Group Review – Big Trouble in Little China #1 (BOOM! Studios)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: John Carpenter and Eric Powell
Artist: Brian Churilla
Release Date: 4th June 2014
For this week’s group review, there was only ever going to be one choice. So sit back, relax, and see what Team BCP made of the eagerly anticipated adaptation of John Carpenter’s classic Big Trouble in Little China.
I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for John Carpenter’s 80s kung-fu fantasy action movie (that’s a genre, right?), and – like most people I’ve spoken to – I’ve been eager to get my hands on this book since BOOM! dropped its very first teaser all the way back in February. And while adaptations of beloved cult classics can be tricky propositions at best, I can safely say that the ol’ Porkchop Express is most definitely firing on all cylinders here.
Following on immediately from the movie – and I mean right afterwards, as in the very next shot – this issue instantly captures the feel of the movie, and Jack Burton feels like a truly authentic recreation of the character Kurt Russell brought to life on the big screen twenty-eight years ago (boy I do feel old right now).
As iconic as he may be, Jack Burton is not necessarily the easiest character to write. Falling somewhere between dynamic action hero and clueless goofball, Burton’s haphazard way of dealing with dangerous situations is a tricky prospect to put down on paper, but thankfully Eric Powell (ably assisted by the John Carpenter himself) completely nails the main protagonist, delivering the same cheesy wise-cracking awesomeness that made the film such a cult sensation. Credit must also be given to Brian Churilla, whose lively, colourful artwork leaps off the page, and whose instantly recognisable Kurt Russell caricature effortlessly retains all the charm and humour of the original.
Without delving into the realm of spoilers, this issue finds a way to keep the momentum of the film going without having to slow down too much, and hurls Burton headlong into what should be another action-packed caper – a proposition which Burton handles with his usual gusto in a glorious final panel. Simply put, this is essential reading for fans of the movie, and pretty darn highly recommended for everyone else.
It isn’t an easy task — to bring back a beloved favorite with a loyal following that has pretty much remained untouched for almost 30 years. In contrast, other equally beloved BOOM!-licensed characters such as Robocop have rarely remained away from media even if. So in a situation like this, you run the risk of a major backlash from the loyal fanbase, but at the same time,if you pull it off then the benefits are obvious.
Not an enviable task for the creative team nor BOOM! itself, luckily said creative team are Powell and Churilla — whose track record would make them seem well suited for the task.
Its a task they don’t shirk, the offbeat humor and cartoon like style that are synonymous to both — as played out in this first issue are perfect for continuing the adventures of Jack Burton and The Porkchop Express.
Directly following the story from the point of the movie ending, the issue is fun and goofy, and that isn’t meant to be dismissive. After all, Jack Burton despite his tough exterior has a propensity to bumble his way through tricky situations, which is much of what we get here.
On the last page the plot is set in motion for the series, and it is definitely shaping up to be something special. In short it, lives up to the months of hype.
Like Hoff always says, when asked to write a review about a beloved action, adventure, fantasy, and romance-comedy from my childhood, I read that comic and say… “sister, challenge accepted!” I remember being completely drawn into the tales of Jack Burton in the Big Trouble in Little China movie from the first time I saw it (and the many times of re-watching that followed). So finally having a chance to read a story that begins where the movie left off to me is a little slice of heaven.
As I read through the issue I could hear Kurt Russell’s voice in my head with all the bravado and arrogance of Jack Burton. To be able to bring me right back to the point of feeling as though I’d just finished watching the movie again is no easy task, but Eric Powell and Brian Churilla deliver the goods, much like Jack Burton in his Pork-Chop Express. The witty and campy yet well-written dialogue from the movie is ever-present, and the action that comes along with it doesn’t disappoint. At times I was laughing while reading with just the nonsense that flowed from Jack Burton’s mouth, as well as some of the choice phrases that came out of Egg. One in particular I feel the need to share, “The Demon would follow you all the way through the hell of the flesh-eating serpents who like warm crevices.” I found myself reliving the movie and immediately being sucked back into the world of Jack Burton, waiting for the next over the top stereotypical villain who either threw lightning out of his hands or wielded some other form of magic. To be able to do that, being that the movie came out 1986, deserves praise and a hearty “thank you” from fans of the movie.
Brian Churilla’s artwork fits the story and adventures – well, more like misadventures – of Jack Burton and company perfectly. The cartoony style rendition of Kurt Russell’s Jack Burton is a great caricature and perfect fit. The action scenes pop off the pages and the style though cartoonish has all the detail necessary to tell the story the way it needs to be told. The famous Jack Burton tank top has the design I remember and even the shirt picked up for the Demon has a phrase only he would buy.
To summarise, I say well done to these two gentlemen who have taken a story that really only has a cult following and delivered a story that fans can appreciate and enjoy reading. So put on your trucker hats, grab a beer and enjoy the ride on the Pork-Chop Express. Just don’t end up like me, though. I’ve used the name Jack Burton in this review so much I feel like I may start talking in the third person about myself.
Back in 1986, Big Trouble In Little China was just too ahead of it’s time. Long before Hong Kong cinema became big business in Hollywood, John Carpenter’s genius mash-up was too smart, too weird and just too insane for the average film-fan apparently and the movie crashed and burned.
Now, with Carpenter himself involved in the plot brainstorming, Jack Burton is back in the Porkchop Express and it’s like he’s never been away. Quite literally, as this story takes places immediately after the climax of the movie. The evil wizard Lo Pan is dead and Jack’s buddy Wang Chi is finally marrying his green- eyed sweetheart.
Needless to say, things go pear-shaped almost immediately, with Jack picking up a new demon sidekick that bears more than a passing resemblance to Clyde The Orangutan, while a warrior sorcerer disciple of Lo Pan’s turns up to crash the wedding.
Eric Powell gets each character spot on. Jack Burton is his usual unlikely hero, as brave as he is incompetent, while you can just hear Victor Wong deliver Egg Shen’s dialogue.
Powell’s humour is all over the script, with gems like ” I will skin you next for your disrespect, Yankee, but for now, tonight my focus is totally on Wang!”
If you were a fan of the movie, you need this. If you’ve never seen the movie, you still need this. But watch the movie too.
Welcome back, Jack.
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