Review: “Shaolin Cowboy” #1

shaocow1

Written and drawn by Geof Darrow

Despite having a relatively sparse body of work, Geof Darrow has been one of the most influential creators of the past 30 years. Influenced by Jack Kirby and mentored by the late “Moebius” (Jean Giraud), Darrow ops for the quality over quantity approach – making very little actual comics in that time but each one having a significant impact. His first big success came in collaborating with Frank Miller on the “Hard Boiled” miniseries and another creations, “The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot,” even went to animated television from 1999 to 2001.  His heavily detailed style has influence artists such as Aaron Kuder and Frank Quitely. He’s even worked in Hollywood having been a conceptual designer on the Matrix films and Speed Racer all with the Wachowski siblings. The Wachowskis even wrote the foreword to the volumes of “Shaolin Cowboy,” one of Darrow’s most endearing characters. It is that same character that makes his return now in Dark Horse Comics.

Much like the protagonist of “Hard Boiled,” the titular character of “Shaolin Cowboy” is a beacon of peace and stability in a world gone completely nuts. After one of the longest and funniest recap segments in recent comics history, the story begins with Cowboy emerging from the earth, almost symbolically. Much of the book is done with very little actual dialogue. Not only does Darrow’s crisp, intricate style stand out, but his sense of visual storytelling (no doubt shaped by his love of Kirby’s work) is also on masterful display as tension and emotion are conveyed without any use of words whatsoever. Shaolin Cowboy does not speak a word in this book, yet his motivations and sense of duty are conveyed by his facial expressions thanks to Darrow’s art.

Darrow also shows a sly, skewering sense of humor throughout the title, also a carry-over from his collaboration with Miller on “Hard Boiled.” Although it may be safe to say the Darrow sense of humor is directly lifted from early Miller; this much is evident in the introduction and in the many puns spread throughout the book, including corporate logos all over an NSA satellite. Darrow’s sense of satire is highly entertaining, but also rather derivative of Frank Miller in his heyday.

The action takes a little bit to actually get going, which for a three issue series may seem a little slow. Once it starts however, it starts fast and the blood starts flowing in the blink of an eye. Those not paying close attention may view a battle with a zombie horde as yet another “Walking Dead” rip off but there’s definitely more going on to the story. That much can be seen through the context of the introduction as well as him being observed by the satellite and those on board. Its a promising start to yet another over the top tale from Geof Darrow. Besides, no one in “The Walking Dead” uses two chainsaws attached to opposite ends of a bo staff as their weapon of choice.

“Shaolin Cowboy” #1 is not a perfect book as much of it is certainly derivative from earlier work. However, it’s an irreverent and compelling start to what should be another wild romp from Darrow, who has been missing in action far too long. This very simple yet effective opening chapter in the latest Geof Darrow saga with gorgeous art to boot earns 4 Palinbush Signs out of 5.

 

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Michael Melchor has covered pop culture in all its forms for several publications and websites, including BackStage Pass magazine, 411Mania.com, and Examiner.com. He's been an avid comics reader since Barry Allen was first put on trial for the death of Professor Zoom. He's also been an avid wrestling fan since Dusty Rhodes beat Harley Race for the NWA World Championship. He now brings his fandom of comics, music, and wrestling to PanelsOnPages.com.

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