Last November, Netflix released their live-action version of the popular anime Cowboy Bebop. Despite its mixed reaction, not least from anime fans who were going to dislike it anyway, the live-action show was more fun than people give it credit for even it never reached the multi-layered brilliance of its source material. However, Netflix canceled the show after just one season. Titan Books has published several books based on the series since then, including a four-issue comic miniseries, which is what we are here to discuss.
Written by Dan Watters with art by Lamar Mathurin, Supernova Swing opens like any episode of Cowboy Bebop: the crew members of the spaceship Bebop – Spike Spiegel, Faye Valentine and Jet Black – set their eyes on a bounty. During their hunt for the scientist Melville, the crew discovers he possesses a vest that grants a wearer unlimited luck, which catches the attention of the Syndicate.
Considering the bad timing of releasing this trade, given its position as a tie-in for a short-lived show from almost a year ago, you can read this as a standalone narrative separate from the Netflix show. It’s interesting how the creators approach this story – despite its connections to the live-action show (there is no Ed by this point), they lean more into some of the sensibilities from the original anime. Although you don’t have Yoko Kanno’s iconic music in the background, the comic maintains that retro aesthetic that resembles film noir and ’70s cop shows, wrapped in a futuristic setting.
The struggle most have dabbling into the world of Bebop is trying to capture that multi-layered tone, which can go from stylishly cool to comically quirky to soulfully melancholic in the blink of an eye. This is something Dan Watters completely nails. The best things about Bebop for me are the conversations that are steeped in science and philosophy, and what they say about the main characters, leading purposefully to an outcome that isn’t that triumphant. The tone is absolutely spot-on in this book.
Known for his web comic Gumbo, Lamar Mathurin’s art isn’t the most obvious choice for the world of Bebop. Despite maintaining the iconography of the characters and the ships (including Spike’s Swordfish), Mathurin’s loose style took some getting used to, especially when it comes to faces as the characters don’t look like John Cho, Mustafa Shakir and Daniella Pineda. That said, along with Roman Titov and Emilio Lecce’s coloring, the art can go from moody to energetic where the action just slaps, particularly when it showcases Spike’s Jeet Kune Do skills.
Despite its connection to the Netflix adaptation, Supernova Swing has its own aesthetic that works on its own merits, whilst still capturing the feeling of the original Cowboy Bebop.
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