When “Shaolin Cowboy” #1 hit stores two months ago, I was overjoyed. I was a big fan of Geof Darrow’s strange, quirky, beautifully drawn comic’s original run from Burleyman Entertainment. With the first new issue in a long while, it felt like everything was back on track for more of the same. For anyone who picked up the second issue based on that review, I do apologize. Because with both “Shaolin Cowboy” #2 and now #3, I feel like Darrow is just taunting readers, and not in a good way.
“Shaolin Cowboy” #3, like #2, is composed almost entirely of two-page spreads of the Shaolin Cowboy fighting off an army of zombies using chainsaws and a long pole. That’s it. And when I say that he’s fighting for most of those pages, please don’t confuse that for some sort of inventive storytelling where things change up on a regular basis. The bulk of “Shaolin Cowboy” #3 is like the previous issue: namely the main character spinning around with chainsaws-attached-to-pole and zombies falling left and right. Near the end there’s a slight shift in action, but even then it’s the same new action (running) page after page after page.
Many people in the past have said that they’d “read Darrow illustrate a shopping list” (myself included) and here you can almost hear him say, “Anything, huh?” Darrow’s art is still incredibly impressive; it’s actually the sole reason that the rating gets as high as a single star. The details are intricate and exquisite, and no one else can draw so much onto a single page the way that Darrow manages.
But still, in terms of selling this as anything but a series of portfolio pages, it’s decidedly disappointing. There’s no plot here whatsoever, no hook to make you want to keep reading. The mocking nature of the first page having a random pin-up model being drawn in the foreground with the action blasting away behind her felt like another shot across the bow about the lack of plot — and of course, it just went downhill from there. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who turned the page and audibly groaned when discovering that more of the same. If Darrow’s goal was to make sure that no one asks for “Shaolin Cowboy” ever again, then I suppose that this comic could be considered a success. Darrow’s succeeded in chasing me away from the new “Shaolin Cowboy,” even though there’s only one issue to go. What a disappointment.