Writers: Corey Kalman and Brockton McKinney
Artist: Devin Roth
Letterer: Dave Dwonch
Publisher: Action Lab
A review by David Hildebrand
I grew up on 80’s action flicks. From Robocop to Commando, and everything in between, I loved them all. I still love them all, I own most of them on various formats and watch them over and over again. The action flicks in the 80s will always remain a staple in America cinema. Today’s action films, for the most part, just cannot live up to their predecessors. You have a couple here and there, but most are not on par with the cheesy goodness of a Stallone, Schwarzenegger, or even Swayze popcorn flick. That’s what they are: popcorn flicks. You check your brain at the door and enjoy the violent, cheesy, and sometime sleazy movie. Action Lab is inviting us to check our brains at the door to enjoy a story that rises from the ashes of the 80’s action film glory that we all love in one way or another. And I was happy to oblige.
Amerikarate #1 is the story about Sam Kickwell and his quadriplegic brother, Rick. Kickwell was the best of the best until an accident involving his brother and ninjas convinced him to hang up his black belt. The pair travel into the town of Baconville where the people living there just happen to hate karate. They stop at a bar to have a couple of drinks when the Mayor and his posse show up to explain to Sam that he doesn’t like strangers coming into town with their tiger claws and Wu Tang clans! What? Yup, expect comedy and quips like that throughout the book. The Mayor, in typical cliche fashion, warns that he will be watching Sam and his brother.
By now I should mention that Sam carries his brother Rick around in a backpack. Rick doesn’t have arms or legs after his accident with the ninjas. Rick also reminds me of the Looney Tunes dog Chester that always looked up to the other dog he rolled with, Spike. Not familiar? Look them up, it’s worth it. Anyway, I digress. Sam and Rick decide they aren’t leaving town and rent out a barn. Yup, a barn, in true Road House/Swayze fashion, complete with love interest, who just happens to be *insert suspenseful music* THE MAYOR’S DAUGHTER! Add in an 80’s style villain and a good ole fashion karate fight and you have Amerikarate #1!
I would have liked to have been in the room when writers Kalman and McKinney were collaborating on this. The book is fun to read from beginning to end. I appreciate the humor and the one liners. We are given enough of the brothers’ backstory for it to make an impact from the start. Of course there are many 80s references, but they all aren’t based around action films. A good example is the townsfolk hating karate, it reminded me of the town in Footloose that didn’t want dancing. There are some more subtle ones that you have to know what you are looking for to get but it is such a great payoff when you recognize them. Characters are a big factor for me. You can have the greatest plot in the world, but lackluster characters will bring it crashing down before your eyes. Thankfully, given the cheesy nature of the story, there is enough character in the brothers to make you like them and make the narrative work.
Roth’s art is spot on with the script. I have never seen such a sexy karate chop in my life. You will know what I am talking about when you see it. I like his choice of pastels, it captures the tone of the book brilliantly. The characters have the look of ones that you would see in a cartoon on Adult Swim. In fact, the entire time I was reading Amerikarate #1, I was thinking that I could see this ending up being an animated show. Cartoon Network, you listening? It just has that feel to it. The action scenes are well illustrated and the music montage just completes the first issue for me. You can’t be truly 80’s without a music montage!
Buy it! I was surprised by Amerikarate #1 and that’s a good thing! I knew going into it that it would attempt to capture the 80s all over again. I didn’t expect that it would be as fun as it was to read. It exceeded my expectations and I look forward to Sam’s further adventures. If you are into 80’s action films or 80’s films overall, then you should definitely pick up Amerikarate#1. It definitely brought back some good memories for me. If you aren’t into 80’s films, you might struggle with parts of the book because you don’t have any frame of reference. But that’s okay too. As an action story, it works, and it has the comedy to go along with it!