Fans — or at least, some of them –were disappointed when Netflix decided to cancel its live-action Cowboy Bebop series starring John Cho. However, those eager for more Cowboy Bebop will find solace in an accompanying side story coming this November titled Cowboy Bebop: Supernova Swing. Set in the year 2171, this story brings together the Bebop crew to hunt down an ex-gang member who has stolen a vest that gives its wearer unparallel powers. This isn’t an altruistic hunt, mind you: Spike, Faye, and Jet are down on their luck and need both a win and a way to be financially stable for a while, and the original owner of the vest has put a bounty on it that would give them both. However, they are not the only ones after the vest, as the Syndicate is also looking for it.
Think of the story as a play on Jason & The Argonauts, and the hunt for the almighty fleece in that story and you have the proverbial skeleton. However, this story is told with that classic Bebop flair. There is a casino heist that does not go the way the group hopes it will, and leads them to a planet that intoxicated the whole crew. This setting gives us more of an opportunity to see how drunken thoughts reveal sober truths for Jet and Faye, and how these three ultimately need each other for more than just good times. The artwork is what you have come to expect from Cowboy Bebop, but it is really the story that brings you in and hooks you from the beginning. Dan Watters, in a way that maybe the Netflix series didn’t get a chance to, captures the tone of the Bebop universe and its need to be multi-layered perfectly. This story goes from emotional (these are three characters thrown together not because they wanted to, but almost out of necessity) to funny (there’s a ramen exchange that works really well) to philosophical (the three characters often find themselves asking each other about the meaning of life in ways that are not often found in these mediums). The humor allows us to breathe during the more emotional beats, and the art helps but does not overwhelm this story.
Speaking of the art, Lamar Mathurin deserves a shout-out because Cowboy Bebop is not Gumbo (Mathurin’s graphic novel). As such, he is the one tasked with adapting his style to an already existing world, and he knocks it out of the park. Having to juggle so many different settings, stylistically, could have been a challenge for any other artist, but not here. The action itself, had it not been curated properly, could have looked awful on the page, but Mathurin displays both reverence for these characters and a desire to showcase them with his own style.
If you loved the Netflix series, then you will absolutely love this and the other standalone novels that have been released. If you have been on the fence about giving Cowboy Bebop a shot, this is a quick read that could be a good springboard for you because it doesn’t require past knowledge of the characters. It, also, gives you everything the series gave you in a much more consumable medium, which may whet your appetite to try the series. Watters and Mathurin deserve so much credit for their great work here and for their love of this universe.