The review cycle has drifted back from the current digital releases, but be warned: the following article contains spoilers!

Mortal Kombat X: Blood Ties continues with Chapter 4 - the first section of print issue #2, and Part 1 of digital story arc "Caged". Make sure you follow links to buy the chapter from DC Entertainment before you continue!

Continuation is a topic very much in mind at the open of Chapter 4. If you read Chapter 3 [review], you know Raiden is dabbling in dangerous Kamidogu blood magik. If you know that, the reminder at the start of this chapter will probably seem continually ominous, but fairly unnecessary. We've spent a lot of time navel gazing over the virtues and foibles of digital versus print - this little curio makes you wonder how it'll read once collected for trade.

It's a lot of fun to see Fujin in action - even if it's just taking a gut wound from a protector god with a pretty sketchy record since the 2011 story reboot. The take away from this B-plot overlap is that big things are coming, but the real meat of this issue delivers us to two of the debuting Mortal Kombat X characters: Cassie Cage and Kotal Kahn.

A surprise already explored extensively by fandom [since the preview] is the introduction of another second generation fighter! Jacqui is a none too subtle allusion to Jax -- the Outerworld Investigation Agency partner of Cassie's mom: Sonya Blade.

Jacqui definitely doesn't shine as much as the already confirmed playable character [Cassie], but conditioned expectation, and her status as a "Junior Olympic" kickboxer inevitably raises tie-in questions. During the fight that introduces her, she's made to appear far more mortal than the average playable character. It's tough to say if unflattering comparisons to her cybernetically enhanced father are setting the pace for expectation, or foreshadowing robo-legs. If we get a fast moving kickboxer in the game, either would be fine.

Cassie wins with inspiration from her father's trademark Shadow Kick and the aftermath opens the door to exploring her better known parents. Note an obligatory "Ninja Mime" reference, nodding to Cage's body of work, and a broken razzy stand-in, reminding us that the days of cheering for Hollywood action movie stars are well behind us. Bummer.

As known at the end of MK2011, Johnny Cage & Sonya Blade survived Shao Kahn's invasion plot. The experience may have brought them close enough together to conceive a child, but any warm and fuzzy feelings aren't here. The parents are split. Cage is living it up in Venice, California. Sonya Blade is still living the military life - and keeping some surprising company!

We've known details about Kotal Kahn for quite some time. At some point he will have claimed the throne of Outworld, he will lose it, he includes D'Vorah among his allies, and he considers his goals somewhat virtuous. That's all here on first appearance - but if you thought you knew the Incan inspired fighter, you might be surprised.

A casual visit to Earthrealm to plead for clemency in his war to own Outworld did not rank high on our list of expectations. Never the less, Kotal Kahn is the willingly chained visitor of Sonya and the Special Forces, flanked by D'Vorah and another new character: Erron Black. Like "Jacqui", Erron Black has sparked rampant speculation, despite saying and doing almost nothing in his brief appearance. A testament to the appeal of an archetypal Man With No Name gunslinger, perhaps? [Don't call him Erron Blackmo].

Despite a peaceful introduction, this scene, like most so far, leads to a breakout of violence. The X-Ray gimmick of the games is incorporated. It's been used several times already, and it's an interesting if superfluous device. Just as in the games, there are no discernible consequences for the bone shattering violence, and in a sequential story driven medium, that's less forgivable than a game mechanic.

Like the situation itself, Kotal Kahn's delivery subverts expectation. There's something a little bit off about a character like this borrowing casual phrases. It might have been more natural to simply speak with intent when saying "desperate times call for desperate measures", rather than calling attention to it as terran. He's written a little too pedestrian to live up to the stature of the design and art, but some of that is owed to circumstances.

This is, never the less, perhaps the most intriguing plot line introduced so far, for a character who shows early signs of being an addition who can having staying power, if results allow. So far Kahn's primary rival is Mileena - a logical heir to Shao Kahn's throne who has apparently been warring with Kotal for 10 years. We saw the teaser last issue that paired her with Reiko - an embellishment with a lot of potential! Apparently she's orchestrated a deal with the Red Dragon - a callback to Chapter 1 that should bring a lot of things together.

The chapter's underground MMA cage match - as announced in solicitations - finishes the chapter big!

Frost makes a final page appearance that packs a surprising punch for a now relatively obscure character. When introduced in Deadly Alliance, she was a star recruit for Sub-Zero's new Lin Kuei. We knew her as a rambunctious pupil with one or two delusions of grandeur, and a need for training. It feels a little odd for the amateur ice wielder to be thought of as refining her skills in an MMA cage - even before finding the LIn Kuei - but it's not out of the question.

Many great fighting game characters are bolstered by having good rivals and nemesis - and utilizing Frost to boost Cassie is a nice idea. Sadly, with a death match stipulation and Hsu Hao as precedent, we have to assume the fixation with fatalities has Frost on the chopping block. Given the scene, it might have been a better place to embellish street brawl Kobra, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.

At twenty-odd digital pages (potentially half in print) - this is a very satisfying read. Kittelsen seems to be getting the most out of his work when he's writing the newer characters. Is this because we have less established expectations, or is there greater freedom to create these new characters on the page? Whatever the case, Cassie & Kotal are stand-outs.

In past reviews, we haven't said enough about Dexter Soy (art) and Veronica Gandini (colors). In the print world, colorists have recently joined the front page credits and Gandini is the perfect case for why. Solid colors do the world of good, making MKX look clean, glossy and modern. I hope we get a lot more from them as a team, but I have to think this proving ground will seem them elevated to bigger titles on the DC Comics slate.

Mortal Kombat X is on sale now! Visit DC Entertainment to pick up all the digital chapters for 99c each! Bookmark the MKO Comics Directory for more previews, reviews and purchase links. Register to share your review via the Media & Merchandise forum!