The year is 2020, and hell is literally on Earth. Ching Dai, sick of relying on screw-ups like Lo Pan to do his bidding, has broken the barriers between Earth and the infinite hells and declared himself ruler of all. Sixty-year-old Jack Burton is alone in a tiny corner of Florida with only his broken radio to talk to, until one day it manages to pick up a message. Someone is out there in the hellscape, and they know a way to stop Ching Dai.
Big Trouble in Little China: Old Man Jack #1
Written by: John Carpenter & Anthony Burch
Art by: Jorge Corona
Colored by: Gabriel Cassata
Lettered by: Ed Dukeshire
Published by: BOOM! Studios
Big Trouble In Little China is one of those properties from the 1980s that will probably never die. It’s the kind of cult classic that sort of defines that very term and it’s not surprising to see it jump into other mediums. Still, not all properties translate to the comic book medium well. However BOOM! Studios have had huge creative and commercial success in expanding a lot of these classic licensed properties and I am happy to say Old Man Jack, while not groundbreaking comics, is definitely a hell of a lot of fun and a must read for Little China fans!
Story-wise the book totally captures the spirit, tone, and attitude of the movie. Anthony Burch, with help from filmmaker/creator John Carpenter, nails down the lovable sleazeball we all know as Jack Burton. He’s is exactly the kind of guy who would totally venture into Hell for some pretty young thing, and end up saving the world in the process. He is selfless yet selfish too. Brave yet kind of dense. A hero but a bit of dunce and a jerk. Jack Burton was always a humorous study in contrasts and Burch totally gets that. You can also practically hear Kurt Russell’s ‘John Wayneish’ drawl when you read the dialogue; the slightly inappropriate (but smart) humor lands well too. Being able to have all this was a huge factor in making this sequel/concept work and the writing team succeeds there.
The plot itself is actually a sequel to an earlier Big Trouble In Little China comic book but works well enough on its own that if you have only seen the movie you can jump right in with no problem. And there is some quick exposition that also helps catch you up. Its accessibility is another big factor in what I liked about it.
The one weakness for me was the story didn’t pick up the steam it needed until we get to the end where…SPOILER ALERT…we get the very welcome return of movie villain David Lo Pan! It’s going to be interesting to see an old Jack Burton take on Lo Pan since young Burton pretty much fought his way through the first movie with sheer luck and the help of way more capable friends. But who knows, perhaps Egg Shen and the Wing Kong are just around the corner!
The art by Jorge Corona, with excellent colors by Gabriel Cassata, is vibrant and energetic. It has an animated feel, with cartoonish qualities that add much to the tone of the book. This is a story about action and adventure, but not dark. It’s supposed to be fun and slightly campy. The visuals accentuate this, delivering pages and layouts that move smoothly and are pleasing on the eyes. It’s well produced too, with a definite weight to the art. It looks good both on the printed page and on a screen which is a quality necessary for comic books in the digital age. There are also plenty of cool creature and demon designs. And of course, everyone’s favorite 80s big rig, the famed Pork Chop Express, is rendered nicely as well.
Every time I check out one of Boom! Studios licensed books they end up being entertaining, fun and easy to pick up and read. It’s nice to see comics like this, where all you need is a love of property, character, or story to get a nice piece of sequential storytelling. Big Trouble In Little China: Old Man Jack is totally worth your time. Do yourself a favor and have fun with this book.