Advance Review: Embracing The Visual Extravaganza Of `The Shaolin Cowboy: Cruel to be Kin’ #1

by Tom Smithyman


The Shaolin Cowboy returns for a new seven-issue series. Excreted from the wonderfully warped mind of Geof Darrow, this latest installment shows the unnamed protagonist through the eyes of a baby Komodo dragon, who narrates the tale. Just go with it. It’s great!


Geof Darrow’s work is always something to behold.

Known for his visual collaborations with Frank Miller in Hard Boiled and Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot, the first three chapters of The Shaolin Cowboy, as well as his conceptual designs and storyboards for the Matrix movies, Darrow’s visual refine the concept of intricacy. The opening splash page alone of Shaolin Cowboy’s latest chapter is worth the price of admission.

It’s a sprawling cityscape that could only come from Darrow’s mind. Meticulously drawn building after building fills the page. Billboards with political jokes (Trump Brand Mug o’ Gold) and businesses with non-PC names (E-Z Dix) assault the eye in glorious fashion. Meanwhile massive lizards and frogs explore the cityscape looking for fresh meals while pterodactyls and a massive hornet carries off a car.

And that’s just the first page.

The rest of the story, written and drawn by Darrow, continue the tale of the unnamed cowboy as he attempts to walk the path of the Buddha. Yet death and destruction is typically all he ever finds. And usually he’s the one dealing out both.

This issue is told largely in flashbacks from the point of view of a Komodo dragon telling his son about his initial meeting with the cowboy. That device enables Darrow to have some witty dialogue between father and son lizards (“So you sayin’ it waterskied the desert tethered to a pterodactyl and it used a dinosaur skull to chop the head off of that flying lizard of German descent, allowing you to escape unharmed?”) as well as to draw one of his favorites landscapes. Those desert scenes are visual smorgasbords replete with a flying jellyfish and a dinosaur skeleton plastered with anti-NRA graffiti.

In Darrow’s beautifully warped mind, all of this makes sense. For the readers, the biggest surprise may be that Darrow is setting up a family story amid the chaos and killing. That would be an even more impressive feat that what he has already accomplished.

The Shaolin Cowboy: Cruel to be Kin #1 will be available for purchase on May 18, 2022.

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