• Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop The Reign? (Hardcover)

    Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop The Reign?
    Released by: Dark Horse Comics
    Released on: October 25th, 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…

    The cowboy has just jumped out of the truck hurtling towards his opponents, flying through the air as the V-8 drops out of the chassis. The giant talking crab – Crabby Hayes- isn’t 100% sure that this is the guy they’re looking for – he’s upside down after all –so they decide to kill him but not shoot him in the face so they can identify him later.

    It doesn’t end well for the bad guys. Cowboy relieves two of them of their Uzi’s and kills them and then he makes a break for it. But Double-Knit Billy is still around and the giant crab urges him to kill the cowboy. How all these bad guys keep missing him seems to be a bit of a mystery, but that’s how it plays out. Soon enough, Billy is dead too, a bullet through the head, leaving the crab to deal with cowboy all by his lonesome. It leaps through the air, a VW Bug on its back, but his luck isn’t any better. The stray dogs and cats in the area, oh and the giant lizards too, they seem to get a kick out of this. He heads towards a gas station where a woman smokes as she fills up. He ‘borrows’ her cigarette very politely, pulls the gas nozzle out of her car and directs it at the oncoming crab, and then he sets that bastard on fire. Those cats, dogs and lizards get the fuck out of Dodge when that happens. Well, the smart ones do at least.

    Elsewhere, King Crab and his minions, the ones behind the assault, see a report on YouTube about the gas station explosions. Using swastika woman as his host, King Crab swears vengeance! They need to get ahold of Kong, he’ll know how to handle this. In an alley, cowboy stumbles, injured, while dogs hump and piss and lick their balls nearby. This makes enough noise that one of the dogs wakes up Hog Kong so that he’s now aware cowboy is on his way. Along the way we learn Hog Kong’s sad origin having grown up in Iowa, how ‘dinner’ fought back, and how his mother’s righteous anger was shut down by a man… a single man who pole-axed her, thus explaining Hog Kong’s hatred of the cowboy. Kong trained in the secret art of the ninja to become like a fart – silent but deadly – and then began to grow and grow and grow. Kong thought the cowboy was dead. Now that he’s not so sure? Well, he needs to make sure.

    Our high kicking hero boots that drooling, slobbering hog in the face and into some power lines.

    Hog Kong kicks back, sending a small cadre of pterodactyls fluttering away from the scene, and from there, things get bloody as our two combatants beat the snot out of one another. Hog Kong makes some bad puns that you can’t help but laugh at, but the cowboy isn’t having any of it. He keeps his focus on the task at hand and after getting covered in blood, snot and slime and flatulence, he’s kicked into a building, bounces off of a car and lands in an alleyway… on his feet of course. This happens just as King Crab and his Volkswagen van full of Nazi’s arrives.

    As Hog Kong charges at the cowboy from the other end of the alley, the Shaolin Cowboy readies himself for the attack. That talking dog from the last issue reminds Hog Kong to leave some leftovers for King Crab, but Kong is bound and determined to finish this once and for all – in honor of his mother’s memory. And then there’s a car crash – it seems Hog Kong forgot to look both ways before crossing the street, but with the giant pig out the way, there’s still King Crab to contend with, whose beef with the cowboy ties into the man’s penchant for all you can eat seafood buffets. His army of Double Revengers has health care, so they’re fearless!

    Well, if the first three issues of this four issue mini-series written and illustrated by Geof Darrow weren’t enough, it all comes down to this – the insane conclusion of the latest entry in the Shaolin Cowboy saga, Who’ll Stop The Reign.

    When the last chapter begins, King Crab sits high atop the head of the Nazi white trash he’s been using as a vessel of sorts, taunting our hero, egging him on and challenging him to a fight while his minions get car insurance quotes and Linked In requests on their cell phones in the background. As the Cowboy, seemingly dazed and confused after taking quite a beating, swings around those dogs with knifes for feet by their tails, the Revengers tell their tales.

    He never called her back and she died of a broken heart. He killed the guy before he even got a reply from Devry. The pizza he delivered was cold. He didn’t put the seat down so Pepi fell in and drowned. Wayne LaPierre had to eat his own gun because of what he did to the N.R.A.. The list goes on – anything bad in these peoples’ lives they trace back to an encounter with the Shaolin Cowboy and, rightly or not, they blame him for their misfortunes. No wonder these heavily armed, highly uneducated Trump brand clothes wearing gun nuts want a piece of our hero!

    As the horde of ‘Revengers’ approaches our dog swinging protagonist, he apologizes for what his ‘lack of enlightenment’ has caused them, but it’s not enough for them, they want blood. They are, of course, no match for him, but that’s all part of the crab’s plan, to weaken his chi so that he can launch an attack of his own… while the pterodactyls fly, the lizards scrounge and dimwitted onlookers post selfies and Facebook posts in the never-ending quest for likes.

    When action and humor and social commentary collide in such an over the top way as they do in this series it can be a little overwhelming – sensory overload in a way – but Darrow’s latest story is so completely insane that you can’t help but love it. Who wouldn’t want to watch a woman with a crab on her head go head to head with a pudgy martial artist in a cowboy outfit? As they battle, the banter (mostly one sided as the cowboy is a man of few words) serves as the sort of play-by-play that wouldn’t feel out of place on a TV sports broadcast. And then, of course, there’s the cowboy’s internal monologue where he gets advice from both an old monk (“Only by dirtying your palm can you walk clean away.”) and someone who may or may not be Robert Mitchum (“That’s a fine hand gun, might be time to use it!”). It’s here we see the duality of his nature, where his Asian roots mingle with his American upbringing in strange but interesting ways. This fourth issue brings to a close a great story in Darrow’s completely over the top manner. This one has it all – and before the last page hits, we even learn how King Crab met the woman he used as his vessel (“He grabbed my pussy and my brain.”).

    And of course, as great as this is to read, it’s even more of a joy to look at. Again, with Darrow’s work the devil is in the details, be it the signs in the window of a pawn shop or something more obvious like the neon emblem for the Church Of Trump (“Money saves”) hanging off of the side of a building. Lizards and pterodactyls are everywhere, dogs are constantly taking dumps and most of the humans in the book remain blissfully ignorant, numb to the onslaught of portable technology and the overabundance of advertising, product placement, religious branding and political psychobabble they’re surrounded by 24/7. Dave Stewart’s coloring work is the icing on the cake, that extra piece of desert from the buffet. Amitofou indeed.

    This hardcover edition collects all four issues of the mini-series as well as the covers and throws in a few double page spreads in the back pages for good measure. Great stuff. If you missed out on the original run, then here’s your chance to jump back in. Don’t miss it!