We all know The Karate Kid. We know the story of Daniel Larusso vs. Johnny Lawrence. Their rivalry transcended ages, appearing in other media such as How I Met Your Mother and in No More King’s music video entitled “Sweep the Leg.” This film was a staple in kids hearts of the ’80s – and luckily for all of us who actually lived the ’80s beyond Stranger Things, their rivalry has come back officially in YouTube Red’s successful show, Cobra Kai.
Much like the TV show, the Cobra Kai comic book follows the story of Johnny Lawrence. While the TV show explores how Johnny’s life has evolved since his defeat in The Karate Kid, the comic book goes back and shows us the original film told from Johnny’s perspective. We saw a bit of this on the show, but the comic book expands on this and gives a more in depth look at Johnny’s life during the events of The Karate Kid.
The entire rivalry between Daniel and Johnny has always been seeded deep within their mutual love interest, Ali Mills. While Johnny would sometimes be the aggressor in these fights, he was often harassed by Daniel Larusso – this dates all the way back to the first film. The truth is that they were both being assh*les, and Ali made the right move by not pursuing either of them past High School.
Johnny tells the story of Ali Mills to his students, and why they shouldn’t trust Daniel Larusso’s dojo or his students. This comic covers the event of dancing with Ali at the gala. He is aggressive, but what we come to find out is that his Sensei, John Kreese, had essentially been brainwashing Johnny into being an aggravator toward Ali in order to steal her heart back. The real villain has always been Sensei Kreese, and even continues to be in the most recent season of Cobra Kai.
What is interesting about this particular comic is that we get to look into John Kreese’s history, and the love he had for a woman while he was stationed in Vietnam. While he doesn’t say what happened, we catch the drift that it didn’t conclude well and left a bad taste for relationships in Kreese’s mouth. The war had obviously left him traumatised, and these combined factors made him a relentless teacher, putting an absurd amount of pressure on his star athlete, Johnny.
To be honest, this comic book doesn’t offer much in terms of telling a new story, nor does it dive deeply into the history of Johnny Lawrence’s past for the duration of the The Karate Kid. It is mostly light re-tellings of a film we already know and love, and I am okay with that. The dialogue is consistent, and often times very humorous. The art is beautiful, bringing back the water colored pages of children’s books of the ’80s.
This is really a collector’s item for The Karate Kid or Cobra Kai fans, and I would certainly pay for a nice hard cover copy of these comics books once when they have been compiled into a graphic novel.