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Sub-Zero

Mortal Kombat 11
by yo go re

Winter is coming.

Sub-Zero is a formidable fighter possessing the innate ability to control ice in many forms and whose defining character trait is his fierce rivalry with his nemesis Scorpion. In his first return appearance in Mortal Kombat II, it was revealed that the original Sub-Zero had died during the events of the first game (at the hand of Scorpion) and was replaced by his brother. In the subsequent games, the younger brother of Sub-Zero, remained as Sub-Zero, while the older brother became the wraith Noob Saibot.

Canonically, the original Sub-Zero is the only person to die during the original Mortal Kombat tournament. How is that possible? "Mortal" is right there in the name! It would be like if you entered the "Everybody Gets a Pie in the Face" contest, then found out you were the only person to get a pie in the face. Actually, that would make a hilarious new finishing move for the next MK game: we've got Fatalities, Animalities, Babalities, Friendships... so why not old vaudeville gags?

Surprisingly absolutely no one, McFarlane Toys is starting their Mortal Kombat 11 toys with Scorpion and Sub-Zero. And because making fully unique molds is expensive, they're also doing variants - Scorpion's is an alternate costume, and Sub-Zero's is his Ice Clone. Just like the old Jazwares release, this is translucent blue with a bit of white "frost" on top.

It's been a long time since the Mortal Kombat ninjas were all identical clones, but if you compare this costume to Scorp's, you can see a lot of broad parallels: armor on the shins, poofy pants, wraps on the lower arms, a V-shaped tunic that hangs down below the belt, armored shoulder pads, and a metallic mask covering his nose and mouth. It's good that the game designers are keeping this kind of similar structure, paying homage to the characters' origins while still allowing each of them to be their own thing. And in keeping with Subby's origins in the Chinese Lin Kuei, his hood (and the short tails hanging from it) call to mind the hats worn by Qing dynasty civil officials.

Like we said, the figure is barely painted, just cast in a clearish blue to look like a giant chunk of ice. It makes perfect sense for the character, as it depicts one of his in-game moves, but it also means that a lot of the detail in the sculpt can go unnoticed; for example, all the knives tucked into the folds of his costume, or the symbols on the skirt flaps covering his hips. Because translucent plastic can be notoriously brittle, all the important joints have actually been molded from the opaque stuff. It's a very light blue, close enough to the drybrushing on the figure's surface that it doesn't look immediately out of place.

Only about 15 years after the rest of the industry, McToys has finally mastered the art of giving their toys articulation that fans want. Sub-Zero has a balljointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, double-hinged elbows, swivel/hinge/swivel wrists, some sort of chest joint that serves no purpose inside the vest, a balljointed waist, swivel/hinge hips, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, swivel/hinge/swivel ankles, and hinged toes. The head and neck are molded as one piece, rather than having the head move atop the neck. It's an odd choice that can leave gaps at the collar depending on how you move it. On the plus side, since the figure is semi-translucent and the workings of the joints aren't, you can hold him up to a strong light to see how everything is constructed and thus how it works.

The figure comes with a pair of ice axes, the weapons he picked up in Injustice 2 and has carried over to MK11. They're not part of his usual repertoire of kicks and punches, but they do feature in quite a few of his special moves. Since they're just formed from ice, they don't attach to the body anywhere - he can summon them into existence or disperse them at will. There's also a frozen skull with attached spine, a reference to his famous Spine Rip Fatality. The spine is thin enough to be held in the figure's hand, with some work, and there's an eyeball dangling from the skull's right socket. These same accessories come with the normal figure as well, but they're a darker shade and lack the frosty covering.

This may be the variant Sub-Zero, but he comes in the exact same packaging as his mass-market brother. McFarlane may have given up on the "Color Tops" idea (separating the toys into numbered themes identified by a stripe along the top of the packaging), but he's kept the tall rectangular boxes. The design for this line is directly inspired by Mortal Kombat's traditional dark colorscheme of black, yellow, and brick red. There are photos of the standard figure on all sides of the box, and the cardboard insert behind the figure looks like blood splatter behind the MK dragon logo. There's nothing identifying this as belonging to the variant, other than the figure itself being right there in the tray.

The variant Scorpion was just an alternate costume, so while it looked pretty good, you didn't really need to get both versions. But as a representation of something that can happen in any Sub-Zero match, this figure has a lot more appeal. You may end up wanting to get both versions, just so you can portray Sub-Zero activing his trap card Ice Clone in the middle of a fight.

-- 12/01/19


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