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‘Shaolin Cowboy #4: Cruel to be Kin’ – Comic Book Review

Geof Darrow continues to shine in both writing and artwork in issue #4 of Shaolin Cowboy #4: Cruel to be Kin.  The word shine really does not do justice to the incredible art that Darrow creates in relentless delivery of panel after panel of astoundingly detailed and incredibly vibrant illustration.

In this issue, we find our hero, the disenfranchised Shaolin Cowboy, navigating a desolate landspace that Darrow has delivered in similar fashion in Hard Boiled and in his contributions to The Matrix.  He is riddled with would-be killers in all shapes, forms, and sizes which he effortlessly dispatches with a combination of grace and gore that only Darrow can pull off.

The writing is engaging and witty and features several subplots that I won’t delve into as to not give too much away; however, I can tell you that Darrow creates a semi-parallel satire universe of our society’s current fixations and extremities.  The book is not as much of a page turner as it is a mind blower.  Each page is so well crafted that you will find yourself studying the infinite detail packed into each frame.  Also, if you are really paying attention, you will note how consistently Darrow draws each scene even from many different camera angles.  He does not miss a beat.  The artwork in this book is truly incredible.

On a related note, I recently attended the Boston Fan Expo and, as expected, it offered the traditional menu of cosplayers, vendors selling anything from comics to plastic swords, TV and movie celebrities, toys, and more toys and, of course – Artists Row.  

Artists Row is, by far, my favorite section of any con.  You literally get to meet and shake hands with some of the most talented people on planet Earth.  In my humble opinion, there is more talent gathered at any decent con’s artist row than there are at any given Oscars Awards ceremony.  I had the true privilege of talking with Mark Morales, Joe St. Pierre, and one of my all-time favorite artists and creators – the legendary Mr. Michael Golden.  I spent of a lot of time with Mr. Golden, talking about his early days drawing the Micronauts and his work for both Marvel and DC over the years.  He was working on a drawing and using French curves to control his line work. I asked him if he had always done that, and he said no, that this was a relatively recent development because his hands started shaking.  This was inspiring and bit heart breaking to me at the same time.  It reminded me that these incredible talents, these creative forces of nature, these truly remarkable innovators such as Walt Simonson, Art Adams, Steve Rude, John Romita Junior, John Bryne, and so many others are, at the end of the day, actual human beings going through the big cycle of life just like the rest of us.  The passing of George Perez this past year only magnified the clarity of this for me.  These folks are generational talents, and we, as fans, are so very very fortunate to experience their work.

Geof Darrow is truly one of these remarkable generational talents.  He is one of the greatest artists of his industry and beyond.  His talent is overwhelming, and Shaolin Cowboy puts this talent on display in fantastic color with witty and punchy writing of over 32 pages of insanely creative, entertaining, and perfectly drawn, orderly chaos.  I would argue that no one in this world can draw with a complete mastery of perspective and detail the way that Geof Darrow can.  Every panel, every single panel has more detail in it than most splash pages by other artists.  It almost does not seem possible, but there it all is in brilliantly rendered, flawless line work with a multitude of camera angles and consistent scenes with each drawing setting up the pace and visual narrative like no other artist can do.

If you were ship wrecked on a desert island and had to pick only one book to read for the rest of your time there, well, this would be that book.  You will find yourself studying each panel and asking yourself the same question over and over: “How can anyone be this good?”

We are truly lucky to experience this master craftsman’s work.  Its beyond incredible what he can do, and if you are a comics fan, you have to include Geof Darrow on your must-read list.

Five out of Five Stars

Creative Team: Geof Darrow (writer/artist), Dave Stewart (colorist)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Click here to purchase.

Desmond Walsh, Fanbase Press Contributor



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