Big Trouble for Escape from New York

When I attended Eternal Con on July 1, 2017, to check in on Vendors who had appeared at BoroughCon, meet new people and catch up with my buddy Billy Tucci, I did not expect to get waylaid by Greg Pak.

I had walked up to the Pak’s table and started talking to what I thought was a millennial. To my surprise, I was talking to Pak himself! How can a guy who has been producing top flight comics for years, such as the Planet Hulk series, look like a college kid? I’m 55, and he’s 48, yet I look like I could be his father!

Already off balance, he then fast-talks me into buying the full run of the Big Trouble in Little China/Escape from New York crossover. My wallet emptied so fast I had flashbacks to grade school and being shook down by bullies for my lunch money.

Having recently reviewed his great weird west saga, Kingsway I wasn’t ready to so soon review another Pak masterpiece, but I must get some return on my missing cash.

Big Trouble in Little China. If you have never seen this movie, please turn in your geek credentials. To the rest of you, I am sure that you share my view that this is one of the greatest geek movies ever made. It perfectly hits every note. I can and have watched it dozens of times. Lo Pan is one of my favorite movie villains; this was the role James Hong was born to play and considering that he has appeared in 500 movies and television shows, that is saying something.

Director John Carpenter is rightly considered one of the greats of horror. BTLC showed that he didn’t take himself too seriously and could perfectly blend horror with humor.

And of course, there is Jack Burton himself: Kurt Russell. Russell nailed the slightly clueless but amazingly lucky Jack.

Now, there are fans who like Escape From New York better than BTLC. Not to take anything away from that Carpenter film, I prefer BTLC. Escape from New York, which was released in 1981, is such a dark vision of the future that it makes Blade Runner look positively cheery by comparison. However, I do admit that Snake Plissken is one of the great bad asses of all time.

According to Pak, Boom approached him to do the project. They showed him a picture by Daniel Bayliss where Jack is driving his rig, the Pork Chop Express with Snake riding on the cab firing a machine gun at a monster. Pak was hooked (who wouldn’t be?) and the rest is comic book history.

Pak, not merely likes, but clearly loves the source material. His love of these two flicks is evident in both his understanding and handling of these different but weirdly connected characters: Jack and Snake.

The premise is wonderfully silly. In Snake’s world, Bobby Liu, the last Federal Security guard, is guarding the Government’s Secret Vault of Supernatural Research. He used a magical artifact to summon Snake, but made a mistake and summoned instead an alternate world version of Snake: our boy Jack.  Seems Bobby is trying to protect a National Treasure blues Singer, Blind Apple Mary, and transport her to the Free State of Toronto. Right at the outset Jack is mistaken for Snake and kills some Mad Max bad guys called “Marauders.” Snake tracks down the imposter and discovers that Jack has an almost magical sense of luck which prevents him from getting hurt. One thing leads to another and the three head off the rescue Blind Mary. Oh, yes, and the ghost of Lo Pan is tagging along looking for revenge.

The story has the speed and momentum of Jack’s rig and the jokes don’t stop. Lo Pan is a great villain and his plan to use alternate versions of Snake to kill or capture Jack is inspired silliness.

While there are many artists who could have done this, I can’t imagine anyone doing better than Daniel Bayliss. His scenes are funny enough without Pak’s script. Plus he nails Kurt Russell’s square jaw just this side of caricature. I particularly loved the opening scenes of the story where Jack suddenly finds himself in a desert wasteland being chased by Marauders. Later on, he has a lot of fun with the alternate Snakes, which are hysterical. Triona Farrell’s colors are a great complement to the art.

Is this a good read? Well to quote Jack Burton: “You just listen to the old Pork Chop Express here now and take his advice on a dark and stormy night when the lightning’s crashin’ and the thunder’s rollin’ and the rain’s coming down in sheets thick as lead. Just remember what old Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big old storm right square in the eye and he says, ‘Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it.’”.

In other words: yes, Pak has done it, again.