I have long been a fan of Geoff Darrow. My first exposure to his art was the Frank Miller-penned The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot. I’ve come back to that particular large format, 2-issue mini-series time and time again, staring in slack-jawed amazement at the ability of Geoff Darrow to cram in untold lines into a panel. Every crease and fold of dinosaur skin, every knob, nut, nail, and bolt of skyscraper or giant robot, every miniscule shred of torn metal ripped asunder from some destroyed machine demands the eyes linger across the panels. As I gaze at his work, dumbfounded and awestruck, it occurs to me that the most satisfying aspect of Darrow’s work is the way he revels in the minutiae of exquisite detail.
Picking up his latest volume brought me profound excitement; The Shaolin Cowboy: Shemp Buffet is some of Darrow’s best work yet.
The Shaolin Cowboy has been an irregular on-going series, originally published by Burlyman Comics and now published by Dark Horse in single issues. The Shaolin Cowboy: Shemp Buffet is a large-format graphic novel of the type that always seems best suited to capture Darrow’s absurd and meticulous style, and I suspect that Darrow prefers his work to be published as large as possible. The standard six and a half by ten inch comics page is a poor container for the delicate bedlam of Geoff Darrow.
The Shaolin Cowboy: Shemp Buffet begins with a couple of pages of text dump to set up the story, describing in hilarious detail the events and background of the on-going series. Without getting into the particulars, the Shaolin Cowboy is a cowboy monk trained in hot-blooded kung-fu at the Shaolin temple. Wielding a 15-foot pole with chainsaws affixed to either end, the Shaolin Cowboy tends to engage himself in all manner of misadventures, and that’s pretty much all you need to know to enjoy this tale.
The order of the day in Shemp Buffet is a sumptuous, ridiculous feast of zombie carnage. Darrow let it rip with an all-out splatter-fest of gasoline powered cross-cuts and graceful fisticuffsmanship. Page after page sings with the treads of Chuck Taylors and white-knuckled dukes careening into zombie parts as the Shaolin Cowboy escapes a vicious and seemingly never-ending horde of gray and wrinkled flesh-eaters. They fall around him in gouts of blood that spew high into the air, every drop of blood and pebble in the desert where they battle rendered with supreme diligence.
This graphic novel is a grand spectacle of Darrow’s gifts for composition and draftsmanship. I would gladly shove this into the hands of any comic enthusiast who is keen on the work of a superior artist.
The Shaolin Cowboy: Shemp Buffet
by Geoff Darrow
Art by Geoff Darrow, Dave Stewart
Dark Horse, 2015