Thursday, November 14, 2013

365 Comics...317: Shaolin Cowboy #2 (2013)

Perhaps you thought the first issue of Shaolin Cowboy was a tad too brisk, too light on story, and frustratingly lacking in any real substance beyond Geoff Darrow's insanely intricate artwork.   Well, you're going to like issue 2 even less by those standards.

But this second issue is perhaps one of the most fascinating comics I have ever read... and by read, I mean looked at because there's not a single line of dialogue, no word balloons, no words at all, in fact, beyond the credits inside the front cover and the sound effects of the chainsaw staff rumbling across the top of the page.

The oddly sized 33-page unstory starts with a splash page (where we left off last issue) with the cowboy leaping into a horde of zombies.  From there it's 16 double-page spreads, consisting of two equeally sized widescreen panels stacked one on top of the other following the movement of the Cowboy as he kicks ass and rends flesh.  It, quite literally, is one big fight sequence, or rather, a segment thereof.  Were it a movie it would be about 40 seconds of screentime.  A minute, tops.  Two minutes if Zack Snyder's directing it. 

It's one against hundreds, and Darrow shows in painstaking detail how the Cowboy progresses through the throngs literally one step at a time.  It's a ridiculous book, all things considered.  If you were to read it for story it would take literally seconds to get through, but it's Geoff Darrow and you can get lost in his nuances for half an hour.  But it's really really gross.  Piles of naked zombies of both sexes getting rendered and savaged by chainsaws and kung-fu, Darrow sparing us no gory detail.
Beyond the blood and guts, there's the poetry of the Cowboy's movements.  It's so natural it's easy to overlook.  Each step in the fight picks up from the last and leads into the next.  Your mind fills in the blanks but you can see how from one position his body arrived at the next.  I'm certain after this that Darrow could draw an actual ballet,  were he so inclined, and I would read it.

This is an audacious comic.  I've never had need of that word before but it fits here.  I'm not even sure I like it, but it's just so different than anything I've ever seen, and I've read thousands upon thousands of comics.  I am in awe.  It won't be the same reading it in the inevitable collected edition, where it will just feel like the prolonged illustrating of a fight, but here as a floppy,  it's a unique artifact, true artistic expression wrapped in the midde of a silly genre mash-up.

No comments: