Joe Palooka is an interesting, if far fetched, idea. Taking the nearly insatiable love of MMA fighting and combining it with a hard story, Joe Palooka tells the tale of an innocent man forced to go on the lam simply because he tried to help. To those with an affinity for old school comics, you might recognize the name. Joe Palooka was a series running from 1930 to the 1980s that focused on a heavyweight-boxing champion. Iconic boxing ring announcer Joe Antonacci, who owns the original series name, has created this updated version, where Palooka is reborn as a mixed martial arts combatant. Antonacci, Matt Triano (Sherlock Holmes: The Liverpool Demon) and Mike Bullock (Lions, Tigers & Bears) are behind the new story, with Bullock actually penning the script.
This isn’t a complex or even particularly well-written comic, but it is entertaining. Joe Palooka’s real name is Nick Davis, an up-and-coming MMA fighter with big potential. During a bank heist, Davis tries to help, but ends up killing both robbers and accidentally shooting a bank guard. In a desperate panic, Davis flees the scene and, fearing he’ll be blamed, runs to Mexico. Once there, he enters the world of bare-knuckle boxing under the name Joe Palooka. After his first fight, where he easily defeats one of the most feared boxers in Tijuana, Palooka is roped into the seedy world of Mexican boxing.
While I enjoyed Bullock’s straight ahead writing style, there are a few logic bumps you have to endure to enjoy Joe Palooka. First, the fact that Davis accidentally shot three people. Second, the fact that he ran at all. Third, he came back to the bank and then ran again because he saw the son of the wounded guard (who is also a cop) staring at him. Yep, Davis managed to show back up exactly when the hurt bank guard was being put into the ambulance and exactly when the son showed up just in time to be whispered something from the dad who points out Davis in the crowd.
Outside of the logic missteps, there are also way too many clichés happening here. Davis has a sister who needs money for college. The cop whose father was shot doesn’t think Davis is guilty, but of course Davis doesn’t know that. The girlfriend who happens to be a lawyer but seems to know nothing about the law. Between the illogical and the cliché, Joe Palooka is a mess from the very start. That being said, it is an entertaining book if you’re looking for something without much thought behind it.
Fernando Peniche’s art is nothing to really crow about either. He’s got strong lines and some cool detail work, but overall his style is too cartoony for this kind of story. Most of what Peniche does is the Manga meets America type of work that IDW is famous for churning out. Nothing being penciled by Peniche is awful, it just isn’t particularly good.
If you’re hardcore into MMA fighting then pick up Joe Palooka. If not, approach it as you would a pissed off UFC fighter. With extreme caution.
(2.5 Story, 2.5 Art)