No Mercy! Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues #1

Cover of Cobra Kai issue #1 showing Johnny Lawrence and his teacher, Kreese, staring at each other. Below is Johnny standing at the ready at the All-Valley championship

Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues #1

Luis Antonio Delgado (colorist), Kagan McLeod (artist, cover artist), Denton J. Tipton (writer), Neil Uyetake (letterer)
IDW Publishing
October 9, 2019

IDW’s Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues #1 is the beginning of what will be a miniseries giving Karate Kid nerds like myself the story of the ultimate ’80s bully, Johnny Lawrence. In the film, The Karate Kid (1984), the angry teen was the bane of Daniel LaRusso’s existence, but now with this limited run series, we get to see the events depicted in the film from Johnny’s perspective. This run clearly ties in with the YouTube series, Cobra Kai (2018) and opens with an older and wiser Johnny telling his dojo students about the events leading up to The Karate Kid film.
The YouTube season one trailer for Kai, clearly plays on what the viewer wants—a good guy, bad guy line between Daniel and Johnny. This comic series is clearly doing the opposite, making us try to understand and sympathize where Johnny came from and his mindset during The Karate Kid and after. The issue shows how Johnny became the bully he was in high school. We get snippets of his dysfunctional home life and his relationship of (I’m assuming) his first girlfriend, Ali Mills.

Cover art for Cobra Kai #1 shows Johnny Lawrence and his teacher Kreese
Credit: IDW Publishing

It was refreshing to know how different Johnny was before he joined the Cobra Kai dojo and became influenced by its founder, John “No Mercy” Kreese. Johnny clearly was looking for a father figure and role model but found it in the wrong person. The group of students he’s telling his story to are a group of bullied outcasts, nerds, and accepts female students, something Kreese would’ve never done. Not all bullies are bullies their entire life. Times change, people change.

The most touching scene in this issue is at the very end, after Johnny has finished telling his students about the beach scene, shown in the Kid film and from Johnny’s perspective in this issue. Johnny dismisses his students, opens a beer, and starts crying.

Johnny Lawrence doing karate
Credit: IDW Publishing’s Twitter post for Cobra Kai

The artwork by Kagan McLeod is detailed enough that you know exactly who’s who without even reading the panels. Writer Denton J. Tipton does a great job, with limited space, of telling us what we need to know about Johnny’s daily life without going overboard with exposition. I was pleasantly surprised by Luis Antonio Delgado’s color choices.

I was expecting very bold, neon, and vibrant colors to play on our cravings of nostalgia from the ’80s. But instead Delgado chose soft colors, almost pastel-like in some cases. The character lines aren’t too thick or thin, they’re just right, making us focus on the characters and their faces. The shades of red are interesting because there’s so much, there’s basically not panel that doesn’t have some shade of red in it.

I believe the use of the various shades of red are intentional on Delgado’s part. Karate isn’t violent sport but Kreese taught Johnny to use karate as a violent tool against others. This is the exact opposite of what Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel. Hence the red in almost every panel, almost like it’s slowly poisoning Johnny’s mind. I’d like to note that Daniel is also seen in red, almost the same shade as Johnny’s jacket, at the beach. Keep in mind this is in the film and I’m probably overthinking, but perhaps this is also a nod to the Kai series. The season one trailer shows Daniel, big shot business owner, being a douche and harassing a rough, down-on-his-luck Johnny in front of his employees. Now, after 34 years, the bully is now the bullied (kind of).

McLeod’s art and Delgado’s colors give the reader a more of a sympathetic view on Johnny Lawrence. I definitely think this worked positively on part of the comic. I’m eager to see if this carries through to the other issues especially when Johnny’s violence towards Daniel escalates.

Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues #1 is a great start and I’m anxious to read issue #2, which comes out November 27th.

Amanda Hardebeck

Amanda Hardebeck

Amanda has been a sci-fi & film disciple since birth. She's the owner of Static Pen Publishing which specializes in film and television publications.