Written by Anthony Burch and John Carpenter
Art by Jorge Corona
Colored by Gabriel Cassata
Man o man o man o man o man, did I love this comic! LOVED! IT! What did I love so much about it?? I’m glad you asked.
1. IT’S A CONTINUATION OF ONE OF THE GREAT-UNSUNG MOVIES OF THE 1980s
The movie, Big Trouble in Little China, was released in 1987 to generally underwhelming reviews and disappointing box office success but since then it has found success as a cult movie.
I watched the film when I was far too young to be watching a film like that –parents were slack about age recommendations in the 80s – and 7 year old me was instantly hooked; it was funny and the action was badass.
It’s the classic truck-driving-Jack-Burton-gets-coerced-into-the mystical-Chinese-underground-by-his-friend-Wang-Chi-to-rescue-Chi’s-girlfriend-from-the-ancient-sorcerer-David-Lo-Pan-who-plans-on-sacrificing-her-to-release-himself-from-a-curse story… a tale as old as time. #SPOILERALERT They rescue her and all is well by the end #ENEDOFSPOILERS
Set 33 years later, Big Trouble in Little China: Old Man Jack is a sequel story written by the original movie’s director, John Carpenter and published by BOOM! Studios.
Carpenter has done a brilliant job in recreating the tone and recapturing the elements that made the original film so much fun; the larger than life characters, the ridiculous mysticism and the comical action sequences.
Which leads to it’s main strength…
2. IT’S HILARIOUS!
Like, proper funny! Make no mistake that this is a comedy series. Sure, there’s action and pathos, but you’re buying it for the guffaws. There were times I genuinely LOLed whilst reading it.
Much of the comedy comes from the ensembles well-defined personas. All the old gang from the movie are here and, I think it’s fair to say, without the “artistic handbrake” of having real human people having to perform the characters; their personalities have been cranked up to 11.
The witty repartee bounces effortlessly between the three initial protagonists:
David Lo Pan, the antagonist of the original movie seems to have been completely retconned. He’s rather confusingly, on the side of good (I’m sure that this was explained in the 2014 comic series also released by BOOM! Studios) but he still retains his evil tendencies to great comic effect, which leads to arguably the best joke in the book! Also, Lo Pan’s three henchman, The Storms, who were previously very two-dimensional, are fleshed out and add genuine pathos and jeopardy for our unlikely trio of heroes.
Wang Chi is the closest we get to an “every-person” – obviously, only if every person was a badass demon-slayer! — and he’s the only character that even comes close to being describable as competent.
And last but definitely not least, Jack; the mullet-loving, archetypal Alpha male, brimming with toxic-masculinity, unable to accept help or friendship, solving problems with his fists/foot-to-the-groin and refusing to accept responsibility for creating Hell on Earth and awakening the demon Ching Dai.
Old Man Jack is very much Jack’s story. Not only is he the catalyst for the events that unfold but is also the prominent character arc followed throughout the narrative. Not only do we see Jack rather gracelessly come face-to-face with the inevitability of old age and perceived uselessness but also learn the importance of fwweeeeeendshiiiiiip!
Definitely one of the funniest comic books I’ve read in a long time!
3. THE ARTWORK IS GORGEOUS!
Jorge Corona was the perfect artist for this story; hyper-characterful and dynamic, perfectly capturing the humour and emotion of Carpenters writing.
This style isn’t for everyone – if you like your heroes illustrated by Alex Ross, Corona may not be your cuppa tea but there’s no denying that the dude can clearly tell a story!
As a side note, I’m sure that I won’t be the first person to notice the similarities between the work of Jorge Corona and Rob Guillory, most famous for his work on Chew.
4. DON’T GET ME WRONG, IT’S NOT PERFECT…
I think the trade needed a “Previously on Big Trouble in Little China…” at the beginning, just to get everyone up to speed from the get go.
Narratively, there is some sliiiiiightly lazy writing at points. A couple of the characters, who appear firmly set on an ideology, seem to be rather easily swayed to cooperate with a simple talking to, but this is only a tiny complaint and, if I’m being honest, it was refreshing to have our heroes solving conflicts without swinging fists.
Whilst there was some alternative covers at the back of the trade, some extra content would have also have been nice; interviews, character design sketches, etc.
5. I WANT MORE.
Ultimately, this is the most important critique you can have of a piece of work. I want to read much more of this and have already ordered Big Trouble in Little China: Old Man Jack vol. 1 to try and get my fix!