Get out your surfboards and whips, we’re reviewing Bikini Cowboy by L. Frank Weber!
Rod McCloud is a kid on the run, and the only one who can help him is Whiskey Jill, a cowboy who wears nothing but a bikini and carries a surfboard wherever she goes. But does she have ulterior motives for saving him?
This book got me with its title and kept me with its style. The book is, in fact, about a cowboy (cowgirl) in a bikini. It’s a weird book with an interesting visual style. The art is entirely in pencil, which really lends itself well to that dirty, messy cowboy feel. Weber draws characters in a cartoony style with lots of fun action. And the subtle pencil tones work really well in showing dramatic light and shadow. It looks like a book that was planned out intricately and drawn quickly all at once. It’s a great style and very well done. The characters are very simple, but very emotive. It reminds me of the character work of Ben Caldwell.
The main character for most of the story is Whiskey Jill, which is great because it’s nice to see a female protagonist. She’s a silly character who likes using her wits and her whip rather than guns. It’s a pretty great character, and something much different than you’d expect in your regular western. My main beef is with the goons constantly surrounding her. They have that contagious disease, I dunno the name – but the primary symptom is their seemingly uncontrollable urge to call her a bitch every other word? It feels really lazy. It’s like Weber wanted to keep the language generally PG-ish, but still give a sense that these are hardened, rough men who want to do her harm, and it’s the same problem the Arkham City game had with Catwoman. After a while, “Bitch!” “Bitch!” “Bitch!” gets old, and that word already has a lot of negative connotations for female and non-binary readers. It’s dumb that men can have a swath of insults like dick, bastard or asshole with little repercussion for a harsher rating while women only get bitch (that’s if creators are smart enough to stay away from slut and whore). I get that writers want to give criminals “realistic” insults to call her, while still keeping it family friendly, but how about instead: get creative! It’s a HUGE missed opportunity for some ridiculous cowboy mannerisms. Cowpie-eater! Cactus butt! Spit-bucket slop! Lizard-lickin’ snake belly! I really wish they didn’t make rape threats in the first chapter. Ugh. Can we just, not?
The story is a bit off the walls, with Whiskey Jill belonging to some secret order that all apparently walk around in bikinis and carry surfboards. It’s kind of crazy, but we never really get into what it is or what her powers are and I really want to know more about it! Her main adversary is a preacher, and there are some strange Christ connotations with the characters. It’s all kind of weird and nothing is really explained. I wish it was explained more but also I like the random wackiness of it all. She makes references to things from other times but it doesn’t seem like she’s a time traveler? Sure she is a bikini cowboy, but why is she a bikini cowboy? Is there a certain rule that says she can’t wear normal clothes? When we first see her she’s wearing a poncho, so it would seem not, but why doesn’t she wear anything else ever? Does she just like it? How does she never sunburn? These are the weird things I think about.
There are also some weird moments where Jill jokes that the boy (who is 13?) is his boyfriend and there’s some cuddling, sexual tension and a kiss. I can’t tell if she’s busting his balls but really has a motherly affection for him, or if she has some sort of weird attraction reminiscent of FLCL. If it’s the latter, that’s kind of gross.
It’s a long book with a lot of great silly action set pieces from bar fights to shootouts to dramatic one-on-one battles. All of the action is very cinematic, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the author had done storyboards previously. It’s a pretty fun book with silly characters and some pretty great fights. Also it has fun chapter names that reference western/country songs like “Walk the Line” and “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” and that’s a pleasure. There are some amazing panels and it works especially well if you use guided view on the comixology app.
It’s a fun wacky story that’s drawn beautifully. You should check it out! It’s only $6 on comixology.
THE GOOD: Beautiful art, fun cartoony style, female protagonist, fun story.
THE BAD: “Bitch” too many times, rape threats, some stuff not explained, possibly weird child relationship?
THE VERDICT: 3.5/5 It’s a fun book that’s beautifully drawn with a really unique art style. It would get a higher rating without all the lazy gendered threats. It’s only $6 on Comixology, so if you like wacky westerns, you’ll enjoy this!
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