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