Hoo hoo hoo.

*Do do dooo do da, I love driving for the 4th of July weekend, as well as driving in general, la dee da dee da…

The Shaolin Cowboy #3 (Vol. 54)

I really love this book. Seriously, you all need to start buying this thing.

Aggressively pointless and utterly luscious to behold, this fast-reading slab of nonsense is a veritable model of where nonsense combat books should embody for the contemporary seasons. Sure, it gets a little precious. The next issue box promises that the “story” will continue, scare quotes putting maybe too fine a point on the heavily contemplated foolery of the proceedings. The Larry & Andy Wachowski-written plot summary page is fitfully amusing, but unfortunately feels the need to spell out its main joke (being: there’s not much plot to summarize) explicitly at the end, gently taking the reader’s hand and caressing their palm in fatherly spelling-out. Too bad.

But the rest of the thing is fucking aces. The vast majority of this issue features the Cowboy’s faithful Ass indulging in a totally one-sided conversation about Robert Mitchum as the pair ride through a now-familiar desert landscape. They eventually encounter a whole heap of corpses (at which the Ass sagely remarks, “I bet they all listened to hip hop or rap.”), an evil baby with blood on his hands and strange objects in his grasp, and a trio of weird monsters, one of whom wins a heated Rock Paper Scissors match for the honor of taking on the Cowboy. The creature’s name is Mr. Excellent, a rotting corpse whose head is carried aloft by a helpful bird (even though his body can apparently move quite fine on its own), and who loves to make educational jokes about US history. He’s definitely the Cowboy’s most fearsome foe yet, and then the issue kind of stops.

Who can resist? At this point it’s obvious that creator/writer/artist Geof Darrow is intent on seeing exactly how much he can get away with in terms of sheer silliness, and I’m not just talking about content. I’m talking about that infamous spread from issue #1 that took up half the book, or devoting fourteen pages here to having the book’s dynamic duo ride through assorted sites talking nonsense and looking at stuff. It’s practically artcomix, if you feel like busting out labels. It’s glorious to look at too. We’ve got excellent color from the top-billed Peter Doherty (seriously: check out how that baby’s blue eyes stands out against the matching hue of the sky, it’s kind of a thrill), and a delightfully measured deployment of the old Darrow detail (Darrow’s credit this issue is actually given to “The Darrow Family”; I’ve no clue if Geof is just being silly or if members of his clan actually contributed to the writing or art of the book). Where once we’d be kicked in the bridge of the nose with typhoon upon typhoon of bodies and machines and globules of plasma, we now have beats of nothing matched up with scenes of mass carnage; every buzzing fly is lovingly rendered, but sometimes there’s only one to see. That means a lot in terms of feel, of atmospheric pace. And let’s not forget Darrow’s fights, some of the cleanest and clearest in the business, a trick other detail-minded artists would do well to pick up.

Noted Darrow pal Moebius does a variant cover this time out, and it looks like he also illustrates a six-page bonus feature in the back, a cover gallery of favorite issues from past volumes, selected by “Davis Doi of Bettendorf, Iowa,” which also features helpful synopses that inevitably wander off into what the White House thinks about each individual issue. The fact that some of these “past issues” appear to be hailing from the future does not appear to be a concern for anyone. And it shouldn’t be, given how much fun we’re all having.