“Johnny’s Story,” Part 1. See The Karate Kid in a whole new light in this retelling through the eyes of Johnny Lawrence, two-time All Valley Tournament Champion. When the new kid makes moves on the girl that broke Johnny’s heart, he vows to settle the score and win back her love. Or so goes the story Sensei Lawrence tells his students nearly 35 years later. Written by Denton J. Tipton (X-Files) and illustrated by Kagan McLeod (Infinite Kung Fu). Based on the hit YouTube Original series Cobra Kai!
Cobra Kai #1 bounces back and forth between the timelines of the original 1984 Karate Kid film and the current Cobra Kai YouTube Premium series. Johnny Lawrence is retelling his beef with that LaRusso kid to his students, from the beginning, and while the events closely mirror the events of the first film, this is way different than what we saw back then. Perspective is everything. Even from Johnny’s point of view, though, it’s clear the dude is no saint. Interestingly, though, if you revisit the original film with just a tiny bit of empathy for Johnny’s character, Daniel wasn’t either.
Not that Johnny’s upbringing excuses the drinking, or breaking his ex-girlfriend’s radio, or generally being a giant dick. It doesn’t.
But… Daniel did pick a bunch of those fights. And then gloated about catching the pretty girl’s eye. And, whatever conspiracy theory you buy into, that a Chinese Kung-Fu Crane Kick in a Japanese Karate tournament should be illegal, or that a full force blow is cause for disqualification, or that a kick to the face would be cause for expulsion from the tournament… That kick that robbed Johnny of his third All Valley Championship has been established as canon in the YouTube series as questionable at least.
Denton J. Tipton covers a lot of ground in the script that is already established by the TV show. Where the series opener really shines is expanding actual scenes from the film, from the other side. Johnny’s POV, before, during, and after all the stuff we’ve seen already. It’s mostly things I already mentioned, where the story really could have been told from either side of the rift, depending on who you rode in with, but this is important to set up the series. In order to show Johnny’s growth, and really make you empathize with the dude, you have to know why he thought he was justified back then.
Art by Kagan McLeod and Luis Antonio Delgado is interesting. Likenesses are slightly caricatured, but there’s no question who these actors are, and it’s really impossible to separate the iconic roles from the actors. That’s clearly 19 year old Billy Zabka and 21 year old Elisabeth Shue. No stranger to martial arts mayhem, McLeod’s action scenes are dynamic and easy to follow. Delgado’s palette syncs up nicely with the film and the TV series.
Like I said, Cobra Kai #1 doesn’t cover a lot of new ground, but it’s those little moments that come just before and just after everything we already know that make this opener really interesting. Was Johnny a good dude growing up? No. Is he a good dude now? Kinda? But, that LaRusso kid, he was kind of a jerk, too. It’s complicated.
Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues #1, IDW Publishing, released 09 October 2019. Written by Denton J. Tipton, art by Kagan McLeod, color by Luis Antonio Delgado, letters by Neil Uyetake, edited by Tom Waltz assisted by Megan Brown. Based on characters created by Robert Mark Kamen. Cobra Kai created for television by Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg.