Eyedol Worship: The Killer Instinct C-C-Comic Book

June 17th, 2009 by | Tags:

(Gavok note: This is another old PopCultureShock article I wrote that I figured I’d bring home to 4th Letter. Call it nostalgia from doing the Tekken article.)

Back in the mid-90’s, fighting games were a pretty big thing. Over the span of several years, an untold amount of sequels and forgettable copycats oversaturated the videogame market. Once all of that calmed down – somewhere around the turn of the millennium – only the big names remained: Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Tekken, King of Fighters, Guilty Gear, Virtua Fighter, etc. They continued to have sequels and updates as the others just got thrown to the curb.

And yet, for whatever reason, Killer Instinct fell off the face of the Earth despite its popularity. In the mid-90’s, the first game was huge. It was a huge seller on the SNES and the sequel was one of the first big games for the Nintendo 64. After that, it just died. Rare just kind of forgot it existed and instead made a bunch of games starring talking animals.

But you know what? I still remember Killer Instinct. I remember it enough that when I found out that it had its own comic back in the day, I had to get my hands on it. Scoot over, kids, and I’ll tell you the story of a ninja monk, a killer robot, a disgraced boxer, a secret agent, an animated skeleton, a man made of fire, an alien made of ice, a cyber Native American, a cloned dinosaur, a two-headed Cyclops and the evil organization that brought them all together. Let’s look at the Acclaim-released Killer Instinct comic book.

Each cover uses the rendered style that came with the games. While the style is a bit dated, it still just feels… right. That would get old quick if the interiors were like that, but thankfully they are not. Amazingly, the interior art is excellent throughout the series. They’re done by Bart Sears, Sean Chen, Steven Butler, Dale Eaglesham, Doug Tropea-Wheatley, Scot Eaton and David Boller. What the hell? The comic has seven different pencillers for six issues and somehow it feels totally consistent! That’s weird. There are a handful of different inkers too, so they can’t be to blame. Huh!

There is only one writer, though. Art Holcomb takes the reigns in all six issues of this. What’s interesting is how the series is laid out. The first three issues are a basic retelling of the first Killer Instinct game. The latter three issues are special one-shots that take place afterwards. This came out in the latter half of 1996, around the time the second game was making its way to the arcades.

Killer Instinct takes place in a future where corporations have taken over the governments, including the very corrupt Ultratech. Ultratech is run by a very deranged and nameless chairman who resembles Wilson Fisk. Ultratech entertains the people with its bloodsport tournament known as Killer Instinct. Most of these competitors are part of the tournament due to Ultratech’s crooked ways. Some fighters are their own creations, while some fight in return for answers to their own dilemmas.

The first issue mainly focuses on T.J. Combo, a former boxing champion who became disgraced after it was discovered that he fought with cybernetic enhancements. Now he cleans clocks in the Killer Instinct tournament to regain that lost glory. As we see here, it includes him beating the dinosaur Riptor to death.

Combo acts like he’s fighting legit to the media, but in actuality, the Chairman is constantly amping up Combo’s bionic implants. Combo is always being tended to by a voluptuous female tech, but by stealing items behind the Chairman’s back, we see that there’s more to her than being a simple flunky. Combo annihilates the skeleton warrior Spinal, but the Chairman decides that in the next match, Combo will no longer be allowed to charge up his bionics. Pissed off, Combo sneaks off and gets his cyber fix via a back alley dealer.

Meanwhile, Jago is shown visions of the Combo vs. Spinal fight. Jago is one of the main protagonists of the series, with his origin being that he was an orphan discovered by Tibetan monks as a child. Worshipping a wise Tiger Spirit, Jago has trained to be a great warrior with hopes to conquer his own inner darkness and all that jazz. By the second game it’s revealed that the Tiger Spirit is really just a villain Gargos using Jago to his own ends, but they never get far enough to reveal that here. The Tiger Spirit tells Jago to seek out the Killer Instinct tournament because it needs someone heroic to cleanse its evil.

Combo’s ready for his next big fight, finding out he’s up against Fulgore. Fulgore is the first artificial soldier and a blatant knockoff of the Predator, created by Ultratech for the sake of selling to as many countries as possible. Of course, when one guy in the Ultratech boardroom points out how it’s not such a good idea to put faith and money into a robot that has been shown to ignore and refuse orders, the Chairman just calmly tosses him out the window. So he’s Predator AND Skynet mixed in one. That’s a bargain.

Luckily, Combo is amped up and ready to beat down that…

Oh. Never mind.

While this is going on, we find Combo’s personal tech lady sneaking off to use a stolen key to enter the Chairman’s quarters. Turns out that she’s another one of the game’s main characters, the secret agent Black Orchid. Finding out about the Fulgore project, she knows that this is going to lead to a cliché humans vs. robots war. For whatever reason, she figures that rather than all this covert stuff, she should just enter the tournament and work it out from there. That’ll show them!

The next day, they have the Killer Instinct semi-finals, showing that Art Holcomb doesn’t have much of an idea of how tournaments work. Especially when you consider that Orchid and Jago just joined the thing and there are more than four guys active. Anyway, they focus on Orchid, Jago and Killer Instinct veteran Chief Thunder, which makes sense. These three are the only good guys in the story who aren’t dependant of Ultratech.

Orchid debuts against Thunder. The fight goes back and forth, but after Thunder misses a killing blow, Orchid goes to town on him.

Orchid lets Thunder live and leaves, despite personnel explaining to her that they can’t register the win if she doesn’t finish him off. Jago watches this with great interest and begins to rethink his own reasoning.

Later on, in a brutal and rather pretty fight against the werewolf Sabrewulf, Jago wins and gets ready to decapitate him with his sword. Sabrewulf, long suffering from his own disorder, begs him to get it done. Instead, Jago walks away. From his hospital bed, T.J. Combo watches this, confused. Later on, he confronts Jago about it.

As you can see, this comic desperately needed an editor.

There’s a subplot going on about the Chairman and his obsession with listening to “the voices”. Much like Jago hearing the Tiger Spirit’s voice for most of his life, the Chairman has been listening to another set of voices that have led him to greatness. This has led him to work towards creating a portal generator to Limbo. As the Ultratech employees look on in horror, Eyedol, a large, two-headed monster with a club and goat legs enters our realm. The Chairman welcomes him with open arms and calls him master.

The second issue’s climax shows Orchid vs. Fulgore. Again, a well-drawn fight with cheesy dialogue (like Orchid telling the robot, “DIE IF YOU CAN!”). After destroying Fulgore, Orchid is congratulated by the Chairman, who voids her victory by revealing that he now knows who she is and what she’s been doing. With her snooping around so much, the Chairman believes that he should be doing something to improve security. That segues into him revealing Eyedol to the world.

He reveals to the world that Orchid is a traitor who wants to end the Killer Instinct games. Jago and Thunder are guilty by association, which is like saying that you are associated with the guy who held the door open for you at the bank. Because of Orchid’s “threat” to Ultratech, Eyedol has declared martial law on Ultratech City. This means that a bunch of Fulgores are going around stabbing people for their own protection.

The good guys are to deal with Glacius, another Riptor clone, Spinal and two more Fulgore models. T.J. Combo powers through the crowd and makes his way into the fray, coming to the rescue of Orchid, deciding that he wants to be one of the good guys. Orchid and Jago tear apart the two Fulgores and make their way to the Chairman’s quarters.

Eyedol lectures the Chairman on how lame martial law is. “We have commanded legions of the undead. Fought battle to where bodies of our enemies littered the landscape for as far as our eyes could see. You have merely made your people… inconvenienced. We will soon show you what power is.”

Orchid and Jago bust in. Eyedol recognizes the Tiger Spirit presence that comes with Jago and decides to fight him, while commanding the Chairman to deal with Orchid. After some hesitation, the Chairman just high-tails it out of there with Orchid giving chase.

Jago wins the fight and the Tiger Spirit makes his presence known. The Tiger Spirit admits to having battled Eyedol in Limbo and eggs on Jago to kill Eyedol and end the terror once and for all. Jago decides that he won’t kill, even if it’s someone as evil as Eyedol. While the two are having this conversation, Eyedol stands up and heals back to full strength.

Orchid corners the Chairman and gets ready to kill him, but the Tiger Spirit calls to her with insistence that Jago needs help. Orchid leaves the Chairman, who feels a bit disrespected, and joins Jago in the fight. She turns the portal back on and the two return Eyedol to limbo by force. Jago feels that this way, he can keep Eyedol in check without having to sacrifice his own soul.

The epilogue has Jago and Orchid discuss their plans. Jago no longer senses the Tiger Spirit, but feels pulled towards the mountains in the east. Orchid feels the need to stick around and help rebuild. They should probably do something about all those Fulgore robots killing civilians, but that’s just me. Before going their separate ways, Jago states, “Stay forever vigilant. For I tell you, the night is coming!”

Um… okay. Overall, not too awful. The story wasn’t all that hot, but considering what they had to work with, it wasn’t the worst thing ever. Three more issues didn’t sound all that bad. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

In terms of the game’s storyline, after Eyedol was defeated, a time rift happened and some of the competitors were pulled back 2,000 years in the past. The Tiger Spirit manifested itself as Eyedol’s evil rival Gargos and a couple lame new characters showed up to help kill him. Not great, but it was a development at the very least. They decided not to go with that in the comic.

Instead, the final three issues – labeled as specials – take place after the first three issues, but act like the tournament is still going on. Orchid and Jago, despite the stuff they said they would do, are still competing in the Killer Instinct contest for no reason. Hell, in the next issue, the Chairman kills his own replacement and gets back to work like nothing happened. Except now he has a blond henchwoman named Kara doing his dirty work.

The first special opens with Jago fighting Riptor. It’s stated that the day before, Jago had a rematch with Sabrewulf, where Sabrewulf had wounded Jago pretty badly. Jago still takes on the next challenge, which annoys Orchid. Chief Thunder is quick to point out that Orchid would do the same in that situation, working as a bit of foreshadowing.

Jago succumbs to the wound during the fight and Orchid is the only thing keeping Riptor from finishing the job. After making sure Jago is tended to, she confronts Sabrewulf and finds out that he may have accidentally infected him with lycanthropy. D’oh! Sabrewulf defends his actions by bringing up the reason he’s in the tournament in the first place: Ultratech has the cure for the werewolf virus and will give it to him if he fights in the tournament long enough. Since Orchid knows the Chairman won’t flat out give the cure to Jago, she and Sabrewulf decide to figure out where Ultratech is holding it.

While in Orchid’s quarters, Sabrewulf notices the only photo she has of her long-lost family. Sabrewulf makes mention of how much Orchid looked like her brother and then sulks about how he has no family. During a Thunder vs. Cinder match, Orchid and Sabrewulf sneak around and enter where they figure the cure is kept. They’re met by Kara and a couple Riptor clones, out to protect the serum. Sabrewulf is having none of that shit.

He tears into the dinosaurs and finds a flask of bubbling liquid. Not listening to Orchid, he downs a bunch of it without thinking twice. Instead of being cured, he gets covered in this nasty green goop, grows into a giant and smashes out of the building. Turns out it wasn’t the right serum. Whoops. Now, you’d think turning into a giant, walking swamp on a rampage would be a major setback, but surprisingly no. There’s no actual closure to this. He’s just back to normal in a later issue with no explanation.

Orchid goes to visit Jago and finds him almost completely covered in brown fur. The Chairman is excited as they can finally remove Jago’s mask. The doctor there says he wanted to respect Jago’s wishes and keep it on for as long as he could, but the man needs a respirator to stay alive. They take the mask off and you really can’t make out much of his face due to him having become a full-on werewolf. A full-on werewolf with a birthmark on his upper-lip. A full-on werewolf with the same birthmark on his upper-lip as the one Orchid’s brother has in her old family photo.

The doctor says that the only way he can cure Jago is by either getting some of his DNA from before the infection or getting the DNA of a parent or sibling. Orchid figures out that Jago is her long-lost brother and the issue just plain ends right there.

The next story is more of a mess. It’s about Glacius, the icy alien whose ship crashes near a ski resort. He uses the surrounding snow to heal himself, sends a beacon to his brethren to pick him up and searches a hardware store for parts to help repair the ship. Entertaining bit is when he sees a barbecue grill and believes it to be an alter for a fire god.

Ultratech finds him and takes him in. The Chairman says that if Glacius fights in the tournament during his time on Earth, he’ll let him live to see his people again. With no choice, Glacius reluctantly agrees. He’s handed over to Cinder for fight training. Cinder is a criminal turned into a permanent Human Torch, thanks to a faulty Ultratech experiment. As he later explains to Glacius, he wants one of two things: either to get cured by Ultratech as a reward for his fighting or to get killed.

Right on cue, the sprinkler system goes off in the training room. It causes Cinder to collapse in paralyzing, agonizing pain. So he’s in that room just about everyday, but it just so happens that this time his fiery body sets off the sprinklers. Sure, okay! It looks like Cinder’s going to die from this, but Glacius saves his life. Cinder reacts by pointing out that he wants to die. Furious, he tells Glacius that he’s going to kill him the first chance he gets.

I should also add that the sprinklers were turned off by Black Orchid, not as an undercover tech, but as a fellow fighter in her trademark green leotard. Continuity just exploded.

In the tournament, Glacius dominates against everyone he goes up against. He begins to get into it and enjoys the cheers of the adoring crowd. By the point where he finds himself holding Spinal’s disembodied skull in his hand, he finds that the quicker he leaves this planet, the better. Thankfully, the Chairman has agreed to set him free to meet with his alien people, who should be arriving on Earth any day now. Cinder seems to be a bit bitter about this.

On the site where Glacius’ ice alien brethren are set to land, there are a ton of witnesses. Mainly, they are Ultratech soldiers and other Killer Instinct fighters. Glacius slowly comes to realize that Ultratech is going to attack his people. As pissed as he is, Glacius doesn’t do anything about it, since he figures his boys could wipe out Ultratech’s army easy. A shuttle is released to pick up Glacius and Cinder all of the sudden runs off towards the control console for the cannon they are going to use to shoot it down. He fries the console and gets attacked by a handful of Killer Instinct combatants. Glacius joins the fray and fights alongside his fiery counterpart. For some reason, a bunch of good guys like Combo and Thunder are on Ultratech’s side in this.

A tank fires a laser blast at Glacius, but Cinder takes the brunt of it instead. Seeing the severity of Cinder’s wound, Glacius holds Cinder in his arms and cools him down to the point that Cinder will finally get the sweet death he’s been craving. For the first page, this is a fantastic death scene. Cinder’s face becomes more human, he smiles a bit and says how he can feel the fire dying. His word bubbles begin to lose the orange gradient and go back to normal white. Then his eyes close, his head goes limp and he somehow sheds a tear. Really nice.

Only on the next page, he then flies upwards, yelling, “I AM FREE!” Uh… okay.

With Cinder gone, Glacius says, “In the next few minutes, the humans will meet my people… and the next few minutes will seal all our fates.” Meanwhile, more military vehicles show up, as do news vans. It looks as if the battle between Earth and the ice aliens is about to continue with a huge climax… but it doesn’t. It just ends. No conclusion whatsoever.

The final issue looks beautiful, especially in terms of the panel layouts, but feels as if the writer was in a massive rush to get it done. The main character is Chief Thunder, which fits pretty well. What I mean is that this is the last issue before cancellation and it centers on the guy so unpopular that he didn’t even make the game’s sequel. He doesn’t even get to be on the cover for this issue.

Chief Thunder had originally entered the Killer Instinct tournament to get answers on the disappearance of his brother, Black Eagle. As shown via flashback, Black Eagle won the previous year’s tournament. When flashing back to that tournament, it shows Orchid fighting Jago. How do they screw up continuity this badly when they only have six issues to go on?

Eagle wins, does a moving “corporations suck” speech and is never heard from again. Thunder figured he could find him and bring him back home, but now thinks that he’s gotten too into the fighting. He has a tribe to lead and a hot wife to go back home to, so he needs some closure quick. With Orchid’s help, he meditates and calls upon the great spirits to give him answers.

What he gets is a vision where he fights Fulgore, who seems a bit different for reasons he can’t comprehend. The two hit each other at the same time, causing Fulgore to fall and Thunder to become so distraught that he too falls to the ground. An eagle flies down and lands between the two.

There’s a lot to laugh about with this panel. The unnatural dialogue exchange, the completely unnecessary emphasis in Orchid’s word bubble, Thunder looking to have the same facial scars as Heath Ledger Joker. I’m glad this is the last one of these I have to review.

The Chairman is finally getting yelled at by the stockholders, meaning he has to cut back on some of his projects. To keep the Fulgore project under budget, he’s had to make some adjustments. He and his assistant Kara will have a control box to shift the new Fulgore’s power during the match. At a crucial moment, they’ll drop the power completely so that Thunder can easily destroy it. For the reader, it’s pretty obvious by this point that Black Eagle is inside the Fulgore costume, tying in with Thunder’s vision. That just goes to show what a really awful villain this Chairman guy is. He’s going to deface and discredit his top moneymaker for the sake of ruining one guy’s day. I liked it better when Eyedol was around.

The fight happens and it’s mostly what you’d expect. They turn the power down on Fulgore and Thunder smacks him around. Black Eagle breaks through the programming and talks to his brother. Thunder removes the Fulgore helmet, showing Eagle to look like post-cyborg Anakin Skywalker, and they both leave the arena. That’s it.

This comic is just a series of badly-written endings. Even when we get a semblance of closure, they don’t even give it space for a real conclusion. It just ends.

It looks to me that the writer took the three issue arc somewhat seriously, but decided he didn’t give much of a damn after that and phoned it in for the remainder.

On the upside, it did have this scene.

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9 comments to “Eyedol Worship: The Killer Instinct C-C-Comic Book”

  1. What I remember about KI was how easy it was to be a cheap-ass juggler with Blizzard or Inferno. Also that even a button masher type like me could score some sweet combo action with the werewolf…


  2. Sorry, Glacius not Blizzard. Which game had a Blizzard? Someone did I’m certain. Or maybe I’m just remembering the guy who dressed like Sub-Zero in WCW…

  3. And Cinder not Inferno. Why the hell did I think Inferno?

  4. @LurkerWithout: Because Cinder looks like Inferno from Soul Calibur. And Blizzard was in Primal Rage.

  5. Is there a Primal Rage comic?

  6. There is, which I want to review, but I can’t get my hands on issues #3 and 4.

  7. I appreciate your comments about the work, and I won’t take issue with your analysis. As much as I or anyone might disagree, you were fair to the work and I thank you. This was near the end of my time doing licensed properties and am my happier working in Hollywood.

    Thanks again, and all the best!


  8. We can’t find the Eyedol Worship: The Killer Instinct Comic Book here in Brazil, can we?
    Do you know if is there a site that has that comic book complete?

    Thank you ;*

  9. Streets of Rage II on the Megadrive (as it was called here in the UK) was my utter-most fave fighting game back in the 90’s. It still pays really well even today.
    I love the floating head in the 5th image down!