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‘Shaolin Cowboy: Cruel To Be Kin’ HC (review)

Written and Illustrated by Geof Darrow
Published by Dark Horse Comics


You really cannot go wrong with a comic book or graphic novel created by Geof Darrow.

His books are unlike anything out there in the comic book field. They are written differently with the most detail oriented artwork that you have ever seen. Any one picture created by Darrow could have 100 things going on it it. It makes for  a truly incredible experience when taking in one of his books.

So yes, the artwork is the real star here.

It all features stuff you have never seen in a comic book before, or pretty much anywhere . The opening page features a run down city that is on fire. It has a bunch of oversized ants picking up cars and displacing them. Just what the hell is going on here? It is jarring but it allows us to enter the portal into Darrow’s world.

We are introduced to the Shaolin Cowboy and he is a Buddhist Kung Fu Master who walks along this hellish landscape.

He usually does a lot of fighting and that is certainly the case with this story here. He also doesn’t speak very much so a lot of time it is up to other characters to fill in the dialogue bits.

That is certainly the case here as we get a bunch of different creatures talking, such as talking lizards and other such novelties.

In this landscape that the Shaolin Cowboy travels, we get to the that humanity has trashed the earth. There isn’t a lot on plot but if there is one thing that is consistent as far as themes go with this series, it is just that. Every Shaolin Cowboy story seems to have that story element for sure. It is entertaining how those themes come forth.

The Shaolin Cowboy comes across a baby Komodo Dragon. He has to make sure that it doesn’t end up on the endangered species list. So, he takes it upon himself to become a protector for the dragon. This, of course, leads to some of the most incredible and dynamic fight scenes ever put on a  comic book page.

Darrow can stage a fight scene like none other, sure. I also enjoy his writing on this book as well. It is something theater a lot of comics these days aren’t: It is funny. The dialogue is especially witty and Darrow does not hold back on his politics. The man goes for the jugular on every single page and he is scathing and somehow raw and honest. The book has Maga inspired villains for Pete’s sake.

I mean, if you stop and think about it, the book really is about a guy walking though America slaughtering bad guys. Darrow just thinly (VERY THINLY) disguises who in the comic is from the real world. This book has it‘s roots of creation during the pandemic so that makes sense. Again, it is all thinly veiled. But anyone can easily figure it out. It is hilarious, gory and topical fun!

Things just happen to the Shaolin Cowboy. He walks along the landscape and all these various encounters happen. But of all the various tales, this one has the most depth character wise. Some fun things happens.

For instance, he gets a job as a chef in the book until that all goes to hell. And hey! He even says some actual words in this book!

At a certain point about halfway through the book, it takes a tonal shift. The book turns into one sprawling and brawling fight scene . And I was okay with that! Darrow stages everything with enough dynamics and lunacy that you can’t turn away. The whole thing just keeps going and going and going and you are not sure when it is going to end but you don’t care. You just enjoy the ride and give yourself over to it. That’s what I did.

By the end, I was both exhilarated and exhausted by this book. It is Darrow’s most epic and grandiose comic that he has created thus far. I loved every second for it but I am sad that I have to wait until the next one, knowing how long it must take to create. I’ll be there for it though, but until then, I will have plenty more revisits with this book to pore over the madness that is contained within.


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