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COWBOY BEBOP #1 [Advance Review/Preview]

COWBOY BEBOP #1/ Story by DAN WATTERS/ Art by LAMAR MATHURIN/ Color Art by ROMAN TITOV/ Letters by RICHARD STARKINGS & COMICRAFT’S JIMMY BETANCOURT/ Published by TITAN COMICS

The year is 2071. The Earth has been made unlivable, but humanity has colonized most of the planets and moons in the solar system. It’s a new frontier, made all the more dangerous by a new breed of outlaws. This gave rise to a new legalized contract system, in which the Inter Solar System Police register bounty hunters, commonly known as Cowboys, to hunt down the worst of the worst. It’s a dirty job that only attracts a certain kind of person – those who are facing an uncertain future and those who are outrunning their past.

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The crew of the spaceship Bebop are such people. Spike Spiegel – an ex-assassin with a death wish. Jet Black – an honest cop betrayed by everything he loved. Faye Valentine – an amnesiac cryogenics patient turned con-artist. Together, they hunt the worst of the worst, though it isn’t a life any of them would have chosen and they’re hardly the most agreeable of partners at the best of times.

These are not the best of times…

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It’s hard to say who the audience for this Cowboy Bebop comic might be. Manga purists will take one look at its fully colored pages and dismiss it as a shameless cash grab. Fans of the classic anime, most of whom reportedly disliked the live-action Netflix adaptation, will run for the door when it becomes apparent the comic is based on the reality of the show. And as for fans of the show… well, there weren’t enough of them to convince Netflix to give the series a second season.

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Unfortunately, it’s impossible to consider Cowboy Bebop #1 as an independent work because it is, for better or worse, bound to the legacy of the original. The story by Dan Watters does a fantastic job of emulating that tone, with a story that finds Spike, Jet and Faye chasing after a scientist named Melville who stole from his employers. Hilarity ensues as the Bebop crew’s notorious bad luck proves even worse than usual. This is thanks to the revelation that Melville was researching a way to manipulate probability.

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Unfortunately, while the plot fits the setting well enough, the art strikes a a sour discord. Lamar Mathurin has a fine style, but it isn’t a style that suits the room, so to speak. The colors are equally disjointed, trying to mimic the vivid colors and deep shadows of the show. Unfortunately, if often tries to do both in the same panel, resulting in some odd fusion of Frank Miller’s Sin City crossed with the neon hues of a more traditional superhero book. One could argue this disparity was meant to visually represent the music that was a key to original Anime, but if that’s the case it doesn’t quite work.

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The best thing that can be said about Titan Comics’ Cowboy Bebop series is that it perfectly captures the attitude of the Netflix series. Your mileage may vary as to whether or not that’s a good thing. The story is engaging, but the disjointed artwork fails to capture the visual appeal of the source material. Despite this, the book is enjoyable for what it is – a cool, neo-Noir thriller with a little slapstick on the side. Sadly, it seems unlikely to hook new fans or please Anime purists.

Cowboy Bebop #1 releases on January 26, 2022.

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