Shaolin Cowboy #1 Review

Review By: Rob Neil Gruszecki


    Spinning violently on either side of a long bamboo rod are two running chainsaws. Like a pinwheel they spin until released amongst the heads of a swarm of zombies attacking a car of drunks. The tops of skulls, dismembered torsos and a myriad of other rotten body parts gift themselves to the desert around them following the release of such a deadly, and simultaneously badass weapon. On the other end of the fierce tool there is one who lives as an infamous wanderer and banished warrior of the Shaolin temple. His garb, simple faded jeans, tattered red longsleeve, yellow bandana and dusty hightops, this cowboy of the Buddhist teachings is a devastating force with wrath to spare.

    The Shaolin Cowboy was a series originally released under the Burlyman Entertainment Press and has since found a home as an ongoing series at Dark Horse Comics. Written and Illustrated by Geof Darrow (Hard Boiled), the series follows the adventures of a lost man in search of peace and enlightenment in a dark and violent world. Only producing seven full issues over the past 8 years, Geof Darrow’s hero of pulp and grindhouse fiction will officially return as a monthly book that promises even more chainsaws and zombies in the future.


    The story begins six years after being swallowed by an enormous beast housing a city on his back, fed into its Colen Powell then subsequently into layer upon layer of hell. The Shaolin Cowboy, now pursued by an army of the dead, led by a furious man named Mr. Excellent, makes his escape from the back door of the city and into the endless desert in search of his mule and a baby who is now a monkey. Picking up where the last seven issues left off and entering into a mostly wordless action comic, this particular chapter in the saga of the cowboy is harrowing, hilarious, brutal and an excellent representation of bottomless imagination and talent from a madman of the comics medium.


    The detail in each panel is absolutely astounding. A facet of the creator’s work is the immense amount of labour intensive line work and substance crammed into each tiny box of a page. The time spent staring at the insanity that is each panel of this book is enough to warrant the Shaolin Cowboy at least a full day of study and adoration. Geof Darrow has a surreal style along the lines of Chris Burnham, James Stokoe, Frank Quitely and Nick Pitarra whose pencil work features eccentric and hyper-realized environments, capturing motion and cinematic storytelling perfectly. Artistically, Shaolin Cowboy number one will be one of the best looking ongoing series in comic book stores this year.


    In addition to a fun and fast moving plot there is a substantial amount of bonus material in this first issue that will satiate your desire for more Shaolin Cowboy for a long time after the several rereads that you are guaranteed to give this first chapter. A dense 2-page long prose backstory section regaling the past few years of the monk in hilarious detail is more content than you will read in any other comic this week with a bizarre tale of heroism, puns and the best description of a human centipede featuring Justin Bieber, Ryan Seacrest and many more of the hollywood elite and intolerable. As well as this there are pin-ups in the back of the book by Simon Roy (Prophet), Aaron Conley and Damon Gentry that are great stills of the comic’s lead.


    I can’t possibly gush over this first issue any more besides to give it my highest recommendations and to tell you that Geof Darrow’s Shaolin Cowboy number one from Dark Horse Comics is worth every penny and a necessity for any comic fan’s pull-list.

Rob Neil Gruszecki is a writer, musician, podcaster and Wednesday Warrior

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