Nothing I can say about this book will do it justice. It took me almost a week to be able to sit down and talk about it because upon finishing it… I just didn’t have the words. How can I possible capture the journey this book took me through in a single review? The book made me force back tears more than once and I’m not embarrassed to say that in the least bit. It’s a touching story set in the backdrop of the wild, Wild West and yet populated with the strangest assortment of modern elements. Set in 1812 on the American Frontier, it begins with a woman walking into a town carrying a surf board. That’s right, a surf board. She walks into the nearest bar after setting her board up outside by a horse and asks for an energy drink. During this process she also removes her coat and we can see that she’s wearing nothing but a bikini. Everyone in the bar is distracted to say the least. The bartender senses trouble, but she tells him that as long as she gets her energy drink there won’t be any. Since he has no idea what an energy drink is she tells him to mix water and sugar to together and he hops to it. Meanwhile, the bar patrons have wondered over to our half-naked main character.
Right around here is when the sass begins as Jill our Bikini Cowboy, dismisses the other cowboys verbal attacks on her as ignorance on their part. One of them makes the mistake of trying to touch her and a fight breaks out. We’re not privy to the fight as we watch the bartender cower outside and feel sorry for the “poor girl.” Much to his and our surprise when he goes back inside, Jill is the only left standing and she’s still waiting for her sugar-water. As Jill is getting ready to leave a young boy on the run from someone, comes into town and passes out into her arms. Three men on horses come in after the boy and tell Jill to give him up, but she doesn’t like their tone or attitude. She pulls out her whip and goes to down on the men.
When the kid wakes up he’s introduced to us as Rod. The strange thing about Rod is that he’s wearing a metal collar around his neck like a slave. Jill silently acknowledges this, but she never brings it up to Rod. So begins their journey together as Rod is fleeing from the man that he calls the General and Jill is running from a Preacher that she calls Sheriff. There is plenty more to read as the story clocks in at about 377 pages.
Jill is an incredible character and while it’s strange for her to be carrying a surf board and asking for energy drinks, she fits in perfectly with this bygone era. In fact everything that seems out of place for the era, in fact works perfect with it. Fresherluke (as the credits say) takes Jill and Rod on an incredible journey. It’s emotional, it’s funny, but most of all its hard. Life is hard and this book captures that. For all its wackiness and fantasy-esc elements, it captures life perfectly.
The pacing for the story is great and moves the plot line of Jill and the mystery item she’s looking for forward perfectly. Rod’s vision and abilities become clearer and clearer as the story goes on and when you finally connect the dots, you’re likely to let out a verbal gasp. The writing is skillful and creates an immersive read in a way only a comic book can deliver.
While the story is incredible on its own, the real heart comes from the art. Half of the characters personality comes from the writing and the other half from the art. The facial expressions are spot on and are key element to the emotional success of the story. When Jill is happy and smiling you can’t help but smile with her, which is evident with Rod several times. Entire rooms of characters light up at her presences and go cold upon the arrival of the Sherriff/Preacher. Jill’s silent acknowledgement of Rod’s metal collar around his neck is anything but silent on her face. Fresherluke’s style has a very animated look to it and at times you’ll swear you’re reading a collection of animated cells that someone added word bubbles to.
I will never forget this book. I know that sounds strange to say, but there are comics that have stayed with me long after I’ve finished reading them. They’re my recommended reading list and at times just a suggested reading item when someone is going through something in their life. Bikini Cowboy joins those ranks and to me personally, it is a piece of comic history. This story fools you with its title, with its design, with its humor… only to deliver one of the most heartfelt comics I have ever read. If you read comics, this is why you read them. Maybe you don’t know that yet, but you will when you’re done.
Score: 10/5 (It’s not often that I break the scale, but this deserves it)
Writer/Artist/Creator: Fresherluke aka L. Frank Weber Self-Published Price: $31.95 in print or $5.99 on Submit