Shaolin Cowboy has always been a series that’s focused on the spectacle of Geof Darrow’s amazingly detailed art. There are some big ideas in there too, don’t get me wrong, but we’re all here for the incredible art and a possible story to hang that on. We delve into a new four issue series from Dark Horse–is it good?
Writer: Geof Darrow
Artist: Geof Darrow
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
So what’s it about? The official summary reads:
Who doesn’t like Surf and Turf? Well, what do you do when Surf and Turf doesn’t like YOU?????????
Why does this book matter?
You mean besides the legendary Geof Darrow drawing this? How about the fact that there’s more social commentary than you can shake a stick at in this issue? It also sets up a throwdown the Shaolin Cowboy is more than ready for after the fighting he goes through here.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
In a lot of ways this issue reminded me of the fantastic Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis. There’s fighting sure, but there’s also a lot of scenes involving the trashing of our planet, the slobs that live among us, and the intense desire to be loved on the internet. There’s a lot of social commentary in this issue, in part because the Shaolin Cowboy is still recouping from his last battles and is on the mend. As he heals up walking along a highway, he is witness to moronic families texting and chatting on their phones about pointless self absorbed things. Given the amazing abilities of the Shaolin Cowboy, his ability to tap into his Chi, and the spiritual nature of this character it makes sense to juxtapose that against the disgusting nature of regular people. Overall it works here, and allows Darrow to flesh out this series so it’s not all about insane fighting scenes.
That’s a bit odd.
But there are fighting scenes of course, and they are spectacular. Not so much a fighting scene, but a physical scene, Darrow draws an interesting sequence of the Shaolin Cowboy healing himself. In this scene we see flashbacks–in black and white of course–to mentors of his who are walking him through mind/body control so as to heal his bleeding wounds. It’s a visually arresting sequence and it works well. Then there’s the out-of-body ghost fighting sequence with the Shaolin Cowboy fighting off a warden of Hell. It’s an intense sequence drawn across a double page layout that’s just gorgeous. The colors in this sequence, by Dave Stewart, do well to capture the translucent spiritual powers of the characters.
This book is also pretty damn weird. It opens with vultures chit chatting about their favorite races of human to eat. Later, a crab ends up being a major threat to the Shaolin Cowboy and given his talking you’d think the swastika wearing folks around him might bat an eye. It’s another element that reminds me of Transmetropolitan and it makes the entire experience trippy in a visceral sort of way.
These flashbacks make me want to see a movie version of this.
It can’t be perfect can it?
There’s a seven page stretch in this issue that lays on the social commentary rather thick. It’s not the most eloquent of deliveries, with characters bragging about carpooling to save the planet whilst they down beers and talk amongst trash and smoking cigarettes. Clearly the message is we talk like we should be owed everything, but act like slobs who do the opposite. The villain is introduced in this scene in a big speech that, again, is way over the top. But then, that’s this series in a nutshell.
Is It Good?
This is the type of book that’s over the top in the best of ways, hammering home a message with gorgeous art and a lot of whacked-out ideas. Hopefully, somebody will listen to the commentary, though given the message many will not. Comic fans of Transmetropolitan need to read this!