[images & words is the comic book pick-of-the-week at OL. equal parts review and diatribe, the post highlights the most memorable/infuriating/entertaining book released that wednesday]
Spoilers Ahead. Forreal.
Admittedly, I’m not 100% comfortable with this week’s featured comic book. Most of the time, Images & Words showcases a comic that I could actually describe to another nerd. Yeah, the standard fare’s something along the lines of “In this book Superman fights the bad guys, saves Metropolis, and still manages to meet Lois for dinner.”
But this time around, I’m not quite sure what the hell is going on. I know that there is hilarious dialogue. The characters seem authentic and relatable. There are some bad ass fight scenes. And the art is just goddamn gorgeous.
So without knowing exactly what I’m getting into, the comic of the week is COWBOY NINJA VIKING #5!
Now, to be fair, the fact that I don’t understand anything in terms of plot or the internal logic of the story is probably attributable to the fact that this is the last issue of the comic’s very first arc…and I haven’t read any of the first four. However, I have been so swayed by this book that I am definitely going to hunt down the opening issues (or, at the very least, pick up the first trade paperback). Yes, this shit is legit.
With that being said, let me go over the shit I have figured out. Ok, so the main characters of COWBOY NINJA VIKING are called Triplets; essentially, within a single individual are three unique, drastically different personalities. But this isn’t just a case of multiple personalities in which one persona overpowers the others for an extended period. Instead, these distinct subdivisions interact with one another and actually communicate.
Sometimes the personas are fully illustrated. For instance, the reader might see a cowboy and a Viking carrying on a conversation across a few panels. Other times, though, the host is seen speaking and different word balloons are used to represent the different personalities. I think this is a terribly clever way of conveying the idea that different voices are emanating from a single individual; a balloon with a sword through it means the ninja is speaking up, the balloon with an axe attached to it means the Viking, and the balloon touting a pistol identifies the cowboy.
Again, even given the fact that I don’t really know what’s going on, it is clear that writer AJ Lieberman has mastered the art of juggling a huge cast. In addition to the titular character, this book features a huge range of Triplet personalities such as a pirate, gladiator, oceanographer, sniper, chef, hitman, Navy SEAL, and roadie (amongst others). Lieberman turns on a dime, switching between these entities with a skill that is to be admired.
So what’s the story supported by this premise? Again, this is where COWBOY NINJA VIKING #5 baffles me most. I think it has something to do with the creator(s) of the Triplets dealing with seedy politicians. There’s something called the Special Projects Program (SPP) that is being fought for by a Mr. Blaq and a Senator Scofield. Uhh…there’s somebody named Dr. Ghislain and he’s some sort of psychologist I guess…there are some battles with guns and fists and whatnot…Ok, I admit it; I’m confused. But I have faith that I’m only confused because I started with the last issue.
[Ok, in between writing and posting this piece, I decided to do some research. The comic’s official blog had this to say: “COWBOY NINJA VIKING is the creation of Doctor Sebastian Ghislain, a psychotherapist who recruits Multiple Personality Disorder patients to produce a unit of counter-intelligence agents called Triplets. But what happens when those guys become out of control assassins? That’s when the deadliest Triplet of them all, COWBOY NINJA VIKING, is called in to take down his own brethren. In order to ensure the timely schedule, the series will ship in monthly arcs with two month gaps in between each storyline.”]
But even if you’re illiterate (in which case I ask, how the hell are you reading this?!), COWBOY NINJA VIKING #5 is a worthwhile purchase. Presented in a big, wide-ass oversized format, Riley Rossmo’s art is truly captivating. Rossmo presents images that are not always clean or crisp, allowing stray strokes of the line art to remain. On the other hand, Rossmo is structured when he has to be, drawing strict panel divisions to help the reader see multiple personalities interacting.
I’m really drawn in by what I interpret as Rossmo’s manically passionate approach to the visuals. He bathes his pages in tones, splashing them across panels and not worrying that he’s only used two colors. Sometimes he colors out of the lines. Sometimes it looks like he spilled coffee or got pissed off with a Sharpie. Other times, Rossmo flaunts the fact that he has cut and pasted onto the page at hand. I think, it some ways, the artist is summoning the same dark spirits that Bill Sienkiewicz uses. COWBOY NINJA VIKING is an encapsulating mad science experiment of visual wonder.
So if you’re feeling daring, go snag COWBOY NINJA VIKING #5. Though uninitiated with the series, this comic definitely stands at the top of my weekly stack. The book offers fresh ideas and a fresh perspective of what finished interiors should look like. And if you’re not daring (meaning unwilling to start with the last issue of an arc), then at least pick up the first collection.