Trapped between the machinations of the G Corporation and the Mishima Zaibatsu, Jin Kazama and some of the best fighters in the world gather together to prevent the worst from happening in Titan’s take on Namco Bandai’s arcade classic.
Writer: Cavan Scott
Artist: Andie Tong
Publisher: Titan Comics
Over the past two decades or so, the video game industry has come to understand that graphics, action and puzzle solving aren’t enough to hook modern gamers, and that story is an essential part of the experience. Yet despite the ornate and expansive sagas that come from RPGs like the Final Fantasy series or sci-fi shooters like Mass Effect, there are few genres with more circuitous storylines than fighting games. Indeed, the three major fighting series (Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter and the focus of this review, Tekken) have crazy backstories that try to justify why these ninjas, demons and occasionally demon ninjas are coming together all the time to punch each other in the face.
Around the fifth installment of the series, Tekken started to include a more cinematic story mode that tried to explain some of the background detail that only the nerdiest of gamers really understood going into these games. In it, we learn that frequent series protagonists/antagonists the Mishima family are at war with one another for control of the evil global conglomerate Mishima Zaibatsu, currently helmed by clan patriarch Heihachi. Heihachi’s son and chief rival Kazuya, whom the former dumped into an active volcano at the end of the second game, heads the similarly evil G Corporation, and his son Jin Kazama has variously been ally and enemy to both his father and grandfather. As for the rest of the series’ 70 characters…. Eh it doesn’t really matter.
Anyway, the new comic series from Titan comes after the end of 2007’s Tekken 6, with Jin searching for a way to rid the world of the devil gene that has driven he and his father insane. To that end, he has brought together a collection of the series’ best fighters to help track down a mysterious artifact that could bring about some untold calamity if his father or grandfather were to get their hands on it. It’s a somewhat clumsy means to bring together several characters from the series into one story, the sort of move often reserved for Saturday morning cartoon series. In fact, it’s essentially exactly what happened in the Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter cartoon series that briefly aired on the USA Network in the 90s. Brought together by one macguffin or another, a ragtag group of good guy characters face off with a team of bad guy characters in big schmoz fights that will ultimately end up when the main good guy punches the main bad guy in the face. It’s pretty basic stuff.
Now, that sort of general conceit doesn’t speak too highly about the direction of the story, but it is essentially all of the storyline development we get in the book. Sure, we see both Jin and Kazuya deal with the lingering devil gene, and get a peek at the public opinion on Heihachi, but the rest of the characters’ development is relegated to a few brief synopses when they first appear. All we know about Nina and Anna is that they’re sisters, we learn King’s a wrestler in a mask and that Panda doesn’t like to be called ‘bear’ for some reason. Admittedly it would be difficult to introduce such a large cast in a single issue, which is why most series based on these games pick only one or two characters to focus on.
So with a weak story and no character development it’s up to the action and artwork to make this book work, and to be fair, it mostly succeeds. Though a touch on the sketchy side, Andie Tong’s pencils are great. Not only does he capture each character’s own unique appearance (even toning down Paul Phoenix’s ridiculous Colonel Guile-like flat top to a more realistic height), his action sequences are fluid and reasonably well choreographed. Sure, it’s a little strange that the G Corps soldiers only fire their guns at Xiaoyu, the one target that they’re told not to harm, but I chalk that up more to scripting than artistic license. Speaking of which, I really wish that they would allow the art team to re-imagine the look of Yoshimitsu (his design for the forthcoming Tekken 7 looks like an awful mix of the Predator and Bib Fortuna), but it’s hardly Tong’s fault.
It’s hard to tell if this series will be a canonical tie-in with the game series (though that is unlikely), which means it’s difficult to gauge where the story will likely go. The artwork is the saving grace of this first issue, so hopefully the writing can catch up. I don’t have lofty aspirations for the writing of a video game companion series, but there’s always the hope that this could be a coherent and driven book that makes you look forward to more than the storyboarded fights I’d rather be having in the actual game rather than a poor companion piece that adds nothing to the story.