Thursday, February 03, 2011

Review - The Sixth Gun Vol. 1

The Sixth Gun Vol. 1
By Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt
Published By Oni Press; $19.99 US
Collects The Sixth Gun #s 1-6

Whether or not mixing genres is financially risky these days, I'd say it's artistically risky simply because of how commonplace it's become. My reaction to a lot of the recent mashing-together is what I like to call my Instant Asshole Reaction. It goes something like this: "A lot of people are doing it! People are enjoying it! I HATE IT!" In spite of the self-deprecating name I've given the response, I think it's understandable. When things have reached a point that hearing about the novel Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter or the comic book Cowboy Ninja Viking doesn't illicit a laugh on one hand or a groan on the other, but rather a matter-of-fact "Of...course," you can hardly blame me for damning trends just for being trends. Though I'd feel bad if I didn't point out that I don't mean to smear those particular books. I've never read them and can't comment on their quality. Their titles just offer blatant examples.

When you read The Sixth Gun, in spite of the fact that it's a fantasy/western; in spite of the fact that you'll see gunslingers following secret maps to spirit oracles, Catholic monks opening up Gatling guns on undead cowboys, winged beasts belching lighting and hurling horses into stagecoaches, and merciless killers wielding pistols with the power to raise the dead or blast balls of fire, it feels natural. It feels seamless. And it will probably feel like a comic book you've been waiting to read for a long time.

The Sixth Gun's namesake was the property of Oleander Hume - a sadistic Confederate general who killed purely for the joy of killing and gathered like-minded soldiers to his side to help him. Each carried a gun with supernatural properties and after Hume was killed and his corpse buried beneath a monastery, his gun went to the protection of a man named Montcrief. After Montcrief is killed for the gun and General Hume's soldiers rescue Hume from death; Montcrief's daughter Becky, the opportunistic gunslinger Drake Sinclair, and Sinclair's partner Billjohn are all that stands between the risen General Hume, the magical gun that helped make him such a prolific mass murderer, and presumably a new reign of terror.

Rather than coming off as gimmicky or trendy as I initially feared, the mixing of genres in The Sixth Gun makes for a rich, wonderful adventure story filled with gunfights, horror, and heroism. The world Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt create for the story is convincing and intriguing. I left the series not only loving their mixing of western and fantasy, not only curious about why the two genres haven't been mashed together more often, but actually wondering if I would ever again want to read or watch a western that didn't include zombies and gryphons and armies of mud people.

The Sixth Gun is an ongoing series and after reading this first trade it's tempting to break my near-fast of floppies. I wouldn't call any of the chapters self-contained, but Bunn and Hurtt give you enough story and wonderful art to make an issue worth buying on its own. And while I'm thrilled that this is only the beginning for The Sixth Gun, I also appreciate that this first volume feels complete. If it were a stand-alone GN, I would be left hungry for more but I wouldn't regret investing in the story. It's a great book that I would recommend to anyone, regardless of whether or not they had ever picked up a comic book in their life.

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