There's a review buried under these nuggets...

*Of course by now everyone and their hairdresser has heard of the big Grant Morrison/Frank Quietly “Superman” buzz (provided that said hairdresser keeps up on the latest Internet comics news, which would make them an awesome hairdresser indeed; my hairdresser was the first to suggest that I’d like “The Office” so I’m eternally in her debt for that… wait, I’m drifting). Now while there hasn’t been any real word on whether this is an official post-Azzarello/Lee run or a special project, the timing of the tell-tale “Wizard” solicitation is a bit too perfect to support much skepticism. Unless we’re talking skepticism about Quitely’s ability to handle a monthly run when even the three-issue “We3” has seen some delays. Unless he’s been stocking up on “Superman” pages while working on “We3”… yeah! Positive! Positive thoughts!

Man, Morrison’s one busy cat in 2005; he might have this, “Seven Soldiers”, and “Vimanarama” going on at the same time. My confidence in him is always high though. Good things can come from insane amounts of overwork.

*Solicitations. Those were the key to unlocking this grand mystery of the “Superman” future creative team. I’ll wait a bit to look through the rest of them. I know my delay will bring the blog police down on me, but I can take them. I can see them now, wandering the streets, asking people in my building where Mr. Jog lives and the neighbors go “What?” but they’ve already got the yellow hazard suits on and they’ve encased the whole building in a safety bubble of latex. Blog police; that’s just how they are.

*I know you've already read Comic Book Galaxy's thick and hearty end-of-year interview and award gala, but just in case I'm totally off I think I'll link to it anyhow because there's an awful lot of stuff by some bright folk hopping around over there.

*The Large Chain Bookstore I frequent has about seven or eight copies of “American Splendor: Our Movie Year” in stock; a lot more than I expected, but I guess I’m underestimating the power of the successful motion picture. Flipping through it, I found that it’s a lot more fragmented than I expected; I’d thought there would be a longish story with a few collected works from the year thrown in, but the whole book is essentially a collection of short anecdotes, many of them by classic “American Splendor” artists, most of which have never been seen before. There’s musings on the set, memories of David Letterman, nail-biting screenings. There’s special guests like a bearded Robert Crumb (who also contributes art) and a far more bearded Alan Moore (and for some unknown reason Melinda Gebbie’s face is always just off-panel or blocked by something, like she’s a periphery character in “Jimmy Corrigan”… I’m not sure if this is significant or if Pekar simply forgot what she looked like and the artist got creative). Oh, and volume 2 of Checker’s “Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon” series also came out, so added to the new “Krazy Kat” book I’ve not got three trades I really want and cannot afford. I was only in the store to purchase the new “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events Movie Magazine” which is in large part composed of Sam Hiti’s 38-page comics adaptation of the recent film. After purchasing the “SpongeBob Squrepants” movie magazine too, I think I’m beginning to acquire a reputation at the store as ‘that guy who buys all the Nickelodeon movie magazines’. I hope that makes me a charming eccentric and not a creepy fuck. I buy the good teas so I can’t be a creepy fuck. No.

*I’m a bit tired, having slept for two sterling hours last night, so how about a quick review of a book that might just be setting itself down on your local shelf as you’re reading this:

Shaolin Cowboy #1 Vol. 54


***I Guess***

And before anyone starts wondering: yes, they put the joking Volume 54 bit in the legal print too, so that’s what it’s officially called.

This is the other ongoing title being produced by Burlyman Entertainment, they of the recent “Doc Frankenstein”, a fun little pulp number rendered near-lethal through sweltering caption-based narrative wankery (unless it was all a gag and I just didn’t get it). This, however, is utterly different.

Writer/artist Geof (or as he calls himself here, Geofrey) Darrow, who happily cedes top billing in the credits to letterer/colorist Peter Doherty, is having a bit of a lark here. Of the 31 pages of story, 14 are full splashes. That fact should come out right at once, because it’s going to indicate how quickly this book goes by, unless you stop to savor the details of Darrow’s art. Here are the the first six pages of the book (since reviews are always more delightful with pictures), although I must confess it doesn’t quite give you the feel for Darrow’s action sequences or crowd scenes. Oh, but I’ve gotten ahead of myself again; allow me to explain the plot.

The title character is a slightly pudgy silent martial-arts master. He rides around a vaguely Old West but possible Post-Apocalypse landscape on a talking white donkey who wears a green visor. It’s the visor that’s the really unique element here since apparently all animals can talk in this world. The donkey speaks in wandering sentences, talking about the inherent dangers of parakeet ownership, among other hot topics. So we get through the preview pages, as you’ve seen, and then Our Hero is suddenly surrounded by Assorted Villians, about a hundred of them, all of them fully detailed and unique (one of them, for example, has his penis hanging out), their reveal lavished over ten consecutive splash pages, establishing one long pan to the right. It‘s ludicrously overextended in terms of page use (remember, this reveal takes up just under one third of the entire book), but it‘s probably what I enjoyed most about the comic. Just page after page after page of lovingly designed and carefully rendered villains, none of whom will amount to anything, but all of them seemingly in possession of a full history just from your initial glimpse. So then the title character starts kicking their asses, cutting a deli slice out of the center of one character‘s skull, bisecting another right down the middle. The donkey spots a chimp brandishing a pistol. “That monkey has NRA written all over him,” remarks the donkey. The chimp nervously recites instructions for the operation of the gun to himself, but the donkey kicks him in the ass and the chimp runs away. “How Republican of me,” says the donkey. I have no goddamned idea what that was supposed to mean, but I sort of liked it. Then the villains are getting really flustered so they call a ‘time out’. Then a huge crab with swastikas (normal and inverted) on his shell pops up and bellows that “It’s time to end this…” And that’s indeed the end.

I’m really at a loss to say if this is worth $3.50. It was for me, sure, but I just know that some readers will be seriously put off by the swift reading time. Something like “We3”, also a great-looking and quick-reading action book, manages to present Morrison’s carefully deployed emotionalism with Quitely’s medium-bending visuals in a way that gives the book a deeper, more lasting feel than its reading time initially suggests. Darrow’s beautifully executed if ultimately traditional actions scenes never feel like more than a series of impressively detailed canvasses of gore and unique faces, and it’s going to feel awfully brief for many readers. But I loved staring into the distance of those crazy scenes, and I’ll certainly take Darrow’s brand of carefully divvied eloquent nonsense chatter over a ladle’s worth of molasses-thick Wachowski angst any day of the week. It's a fun comic, loopy and irresponsible. So much of this book seems wholly unnecessary, but it manages to take this feeling and make it into something of a virtue. And that’s admirable.