Mortal Kombat
Kung Lao and Liu Kang

A couple weeks ago, I reviewed Baraka and Sub-Zero from the Mortal Kombat series by Jazwares.  I was not pleased.

However, Jazwares feels pretty strongly that they've noted the issues with the first release, and are trying hard to correct any issues within their price range.  They were nice enough to send along the two pack of Liu Kang and Kung Lao for me to check out, confident that many of the problems were on the mend.

Nobody is perfect, but only the smartest companies are actually willing to accept that there might be issues and then work to correct them, rather than blame everyone else, or better yet, imply that their own customers are clueless.  It's great to see Jazwares making this kind of move to correct problems, but they are also trying to stay within a particular price point.  Can they pull it off?  Well, let's check out this pair and see!

The first series of four figures was based off the game Decepticon, but this next series is based on Shaolin Monks.  Actually, a helpful reader pointed out that this particular two pack was only available to you if you bought the game, and isn't a general release.  However, both these figures will come in the next series.

Packaging -  **1/2
The packaging remains pretty much as unspectacular as before, but this isn't going to count much, since they going for the lower range for their suggested retail.  If you have to cut corners someplace, better to do it with the package than the figure.

Sculpting - ***
The sculpts are a real improvement over series 1, especially in the face and head work.  The detail is much cleaner, and these don't have that soft dollar store look any longer.  The material seems to be a better plastic as well, much harder, and with more heft.

Scale might still bug you, but it's not surprising that these are the same size as the first set, and slightly out of scale with SOTA's Street Fighter stuff.

The body work is also well done, especially in the folds and wrinkles of the clothes.  Scale between the characters is pretty consistent, and the hand sculpts are designed to come together for a proper bow, with one fisted and one in a knife pose.

Paint - ***
Again, there's real improvement here.  The masking is done much better, especially around the eyes and hair, but also with the colors of the uniforms.

The small detail work is quite clean, and the more expansive colors are smooth and consistent.  A little variation in the finish on some of the colors would make them a little less toy-like, but isn't a major issue at this lower price point.

Articulation - **1/2
The articulation is similar to the first series, but some of the QA issues seem to have been addressed.

They don't have ball jointed necks, which really would have been nice in a fighting figure, but they do have good ball jointed shoulders.  Actually, the neck joint is probably a ball up under there, but the range of movement is almost non-existent in any direction but right and left.

They also have waist, pin elbows, wrist, cut ankles, and ball jointed hips.  Kang has double jointed knees, while Liu has more basic pin knees.

The double jointed knees on Kang don't have as much outward bend as the first series, and work much better.  Both sets of hips are 'clicky', with positions rather than free movement.  That means they stay tighter and can hold single leg poses better, but some folks prefer the smooth moving joints.

The range of movement on the hips is also slightly restricted, but Jazwares tells me they are already looking to correct that for the final production run, and that would boost this score another half point to three stars.  The articulation is sturdy, and these would work great for kids.

You'll also notice that they dumped the double jointed elbows for single pins.  While those joints on the first series allowed for a slightly greater range of movement, they were downright ugly, and more prone to break.  I think it was a smart move dumping them, and these look far better while working almost as well.

Accessories - Kang **; Liu Bupkis
Unfortunately, this is where this series takes a hit over the previous series.

Neither figure comes with a display base, unlike the first series.  That's too bad, since that means fewer funky poses.  They stand great on their own, but a stand would have made more of those gravity defying poses possible.

Liu hasn't got anything with him, but Kang does have his trademark hat.  He can wear it back on his head, or right on top, or tilted in just about any fashion.  It also has the rubber string for his chin, but I opted to leave it in back out of the way, rather than risk breaking it.

The lack of accessories is probably due to this being a special incentive pack, and I'm assuming these figures will have something with them come general release time.

Fun Factor - ***1/2
These are closer to the kind of fun you'd expect out of this line.  The joints are better and more sturdy, the sculpts and paint ops in line with a mass market release, and kids will enjoy them quite a bit.

Value - **1/2
Okay, now this is actually a bit hard to judge, since I'm not positive what final retail on these will be.  I didn't find them at any online stores for pre-order, so I'm guessing they'll come in around $10 - $12 tops for the two packs.  I'm going to assume that you'll be able to get the second series of figures in the $6 - $8 each range, which is decent, but not great.  Get these at $6 or lower, and now you're talking.

Things to watch out for - 
Make sure you get the best paint possible - other than that, I found very few issues.

Overall -  ***
This series appears to be a real improvement over the first series, especially in paint and sculpt quality.  The better plastic makes everything work out nicer, even the articulation, and the price point is now about right for the quality and design of the figures.

Jazwares is listening and paying attention, and then implementing the changes they can while maintaining a reasonable price.  That's unusual in the current market, and they should be commended for it.  These figures aren't perfect (and are really borderline between **1/2 and ***), but they are a big step up.

Packaging - **1/2
Sculpt - ***
Paint - ***
Articulation - **1/2
Accessories - Kang **; Liu Bupkis
Fun Factor - ***1/2
Value - **1/2
Overall -  ***

Where to Buy -
These may show up at some brick and mortar retailers (Big Lots actually has some of the first series), and you have some online options as well:

- Killer Toys has series one figures for $8 each, or $30 for the set of four, but don't have these listed yet.

- CornerStoreComics has Raiden and Scorpion still in stock for $8 each, but don't have these listed yet.

- has the first four for $7 each, but doesn't have these listed either.

- Amazing Toyz has some of the limited edition variants still in stock.

Related Links -
I beat up Sub-Zero and Baraka, while Sean Teeter hit Raiden and Scorpion pretty hard.  Thankfully, this new series looks quite a bit better all around.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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