“BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA” (Comic Review)
Undervalued upon release in 1986, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA has gathered a rock solid cult following in the intervening years. One of John Carpenter’s less serious-minded films, the over-the-top kung-fu and lightning fantasy action-comedy is continuously adored by old fans and new generations. It’s thanks to these admirers that BOOM! Studios recently announced a comic addition to the BIG TROUBLE story. Featuring everyone’s favorite highway man, Jack Burton, on a brand new adventure of bizarre proportions, it’s sure to feed that insatiable need for quick one-liners and moccasin-clad high kicks.
One of the biggest selling points of this new comic is that not only has John Carpenter put his seal of approval on the project,t but is also one half of the writing team, which explains the immediate return to where the movie ended. It starts, appropriately, with Jack Burton finally realizing that there’s a demon clinging to his rig as he blasts down the open road. For fans of the movie, they’ll remember that this is the monster summoned by Lo Pan in his attempt to destroy Burton and Co., and now, it looks like its Burton’s problem. Luckily, the creature thinks the lone cowboy is his new master and is as harmless as a fly. Not-so-luckily, it’ll follow him to the ends of the earth. With limited options and an itch to hit the road, Burton has no choice but to go back to Chinatown and find Wang Chi in an attempt to shake the monkey off his back. But in the usual Jack Burton style, his appearance marks the beginning of something truly sinister as a new evil is unleashed in the middle of Wang’s long-awaited wedding.
While a lot of franchises have attempted to cash in on the current nostalgia boom, this is one of the few titles to really carry its weight when it comes to focusing on the story instead of merchandising. It’s worth noting that this could most likely be attributed to the fact that BIG TROUBLE was never a series or a toy market or a childhood obsession. It was a one-time film that, despite being considered a financial flop when released, cultivated a word-of-mouth legacy that carried it farther than anyone imagined. The movie was never tampered with and few, if any, attempts were made to tap into its nostalgia factor. So when someone finally did decide to work with it, there were no marketing pre-requisites to writing what is essentially BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA 2. It honestly couldn’t have come out better.
Thanks to the creative freedom, and John Carpenter’s input, the comic series has launched on a very strong note. It stays true to the original feel of the movie, right down to Burton’s habit of swaggering like John Wayne while narrating the world around him. It works beautifully with the already established universe, while expanding into its dark corners; the whole time maintaining a healthy dose of magic and wizards. Joining Carpenter is comic creator Eric Powell, who has made his own way with the hit series THE GOON. HIs spot-on jokes and detailed study of the film’s characters easily have easily transitioned these 3D personalities into the world of comic books. We even get peeks at Burton’s hilarious and bizarre life prior to the events of BIG TROUBLE. Apparently, not a lot has changed.
The art by Brian Churilla maintains the story-appropriate balance of cartoonish and life-like, matching the strange atmosphere of the source material. The action is fantastically smooth and promises full immersion that comes to an end way too fast. If you’re sick of false nostalgia, Carpenter and Powell have authentically revived BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, and will have you kung-fu to synth rock until the next issue.