Thursday, December 27, 2012

Noteworthy Reads: THE SHAOLIN COWBOY ADVENTURE MAGAZINE by Andrew Vachss and Michael A. Black

The lead feature here is the Shaolin Cowboy in "The Way of 'No Way". This violent, humorous, energy-charged homage to the hero pulps of the past hits the mark dead-on. More precisely, I should say it hits the marks, plural, because author Andrew Vachss uses the high-adventure format to take aim at numerous targets ranging from current pop culture to established conventions, all of whose bubbles are due (or past due) for some bursting.
The message never gets in the way of the action or the fun and surprises, however, as the stoic, plump, baggy-pantsed Cowboy—with his ever-present Chicago Cubs ball cap, his talking mule (whose sarcasm is matched only by his horniness), and a seemingly endless arsenal of weapons strapped to the mule's back—plods doggedly onward through the Endless Desert and the Terror-tories beyond to face each new danger. His goal is to pick up a payment from the boss of the Terror-tories, a grotesque blob known as "T.A." (short for "Totally Awesome", according to the blob himself, but more commonly interpreted as "Toxic Amoeba", which everyone calls him behind his back). The payment is actually triple the amount the Cowboy has already been paid by the Noir Boys to take out T.A. For that kind of dough, the Cowboy is perfectly willing to pull a double-cross—but only after he gets the money up front.
The trick, then, becomes getting to the Toxic Amoeba to pick up his pay. This sets up a series of bloody confrontations with everything from land sharks, to biker gangs, to feral forest defenders, to in-bred swamp dwellers under the protection of a true swamp horror called Monda Conda, to a three-ton Komodo Dragon with a ferocious appetite for anything in its path … Just to name a few.
Along the way, Cowboy and Mule also rescue a little girl from the clutches of a brutal white slaver and deliver her to the security of the Protect compound just beyond the edge of the forest. This sequence shows the compassionate side of the Cowboy, not to mention the Mule, who the little girl insists on calling "Horsey".
Through it all, plenty of laugh-out-loud one-liners and wry observations, mostly by the mule, add a layer of tongue-in-cheek humor to the proceedings that provide a nicely balanced counterpoint for the over-the-top violence that reaches an ultimate climax once the Cowboy makes it to where the Toxic Amoeba awaits in T.A. Town.
The secondary feature is a tight little science fiction piece entitled "Time Factor" by Michael A. Black. It is reminiscent of some of the best science fiction movies and books from the 1950s and tells a tale of time travel, complete with some harrowing adventure and a just-right touch of human emotion.
The overall package that is THE SHAOLIN COWBOY ADVENTURE MAGAZINE has just the right mix of ingredients: Gaudy cover complete with a monster and a babe in peril, exciting interior illustrations, corny ads and filler material, even the perfect pulp paper with a faintly gritty feel and that woodsy smell when you ruffle the pages. Not to mention the quality of the previously detailed stories.
Looking for some reading material that is fun and exciting and just a little different from standard fare available these days? You can find it right here.
Strongly recommended.

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