As much as I love fighting games and their storylines, just about all of them run into one major problem: if the series goes on long enough, the writers will run out of ideas and just pull off the same story over and over again with slight variation. King of Fighters reached this point after their ’97 incarnation. Mortal Kombat got there in its third game, though they were original enough in their ideas that it didn’t get too stagnant until several games later. Street Fighter went on for a while without this, up until Street Fighter 4. Soul Calibur is probably the worst offender, as despite five games, they’ve yet to come up with a story other than “guys fight each other in search of sword that just won’t die.”
Tekken, which is by the same company as Soul Calibur, is also a pretty bad offender. On one hand, the later the game, the more personality we get out of the characters. On the other hand, almost all the characters are window dressing to the never-ending infighting between the Mishima family members, who are all a bunch of assholes.
See, you have Heihachi Mishima, who is an asshole. He’s opposed by his son Kazuya Mishima, who we discover at the end of the first game to also be an asshole. Then in the third game, we get Kazuya’s son Jin Kazama, who seems like an all right guy for a while, only to succumb to being an asshole by the end of Tekken 5. Tekken 5 also introduces Heihachi’s powerful father Jinpachi Mishima, who is a pretty sweet guy, only he’s possessed by a power that’s forcing him to be an asshole.
Insert your Spaceballs joke right here.
Let’s go back to the simpler days, when the rivalry was no more than Kazuya vs. Heihachi. Tekken 3 was just being released, leading to the most popular era for the Tekken franchise. To tie in with this, the comic company Knightstone put together an attempt to retell the story of the first few games with Tekken Saga.
What’s with Kazuya? It’s like he’s spooked by Law’s ability to completely ignore getting hit in the skull with lightning. Or maybe he’s weirded out by Paul Phoenix’s hair.
Tekken Saga #1 came out in October, 1997. John Kim was the writer with Walter McDaniel an art. It begins years before Tekken 1, where Heihachi holds a meeting with his top underlings at the Mishima Zaibatsu (which in the comic is spelled “Zabitsu”). Conveniently, all three of his businessman flunkies turn out to be fathers of Tekken series mainstays: E. David Gordo, Bernard Chang and James King.
Heihachi is on the search for a series of “toshin stones”, which would give him great power. King and Gordo promise him that they’re close to finding them, but Chang can’t bring himself to go through with it.
Hooboy. Now you see what I have to work with here. We have awful lettering, an overuse of ugly, styled text to illustrate how loud the characters are yelling, and that dialogue. If he said, “In a match… to the death!” it would sound good enough, but try to imagine someone saying, “In a match to the… death!” without it sounding completely cheesy.
And what’s up with that overlapping question mark bubble car wreck on that bottom panel?
The fight is a very fast one. Bernard Chang runs at Heihachi with an uppercut while screaming, “DIE HEIHACHI!!!” with big red and orange bubble letters, only for Heihachi to grab him and put him in a headlock. Then he powerbombs him, ending his life.
You’d think it would be silly that a martial artist could be killed so easily by something as simple as a powerbomb, but that’s only if you ignore all the Kirby Dots exploding out of his body. Heihachi must have the Power Cosmic. Jesus, it’s a wonder how his corpse is still in one piece.
Heihachi tells his men to leave and get back to work, which finishes off one hell of a meeting. He could have just saved time and done a conference call.
Years pass. An accident has claimed the life of James King and his wife, orphaning their son. Heihachi and his son Kazuya venture to Mexico to watch over the search for the toshin stones. After chewing out one of his employees, Heihachi leads Kazuya to the top of a summit so they can train and spar. Kazuya seems pretty sure of himself that he can best Heihachi. The two trade blows back and forth.
Yes, Heihachi. To lose to someone means that you would lose. That’s how words work. And why is your fist thinking in that panel?
Personally, I don’t know which part I love more: the RIPSPLISTS!!! sound effect or Kazuya’s exclamation of, “AH$HITTT!” That’s such a bad use of censorship that I can’t help but remain in awe.
The next panel has a completely unnecessary narration box pointing out that this is “seconds later…” Thanks for that.
“Why? Why did you use such a deadly attack, in a training session?”
“Because!… I chose to.”
“WHAT!!! You old bastard! You’ve scarred me for life because… ‘you chose to’! FINE! Then I ‘choose’ to make you… BURN IN HELL… H-E-I-H-A-C-H-I!!!”
Kazuya misses his attack and falls off the ledge. You might have had a better chance if you didn’t spend your energy spelling your dad’s name out loud.
Heihachi doesn’t seem to care about what happened to Kazuya. He has his people do a sweep for his body, but they find nothing. Heihachi figures his son is dead anyway and goes back to Japan. Kazuya is, of course, not dead. His body washed up near a Mexican village, where he’s taken in and cared for by Bernard Chang’s wife Julia and daughter Michelle. He remains in critical condition for weeks, but Michelle gets the idea of using one of the toshin stones to help.
Kazuya awakens sometime after and after hearing an explanation of how he’s alive, he attacks the Changs, steals the toshin stone and races off more powerful. I know we’re supposed to despise Kazuya for this betrayal and all that, but I can’t. Why? This panel.
Christ. I want to see Heihachi God Fist that smirk into orbit. Unfortunately, all Kazuya did was shove Julia and snatch away the stone from Michelle. You can tell this because of the sound effects saying, “SHOVE!” and “SNATCH!!” See, his snatching was louder than his shoving.
Now we go to the present, where we meet our other characters. Bruce Lee archetype Marshall Law is a waiter at a Los Angeles restaurant with intent on saving up enough to start his own restaurant. He accidentally spills a pitcher Kool-Aid onto patron Paul Phoenix, who doesn’t take it well. He refuses Law’s apology and punches him through the window.
You know what, I’m going to post the dialogue for the hell of it. Enjoy.
“I am so sorry, mister. I guess… my mind was someplace else.”
“SORRY?! Not as sorry as you’re gonna be, boy. Because nobody @#*% with… PAUL PHOENIX! Oh! By the way, allow me… to send your body… where your mind is. Someplace… ELSE!”
Law seems completely okay with being launched through a window by a literally explosive punch and removes his shirt to fight back. Law wants to put an end to the fight, but Paul refuses. They’ll just postpone it for the upcoming Iron Fist tournament.
Eh. That’s an okay way to quit your job, I guess. Not as good as Randy the Ram from the Wrestler or Scarface from Half-Baked, but it’ll do.
In Ireland, the two feuding assassin sisters Nina and Anna Williams are forced to work together to enter the tournament and put an end to Heihachi’s rise to power. The masked wrestler King prays to God for forgiveness for entering the Iron Fist tournament, as it’s the only way he can come up with to earn money and save his orphanage. Jun Kazama – a representative from a wildlife protection agency – works together with Chinese action cop (and Jackie Chan archetype) Lei Wulong, which is also how things go down in the Tekken anime movie. Little do they know that their discussion about taking down Heihachi is overheard by Heihachi’s new head of security Bruce Irvin. Michelle Chang discovers that her father was killed by Heihachi and enters the tournament out of revenge. Then Lee Chaolan, who Heihachi adopted shortly after Kazuya’s supposed death, shows Heihachi spy photos of Kazuya alive. Heihachi refuses to believe it to be true.
The next day, Kazuya trains in a forest in Japan. By kicking down trees, he gains the ire of the Manji ninja clan. When one of them gets in his face, Kazuya reacts in civilized fashion.
Whoa! He hit him so hard that the guy yelled “Cheezy!” in reverse! How do you do that?!
Kazuya fights off the clan by using the supervillain “ENOUGH!” attack. You know what I’m talking about. If you have a team of heroes and one villain, the heroes will mob the villain and pound on him from all sides. Then all he has to do is put his arms to the side and scream “ENOUGH!” and everyone goes flying off in different directions. It’s the villain equivalent of the superhero “THIS ENDS NOW!”
The Manji leader Yoshimitsu pops in to challenge Kazuya. After a little back and forth fighting, Kazuya is able to knock the sword from Yoshimitsu’s hand. Yoshi reaches for the sword, only ot have it snatched away by his rival Kunimistu.
Pay close attention to the bottom right. “To be continued next issue… on sale next month.”
After a comic book depiction of the Tekken 2 videogame cover, we’re shown an editorial by a guy named Stone Smasher. It starts with the claim that originally the comic was going to be double-sized and $3.95, but then they decided to lower the price to $2.95 and reduce the page count. Hey, thanks for telling us that you fucked us over in terms of savings!
Then he brings up that the series is going to be 8-issues long. The final page shows a pixilated version of the cover for the next month’s Tekken Saga #2.
Well. Here’s the thing. There is no Tekken Saga #2. At least, not under that name. Nor was it a mere month later. Rather, Knightstone released Tekken 2 #1, which came out September, 1998. That’s right, a full eleven months after Tekken Saga #1.
Sadly, the Knightstone website listed there is no longer available. Now it’s a site for housing in the UK.
Tekken 2 #1 starts where Tekken Saga #1 left off. I have a hard time understanding why there was such a long stretch between issues. Now don’t get me wrong, I think the comics are horrible, but what was keeping them tied up? The writing, if you can call it that? The mediocre art? What? This was the time when Tekken 3 was rocking through the arcades and was on its way to the Playstation, which was kicking the Nintendo 64’s ass. Bad as the comic is, it would have still sold issues on name recognition alone. That’s how Jeph Loeb comics work.
We start off with Kunimitsu no longer holding Yoshimitsu’s sword. Instead, she has her dagger out. The android Jack is ordered to fight Kazuya, who really doesn’t have time for this shit.
Look at that first panel. Notice the big, green blur. This could mean one of two things. Either the artist is incredibly lazy or they had to censor a robot having his chest exploded due to being impaled by an uppercut. Either way, I shake my head.
Yoshimitsu defeats Kunimitsu despite his lack of left hand and sword. One of Kunimitsu’s clan members jumps in, grabs the unconscious body and runs off. Moments later, Kazuya asks Dr. Boskonovitch about the Jack robot. The scientist explains that it’s a prototype android, which interests Kazuya. He tells Boskonovitch that once he finishes the real deal, Kazuya will track him down and use the android for his own purposes.
Elsewhere, Paul and Law ride around on Paul’s motorcycle some more until reaching a seedy nightclub. Paul muscles his way in and notices how Law doesn’t seem to care about the club. Paul suggests that Law might be gay, until Law reminds him that he’s married. Paul sees Nina Williams in the club and hits on her. Her response is to throw him over the bar, which causes a lot of people to laugh at Paul and his eraser haircut. He starts to snap and goes to Hank Pym her right in the face, but stops himself and says that she’s not worth it. He boasts about how he’s going to win the Iron Fist tournament and storms off.
After he’s gone, Nina smiles and says, “I’ll see you there, Paul Phoenix.”
The next three pages are pretty embarrassing. You see, the Tekken mainstays aren’t simply put in the tournament. They have to qualify. And by qualify, I mean they spend three pages beating up thinly-veiled knockoffs of characters from other fighting games.
First up we have Guile, Ryu, Sub-Zero and Vega. Vega seems to have Wolverine claws coming out of his flesh and the discoloration in Ryu’s hand leads me to believe that amputation is going to be necessary. Sorry, Ryu.
That panel of King fighting Fake Terry Bogard is the worst. It’s like they figured that few people would get it’s Terry, so they beat it into the ground with that dialogue. Then we have Chun-Li, E. Honda, Sagat and Ken Masters.
You know, guys, the gag doesn’t work when you obscure the opponent to the point that you can’t tell who he’s supposed to be. Though we can see Johnny Cage and his $500 sunglasses.
At least they’re having a tournament. For some reason, that’s an absolute rarity in comic books about fighting games. Granted, Street Fighter II Turbo is finally getting around to it, but other series just let it devolve into Team Good vs. Team Evil.
Due to space constraints, the tournament fights are mostly pretty quick, often going no further than one attack before it’s all over. Kazuya punches down Roger the kangaroo out of disgust. Then he turns to Heihachi and says, “You are next… old man.” Um, no he isn’t. He’s the defending champion. You have to understand how a tournament works, dude.
King wrestles with Ganryu, who dominates the masked man until King gets his second wind and Tombstone piledrives the sumo into the floor. Paul Phoenix downs Kuma with one punch to the gut. Nina Williams punches out Wing Jin Rei for staring at her rack, though he admits in a thought bubble that he threw the fight since the person he’s searching for is not a contestant. Similarly, Anna Williams dodges Michelle Chang’s attacks and simply walks off, as the fight isn’t worth her time. Lee cheats his way to victory by spraying Law in the eyes with mace.
Backstage, as the second round of the tournament gets ready to begin, we see Nina sneaking around. We see two guards, who discuss how one guy is a whipped family man. Nina ends up killing them both, which is a weak attempt to get us to hate her, I guess. Nina sneaks into Heihachi’s office to assassinate him, only to find it’s empty. Anna sneaks up and shoots her in the back, showing it was all a setup.
That keeps Nina out of the tournament, but she’s not the only one unable to compete.
It looks like a celebrity endorsement commercial gone wrong.
With Nina and King out of the way, that turns the semis into Paul vs. Lee and Kazuya vs. Michelle.
Paul vs. Lee gets us a full two pages, making it the longest fight yet. Paul gets the upper-hand towards the end, angry that Lee cheated to beat Law. As he heaves Lee out of the ring, he’s suddenly hit in the arm with a tranq dart. From the shadows, we see that it was launched from a mysterious onlooker. Though the art is hard to decipher, it appears to be Armor King.
That makes Kazuya vs. Michelle the finals, with the winner earning a match against Heihachi for control of the Mishima Zaibatsu. Jesus. If I paid money for tickets to this tournament, I’d feel gypped. Thanks to two no-shows and a double knockout, we’re left with a round two finals made up of a man who beat up a kangaroo and a girl whose opponent let her win by forfeit due to disgust. Truly they are the world’s greatest martial artists!
The outcome is pretty obvious. Despite Michelle’s drive for revenge, Kazuya grabs her by the wrist and electrocutes her with his inner energies. The only reason he doesn’t kill her is because he feels a presence in the crowd holding his murderous chi back. That turns out to be his eventual romantic interest Jun Kazama.
Heihachi decides that perhaps one cannot fight his own destiny after all. He instructs Anna that although he will fight Kazuya, he will do it the next day at a different location.
Kazuya and Heihachi meet up on a mountaintop. Though a bit dark and without any backgrounds, the three-page fight sequence does look pretty nice. Kazuya counters Heihachi’s killing blow with an uppercut, knocking the old man out.
Following that, we have a comic book recreation of Kazuya’s ending from Tekken 1, only with dialogue and misused word bubbles.
What an odd thing for an unconscious Heihachi to say.
Kazuya Mishima is pretty amazing due to moments like this. Every one of his endings throughout the Tekken series has him counter being sentimental with being an outright dick. The best of which is from Tekken 5. Having defeated his possessed grandfather Jinpachi, Kazuya runs over to his side and holds him in his arms. The CGI and voice acting are absolutely top notch as Kazuya keeps passionately repeating, “Grandpa…!” A flashback shows a young Kazuya training with Jinpachi during happier times. In the present, Kazuya looks completely concerned for his dying grandfather. Jinpachi sadly looks up at him, only to be totally shocked when Kazuya suddenly decides to shove his fist into his grandfather’s chest. Jinpachi dies and turns to dust as Kazuya looks to the camera and smirks.
Haha! What a dick.
Anyway, the next few pages showcase some neat pinups and a black and white cover for Tekken 2 #2, featuring Anna vs. Nina. Well, that doesn’t happen. The series is cancelled. Again.
Two years later, there would be a new Tekken comic under Image, called Tekken Forever. I already covered that in a past review. The art was exceptionally better, the story was more of a mess, the dialogue was slightly worse and the bad typography remained about as awful.
It’s been brought to my attention that this scene is infinitely better when you imagine Lei Wulong as talking like Nathan Explosion.
Tekken Forever, being as bad as it was, was also cancelled after its first issue. Goddamn, man. Tekken was an absolute force back in the day and I can’t believe that across three different titles, they couldn’t put their act together enough to let their comics breathe for more than one lousy issue.
Before I go, I’d like to ask for a little help from you readers. I had been planning on doing a review of Primal Rage, another fighting game turned comic. I have the first two issues, but jumped to the conclusion that the series was cancelled by that point. Turns out, there was indeed an issue #3 and 4, but damned if I can find a copy. Ebay is no use and some of the top online comic shops aren’t much help either.
So if anyone out there wants to see me wax poetic about demon t-rexes that vomit lava onto ice gorillas, be sure to hand me a little information if you know where I can score those two issues.
- Tekken 6: King of Iron Fists, Online Manga, and Paper Stories
- Fighting Game Comics Round-Up: Featuring Raul Julia, Wolf Hawkfield and Paul Phoenix!
- The Top 15 Best Fighting Game Storylines: Part 2 (10-6)
- The Top 15 Best Fighting Game Storylines: Part 3 (5-1)
- Here’s How You Break Your Thumb Playing Tekken 3