I am going to be honest and admit that I am not a fan of western comics. Just in general, I am repelled by western art as a whole, like the works of Vincent Van Gogh with his weird textures, direction, and colors. I see western comics having terrible plots that keep getting retconned. For instance, this little completely out of context quote from New X-Men “Magneto: No, that was actually Xorn’s twin brother possessed by the sentient mold Sublime, pretending to be me, pretending to be Xorn.” In fact, I highly doubt I would have been any more miserable if I continued never reading one. Of course, in comes Franklin Raines to change all that and slaps a request to cover a comic book, bless his soul. To be fair, he did at least let me choose what I would cover. So, I went with the puniest thing I could find in his library, which is why today I am reviewing 2012’s Cow Boy: A Boy and His Horse.
Cow Boy: A Boy and His Horse was written by Nate Cosby who also worked on The Storyteller and Immortals: Gods & Heroes. Chris Eliopoulos drew the art for Cow Boy, as well as Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius.
Cow Boy follows ten-year-old Boyd (coincidental, I am sure, you know, Boy-d) Linney, who works as a bounty hunter that rides across the wild west on a horse that is not his horse with his trusty gun (which is not a gun). Most bounty hunters simply move around, looking for the closest, quickest, or biggest bounty. But not Boyd, for he has a particular objective in mind. He wants to round up his family, apparently made up of a total of six miscreants and ne’er-do-wells. The story begins with Boyd looking for Dub Linney, a fairly dumb man of a father, who never got any farther than being a petty thug. Problem is, Dub Linney was already caught by a corrupt sheriff, and Boyd has to “liberate” him to get his bounty.
Next up goes Zeke, the youngest out of four older siblings. Unlike Dub, it would appear Zeke is a crooked businessman, although not much detail is given in how much of a crook or a business man he actually is. In the final pages of the first volume, we meet Kelly Linney, Boyd’s grandfather and apparently the only good man in the Linney family who has a close relationship with Boyd. The two have a brief conversation, one in which Boyd’s mother is implied to be the criminal mastermind of the Linney family, one could say the real antagonist of the story.
Interspersed between chapters are a few humorous short-stories set likewise in the wild west. They’re simple stories, such as a man roaming the wasteland searching for an underwear thief, or a woman and penguin pair of bounty hunters, but they do add a touch of enjoyment to the volume that is otherwise a bit grim when taken as a whole. Just think about it, a ten-year-old working as bounty hunter with the specific objective of throwing his whole family in jail, not to mention that he didn’t exactly get treated as golden boy during his (earlier) childhood. It doesn’t matter how many witty remarks you add, or smart aleck dialogue you put in, people are still going to realize this is not a world of rainbows and sunshine. As such, the short stories break up the grim sections of the volume.
I greatly enjoyed the humor in Cow Boy. Quite possibly the greatest source of humor in the comic is the fact that I simply never expected the responses (or sometimes the non-responses) from the characters. For example, Boyd would ask an old man if he had seen a man by the name of Dub Linney, just for the old man to reply that he sees men, not names, or a hostess giving a description of her boss while inhaling a cigarette and remains completely silent. This type of non sequitur humor just does not happen in anime or manga, which was quite refreshing to me, a grizzled veteran otaku.
Cow Boy is not perfect, however, specifically with its witty dialogue that tends to suffer irregular responses that halt its narrative flow. I had to pause and take a second and even third look just to make sure I understood what was being said in some sections. The rough, wild west dialogue was screwing with my English-as-a-second-language head. Yet I suspect, I won’t be the only one with the problem regardless of your native language.
Pros: A funny, ingenious, and perhaps the most literal way to do a cowboy story that seems to be aimed at children yet can be equally enjoyed by adults. The character designs have a quality to them that reminds me of the Sunday paper comics that for me are now both pleasant and nostalgic. Boyd, for example, reminds me an awful lot of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes, who would probably behave similarly if you were to give him a cowboy outfit. The ending is surprisingly emotional and heartfelt.
Cons: The main story’s flow is often halted awkwardly with the character’s lexicon sometimes becoming too hard to understand. Much of the lexicon feels right in place, but some just took me some extra effort to piece it together.
Archaia Entertainment published Cow Boy as a hardcover. All in all, I have to say that Cow Boy took me by surprise. I was expecting to read it and enjoy it ironically, with occasional derision. Instead, I found myself wholeheartedly enjoying the comic, and eagerly awaiting future volumes. Cow Boy has its flaws, but nothing that detracts from its good points. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good laugh.