November 8, 2012 at 9:55 am By:

Even when you work at a comic shop, sometimes you forget when a new book is hitting shelves.  You might even read over the New Releases the Friday before a new shipment comes in, and still manage to overlook something good.  It’s not until you’re unpacking new comics that you see it and think, “How did I miss that?”  This is what happened to me a few weeks ago with Dark Horse’s new release of Shaolin Cowboy Adventure Magazine.  Like many of you, I also live on a budget.  Yeah, it’s the first Shaolin Cowboy book to be produced in years, and sure it’s got art from creator Geof Darrow and Gary Gianni, but should I spend $15.99 on it this week?

This is one of those rare occasions when the title of the book tells you all you need to know.  It’s very much a throwback to the pulps of yesteryear, complete with short stories and fine illustrations throughout.  Aiding Darrow are writers Andrew Vachss and Mike Black, and there’s a healthy dose of action and humor in their stories.  If you missed out on Darrow’s original Shaolin Cowboy comics (from the Wachowski’s now defunct Burlyman Studios), you can easily jump right into this book without any backstory.  You get the idea that the hero of the title is a vigilante/killer for hire who manages to survive against all forms of monsters and killers in spite of his pudgy appearance.  You get the comic relief from the interior monologue of the hero’s trusty mule, and the way the two interact.  There’s also a fair amount of wordplay in form of numerous puns, like mentions of a Kirk Douglas fir, Later-Aid, Frank Lloyd Trite and an organization called Give Piece a Chance.

This won’t be the best comic you read this year, but it is nothing if not entertaining.  Darrow’s known for illustrating things monstrous and violent, and there’s plenty of that here, including giant snakes, giant komodo dragons, and gun-toting killer biker gangs.  Whenever I read Shaolin Cowboy I get the sense that it’s exactly the kind of book Darrow wants to read, and that’s why he chose to make it.  For that reason, there’s something pure about it.  I never feel like it’s a work-for-hire project that Darrow’s taking for contractual or financial purposes.  You hear the “labor of love” phrase from time to time in discussions about creator-owned properties, but I think it’s applicable here.  There’s something very rewarding about picking up a book like this and getting everything you’re expecting.  If anything, you’ll read this and have your interest piqued for the upcoming Shaolin Cowboy comics (also from Darrow and Dark Horse).

In short, I’m happy I picked it up, and know it’ll be on my shelf for years to come.  It’s nice to see Darrow’s work on a regular basis again.


Filed Under: DISCUSS, Reviews

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