If you’re like me your name is Jason, you live in Chicago and you didn’t know that Boom! Studios had been continuing the story of one of your favorite movies across a string of comic series for the past few years. Big Trouble in Little China is an amazing movie that showcases everything that was magical about 80s pop culture. Our hero was a pithy badass trucker by the name of Jack Burton (immortalized in the film by Kurt Russell), who – in addition to being a walking ’80s action cliche’ – reacts to all the intense weirdness he sees like a member of the audience…and MAN does he fall into some intense weirdness. Over the course of a remarkably tight-scripted hour and 40 minutes Jack encounters ancient chinese sorcerers, elemental super villains, martial arts gang warfare, underwater torture chambers, a genuine monster and Kim Cattrall. I mean, that last part isn’t that remarkable for an 80s movie, but you know.
Anyway, the central premise of the movie was Jack narrowly avoiding the machinations of the mysterious David Lo Pan, an evil wizard in the service of the grand demon Ching Dai. With Boom’s new series, subtitled Old Man Jack, we jump 34 years into the future to catch up with an elderly Jack living a life of seclusion in his own little slice of heaven, Palatka, Florida. Now, it’s not just secluded because the 2020 Florida Azalea Fest was a let down, it turns out that around 2010 Ching Dai had taken over the rest of the world due to Jack accidentally freeing the self-proclaimed “God of the East.” For his actions, Dai carved Jack a magical retreat in the heart of Putnam County that would always be pristine and completely stocked with food, booze, etc. The rest of the world, however, would be thrust into the fiery nightmare known colloquially as the Hellpocalypse. Now I assume that the events that led to the world as we know it were detailed in the previous series, but this book is fun enough that you don’t really need to know the backstory.
The best thing about this book is that it’s funny. Whether it’s writer Anthony Burch or (director, screenwriter, composer and all around B-movie legend) John Carpenter that keeps the air light and the jokes heavy, their duality lends the book a tone befitting the series’ reputation as a cult classic. Take, for example, the mysterious voice that lures Jack into the Hellpocalypse at the mere thought of an attractive woman suffering. Jack hears “her” distress call and tries to convince himself to forget that she’s “being chased around by demons. Fearing for her life. Being Extremely Attractive.” That’s not even the funniest part, as Jack’s experiences inside the House of Agony more than take the cake. See much like Dante’s Inferno, this version of hell has circles of varying degrees of punishment depending on the sinner’s transgressions – and you’d think that eternal damnation wouldn’t be that funny, but then you see the Hell of Minor Discomforts! While I don’t agree that this is what “Millennial hell” looks like, that does sound like a gripe that a 60-year-old Kurt Russell might bemoan watching 20-somethings gripe about misleading text messages and awkward restaurant exchanges.
The comedy ramps up toward the tail end of the issue, as Jack fights an oddly pragmatic horse demon only to find that the buxom, blonde Chinese woman between 18-24 he has been chasing is actually… well, I’ll let you be surprised. Lets just say the final page reveal sets up a boatload of questions that I look forward to learning the answer to in the forthcoming issues.
Artwise…eh, this book is not all that great. While certainly stylized, the pencils of Jorge Corona tow the line between hot rod graphics and the old Cartoon Network classic Cow and Chicken. Now this is far from a serious book, so it’s not like we need Alex Ross to depict the weird gorilla monster hanging out on the back of Jack’s truck, but I could do with a more easily palatable artist that didn’t make it feel like a caricature artist is drawing modern day Kurt Russell in a mullet.
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