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"Justice ain't got no age."
NATE COSBY (Pigs, Jim Henson's The Storyteller) and CHRIS ELIOPOULOS (Franklin Richards, Misery Loves Sherman) present COW BOY, the story of a young bounty hunter determined to send his entire outlaw family to jail. He travels the Old West on a horse that ain't his, and won't stop til every one'a his kin's in the clink.
Also in this volume: Short stories by the likes of ROGER LANGRIDGE (The Muppet Show Comic), BRIAN CLEVINGER & SCOTT WEGENER (Atomic Robo), MIKE MAIHACK (Cleopatra In Space) & COLLEEN COOVER (Jim Henson's The Storyteller).
"To Hades with you, Boyd!"
"I'll be amongst family then."
One of the hardest lessons for a child to learn is that once in a while, your family will let you down. You look to them for love, affection, and guidance, but soon enough they do something that will make you no longer see them as the infallible gods they once were in your eyes.
At least young Boyd Linney never had the luxury of love, affection, and guidance. He was ignored by uncaring parents and left in a pig sty by his older brother Zeke when the elder Linney boy got sick of his baby brother's crying. Boyd has been kicked around by life, which has left him a stoic, no-nonsense bounty hunter at only ten years old. Young Boyd travels the dusty, earthen frontier with grim determination and dogged pursuit of law-breakers (specifically, his own family members).
Chris Eliopoulos, best known as a prolific letterer (though comic book fans have seen his art before in Marvel's Franklin Richards stories), renders Boyd and his world with a Charles Schultz-inspired style and a three-tiered page layout structure that would immediately engage younger readers. Certainly, Cow Boy is a true all-ages story in the tradition of Schultz' Peanuts or anything you'd find on an episode of Looney Tunes, in that there are more levels to the story to be found as the reader gets older. The best thing about Cow Boy is how challenging it is. Talking down to young readers rarely ever works. Nathan Cosby writes a tough-minded Western that fans of the genre would love. His wild west is the same one we see in films by John Huston and Sergio Leone, it just happens to be suitable for a ten-year-old to read about and enjoy. The sense of frontier justice and lawlessness, not to mention vistas as barren as the moral compass of so many of its antagonists, shades every action taken in the story. Boyd shows numerous times that his moral code is the most rigorous of any character we encounter; sure he tracks down his father and brother to collect on their bounties, but it's clear money isn't his motivating factor. Boyd is after justice, as he sees it (although his motivations seem to be shaded by a sense of "getting back" at the family that treated him so terribly all his life). He learned his life lessons by actively avoiding becoming like his family. A smart kid would love seeing this kind of storytelling in his comics. As a bonus, there are four interstitial stories that are placed between each chapter of the book. These stories, created by a who's who of all-ages comics creators, don't relate to the main story and are self-contained, but they do bring just an extra bit of fun to the package.
Cosby also very smartly makes Boyd a three dimensional character. Rather than just carrying himself like a bad ass cowboy in a tiny body, Boyd reflects that he is a child first, and approaches life with a child-like understanding of it. He doesn't have much room for abstract thinking and shades of gray in his morality, and he learns a tough lesson about picking your battles when he helps a runaway slave avoid a racially-charged beatdown, which results in Boyd not quite getting the thanks he may have been expecting. Boyd has a hard time understanding why somebody wouldn't stand up for himself, but comes out of the situation suspecting that people are a lot more cruel than he can comprehend. It's moments like these that really give us a lot of insight into Boyd, and into his relationship with the world around him. As a complete work, Cow Boy offers a lot, narratively speaking. The first chapter feels like a fun, light-hearted story with wry humor and adorable visuals. The final panel of that chapter adds a ton of depth to the story, and really hooks in the reader on a greater level. That's the point at which the story turns into a more personal, and much more interesting, tale.
Cow Boy is surprisingly dense and boasts darker, heavier themes than most all-ages comics, but that comes out of Cosby's refusal to dumb down his story for the younger set. The fact that it aims to include kids in its audience doesn't make it any less of a traditional Western. His story and Eliopoulos's cartooning, including its earth-tone colors, is so effective that it flows from panel to panel and from page to page. The story is often funny and action packed, and it's great to see Boyd think himself out of a few different dangerous situations. We really root for Boyd because of his inventiveness and his refusal to ever back down. Not only is Cow Boy a great achievement in all-ages comics, but it's a really smart, engaging genre piece on it's own.
Review by: Royal Nonesuch