Written by Anthony Burch and John Carpenter
Art by Jorge Corona
Colors by Gabriel Cassata
Cover by Brett Parson
There are times when I frequently ask myself, “what does ol’ Jack Burton do at a time like this?” Big Trouble in Little China is a favorite film of mine, and, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, has a very nice continuation in print form. John Carpenter continues the journey of Jack Burton, the unlikely hero, as he struggles with a life that seems tailor made for anyone but him. The series draws on the Eastern mythos, established in the original, and uses it to create a wondrous and fantastical world that compliments the equally marvelous art. Old man Jack is a fun concept and a good, light-hearted turn for a character who is both invincible and highly vulnerable. How do you keep something from falling into the Star Wars trap of “the same, but different”?
So John Carpenter resumes writing duties, and it is as silly as it gets. Everything Ol’ Jack Burton says is appropriately over the top. Even though he is at his lowest point, he is still cracking wise. He is a caricature of an 80s action hero, which, in itself, is a caricature of Americans. It’s wonderfully meta. It is mentally taxing being the accidental savior of the universe. Jack is so jaded, at this point, that he is lethargic about being lethargic.
Unlike most 80’s action stories, Big Trouble in Little China draws from Eastern, mainly Chinese, mythology, with an already laid framework. I am against most expanded universes, but Big Trouble in Little China has the potential of limitless world building through centuries of pre-established lore. Lo-Pan is a demon-god, the sentry of Heaven’s Gate is a big fish monster, and Heaven has everything a human could want. The art feels sarcastically drawn but in a fun way. It’s not lazy, but it is sleek, with just enough grit to make the creatures look sinister, the good guys looking refined, the locations popping at the eye, and Jack looking frumpy.
This run seems to be an, obvious, parody of the Old Man Logan story. Old Man Logan is both literary, dramatic perfect and schlock awesomeness. Old Man Jack is schlock awesomeness, but it is based on schlock and has dialed up the madness to 11. Wang, Egg, Gracey, and the Porkchop Express are all dead and gone, so what does Jack have? He’s a man who stumbled into multiple potentially world ending plots, and he, somehow saved the day. He isn’t the pinnacle of strength or moral courage, so he is an accidental hero. What sets him apart is that he doesn’t feel satisfaction from doing the right thing. When he wins, it’s like a macho pissing contest, but in the end, his friends are gone, so his contest was worthless. He never saved the day alone, and there is only one way he knows to be reunited with his friends and boy, does it work.
Old Man Jack is a tongue in cheek look at an 80s action hero with nothing left but his glory days, but those are long behind him. It perfectly captures the essence of a macho man who thinks himself to be John Wayne in his golden years. It looks great, not just in art style, but in imagination brought to page. It’s a bit too depressing to be sad, so it comes full circle and becomes an intentional joke. I highly recommend Big Trouble in Little China issue 10, and like Ol’ Jack Burton always says, “have you paid your dues lately?”
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