Sunday, August 24, 2014

Paneled Goods: Big Trouble In Little China

By now I'm sure you're aware that John Carpenter and Kurt Russell's 4th cinematic collaboration Big Trouble In Little China from 1986 is one of my favorite movies.  Of all time.  A flop upon release, the film has built up an epic cult following and this year alone has seen multiple screenings around Los Angeles, a UK special edition Blu-Ray, tee shirts and comic books.  At San Diego Comic Con, I picked up the first 2 issues of BOOM!'s new series as well as a their SDCC exclusive which I thought was a 90's style issue # 0 but it was just the first issue with a different cover...

Picking up directly after the events of the film, Big Trouble In Little China is the continuing adventures of Jack Burton and the Pork Chop Express.  Written by The Goon's Eric Powell with an assist from director John Carpenter and pencils by Brian Churilla, BTILC is an amusing read but not quite enough to get me back into monthly reading.  # 1 starts right after the end of the movie which saw big mouthed, not very swashbuckling Jack Burton drive off into the dark, rainy night with a mysterious monstrous creature on the back of his truck after defeating the thousands year old wizard Lo Pan with help from Chinatown residents Wang Chi, an ass kicking, high flying, truck driving restaurant owner and Egg Shen, a tour bus driver and sorcerer.  In The Hell of the Midnight Road & The Ghosts of Storms has Jack becoming the creatures ipso facto guardian since he killed former master Lo Pan with a knife to the forehead.  Dubbing him Pete, Jack returns to Chinatown in time for Wang's wedding in a bid to try and get rid of the creature.  Unfortunately, the vengeful, high kicking Wing Kong burst in and then Qiang Wu , a warrior disciple of Lo Pan shows up.  Wang attempts to do what he does best, which is kick ass with flying kicks, but gets snatched in mid air by Qiang Wu.  Qiang is ready to kill Wang unless Jack travels the Black Road in the Hell of the Seven Faced Widow to retrieve the jars that contain the spirits of the three storms, Thunder, Rain and Lightening.

Of course, never afraid of a challenge and full of John Wayne style bravado, Jack accepts and hits the road along with Egg Shen.  With Six Demon Bag in hand, Egg leads Jack to the Midnight Lands via a door opened from a brick wall via chalk outline, adding to the mystical quality of the book.  Along the way, we learn more about Jack's past and run ins with unusual lovers and adversaries like a vampire ex-wife and a father in law who heads a cult to resurrect a Babylonian demi-god.  There's lots of banter throughout with plenty of Jack talking to himself and classic lines "Like I always say" or "When some wild eyed..." so the tone and spirit of the film is well at hand.  Adding some pretty funny and out there backstories also gives the comic a nice zaniness similar to the film that stopped to explained nothing.  Artist Churilla gives Burton a nice Kurt Russell-esque quality complete with strong chin, pseudo mullet and the tank top/jeans/tall leather boots outfit with pencils and gives Victor Wong's Egg Shen the appropriate goofy, wise and weird appearance.  Eric Powell seems to have a pretty solid grasp on the world and tone of the story but not a ton happens in the second issue.  While Carpenter is a big name, the original film script was written by W.D. Ricther then Gary Goldman so I wonder if they were consulted.

I thought it was a little weird that Jack wouldn't be at Wang's wedding but there's a line thrown in about Jack being on the run from the cops which harkens back to the opening of the film when an attorney asks if Egg knows his whereabouts.  Then at the wedding there's no sign of Gracie Law, Uncle Chu, Eddie, Margo or anything of the Cheng Sings.  Where's James Lew?!  While a fun read, colorful and a nice continuation of the movie, at $4 bucks a pop I don't foresee myself keeping up regularly.  Hopefully a couple of cons from now I can pick up a nice collected edition.

Until then, keep on shaking the pillars of Heaven.

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