Back in the mid to late eighties John Carpenter came out with a movie that is probably second only to the Rocky Horror Picture show in being the poster child for cult movies. Big Trouble in little China told the story of mullet wearing Kurt Russel being dragged into a story of ancient Chinese demons and sorcery all in an effort to claim on a drunken bet. Well, perhaps due to the runaway success IDW is having with Ghostbusters at the moment Boom studios, probably best known for, um, making comics out of other peoples properties, has started a run on Big Trouble.
The comic picks up literally where the movie left off, complete with Wang and Maio trying to tie the knot and a demon crawling over the back of the Pork Chop Express (the characters truck and not as some may guess a euphemism for his penis). Anyway as soon as said demon makes its way into the cabin Jack does a hard u-turn and heads back to china town for some answers. Before he can get one he likes however the wing kong (ninjas) break in seeking vengeance for the death of Lo Pan. Lead by Qiang Wu it’s a short fight that ends with Wang captured and Jack(Kurt Russel) bargaining for his life. Qiang Wu will release him but for that Jack must travel the long black road to retrieve the spirits of the storms from the seven faced widow. Thus by issue two the story has kicked in with Jack, Egg and the demon Pete all aboard for a trip to a strange twisted reality where men ride turtles and salted duck eggs are worth killing for.
Written by John Carpenter and Eric Powell, though I would question how much is Eric with some quotes and perhaps a guideline by John. The series pretty much assumes that you’ve seen the movie and can recall the broad strokes at least, though considering how the movie pretty much chucked both you and Jack in at the deep end I don’t think the comic will really stop any new comers getting into it. However I feel that anyone willing or wanting to put up with this weird Chinese mythology and confusing and demon ridden plot will have already seen the movie by now so there isn’t too much to worry about there. The problem if there is one is that the whole thing feels somewhat exaggerated from the Big Trouble I know. The falls seem more farcical, the characters slightly more exaggerated and the plot seems to be pushing on the boundary a bit more. In fact the best way I can think to describe the comic would probably be as the animated series that the movie never got. This is helped somewhat by the art by Brian Churilla. Now don’t get me wrong the art is good, it’s clear and distinctive and you can tell who everyone is. However the best example of what I’m talking about is probably Pete the demon who has now formed a master like bond with Jack and is stuck following him around. The art style makes him look somewhat cuter than you might remember him and when Jack attempts to disguise him in t-shirt and baseball cap you realise that he is the slimmer of the franchise. The originally disgusting one off creature brought back with a slightly more appealing appearance and now one of the team providing plucky comic relief although in this case also providing the muscle for some of the fight scenes.
So far the series has plodded along at a leisurely pace, though I believe the plot is planned to be a small five or six issues long run with a follow up series depending on the results before they decide whether to go the whole hog and do a full series. This has meant a few distractions from the plot as Jack strangely chooses to reminisce about past romantic encounters once an issue on cue. This feels a bit jarring not least because it turns out that Big Trouble was not Jacks first dance with the devil by the pale moonlight as he has tangled with cults trying to resurrect demons and dated Vampires out for his blood. This feels a bit false from the Jack we saw in the movie and even the one running around the book and at about a page each I wonder if this is designed merely for the smirk factor or if they are trying to set up these kind of things now for the series they hope will follow where Jack will no doubt battle mummies and robots. Though it has an unexpected twist come issue four, that I won’t spoil I’m still wondering about it.
In the end the series is true enough to the movie that I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the film and it’s certainly better than a lot being put out by some of the bigger publishing houses at the moment.
In terms of eighties adaptations I would say that it is not yet up there with what IDW is doing with the Ghostbusters but it is certainly better than pretty much anything Moonstone has done with Buckaroo Banzai.
Big Trouble is available from Boom studios and is currently up to issue four and available from all good and a few bad comic book shops.