Written by Andrew Vachss
Art by Geoff Darrow
Pulp magazines saw a brief time of popularity in the 30’s and 40’s. A time when great stories were served up cheap at the local newsstand. Often known for their lurid content and over the top cover art, they began to see their decline in the 40’s with wood pulp shortages due to World War 2 as well as heavy competition from the growing comic book industry, television and paperbacks.
Well Andrew Vachss, Geoff Darrow and Dark Horse Comics are looking to revive that genre with The Shaolin Cowboy. Originally a comic printed from 05-07, The Cowboy is back as a pulp magazine. Kicking off issue #1 is ‘The Way of No Way’, which is the style the Shaolin Cowboy uses. That is to say, his way is when confronted by an enemies demands, The Cowboy says ‘no way’.
He’s a former Shaolin monk who was booted from the temple for his No Way philosophy and now roams as a mercenary for hire. Joining him on the trail is his sidekick, a playboy mule with an attitude. In this premier issue the Cowboy and his mule find themselves trekking to T.A. Town to take on a job killing the proprietor of the town, the Toxic Amoeba and his gang. However TA has another plan in mind, choosing to hire the Shaolin Cowboy himself so that he can lure the Cowboy into a trap. Along the way we meet a feisty drug abusing mutant crab named King Crab, a biker gang, an innocent child victim, the countless mares that mule uses for…ah…studding i guess, a village of white trash hillbillies who are all ethnic being protected by a giant serpent…well, you get the idea.
The story that Vachss has crafted here is a beautifully violent and gory one with over the top action. I mean way over the top action. The kind that makes you curse out loud at how cool it was, all the while delivering in a style of writing that had me laughing at all the hilarious quips and observations. The mule is a great character to have who’s thoughts get voiced onto the page. In one scene that comes to mind the Shaolin Cowboy is being attack by a nest of bats. After dispatching of the bats the mule quips that the bats chose a horrible cave to nest in, everyone knows the best place for a bat cave is underneath a mansion.
It was that kind of brilliant writing along with the horrific ways the Cowboy ended his enemies that made this a real page turner for me. Lots of clever scenes, great humor and seriously entertaining characters culminate into one of the better pieces of fiction that I have read in a while. I haven’t been this engaged in a fictional story since the last Star Wars novel I read a few years ago. Darrow also delivers here on some killer art that helps bring the story to life even more. Lets just say you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a crab start off smoking a cigarette and by the end he is mainlining heroin into his claw. We also get treated to little comics interspersed into the story, most of them giving instruction on how to use household appliances…as weapons.
If there was a flaw here it was in the back up story, Time Factor, written by Michael A. Black. Everyone knows I’m a sucker for time travel, but after reading the initial Shaolin Cowboy story Time Factor was a bit of a let down. The writing was no where near as interesting as Cowboy and the story tended to trudge on in a not very exciting way. I guess it didn’t help that I was reading a PDF while scrolling down on my MacBook. With Cowboy I didn’t mind, but with Time Factor it made reading this story all the more tedious. Of course when it actually drops you will get all the convenience of print.
If you are looking for a great read spend some time with the Shaolin Cowboy, if you like big action I promise he won’t disappoint.
4.5 out of 5 nerds
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