September 30, 2011

I’m Serious. It’s Not A Gimmick.

Matthew Essner often will tell me that I should read or watch certain things, and often I don’t, even when he forces stuff on me! But in his latest push, to read Cowboy Ninja Viking, I decided I was actually going to try, by taking the books to work and reading them during break. Slowly, I read both trades, and I have to say, it’s a damn good comic.

Here’s the thing. You read the title, Cowboy Ninja Viking, and you think “This is a comic that’s silly and meme-driven. It might be entertaining, but it’s probably a very surface entertainment you’ll just throw away when you’re done.” Not so. While there are some silly, humorous things about the very concept, the comic plays it very seriously, and shockingly enough, it works.

The idea is that there was a secret government project to create “triplets.” These people with three multiple personalities, through various therapies, would be trained so that their alternate personas actually had all the skills of those personas, which the main personality could tap into at any time. Duncan, the main character, got pretty lucky with the personalities he got: a Cowboy, a Ninja, and a Viking. Needless to say, this makes him a pretty damn effective assassin. Of course, he still has to deal with the fact that he has multiple personalities who all have their own motivations and such as well.

Each of Duncan’s other personalities is a personality, and the book does interesting stuff with word balloons to make it clear who is talking. So if the Ninja is talking, the outline of the word balloon has a katana in it, and so on. They also sometimes talk in Duncan’s head via running commentary beneath what’s going on. It’s just really effective. The personalities aren’t stereotypes too. They are a cowboy, a ninja, and a viking, but they make the sort of pop culture references that Duncan would know, and are knowledgeable about how the world today works, which really makes it feel less gimmicky, if that makes sense.

There are, of course, a whole world of other triplets out there for Duncan to fight, or be friends with, or whatever, such as his ex-girlfriend, a martial artist sniper chef, and other people like an army officer, demolitions expert, and Amish man. There tend to be a bit more jokes with these characters, but never in an unbelievable way, given the world. They just tend to be combinations that have an odd man out and clash a lot more than the three combat-focused personalities Duncan has.

The book is actually really wordy, in a good way. I actually got kind of lost in the second trade, but that was mostly because I was reading for only 15 minutes a day over a period of like 2 weeks. It’s got character drama, but it doesn’t let that get in the way of the fun of the concept either. It’s just really well-balanced, and I really think anyone who likes comics should give it a try. I don’t even read comics, really, and I really enjoyed it.

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