Review | Cowboy Ninja Viking by AJ Lieberman and Riley Rossmo

So, here starts part two of my Homage to Image, this time featuring the strange and turbulent tale of Cowboy Ninja Viking.  If the name alone doesn’t grab your attention then you have earned my respect for having a tremendous tolerance for the bizarre.  The first thing I said when I heard it was, “Are you serious?”

I can’t say what made me read the first trade after that.  Maybe it was the art, which was masterfully brought to us by Riley Rossmo.  Maybe it was curiosity over whether this was some new twist on the age old Pirates versus Ninjas debate.  Maybe I was just bored.  Whatever the reason, I’m glad I picked it up.

The idea behind this oddly named series is simple if not a little twisted.   Imagine, if you would, trying to set out to create the world’s most unpredictable assassins.  These agents would be bred without a solid sense of morals and would be able to kill someone three different ways at once.  Sounds like a good idea, right?  Unfortunately, the human mind isn’t always meant to cope with the stress that comes with training like that, so the government turned to a select group who had the strongest chance of survival and the least chance of being missed, namely people born with three additional personalities running around their noggin.  In some ways the program was a success, creating a group known as the Triplets, with the most dangerous among them being a man named Duncan, code named Cowboy Ninja Viking.

In terms of content, Cowboy Ninja Viking is a story with a lot of action, intrigue, and a fair amount of psychological conflict.  If you ever wondered what a person with four fully developed personalities is like, this series will provide you with an interesting perspective.  In every issue writer AJ Lieberman redefines how we think of dialogue as each of these guys finds new ways to butt heads with their other personas.

The same personality dynamic also translates into some interesting fight scenes.  Between Lieberman’s writing and Rossmo’s art, the reader gets the unique experience of seeing three separate fighters occupy one space at the same time.  One panel you’ll see a ninja cut off a guy’s head, the next you’ll see a Viking bisect someone with an axe, and the third you see a cowboy shooting someone in the gut.  Then you realize it’s all the same person.  The fact that Lieberman and Rossmo managed to do this in a way that made sense is all the more impressive.

There are a lot of stories out there that are great, but this is one of the few that qualifies as being insanely great without going into hyperbole.  If you’re tired of the same old narrative this is a series that’s worth checking out, because nothing is more refreshing than reading a story where ninety percent of the main characters are clinically psychotic.

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