From writer Dan Watters (Lucifer, Home Sick Pilots) and artist Lamar Mathurin (Gumbo) comes a slick and stellar opening to this tie-in to a horrible adaptation of a masterpiece of animated storytelling with Cowboy Bebop #1. With colors from Roman Titov and letters by Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt, this tie-in comic pulls off the charm, style, and thematic weight of the original series far better than the ill-fated Netflix adaptation it is directly linked to. With a faithful and wildly fun script and incredible visual work, this comic is far better than it has any right to be.
“An original story set in the year 2171. The bounty hunter crew of the spaceship Bebop chase an ex-gang member who holds a vest which gives the wearer unlimited luck.”
Writing & Plot
Dan Watters demonstrates a love and fundamental understanding of the source material with his script for Cowboy Bebop #1. The Coffin Bound writer uses only what bits of changed lore he was required to use for this tie-in, but kept everything else faithful to Watanabe’s original anime. The crew of the Bebop are once again broke with an empty fridge, and are desperately after a high-value bounty. Only trouble is that this mark is wearing a “luck vest,” that grants him with improbable…well, luck. With this vest he’s able to effortlessly dodge the authorities, as well as Jet, Spike, and Faye. Each character is faithfully portrayed; Spike with his existential indifference, Jet with his gruff seriousness and ISSP contacts, and Faye’s angry, financially driven determination. Ein makes an appearance too, and is just as full of personality as his original version. There’s no Edward here, but if the Netflix series is any indicator, that may be for the best.
What really makes this comic such a treat, and one that stands on its own, is how much it feels like a lost episode of the original Bebop. Not only does the plot sound just like something out of a series arc, but the tone and dialogue all just feel right. Each character’s interactions have the swagger and personality of the original series. There’s a rhythm to the dialogue and plot itself that directly reflects that of the anime, and it’s all a testament to how much attention Watters paid to that source material. There’s a scene that sticks out to me, where Jet has a conversation with a local about the man they are hunting down. It’s a melancholic, somber exchange that just screams Bebop, and it solidified how impressed I am with this issue. This is Cowboy Bebop from a writer who knows why the original series worked; a knowledge the live-action series creators sorely lacked.
I’m ashamed to say I was unfamiliar with Lamar Mathurin’s work before Cowboy Bebop #1. Now I’m desperately hoping for more of his work, because this comic has my favorite art of 2022 thus far. Mathurin’s ultra-stylized, heavily inked pencils bring a reading experience that mimics the flavor of the anime while being very much its own beast. Characters are highly expressive and detailed, and remind me of Sean Gordon-Murphy but much sharper. His panel direction shares the rhythmic flow that the plot itself does, making the two storytelling elements work hand-in-hand beautifully. Diehard fans may be disappointed by the character models being based on the actors and designs from the Netflix shows. Much like the lore pieces though, this is just fulfilling this comic’s technical duty as a tie-in. Visually, this comic, is Shinichiro Watanabe’s Cowboy Bebop all the way.
Roman Titov’s colors are arguably the most critical and awesome component of this comic’s visual approach. Every panel is slammed with the rich, deep, jazzy tones found in the original animation, but applied in a manner that works perfectly for the comics medium. The dark jazz clubs, slums, and starship interiors cast their shadow onto every surface, making the comic feel like the anime, but then also something else entirely. The lettering from Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt carries the smooth and rhythmic feeling this comic has over the finish line. The dynamic, off-kilter word bubble fonts and percussion-like SFX lettering splash across every page and tie this phenomenal reading experience together. This is a brilliant comic from the visual end, and the most impressive I’ve experienced this year so far.
Cowboy Bebop #1 succeeds in spades where the (cancelled) television adaptation it ties into failed. Dan Watters pens a script that has all the makings of a lost episode of Watanabe’s original anime, with the thematic heart and flavor of that work flowing throughout. The visual work from Lamar Mathurin and Roman Titov is an absolute delight, as it carries the unique visual swagger of Bebop while adapting it in its own way to a completely different medium. This is the adaptation treatment that Cowboy Bebop truly deserves. So see you, Space Cowboy… at your local comic shop when this issue hits shelves on 1-26!