Review: Cowboy Ninja Viking #1
Yes, it’s as good as it sounds.
You’re introduced to the story via the villain. Does that ruin it for you if you’ve only read the first few pages? Yeah, probably but this is a review! The villain of course is just like the hero and its set up a little like a detective fiction where you’re constantly twenty-paces behind the events as they’re happening. Some might not like this, I kind of love it.
The main character is Duncan, better titled Cowboy Ninja Viking. How can one character be all three? Multiple personalities! Nicknamed as a ‘Triplet’ Duncan was of course a part of an experimental program the reader really doesn’t know much about that trained him to be a deadly weapon utilizing the three personalities he’s developed. A Cowboy, a Ninja, and my all time favourite Viking!
Yes it sounds a little silly; I think that’s definitely the theme going on for this entire comic, but the silliness fits well. The internal dialogue offered for Duncan is fantastic, definitely drawing a difference between his personalities. I’m a fan of how throughout the writer has highlighted the silliness of this, a moment at the top of page seven where even the other characters recognize this internal dialogue as a little nutty. The writer has created Duncan in this semi-serious tone that just fits. Period.
The other characters are… undefined at the moment but this is about Cowboy Ninja Viking. I’d like to see them flushed out a bit more but this was only #1 so we’ll see how #2 holds up, specially Nix as you can see the beginnings of your strong, grounded female partner personality developing before she even really meets Duncan. An expected but needed balance to the madness and unpredictability of Cowboy Ninja Viking.
Triplet Yashitiko Ammo, the villain you’re introduced to in the first pages, is even crazier than Duncan. Can that be possible?! Just read it. The introduction with Ammo and conclusion of the first comic with him in Tokyo International Airport (no that doesn’t spoil anything folks) has a lovely framing to it that the author/artist team executed nicely. Plus, one of Ammo’s personalities is a bloody pirate. This makes me happy as it could lead to the well discussed silly debate (but wholly important one) of who would win a fight, a ninja or a pirate! Throw in a Viking, an oceanographer and a few more whack job personalities and it could only mean a good time!
I feel like the timeline is set up like the state of mind of Duncan; wibbly wobbly and timey wimey. Goes ding when there’s stuff. You start off in the North Indian Ocean three days ago, then you’re in San Francisco present day, then back to 3 days earlier (again) in San Francisco, on the Phone to Monte Carlo, then flash back to a week earlier (I applaud and adore Lieberman for poking fun at this fact with a note *For those keeping scored, that’s 4 days before the rest of this story), to then jump to Kua Lumpur train station in the next two panels (are you keeping up with me?), to flash back to San Fran before ending the comic in Tokyo International Airport!!!
Now that I’ve had a moment to breathe, this isn’t that hard to follow despite my paraphrasing. It’s a nice way of showing the story in the state of chaotic flux of what has happened and how it affects what is happening and what will. Was the author trying to create a link by the way the time line is uncontrollable and unpredictable in comparison to Duncan’s multiple personality disorder? Who knows! (If I ever get the chance I’ll ask) But it works. The whole comic has a purposefully slapdash feel (oxymoron anyone?!) that I love. It certainly puts you on the spot and I think it takes a 2nd reading to really appreciate what Lieberman is putting you through.
There are a few different things that need noting when talking about the visual aspects of this comic.
- Dialogue bubbles: For each of Duncan’s personalities the bubbles get a little symbol (sword for ninja, gun for cowboy, axe for Viking) to indicate who’s talking. The panels also show a shadowed version of the internal characters when they’re speaking (internally mostly) that defines them with shapes of their own. This was probably originally designed for clarity: it could get complicated with so many voices in one head with one face, but serves to separate them a bit more than I think was originally intended. If purposeful, well done boys! I love the way it turned out and really enjoy the very distinct versions of Duncan you see in each of these little panels. Artistically well done and dispels any problems with speaker clarification that might occur while adding adorable conflicting dialogue for the different personalities.
- Colour: You’ll notice quickly this is a black and white comic with highlights of blue. The cover is beautiful and simple, the bright blue on the front of course being the blue used throughout to highlight things like eye colour, important objects and notably Nix’s lips. I love this use of colour and think it suits the comic well, keeping it simple but deliberate in their highlights of colour.
- Page: It’s printed on a thicker page which handles well and feels fantastic in your hands. I know it’s not always something people think about but the time they took to carefully think about picking the right paper is not unnoticed.
- Inking: The inking for this is great. As you might know by now I’m a fan of the messier inking style and this one is fantastic! It’s not beautiful or streamlined but has a gritty messy, ink all over the place feel. Artistically, it again seems to echo the confusing and unpredictable mind of Duncan (or Triplets). I like it. I know I keep saying that but my silly heart loves the way the ink splatters on the page when a head is sliced in twain (read it to find out who!) that you can only get from a good skilled splatter. This isn’t sloppy, it’s beautifully deliberate and I applaud Rossmo for his work.
- Perspective: I’ve noticed, just now, that some of the panels are ‘askew’. And by askew I mean either curved beyond what physics would allow, twisted, tilted, angled and bent. This creates a subtle shift in the narrative that works well when you’ve got two pages of dialogue and little action. There’s a few of note (one in Bellevue hospital, the Tokyo Airport and on the North Indian Ocean) that strike me as thoughtfully executed. Enough to be different but not too skewed to confuse or throw off the reader. Take a few moments on your second or third reading to really enjoy what Rossmo has done. I’m excited to see if this persists in the next comic book and if there’s any correlation between story or character when these perspective upstarts occur.
Go read it if you like something silly and want a fresh look away from your typical comic book art. It’s as simple as that, and I know it’s a late review (#1 came out in 2009) but I will read the rest and continue to tell you more. But, so far this gets flying colours in the huzzah category.
PLUS it’s being made into a Movie. (Awesome) By the same duo who made Zombieland (Super-Awesome!) They’re the kind of guys who could really nail the tone of C.N.V.
Cheers and Happy Reading.
Cowboy Ninja Viking is now being released in trade paperback! But I’d much prefer you go to your local shop and pick up at least #1 to enjoy it and see if you want one. Plus, support your local stores!! I picked mine up at the Gnu Books in Ajax.
By A. J. Lieberman, Riley Rossmo
List Price: $17.99
Price: $13.13 via amazon
Published on: June 8th, 2010
Paperback, 160 pages
*as always people are prone to error so if you see something off or notice a link is broken please let me know and I’ll update! Happy Hunting!