Mortal Kombat Special Forces nuked the Mortal Kombat franchise. This fact was not lost on the producers of the next MK game to come down the pike, Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance. While Jax and Sonya were always going to be iconic heroes in the franchise, the villains of the piece, Kano and the Black Dragons, needed to be punished (why is Kano smiling?). Someone had to pay the price for leading that trash, and it may as well be the gang that was already a bunch of losers.
And if there’s one thing Mavado is good at, it’s punishing losers.
To explain Mavado (original design name: Malvado Q. Badguy), we have to look at the two crime syndicates of the MK universe: the Red Dragons and the Black Dragons. The Red Dragons were started thousands of years ago by a wayward immortal godling that was starting his incredibly convoluted plan to eventually take over the universe(s) and show his brother that mom loved him best. That dork gets an entire game to himself, so we’ll cover that nonsense later, but for now just know that the Red Dragons have been around for a long, long time (and there was an actual dragon involved). And in that time, they earned a reputation of… not having a reputation. In a move that shows just how stealthy and professional they are (and is not at all a complete asspull used to explain why no one had ever heard of these dudes before MK: Deadly Alliance), the Red Dragons operate in complete shadow and subterfuge, so even entire organizations tasked with their eradication don’t know for certain that they exist. They are ghosts, and not big silly braggarts like all those ninja clans running around. Red Dragons are the real deal, and they’re so much better than any Black Dragons you may have heard about.
In fact, the Black Dragons used to be Red Dragons, but the two clans split sometime around the early 1900s (and MK lore actually claims this was thanks to real-life dude Morihei Ueshiba, who threw in with a [real] Japanese nationalistic political party… the Black Dragons). There isn’t much of an explanation for the split, but the official word is that the Red Dragons wanted to remain secret and elusive, while the Black Dragon faction wanted to be out and proud. So, basically, it was a managerial disagreement over the marketing department. It happens. Whatever the case, a hundred years later, Kano wound up leader of the Black Dragons, and Mavado was the leader of the Red Dragons. They had apparently maintained an uneasy truce up until around the time of the first Mortal Kombat when Kano kind of disrupted the alliance when… Okay, I’m not going to get into details, but long story short, Kano had this overweight St. Bernard, loaded it up with hotdogs and laxatives, and then invited the puppers to the Red Dragon HQ. It was unpleasant for everybody, and Mavado never forgave the wannabe cyborg for the transgression (and the fact that they had to buy a whole new couch, and Mavado really liked that couch). Mavado vowed to kill every last Black Dragon.
And, ya know what? He didn’t have to try very hard at that. Turns out Mortal Kombat tournaments and Kano’s piss poor management style (uh, he literally pisses on poor subordinates) had whittled down the Black Dragon ranks to a mere two members. Actually, it was just one member, as MK3’s Kabal had officially left the organization of his own accord. This didn’t matter to Mavado, though, as he killed Kabal anyway, and took his signature hookswords as a prize. This left Kano as the only surviving Black Dragon member (/leader/treasurer/janitor), and Mavado decided to step out of the shadows to end the Black Dragons once and for all. Mavado struck up an alliance with Shang Tsung to kill Kenshi in exchange for Kano’s whereabouts (and, spoilers, Kano was also on Shang’s payroll).
So Mavado joined the fray for Deadly Alliance. As befitting a debonair and elusive criminal, Mavado attacked primarily with… slinkies. They’re fun for a girl or a boy! Okay, technically he’s supposed to have some kind of “grappling hook” thing going on for his signature moves, which is supposed to be evocative of cat burglars and alike. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite come across in his moves or animations, and what we have here is less Batman’s trusty grapple, and more like Dampé’s stretching, shrinking keepsake. Mavado, complete with black trench coat and most-competent thief ever backstory, seems like he was conceived to be the coolest cat in the franchise (after they ditched the whole “matador” angle that appeared in some design documents), but failed at the finish line when all his best moves were more appropriate for Clayfighter.
So Mavado didn’t survive Deadly Alliance. He was successful in nearly killing Kenshi (at least wounding him to the point that he wouldn’t decapitate Shang Tsung this week), and the Deadly Alliance was true to their word, and handed over Kano. Mavado escorted Kano to his natural habitat (a dungeon), and then… died. Mavaod’s previous prey, Kabal, was revived by a random chaos cleric (is there any other kind?), and extracted a revenge on Mavado that was so complete, Mavado’s corpse appeared as part of Kabal’s bio screen. That really should have been the end of Mavado, but he did return for MK: Armageddon, as literally everyone returned for that game. There, he died again, for the final time.
Mavado hasn’t been seen since in MK proper, but he did appear in the MKX comics. He’s still got a major mad-on for Kano and all Black Dragons, and he largely sneaks around the borders of the story as a tricky, scheming criminal. And then he makes his appearance known to the heroes… and Cassie Cage bisects him with his own hookswords. Hey! Guess he still had one more death left in him!
While we’re talking about Black Dragons, we may as well cover Hsu Hao. Hsu Hao is one of Mavado’s subordinates, and the man tasked with infiltrating Jax’s Special Forces, and pointing any investigations away from Red Dragons, and squarely onto Black Dragons. So far, so good, right? Pretty typical story here: the mole. The viper in the garden. The criminal that is so good at infiltration and deception that he has successfully tricked the forces of good into believing that….
Wait a tick.
I’m sorry, it’s this guy?
Holy crap, Jax. You guys trusted a bloke with a glowing weakpoint on his chest? I mean, dude, I don’t want to sound racist or anything, but don’t do that. You hire a jackass with a shining, red cybernetic on his chest, and you’ve clearly hired a boss monster. And you know what boss monsters do? They fight you! They blow up your base! Who the hell is in charge of hiring at Special Forces?
Whatever. Hsu Hao, possibly because he was the worst double-agent ever, possibly because of his lame "wrestling" fighting style, or possibly because his design was kind of vaguely racist from the get-go (is he seriously yellow?), is one of the most hated and ignored kharacters in the franchise. John Vogel, half of the Johns that developed the first Mortal Kombat, almost pulled a Poochy by stating during MK: Deception’s development that Jax killed Hsu Hao, and that’s kanon, and he’s never coming back. He, of course, did return for MK: Armageddon, but he has literally no plot, and he’s theoretically only there for completion’s sake.
Hsu Hao did resurface in the Mortal Kombat X comic. He got in a pretty good sneak attack on Kenshi, and was then immediately speared in the weakpoint by Scorpion. Dude never had a chance. His corpse cameos in Mortal Kombat 11 as a head in a bag.
And, give or take the previously mentioned founder of the Red Dragons that is introduced in MK:A, Hsu Hao is the only other named member of the Red Dragons in the franchise. Way to establish that team of champions, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance! Let’s just stick to ninja next time.
Next time: Bloodsuckers and boogey men