Shaolin Cowboy #1

By Geofrey Darrow
32 pages, color
Published by Burlyman Entertainment

Geofrey Darrow doesn’t draw comics very often, but when he does, he’s got my attention. The two main two projects of his I’m familiar with, Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot and Hard Boiled, were both written by Frank Miller, while his new book Shaolin Cowboy is a book he’s not only drawing but writing as well. I knew the book would look gorgeous… but how would it read?

Off in the desert rides the “Shaolin Cowboy”. He’s aboard a donkey and armed with a sword, the two of them heading… somewhere. Unfortunately for this pair, someone wants to stop them. A lot of someones. Unfortunately for all those someones, they’re about to try and stop this pair. Big mistake.

In a book where the titular character never says a word and all of the dialogue is either his donkey or his enemies, it’s more than a little hard to get a feel for just who the “Shaolin Cowboy” is. Really, the first issue of the comic is little more than an extended fight scene as a hundred or so people attack him only to discover that there’s no safety in numbers in this battle. What saves Shaolin Cowboy from striking out on the writing front, though, is the dialogue between the enemies and the donkey. It’s a very relaxed, humorous chatter, sometimes directed at no one in particular. From talking about evil killer parakeets to the actions of the attackers when they realize that things are rapidly going south, it’s hard to not chuckle at everything going on. By the time the issue is over, you’ve almost been distracted into the fact that not really that much happened, because you’ve had a lot of fun in getting there.

If you’ve ever seen Darrow’s art before you will be unsurprised that Shaolin Cowboy is gorgeous. Darrow has some of the most detailed and intricate art out there, to the point that Burlyman Entertainment could hand out magnifying glasses with each issue and no one would bat an eye. With so much going on in every single panel, what impresses me the most is how well Darrow controls the viewer’s eye. He carefully guides the reader into looking at the most important pieces of each page first, drawing attention to what’s really going on without letting them get lost in the backgrounds. He’s able to carefully keep every character and object looking distinct and separate from each other, and when you’ve got so many packed into such a small space, that’s a real feat. To be hones, after the magazine-sized Hard Boiled and the even-larger tabloid-sized Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot it’s almost a disappointment that Shaolin Cowboy is a normal comic book size, because Darrow’s art is so beautifully intricate that I’d rather see it larger than smaller. (Maybe for an eventual collection down the line, some big hardcover albums would be in order? I know I’d pay extra.)

Shaolin Cowboy #1 is a book that doesn’t go halfway on anything. When the hundred or so bad guys show up, Darrow uses a mammoth ten-page spread to show all of them standing next to each other, giving each one their own special and unique appearance, right before the slaughter of these characters begin. In the end, you almost don’t care that so little happens in the comic because of the sheer amount of effort that went into displaying these pages full of nothing. Over the top and to the extreme in violence, humor, and most importantly art, Shaolin Cowboy #1 knows what it’s going to try to deliver and what it’s going to just let slide. Right now it’s a really good comic and I will cheerfully buy each and every issue without question. If the story itself actually kicks in, though, this could be a great comic, and that’s something I eagerly look forward to seeing before too long.

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