Literally bursting out of hell, The Shaolin Cowboy unwittingly sets free thousands of damned zombies which he has no choice but to defeat with nothing but a pair of chainsaws attached to a staff and his incredible kung-fu skills.
The path of Shaolin Cowboy’s comic series has been a long and odd one, becoming almost legendary to its fans but barley registering with any other comic fans.
Its creator, Geof Darrow, must be the most popular artist in the industry in respects to body of work ratio (which isn’t a lot to say the least), his collaborations with Frank Miller (Hard Boiled, Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot), which display Darrow’s penchant for ridiculously minute detail, gore and bizarre imagination, stand right up there with the all time classics.
It was these works that instigated The Wachowski Brothers (now brother and sister) to hire Darrow to produce the technical design work that gave life to their visually dense future machinery in The Matrix. Later, The Wachowskis, formerly and briefly writers in the comics industry, decided to kick-off a new comics label called Burly Man, which consisted of work from themselves, Darrow and The Matrix storyboard and former Amazing Spider-Man artist, Steve Skroce, all of who being known for their temperamental work pace.
The books, Skroce’s Doc Frankenstein and Darrow’s Shaolin Cowboy, though both visually stunning and very entertaining, got off to a rocky start, schedule-wise, and the gaps between issues only became longer until there were no issues at all, everyone assuming that Burly Man had quietly closed its doors, leaving two unfinished stories.
Hope was reignited though, years later, as Darrow started doing spot illustrations for the anthology comic, Dark Horse Presents, many of which featured the over-weight kung-fu cowboy, and it was no real surprise that Dark Horse gave Darrow a mini-series to finish his character’s truly absurd adventure.
And so, with a minor title change (THE Shaolin Cowboy), we have been able to enjoy Darrow’s insanely detailed and frenetic artwork once again, but this time, as it turns out, and to everyone’s surprise, on a wholly regular schedule. One can only assume he’s been slowly working on it this whole time.
It’s hard to judge this mini-series as a stand-alone entity and from a story perspective, because there IS no story; the entire four issue mini series is a single, extended fight sequence that is the conclusion to a previous story.
The Shaolin Cowboy stories never really made sense, they were always just a surreal forum for Geof Darrow to draw whatever the hell crazy thing he could think of and wanted to draw, but it was always inventive. By comparison the latest series is repetitive, almost miraculously so in fact, with four times thirty odd pages of nothing but rocky desert landscape, thousands of putrid zombies, lashing of undead innards and a Fat Cowboy bustin’ awesome kung-fu moves.
Simply put, you will either find it to be a boring waste of your money or about the most awe-inspiring and violently meditative comic art that you’ve ever seen.
Hopefully Darrow will be releasing the entire series as a collection of volumes through Dark Horse, that way any new readers can enjoy the full twisted adventure in it’s full glory, but until then I feel I must forego my usually grading system in favour of stating that you should leave these single issues be unless you own the rest of the series or just want to scope out the artwork.
A+ grade – for artwork