Mortal Kombat
Baraka and Sub-Zero

You might think that Mortal Kombat was just a rip off of Street Fighter, if you weren't properly informed. Since Mortal Kombat came after Street Fighter, in an attempt by Midway to cash in on the success that Capcom was having, it would be easy to think that. But while the first of any genre can be ground breaking, the second can take a good idea and find innovative ways to make it better. Such was the case with Mortal Kombat.

While it mimicked the style and play of Street Fighter, MK added many new features. The most crucial of these changes and improvements was the fatalities - each character had an finishing move that could be used against a beaten opponent to kill them, the more gruesome the better.

I bet you couldn't have guessed, but ripping the heart out of your opponent as they lay crushed before you was not smiled upon by the self appointed experts of the day. There was much gnashing of teeth and wailing of voices, but the game was a massive hit, and spawned a couple movies. And while it might be debatable as to which game was better, there's no doubt that the first MK movie was better - perhaps just because it DIDN'T have Jean Claude Van Damme.

Jazwares has picked up the license to do MK figures, and have released the first wave. This wave includes Sub-Zero, Baraka, Raiden, and Scorpion. I'm reviewing Subbie and Baraka tonight, courtesy of CornerStoreComics. There are actually two versions out there, and the ones I have here are considered 'deluxe', including extra accessories. There is also a basic version with one or two fewer accessories that you can find at stores like Big Lots.

Packaging -  **1/2
Nothing awful here, but nothing life altering. The logo is prominent on the card back, and the accessories and figure are easy to see, but the die cut card is likely to get pretty torn up on the peg.

Sculpting - **
It's worth noting that if these don't appear to be the Baraka and Sub-Zero you remember, there's a good reason for that - these are the updated designs for the newer game, Deception, released a year or so ago.

I have a hunch that there's some great sculpts lurking here, hidden in the background. It looks like there was probably a lot of nice small detail work in the faces and armor, at least in the initial work. But it also looks like things were cheapened up by using low quality materials, cost cutting manufacturing, and sloppy assembly.

The soft plastic makes these feel very much like dollar store figures. The assembly of the legs is bad on both, causing the lower limbs to stick out at odd angles. The cheap plastic means the overall appearance of the sculpt suffers, with soft detail and features. That is most apparent in the head sculpts, where it looks like they started out with lots of detail, but the rubbery material doesn't take the detail well even if it was present in the mold.

Scale will bug you as well, at least if your a SF collector. These are in a 6" scale, coming in shorter than SOTA's line.

Paint - **
Great paint ops can make a weak sculpt better - poor paint ops can ruin the best sculpt. I've said that for a decade now. But what about poor ops on a weak sculpt? Unfortunately, bad on bad is an additive sort of thing, the sum of the parts making the whole that much worse.

There's some good here, most notably the decorations on the armor. But there's also a lot of bad, including the sloppy silver, especially on the chain mail; the overly dark wash on Subbie's blue tunic; the haphazard work on Baraka's teeth; and the overall cheap appearance of the paint application. Once again, these really look like one step up from Hong Kong knock offs, and I was shocked at the poor quality, considering how well Jazwares does with some of their other licenses.

Articulation - **1/2
There's actually a nice amount of articulation here, but that cheap plastic comes back to haunt them again.

Both figures have ball jointed necks, and you know I love those. They also have ball jointed shoulders and hips, double jointed elbows and knees, waist and wrists. In fact, that's damn good articulation, especially if you look at it purely from the number of points and type of joints.

However, the cheap plastic means that many are very weak, especially the knees and elbows. The pins are soft, and tearing the joints would be pretty easy. The figures can stand on their own if you keep their legs straight, but you'll have to use the included stands for any fighting stances.

Some of the joints are rather ugly as well, or at least uglier than the industry standard. For example, the double jointed elbows are becoming more common on figures in the 6" - 8" scale, but here they really look bad, with the disc connecting the upper and lower arm much larger than most other figures in the same scale.

The articulation is better here than what we've seen with some other Jazware products, and had they not gone with the poorer quality materials, would have done much better.

Accessories - Sub-Zero ***; Baraka **1/2
Both figures come with several accessories that match up with their character. Each starts out with a display stand, which will come in very handy for any poses that require the legs apart or in the air.

Baraka comes with two sets of blades that attach to his forearm, one set longer than the other. They attach fine, and stay put, but suffer the same sloppy paint ops with the silver paint as the rest of the figure.

Sub-Zero has a ice blast that covers one fist, although I never could get it to fit quite right. He also has a second right hand, designed to hold the included ice sword, and the hands pop on and off easily enough.

The sword is the best of the accessories, made from a fairly sturdy plastic and with a deadly appearance. It fits well in the extra hand, and looks great.

Fun Factor - **1/2
These could have been tons of fun, but the soft material and cheap appearance are likely to put most kids off. The joints are also not up to serious play, and broken limbs are pretty likely.

Value - *1/2
I'm going to assume you pay $8 - $10 for these, which is the common price. And if you do, you're wallet won't be happy. You can find Baraka at Big Lots for around $6 with only one set of the blades, and I'd go that route if you really have to have him. Unfortunately, I believe the Sub-Zero that Big Lots has is missing the sword, which is the coolest accessory of the bunch.

EDIT - my bad. Actually, the Big Lots version of Subbie does have the sword, but no ice ball. They also don't have the display stands. 

Things to watch out for - 
If you're grabbing these off the shelf, you're going to do your best to pick good paint apps of course, but also watch for the wonky joints. Any leg or arm that's at an odd angle probably spells trouble.

Overall -  **
I feel bad for some of the folks involved with this line. I have a very strong suspicion that the sculpts on these figures were much better before they hit the manufacturing process, but cheaped down to the point where the quality was lost. That's got to be heartbreaking for a sculptor or designer, but can be the reality of the gig.

While I loved Street Fighter, I always thought that several of the character designs in MK were just so much cooler. Characters like Baraka should make such excellent figures that it's even more disappointing to see them end up this way. This is a license with a tremendous amount of potential considering the number of different characters, the dynamic nature of the game, and some of the cool accessory possibilities. That's all the more reason why this first offering is so disappointing.

There will be some folks that say these aren't that bad. I suppose if we didn't have SOTA's Street Fighter figures, or any of the amazing work from Mcfarlane, NECA, Palisades and others to compare it to, it wouldn't be that bad. But considering the overall quality of action figures on the market today, these fall way short.

I also feel bad for CornerStoreComics who sent these over hoping to drum up some sales. I suspect this review won't do that, but how's about you head over and buy some Street Fighter figures instead?

Packaging - **1/2
Sculpt - **
Paint - **
Articulation - **1/2
Accessories - Sub-Zero ***; Baraka **1/2
Fun Factor - **1/2
Value - *1/2
Overall -  **

Where to Buy -
I received these in the mail from CornerStoreComics, where you can find the Baraka for $8 and the Sub-Zero for $9.

Related Links - 
If you're looking for action figures based on fighting games, and find these disappointing, then check out the fantastic work from SOTA on the Street Fighter line. Here's some reviews:

- here's a review of Street Fighter series 1 and series 2.

- one thing about the SF line - there's a ton of variants. Here's my review of the variant blue Blanka, the USA Guile and Cannon Spike Cammy, and a guest review of the GITD Blanka.

- and it all kicked off with the SDCC two pack of Evil Ryu and Psycho Bison.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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