarmed, and returns for Mortal Kombat 3 Redux with his new arms. Note that the metal arms were equipment in the original timeline, but the new timeline features a Jax that is a double amputee that is more or less DC Comic’s Cyborg (which, uh, also kinda happened in Jax’s MK vs DC ending). And Jax’s “upgrade” doesn’t do him much good, as he’s killed shortly thereafter by Queen Sindel jabbing her heel through his throat. Have fun being a zombie again, Jax!

Lookin' dead

Jax, once again, did his time as an undead monster for Quan Chi. During this time, Quan Chi took the mechanized Sub-Zero, broke down his cyber components, and re-grew an all new, all dead body for Sub-Zero. Jax did not receive the same courtesy, as he was stuck as a zombie reliant on metal arms. Odd choice, Quan. Then Sub-Zero, Scorpion, and Jax are all revived by Raiden’s “happy accident” magical powers. Sub-Zero and Scorpion go on to rebuild their clans and lead happy, productive lives. Jax, once again, is afflicted with PTSD, and retires from active duty. He also has a bitch of a time collecting his military benefits, as he was legally dead for a not insignificant period of time. And his dog died while he was dead, too. It died choking on his cat. The cat is also dead. And you don’t want to know what happened to Jax’s pet rock.

Jax met a wonderful woman (that is never, ever seen) during therapy, and they married and eventually birthed Jacqui “My dad thought I was going to be a boy, and he already bought a onesie that says ‘junior’ on it, so here we are” Briggs. He then came out of retirement decades later to hunt down Quan Chi, the evil wizard that really ruined his day for a few years, on behalf of the Special Forces. This, surprisingly enough, goes really well, and Jax is able to apprehend Quan Chi. Hooray! And then Scorpion kills Quan Chi for general revenge, so it wound up being all moot anyway. Sorry, Jax, better luck next time.

But there would be no better luck for Jax. After MK:X, Jax’s wife (apparently named Vera? Is this a Cheers joke? In the year 2019? Please, please let that be the reasoning) dies. This, naturally, depresses Jax something fierce, and he apparently becomes an old man sitting alone in his lounger crushing beer cans with his mechanical arms. So Jax winds up an easy target for the big bad of Mortal Kombat 11, and is recruited to the dark side with a promise of time travel fixing at least 30% of his problems. But Jax of MK2 (er… kinda? Jax is supposed to get metal arms in MK3r, and he has them here, but Kung Lao is alive, and he dies at the end of M2r, so it’s assumed this group is from MK2, and… oh, I’ve just gone cross eyed) pops in, and aids his daughter on Team Good Guy. This comes to a head when Young Jax fights Old Jax, with Young Jax displaying the optimism of a man that has only lost both of his arms, and not the nihilism of an old man that was once responsible for the worst thing on the Playstation. Young Jax wins the fight, but loses the war (it’s easier to beat an old, depressed man than a pair of gods), and Old Jax continues to work with the baddies until Raiden reveals the crucial bit of information that the evil goddess that is attempting to destroy all of time doesn’t really care about Jax.

I can read lips, apparently

And then Jax won Mortal Kombat 11, and ended all slavery and racism forever. Really turned it all around at the end, big guy!

Next time: The guy with the other different arms.

MKK: Johnny Cage & Sonya Blade & Kano

Here's Johnny!

John “The” Carlton is a Hollywood actor that does his own stunts, and wants to prove his martial arts prowess at a big fancy fighting tournament. Unfortunately, he took a wrong turn at Zangief, and wound up in a story about gods and monsters and the occasional homicidal centaur. This led to Johnny Cage dying just in time for Mortal Kombat 3 (and a real-world based contract dispute). Despite this, he revived for Mortal Kombat 4. Then he died again for MK Deception. But he came back in Armageddon! If he dies one more time, he gets a free smoothie!

But he didn’t die again! Against all odds, not only did Johnny Cage survive the reboot of MK 1-3, but he also went on to personally defeat Shinnok, a renegade Elder God. How did Johnny Cage, a hero that previously died fighting a horsey man, manage to stomp a nigh-omnipotent being into the mud of the Mortal Kanvas? Simple! Nobody has any idea! Johnny Cage has always been able to manifest “the glow”, some manner of minty-fresh green energy, while performing special moves, and, uh, apparently that’s Shinnok’s #1 weakness. Hooray! Glad you decided to show up, Johnny! Sub-Zero doesn’t have any green special moves at all.

Lookin' good

Shinnok’s defeat was practically the prologue of Mortal Kombat X, the real meat and potatoes of that tale featured Cassie Cage, Johnny’s daughter, and how she saved the world because green magical powers are apparently hereditary. But since Johnny is only Cassie’s dad, he’s spent Mortal Kombat X and Mortal Kombat 11 mostly being concerned his daughter and/or on-again, off-again wife is going to get herself killed. So, basically, he’s now the house husband of the Mortal Kombat universe, and I can think of no greater end for a character in a franchise fueled by testosterone chased with mtn dew.

And speaking of the missus…

Sonya Blade had some… problematic origins. First of all, according to MK trivia, there wasn’t even going to be a female fighter in the original Mortal Kombat, but she was wedged in at the last moment when someone on the staff remembered that women exist. She was granted a fairly typical backstory: she has entered the tournament because it’s her job to hunt criminals, and she’s tracking a villain that is responsible for the death of someone close to her. Is this also Chun-Li’s origin story? Well, yes, but with one important difference: Sonya isn’t even hunting the final boss, she’s after some random dude in a white onesie. Whatever, it’s a fair excuse to include a “special forces” character, and I’m sure the fact that she then spends the following title kidnapped and waiting to be rescued by a man has nothing to do with anything. Sonya got back into the action in Mortal Kombat 3, and had nothing to do with anything. But at least Kano bought a new outfit, so her battle against evil seemed a little more deserved.

Kiss!

When Mortal Kombat 4 rolled around, she was still on the general “shows up every time, but never really does anything” roster (except maybe being involved in some of the worst voice acting ever in a videogame), but a funny thing started to happen around Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance. Her partner, Major Jackson “Jax” Briggs, wound up staring in a Mortal Kombat spin-off, Mortal Kombat: Special Forces. Fun fact: Special Forces is easily one of the worst Mortal Kombat games, and one of the worst titles for the Playstation (but somehow still not the worst fighting game spin-off title of all time), and, while Sonya managed to dodge being Player 2 in that adventure, it promoted the concept of the Mortal Kombat Special Forces from an incidental piece of backstory to practically the focus of the franchise. The remaining titles from the original timeline saw Sonya simply fueled by Kano-based vengeance, but, with the reboot, she became MK base protagonist #3.

Blade is her dad

Or at least she would have been, had that spotlight not been stolen by her daughter, Cassie Cage. So close! But, despite her limited origins as a female vengeance machine, by Mortal Kombat X, she evolved into a sort of female counterpart to Raiden: an active participant, but still primarily a guiding force for the main heroes. And, rather importantly, unlike Raiden, Sonya Blade isn’t completely insane. Hooray! And, hey, can you name another fighting game featuring an active female fighter that is biologically over 50? Or over 40? … Or over 25? There’s that boar woman from Bloody Roar 1, and uhhh… that old lady with the dentures from Power Instinct? I think that’s all.

Unfortunately, all good things must end. Sonya heroically sacrificed herself during the prologue of Mortal Kombat 11, and left Cassie without a mother. Well, for about five seconds. A time-displaced Sonya Blade from Mortal Kombat 2* showed up to replace her older, wiser self, and I’m pretty sure whacky hijinks would have ensued if that universe lasted longer than another 48 hours. Oh well. You had a pretty good series arc, Sonya. Way to go.

Sidenote: In Mortal Kombat 11, Sonya Blade is portrayed by Ronda Rousey, a known anti-trans person that spreads dangerous conspiracy theories. It is my personal belief that Rousey should not portray the heroic Sonya Blade, but should instead voice another darling Mortal Kombat character: Shitty McCrapstain, the sentient pile of poop that leaves a pungent trail of excrement everywhere she goes (and is incidentally mute). I believe Rousey would be perfect for the role.

And speaking of piles of crap…

KNIVES!

So if I were to say “Here is the leader of the elite group of mercenaries, The Black Dragons, and he is also the chief rival of one of Mortal Kombat’s most prominent and enduring protagonists,” what would you expect? Some sort of evil James Bond type? Maybe an immortal robot menace that refuses to die? A debonair thief that relentlessly mocks and evades his pursuers? Somebody with an IQ score over five? If you guessed anything like that, you’d be wrong. Kano has no time for any of that. Kano is a f**kboi. Kano will always be a f**kboi.

You want the short answer on Kano? Kano was portrayed by Trevor Goddard in Mortal Kombat: The Best Movie Ever. Movie Kano was a jackass sleezeball that would sell his soul (kinda literally) to the highest bidder, and every future Mortal Kombat game based “Kanon Kano” on “Movie Kano”. However, Goddard was using a cockney British accent to portray Kano… but nobody picked up on that, and we Americans have a terrible ear for accents, so now Kano is Australian. Mortal Kombat got its own character wrong! Or nobody cares about Kano! What a basic f**kboi!

For anyone really curious, Kano was right there at the beginning as a foil for Sonya that incidentally kinda looked like the T-2000. But he got his fool ass kidnapped, because… uh… was that ever explained? Kano spent the entirety of Mortal Kombat 2 as background decoration because… errm… let’s say Shao Kahn wanted him chained up because… uh… You know what? I really don’t want to know what Shao Kahn is into during his time off. Whatever. It’s apparently kanon that Kano then earned his freedom by stopping an assassination attempt by Sheeva during Mortal Kombat 3, but… he was still chained up, right? So I guess he just shouted really loudly, and was then promoted from prisoner to general because the Outworld military has spent too many centuries relying on conquering through 1-on-1 fighting tournaments. Kano’s promotion actually stuck, and, through Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance (MK5), Kano continued to be a general in Shao Kahn’s army. During this time, The Black Dragons did not give a flying f*** where their lead f**kboi had gone.

Creepy guy!

So then Kano joined up with the titular Deadly Alliance, started wearing a lock of Sonya’s hair around his neck (ew), and… got into construction, apparently. The Deadly Alliance put him in charge of colonizing Outworld Crappy Village #5,471. Somehow, Kano failed at this, and was assaulted and captured by Mavado, the leader of the rival Red Dragons, and then Kano spent another Mortal Kombat game chained up in a dungeon. Kano escaped just in time to be vaporized with everyone else during Armageddon, so at least he didn’t spend his absolute last moments in full f**kboi regalia.

Incidentally, it is kanon that, during Kano’s final imprisonment at the hands of the Red Dragons, he was experimented on, and, had the experiments worked, Kano would have been transformed into a dragon-human hybrid. Raiden terminating a timeline with a Dragon-F**kboi monster is his greatest sin.

Oh! And in the MKvsDC microcontinuity, Kano becomes a juggalo, which is another loss for the universe.

Back to reality… Rebooted Mortal Kombat sees a Kano back to his original Black Dragon roots (which, reminder, only impacted his plot exactly once in the original continuity). This Kano defects to Team Shao Kahn almost immediately, and spends the entire title as the easily defeated mook that is constantly around so they can pad out some story mode battles. He’s basically the Putty to Shao Kahn’s Rita Repulsa. Kano then resurfaces in Mortal Kombat X as an all-purpose mercenary, selling his services to anybody who will have him. This includes such luminaries as Shinnok, Milenna, and Kotal Kahn. He also attempts to stealthily infiltrate a Special Forces base by blending in with some refugees, despite, ya know, having a fairly recognizable glowing, metal eyepatch.

Damn, lookin' good

Then, finally, in Mortal Kombat 11, someone remembered that Kano is in charge of an entire crime syndicate, and a sort of Crime King Kano meets his younger self, Generally Annoying Kano. The two get along like gangbusters, but it all goes to hell when Past!Sonya pulls a Timecop and shoots Kano the Younger, thus eliminating Kano the Elder. I’d like to make some kind of “he died as he lived” crack here, but, as seemingly the only character in Mortal Kombat 11 that dies as a result of ill-defined time travel rules, it’s hard to say… Oh. Wait. He died like the universe’s f**kboi. That actually is surprisingly on point.

Rest well, Kano. May you spend at least half of the next Mortal Kombat title out of chains. Unless that’s your thing.

Next Time: Ninja of a different color.