Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe is a game about a bunch of guys (and gals) from disparate universes punching each other. When it was even just previewed, everyone with at least a second level geek knowledge complained about this crossover’s premise, because Superman would punch Liu Kang’s head clean off, and what is militantly anti-murder Batman doing in the Fatality-based Mortal Kombat universe? And Baraka? Who wants to see that dork again? These were all valid concerns, and, while the plot creates its own excuses for why the Clown Prince of Crime can evenly battle a cybernetic marine, it… still doesn’t make a lot of sense. Is Kano lobbing magical knives at Flash? Preposterous.
So, let’s be real here, the only way these two franchises are going to get a fair fight is if we take a few steps back and judge them based on other merits. In fact, let’s rank them based on their most interesting criteria. That’s right, folks, it’s time for…
The rules are simple: we’ll look at select characters from the Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe roster, and determine which has the most absurd skeletons in their closet. This isn’t going to be hard! Despite the fact that editors for comic books are supposed to be supreme champions of preserving continuity, they don’t seem to be very good at the task. … They’re also not the best at actually, ya know, editing.
This amuses me, because there seems to be an understood media pecking order. Movies, despite making billions of dollars off comic properties, have a tendency to look at the camera, wink, and exclaim something like, “Ha, you didn’t think this was some puerile comic book, did you?” Comic books, meanwhile, rarely get to fire back at their cinematic masters, but have no problem making cracks at the expense of “lesser”, nerdier mediums, like anime or videogames. Even Archie gets some hits in!
This is despite the fact that every medium seems to borrow liberally from every other medium. Final Fantasy 7 was popular, right? Let’s make Zack some kind of weird bird alien, and then never acknowledge the
Meanwhile, presumably thanks to that previously mentioned pecking order, Mortal Kombat has always wanted to be a comic book. And it has been! Boon and Tobias created the Mortal Kombat game, and, right from the start, Tobias wrote and illustrated the Mortal Kombat comic book, available by mail order (assuming it’s still 1993). Since then, the Mortal Kombat plot has always played out with a very comic book-y flair, with shifting alliances, revolving door mortality, and loves based exclusively on rapid punching. Also, the fact that Liu Kang and Jax have never fought Iron Fist and Luke Cage is a travesty.
So both comic books and videogames seem to have a sort of “abused geek” chip on their shoulders. But is it DC Comics or Mortal Kombat that is most deserving of the title “silliest”? Let’s look at some of the stars!
First up is Batman. Batman is the taciturn Dark Knight of Gotham that protects the city by repeatedly punching a murder clown. Now, I know a number of you are shaking your heads right now, confident I’m going to pull out some ancient comic cover that portrays Batman talking about boners or having a gay old time with Robin. How about I do you one better, and give you mostly naked Batman?
Okay, yeah, I don’t think that really got published. But! And this is key, I’m pretty sure we could all buy that that happened sometime in the Silver Age of Comic Wackiness. The essential thing about Batman is that he fits in pretty much any time period or universe, so if you want to have a Batman of the year 85,000 on the prison planet of Pluto, sure, go for it. Unfortunately for his image, that leads to a lot of… let’s say “random” choices, and not nearly enough of them are “Batman the Pirate”.
But we’re all over that now, right? Batman has been super serious for years, and, outside of a few cartoons, he’s the Dark Knight now, free of all zaniness and “off” behavior.
Yeah, sure. Let’s go with that.
On the complete other side of the coin, let’s look at Scorpion, who seems to be the most popular Mortal Kombat character. I’ve discussed Scorpion at length before, whom, for being a grave, undead skeleton bent on revenge, seems to spend a lot of time wandering around forgetting what he was doing. Yeah, Batman and Scorpion couldn’t be more different (Batman rarely immolates his foes), but they’re both laser-focused on avenging the deaths of their families. Unfortunately, Scorpion is not the world’s greatest detective, so he’s… let’s see here… murdered Sub-Zero (who definitely murdered Scorpion, I mean, he was there). Then he somehow forgot he murdered Sub-Zero, so he fought him again, but it turned out that this was a different Sub-Zero, so he vowed to protect Sub-Zero II. Then he forgot, and tried to kill him again. But this time, he discovered that it was Quan Chi secretly responsible for his family’s death all along. This led to a lot of Quan Chi stalking, which eventually culminated with Scorpion becoming a hero of the multiverse… which was then promptly destroyed. Whoops! Scorpion repeats his murder spree in the next universe, and, on at least two occasions, is warned against taking revenge against his tormentors (Sub-Zero and Quan Chi, again), and both times, despite the fact that it would literally destroy the world (again), Scorpion goes ahead with the whole murder thing. The hero of the franchise, ladies and gentlemen!
But no one is debating the heroics of Superman. He’s a shining paragon of virtue and good and… Oh, God, am I just going to pop over to Superdickery and pull out another sorry old example of Silver Age insanity? Well, kinda. Let’s look at a typical day for Superman: Lois Lane has witnessed a crime! And the criminals escaped! She’s sure to be a targeted!
Luckily, Lois is zapped by a plant growth ray, and it causes her to wake up the next morning unrecognizably larger. Lois Lane goes about her adventures… plumper, you might say… and is occasionally rescued by Superman (because Lois can’t make it through the day without a few super saves), who doesn’t seem to recognize the portly Lois.
Lois is ashamed to admit she’s no longer svelte, because dames, am I right? In the end, the criminals that were looking to rub out Lois spot her in a hall of mirrors, and realize Fat Lois is really Skinny Lois thanks to that one mirror that makes you look really skinny that does not in any way actually work like that. Superman then saves the day, and admits that he engineered this whole Fat Lois situation himself to protect her.
Never mind that the plan didn’t work (as the gangsters recognized her anyway), never mind that Superman is friggen Superman and practically omnipotent; no, what’s important here is that Superman knew the whole time that Lois Lane had been embiggened, and still spent the whole day hovering around Lois without so much as a consoling word or, I don’t know, admitting that this total thing was temporary and part of a larger plan. That she never consented to. Oh, and somehow there was a wedding in there.
So that happened.
Superman: with great power comes a great responsibility to drive your girlfriend insane.
On the “nigh-omnipotent hero” side of Mortal Kombat we have Raiden. Raiden wants to protect Earth Realm (that’s our dimension!) with all his might, so he often enters Mortal Kombat tournaments to fight on behalf of the good guys. First problem: Raiden is a friggen god, so practically every MK game has to find some excuse to make ol’ Lightning Lord an even match for a dude whose only power is “wears sunglasses”. These justifications have included, but are not limited to: Shang Tsung has a magic island, Outer Realm depowers gods, “Merging Realms” depowers gods, there’s a god running around anyway, Raiden exploded, and, my personal favorite, Raiden is now goth. In the rebooted Mortal Kombat universe, no one is even bothering anymore, so when Raiden accidently barbecues his own champion, nobody bats an eye.
I mean, I guess killing your own allies is worse than gaslighting the love of your life, but it’s a thin line.
Speaking of intermittent omnipotence, we’ve got Hal Jordan, Green Lantern. Hal has had an interesting portrayal in the last few years of the DC Universe, as he’s been hovering around a weird, almost dishonest anti-hero role. Much has been made of the fact that Jordan has absolutely no social aptitude, and has a tendency to piss off his family, coworkers, co-heroes, Green Lantern Corp members, girlfriend/boss, and little, blue superiors. But he gets results, chief! The reason this all feels vaguely insincere is because GL literally saves the universe on a nigh weekly basis, and seems to be the only person in an organization of thousands capable of such a feat. When a (recently concluded) storyline made Hal the only Green Lantern in the universe, it was like nothing changed.
But one thing that has changed over the years is how Hal’s ring works. The Green Lantern Ring of today is only capable of “constructs”, basically green, solid light holograms that are only limited by the user’s imagination. But in the old days? That ring could do damn near everything…
Like forgetting Batman. Why would you use your ring to forget Batman!? That’s terrible!
But the wishing ring couldn’t save White Airplane Jesus, so I guess it’s kind of a wash.
Speaking of constructs, we’ve got Sub-Zero, the icy assassin of the Mortal Kombat Universe. If you’re unaware (like because you missed a paragraph a couple hundred words ago), Scorpion killed the original Sub-Zero during Mortal Kombat 1. Since then, every appearance of Sub-Zero has been Sub-Zero I’s little brother, Tundra, while Sub-Zero I became Noob Saibot, the patron saint of color swaps.
Sub-Zero (II) has a problem similar to Scorpion: he’s one of the most popular characters in the franchise, so every sequel has to give him something new and exciting to do. He’s an assassin! He’s on the run from robots! He’s got his own god-slaying spin-off! He’s the leader of the assassins! He’s Shredder! He’s preaching tolerance on some frozen mountain! Who wants snow cones?!
Like Hal, Sub-Zero has a tendency to be portrayed completely against the parameters of his day job. Sub-Zero is a caring, principled individual that has a tendency to stand in contrast to the vengeance-fueled Scorpion. He has led the Lin Kuei to a bright, robotless future, and has taken the troubled Frost under his wing. Except… he’s still an assassin. He’s an assassin leader. He kills people for money. He might not slay a random Mortal Kombat contestant (kontestant?), but slaughter is what keeps his lights on.
Ultimately, I’d say his characterization leaves me a little… cold.
We’ve been focusing on the men, so let’s look at the women, specifically Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman is the face of female empowerment, and…
Uh… We can do better than that. Do we have something more…
Never mind, let’s skip to the next character.
The female reps for MK are Sonya Blade and Kitana. Sonya is a frequent kidnap victim that has a tendency to struggle out of her bindings and regain the upper hand, which sounds kinda Wonder Woman-esque, but Kitana is the princess of a foreign culture that has been totally messed up by dudes, so she’s the more obvious analogue.
And that isn’t a good thing.
Wonder Woman and Kitana both have the same problem. Let’s look at Batman again: here’s a guy who has all the money, and uses it exclusively on himself. Yes, you get tidbits about Bruce Wayne funding the local orphanage or devoting portions of his fortune to starving murder-clown victims, but that’s just lip service, when money comes into play in a comic book, it’s to explain why the Justice League suddenly owns a space station, or how Mad Hatter was tracked with a brand new Wayne Tech app. Other than that (and a Robin or two), Batman is pretty much alone in his crime-fighting quest, or at least alone enough that he tends to get a table for one. Meanwhile, Superman doesn’t get a sidekick, and even with his great supporting cast, you don’t see Jimmy Olsen saving the day in anything other than a hamburger eating contest.
Wonder Woman? Wonder Woman has an entire army of immortal, super-powered women.
I’m sure continuity nerds are anxious to dispute this and claim that Wonder Woman’s whole deal is that she’s the only Amazon that was willing to venture to Man’s World and do what needs doing, but, seriously? Earth is in danger from alien-threat #6,739, and the planet’s most powerful island of women is just going to chill and watch Orange is the New Black? They are literally warrior women! Amazons! Who are they fighting? Are they having archery contests thanks to an unexpected arrow surplus?
Unfortunately, the only time anyone remembers Wonder Woman has a crazy powerful army is when they need a new enemy, and WW has to choose between siding with the rest of Earth, or her indiscriminately blood-thirsty Amazonian sisters. And we’re all very sad for an issue before Diana decides to do the right thing and repel the scary women with the spears.
Oh, and in current continuity, the Amazons are randomly out of commission, so Wonder Woman has to make do with palling around with literal gods… who also do nothing.
Kitana has the same problem. She’s the princess of Edenia, a magical land of thousand-year old warriors. Yes, they were conquered by Shao Kahn for a time, but he got turned into rocks or something somewhere around Mortal Kombat 3, and now Edenia is free. Other realms are in danger from new threats, though, and nobody ever asks Kitana to marshal her immortal armies and maybe repay that whole liberation favor. Kitana could be the next General Patton of the interdimensional wars of Mortal Kombat… but her defining trait seems to be standing next to Liu Kang and looking pretty. Woo.
Enough of the good guys, let’s hit Lex Luthor. As I’m sure he’d be glad to tell you, Lex Luthor is one of the smartest people in the DC Universe. Unfortunately, he doesn’t use this intelligence to feed the poor or clothe the hungry; no, Lex is much more fond of having fixation issues and proving that Superman is unfit to be the guardian of humanity. Fair enough, everybody has to have a hobby. Unfortunately, this hobby is a tweak… one sided.
Superman used to be smart. Superman would utilize the combined knowledge of Krypton’s advanced civilization and do all sorts of super science-y things, like build an army of robots of equal Superman power, or maintain the world’s most superpowered ant colony. Then Superman started hanging out with Batman, and it all went downhill. Batman is the world’s greatest detective, and when he’s standing next to a guy that can literally move planets out of orbit… that’s all he’s got. So, over time, the Brave and the Bold became George and Lennie, because if Batman ain’t smart, then him not bring much to table. Superman took a dramatic hit to the IQ, and now, while he still has all the knowledge of Krypton at his disposal, he just… doesn’t have time to read?
This makes Lex Luthor… even dumber. Lex, I’ve got an idea for you: build a trap for Superman that can’t be punched. What’s that? You built a super suit so you can battle Superman on his own terms? No, dammit! That’s part of the problem. Build, I don’t know, a rocket, stick a kitten on there, and then fly the thing out into the blackness of space. Stick a transmitter on there that allows Superman to hear the sounds of a kitten mewling as it approaches the sun, and you’ll at least get the big, blue Boy Scout out of your hair for a few hours.
Or just build a cage that says “Enter here, please.”
That about wraps up that rivalry.
We’ve got another schemer on the MK side: Shang Tsung. Shang Tsung was the final boss of the original Mortal Kombat, and (if you managed to tackle Goro and make it that far) Shang Tsung was practically invincible. His “base” form only allowed for shooting fireballs, but he also had the ability to transform into any other fighter and utilize their abilities. Effectively, it was like fighting every character in the game at once.
… Though, admittedly, there were only eight fighters…
Initially, the “excuse” for this power was that Shang Tsung had consumed the souls of every combatant you defeated during the tournament, but by Mortal Kombat 2, Shang Tsung had acquired the “natural” ability to shapeshift into anyone within about twenty feet. Fair enough, it gives us a fine excuse to allow Shang to maintain his most iconic power without murdering half the cast. Unfortunately, this led to the creation of a character with maybe the most wasted potential in the franchise.
He’s a bad guy shapeshifter! He can become anyone, and exploit their powers! This is narrative gold! He should have the entire Earth Realm team pushing up daisies before the game even starts! All anyone ever does in the Mortal Kombat universe is fight to the death, so it seems like being able to skew those battles toward an Outworld victory would be a cinch. These people have families, right? Loved ones? Use that! Hell, morph into a toddler every time someone gains the advantage, and then just start lobbing fireballs. This isn’t hard!
What somehow makes it worse is when Shangy does use his powers. In Shaolin Monks, he kept the party guessing for hours with rapid form stealing… and then gave that up at the end of the plot because.. he got bored? And then, with a masterful morph into Kung Lao at the start of Deadly Alliance, Shang Tsung literally killed Liu Kang. It didn’t take, but that’s no reason to throw in the towel! Do it again, Shang! Johnny Cage hasn’t died nearly enough times.
It’s hard to tell if Shang Tsung or Lex Luthor is squandering his gifts more.
Let’s stick to the MK universe, and examine Shao Kahn, Shang Tsung’s master. Shao Kahn is a cautionary tale about having immortals in your story. Kahn ascended to his throne when, in a universe where people fight to the death for everything from world domination to disputes over Skittles, he went ahead and poisoned his former master. Way to go, actual scheming! This led Shao Kahn to conquer Edenia and a few other realms (like at least one with a bunch of lizards), and then… nothing. For a thousand years. He pretty much got stuck on Earth, and was tricked into hosting ten generations of fighting tournaments because some gods told him to. In the meanwhile, Kahn… worked on his announcer voice? There had to be other realms to conquer, right? Or maybe he could have improved the living conditions of those guys with swords in their arms. They’re his people, right? Alexander the Great conquered great swaths of the known world by the time he was thirty, and Shao Kahn could only master swinging around a sledgehammer in a hundred times that same span.
Ya know, I’m starting to think that Shao Kahn isn’t that great of an immortal conqueror.
DC’s Darkseid can’t possibly be worse, can he?
Alright, fine. Comic books are sillier. Comic books win.
FGC #150 Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe
- System: Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Xbox 360 for this “review”, not that that makes an impact on anything.
- Number of players: Two, because, ya know, fighting game.
- Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: This was the last Mortal Kombat game released by Midway, and it feels just as janky as most of the classic Mortal Kombat games. It’s not that it’s bad, just that everyone feels very stiff, which doesn’t really work all that well for the likes of Flash or Catwoman. This game was a neat novelty in its day, but it’s far outclassed by the later Injustice: Gods Among Us, which drops the Mortal Kombat cast in favor of having two Supermen and a Doomsday.
- But you still bought the Kollector’s Edition, didn’t you? Yep! I’m a sucker for “free” comic books.
- Favorite Fighter: I have no idea why Shazam aka Captain Marvel is in this game. He’s not even old enough to play without a legal guardian or wizard present! That said, the Big Red Cheese is a welcome addition in my book, and it’s always fun to have a twelve year old show Deathstroke whose boss.
- Superdickery: Can we just revisit Superman for a moment? It is hilarious to me that, no matter what happens, Lois and Superman must always hide this week’s physical mutation from each other. Alright, I mean gaining some weight isn’t as bad as suddenly having an ant for a head or whatever, but how superficial are these two? He’s an alien, Lois, just be glad he’s got the proper equipment in those super shorts.
- Did you know? They have yet to make a fighting game featuring the Doom Patrol.
It might not be the most exciting game, but I’d play it.
- Would I play again: Probably not. As mentioned earlier, Injustice: Gods Among Us is a far superior game, both in the roster department and the general gameplay/feel. Oddly, I get no thrill out of seeing Mortal Kombat characters interact with any other universes (they’re kind of a… special group), so until we finally get Street Fighter vs. Mortal Kombat: The 90’s Come Alive, the MK franchise can sit out the crossovers.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… ha… Technically, ROB’s choices are based on a random number generator, and ROB has chosen game number five. The fifth game in my inventory. What is the mysterious Game #5? Find out on Friday. Please look forward to it!
All images not video game related are copyright Marvel, DC Comics, or Archie Comics.
I think it says a lot about Midway’s Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe game that the general reaction was one more of bewilderment than excitement. While I’m more than happy to partake in Capcom’s crossover fighters (whether it’s the Marvel roster or SNK’s me-too crew or the Tatsunoko anime crowd), the prospect of Batman punching Scorpion in the face is somehow even less appealing than Street Fighter x Tekken.
Of course, at least part of that is that the game can’t play to the strengths of Mortal Kombat (i.e. Fatalities) because of that DC license bolted on there.
Despite violent shit being allowed in the modern comics now and then, you can’t have Superman tearing off Lex Luthor’s arms or Batman giving The Joker a Kung Lao shave or Wonder Woman noosing her rope around Sonya’s neck and yanking it tight until her head explodes. Most of these guys (and Diana) usually try to avoid pointless bloodshed. So the heroes all have non-fatal finishers that just make the opponent wish they were dead.
But of course, you also can’t have Kano ripping out Catwoman’s heart or Sub-Zero tearing out The Flash’s spine so the fatalities in general are toned down to the point that The Joker’s gun is less graphic in the US version ‘cuz the camera cuts away for the headshot.
It’s just, why take a series that’s all about brutal finishers and do a crossover that won’t allow that? The Mortal Kombat krew should be fighting foes against whom their graphic techniques are more welcome, like the cast of Berserk or Fist of the North Star. Or, I dunno, horror movie villains. Maybe give that Kratos guy a spot on the Sony version.
Also I’d like to say the Silver Age is my favorite era of DC comics because of how ridiculous it is. I like the Superman who comes up with incredibly convoluted and batshit crazy schemes to protect the world’s most obvious and pointless secret identity way more than the modern angry one from the desaturated movies.
He’s still an asshole, but at least he’s a fun asshole.
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