Last November, Netflix released their live-action version of the popular anime Cowboy Bebop. Despite the mixed reaction, not least from anime fans who wouldn’t like it anyway, the live-action show was more fun than people give it credit, as even it never reached the multi-layered brilliance of the source material. However, Netflix canceled the show after just one season. Titan Books has since published several books based on the series, including a four-issue comic book miniseries, which is what we’re discussing here.
Written by Dan Watters with art by Lamar Mathurin, Supernova Swing opens like every episode of Cowboy Bebop: The crew of the spaceship Bebop – Spike Spiegel, Faye Valentine and Jet Black – have their eye on a bounty. During their hunt for the scientist Melville, the crew discover that he possesses a vest that gives a wearer unlimited happiness, attracting the attention of the Syndicate.
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Given the bad timing of the release of this trade, given its position as a link for a short-lived show from nearly a year ago, you can read this as a standalone story separate from the Netflix show. It’s interesting how the creators approach this story – despite the connections to the live-action show (there’s no Ed at the moment), they lean more towards some of the original anime’s sensibilities. While you don’t have Yoko Kanno’s iconic music playing in the background, the comic maintains that retro aesthetic resembling film noir and 1970s cop shows wrapped in a futuristic setting.
The struggle most have in the world of Bebop tries 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 totally nails. The best things about Bebop to me the conversations that are steeped in science and philosophy, and what they say about the main characters, are purposefully leading to a result that is not so triumphant. The tone is absolutely perfect in this book.
Known for his web comic Gumbothe art of Lamar Mathurin is not 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 resemble John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, and Daniella Pineda . That said, along with the colors of Roman Titov and Emilio Lecce, the art can go from moody to energetic where the action just hits, especially when it showcases Spike’s Jeet Kune Do skills.
Despite the connection to the Netflix adaptation, Supernova Swing has its own aesthetic that works on its own merits, while still capturing the feel of the original Cowboy Bebop.
Cowboy Bebop: Supernova Swing
Despite its connection to the Netflix adaptation, Supernova Swing has its own aesthetic that works on its own merits while still capturing the feel of the original Cowboy Bebop.
Watters nails the laid-back nature of Spike, Jet and Faye
A story that is funny, deep and melancholic, like the best Bebop episodes
Fun, kinetic art style by Lamar Mathurin…
…although some might be put off by its loose designs which certainly give a different aesthetic than what you expect from this world
Although you can read it as a one-off, a little knowledge of Bebop might make this easier to understand
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