Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop The Reign?
Released by: Dark Horse Comics
Released on: April 19th, 2017.
Written and Illustrated by: Geof Darrow
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The first issue of this latest mini-series from Geof Darrow, who returns to the world of the Shaolin Cowboy with this four issue Who’ll Stop The Reign storyline, features two vultures circling an insanely detailed desert landscape. They talk to one another about how thankful they are that they passed over a dead raccoon for what they’ve now discovered. One Arby’s joke later, and these vultures are prepping to feast on an international smorgasbord – Italian, French, German, Mexican and maybe a little Lithuanian. Oh, and maybe just a little bit of Chinese. Or maybe a lot of Japanese. It’s hard to tell. They circle in and note that the Shaolin Cowboy’s carcass looks a little too fresh. Is he playing possum in and amongst all the gory corpses that surround him?
One of the birds is brazen enough to move in – to his folly. The others were right – the Shaolin Cowboy is alive and well, more than capable of chocking him so hard that his eyes pop out and hit/kill his comrades like so many bullets from a gun.
And then he passes out. He ‘dreams’ of a sifu who tells him to be prepared for the consequences of his own actions and to keep his shaolin training close to his heart so that he can dig himself out of the pit he’s dug himself into. This happens in black and white, this dream. So too do the visions he sees of someone who looks an awful lot like Robert Mitchum and the vision he sees of a talking horse telling him to ‘giddy up.’ He starts to snap out of it and pulls himself up. He’s covered in blood but he starts to concentrate, to restore his inner axis and his chi. He rises in between two rocks with Trump painted on each side and unblocks his damaged chi paths. With some encouraging words from the horse, the sifu and that Mitchum looking guy, soon enough he’s agile, mobile and hostile.
He stumbles through the spray painted desert towards a highway. Here various tourists and workers pass him by, throwing their garbage at him, their car/truck radios blaring evangelical talk radio and commercials so obnoxious that the sheeple driving around buy them as entertainment. He sits in the middle of the highway and concentrates, summoning the spirit of Warden Duyu who insists he accompany him to Hell where he belongs. Thankfully, our hero is ‘well versed in Hell jurisprudence’ and he outsmarts his would be captor. They do spiritual battle and the cowboy manages to void the ‘Hell warrant.’ As Duyu cannot return empty handed, he brings the corpse of a roadkill raccoon back to Hell with him.
With that out of the way, the Cowboy lies flat on the road as a pickup driven by a hard drinking, hard texting redneck drivers over him. When this happens he grabs the metal ‘cow balls’ on the back of the truck and swings up, landing in the bed of the truck, seemingly unaware that a drone of some sort looks to be following him.
At a nearby hotel, some derelicts talk about a man they found some YouTube footage of. They’re not sure if it’s cosplay or not but they think, if it’s real, that his guy is able to kill a whole lot of zombies with a chainsaw on a pole. They’ve tracked him down using the aforementioned drone, which followed him until it malfunctioned (he took it down). But before that happened they managed to get the plate number and track the pickup, tracing it to owner Tim Bico, a man with a penchant for hentai videos and a shitty cell phone plan. And then the beer-filled giant crab situated on the head of a woman with multiple swastika tattoos, speaks to these simpletons and their knife-footed dogs about the reality of the situation. In true Darrow fashion, a dog takes a shit in the background.
Swastika woman with the crab on her head rallies the troops – it’s time for their group, the Revengers, to seek vengeance against the Shaolin Cowboy. And to be easier on the environment? They’re going to carpool. As their plan is set into motion a giant crab shows up, pigs run wild and a pterodactyl steals a baby…
Absolute fucking insanity, the first issue of this latest Shaolin Cowboy series has all the ridiculously obsessive detail in every single Goddamn panel that seasoned fans of Darrow’s art not only want, but need to see. It’s a beautiful thing, and it’s all done with a wicked sense of humor, skewering modern consumerism, cell phone obsessions, app culture and of course, the modern political climate (regardless of which side of the political spectrum you might find yourself on, it’s hard to deny that it isn’t a joke these days – so why not laugh as Rome burns? Unless you’ve got a fiddle handy). There’s an Arby’s gag on page one, for Pete’s sake. But it’s beautiful. It is, like the best of Darrow’s work, worth pouring over every single panel to take it all in. There’s so much here – in the desert scenes, in the signs and bumper stickers that populate the highway scenes to the ashtrays and tablet screens we see in the bar where the Revengers meet to discuss their plans. It’s almost overwhelming, with digs at gun culture, corporate sponsorship and ultra right-wing politics –more than once happening all in the same single panel – that you can’t help but want to re-read it all. Just to see if you’ve missed anything. And you probably have.
It’s all done with a wicked sense of humor. The art steals the show (high fives for the coloring work by Dave Stewart and the lettering from Nate Piekos) but that’s not to short change the dialogue. This is very funny, topical stuff. Where it’ll go from here is anyone’s guess – Darrow’s work is nothing if not unpredictable – but you can damn well bet on the fact that it’ll be worth coming back for issue #2.