Review: “Joe Palooka” By Mike Bullock And Fernando Peniche (Illustrations)

I was provided an advanced copy of this MMA Comic Book (as it’s billed on their website) by the publishers for the purpose of reading and reviewing it. Note the final version has not released yet, so what I note here might change by the time it hits the shelves, so to speak.

Anyone familiar with classic comics knows the name Joe Palooka from the original comic about a boxer by the same name, which originated in 1921. This book, which comprises issues #1 through #6 of the new series, tells the story of a new Joe Palooka.

Nick Davis is your everyday guy. He’s got a good-looking girlfriend. A younger sister to take care of. And oh yeah, he’s an aspiring MMA fighter.

The story opens with Davis winning an MMA match handily, then transitions to a bank robbery, in which Davis is a patron of the bank who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’s content just watching and staying out of trouble until an elderly guard is beat up and shot, where Davis jumps in to stop the robbery. In the process, Davis shoots one of the robbers, thereby leaving his prints on a gun. He runs before the police show up, but, feeling guilty, he returns to the scene. Unfortunately, the guard’s son is a detective, and as the guard lies dying on the ambulance gurney, he fingers Davis in the crowd. Innocent? Guilty? What did he tell his son? Davis doesn’t wait to find out, taking off and beginning a life on the run.

This life takes him to Mexico and eventually Hong Kong, which he’s adopted by Tommy Chang, an MMA promoter with an inflated sense of self and penchant for referring to himself in the third person. Chang gets Davis, who by now has adopted the stage persona of Joe Palooka, various fights where both make money, Davis sending his money back to his girlfriend. The fights keep getting more dangerous, and Davis / Palooka stays on the run, and the detective keeps closing in on Palooka by trailing his girlfriend.

This leads to a climax outside Vegas, where Palooka has gone to fight and hopefully meet up with his girlfriend and sister.

Overall, I really liked the artwork of this series. As a martial artist myself, much of it looked realistic, which I found refreshing. Yeah, there’s some philosophical Miyagi-wannabe stuff, but that’s not a killer. I did find the story a bit predictable, although Issue #6 certainly left the story open for future issues. I will definitely be checking them out.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)