Wax On, Wax Nostalgic: Reviewing ‘Cobra Kai Vol. 1 TP’
by Brendan M. Allen
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.
Cobra Kai Volume 1 bounces back and forth between the timelines of the original 1984 Karate Kid film and the first season of the Cobra Kai streaming series. Sensei Johnny Lawrence is retelling his beef with that LaRusso kid to his students, from the beginning.
Perspective is everything. Even from Johnny’s point of view, though, it’s clear the dude is no saint. If you revisit the original film with just a tiny bit of empathy for Johnny’s character, Daniel really wasn’t either.
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… The legality of the kick that robbed Johnny of his third straight All Valley Championship is questionable, at least.
Denton J. Tipton covers a lot of ground in the script that is already established by the film and the streaming show. Where the book really shines is in the scenes that get expanded and flipped, showing Johnny’s POV, before, during, and after all the stuff we’ve already seen.
In order to show Johnny’s growth and really make you empathize with the dude, it’s important to know why he felt so justified back then.
The main issue I have with this book is that beyond the opening chapter, there isn’t much of that perspective flip. From the second chapter through the finale, Cobra Kai Vol. 1 doesn’t stray much from the movie storyline, and doesn’t really add anything new to the streaming series at all. This is basically a comic book rendering of a film we’ve all seen.
I did really enjoy the art by Kagan McLeod and Luis Antonio Delgado. Likenesses are caricatured, but there’s no question who these actors are. It’s really impossible to separate the iconic roles from the actors, and that’s clearly 19 year old Billy Zabka and 21 year old Elisabeth Shue. Delgado’s palette syncs up nicely with the film and the TV series.
No stranger to martial arts mayhem, McLeod’s action scenes are dynamic and easy to follow, for the most part. It does get a little dicey in just a couple of the action spots. The fights flow reasonably well, except where they don’t.
There’s an eighties sort of charm to the thing. Reminds me of Jack Davis’ work in MAD Magazine, which hits all the nostalgic points from the same era as the film.
Cobra Kai Vol. 1 started off really strong. I was really excited to see what direction this thing would go. Fantastic show, iconic film. Put those two together, expand on some scenes, show some tender character moments for the heel and some shithead moments for the face. Give us growth and digression. Flip the thing in ways we wouldn’t expect.
Sounds AMAZING on paper, and the first couple chapters looked like they would really send it home. But somewhere between the second and third chapters, the thread got lost, and then the last bit is pure déjà vu. That’s not to say it’s not good. It just isn’t quite what I expected. Great nostalgia piece, but not a whole lot of new ground covered.
Cobra Kai- The Karate Kid Saga Continues, Volume 1, IDW Publishing, 08 July 2020. Written by Denton J. Tipton, art by Kagan McLeod, color by Luis Antonio Delgado, letters by Neil Uyetake. Based on characters created by Robert Mark Kamen. Cobra Kai created for television by Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg.