THE SIXTH GUN #4, #5, #6 (ONI PRESS, September-November 2010) Written by Cullen Bunn. Illustrated & Lettered by Brian Hurtt.
The potential for greatness hinted at in the early issues of this title reach full fruition in these three issues, which conclude the first story arc in this ongoing monthly. My favorite weird western title of 2010 just keeps getting better and better. (I’m halfway into the second story arc, which maintains the same high quality of fine story-telling and expressive artwork.)
To read my other reviews of this title, please visit the Archives section in the right column and use the drop-down menus for the months of May 2010 (May 09 #1 Free Comic Book Day Edition), August 2010 (August 7 #1 and #2 combined article), and September 2010 (September 01 #3).
The story is a bold mix of western post-Civil War adventure with supernatural and macabre elements. During the War,the evil Confederate General Oilander Bedford Hume sought to locate and possess six mystical pistols. He only managed to locate five of them before being killed. The story centers around the resurrected general and a cadre of evil associates as they attempt to locate the sixth and final weapon - - now in possession of Becky Montcrief, a young woman uncertain how to use her newfound powers. She is protected and guided by Drake Sinclair, a gunfighter who is a man of dubious intentions. Who does he really serve?
Cullen Bunn balances the rapidly forward moving plot with enough details, insights and clues to make this a solid read. You can come back to this book for second and third readings and still pick up on new things each time.
ISSUE #4 DEVELOPMENTS: Things begin to occur at a much faster pace beginning with this issue. As Sinclair sets some traps for the pursuing general, some of Hume’s forces get thinned out through ancient supernatural forces. Sinclair picks up one of the pistols to even the odds, but Becky gets captured by the clay men. The giant Thunderbird intervenes, resulting in another of Hume’s men getting dissected while Becky gets rescued. Still not sure that she’s partnered up with the right people, Sinclair confesses to past misdeeds and reveals his former membership in the General’s front lines.
ISSUE #5 DEVELOPMENTS: Another henchman goes down, and another pistol comes into Sinclair’s possession. The fleeing trio find their way to The Maw, the haunted fortress mentioned in earlier issues - - and seek sanctuary there. The once-secret outpost of General Hume is now occupied by former Union soldiers who have accepted the leadership of Gord Cantrell, a giant black soldier from the Carolinas. Cantrell’s soldiers are there for Hume’s secret gold treasure, hidden at the bottom of the enormous well/pit. But Becky senses there is something other than gold, made of pure evil lurking behind the sealed floor vault (which requires all six guns in order to unlock and open). Hume arrives, revives the dead from the surrounding graveyard, and lays siege to The Maw.
ISSUE #6 CONCLUSION: This is the big battle issue and it doesn’t disappoint. Anyone who appreciates great art could pick up this issue alone and just admire the craft of Brian Hurtt. It wouldn’t matter that they’d be too far behind on the story. The art is worth the price of the book alone. Hurtt has been doing pencils, inks and colors throughout the entire run, and his work just pops off the page with clarity and rich vivid colors. He is a master of including an incredible amount of action with small-sized panels on every page - - and expands the scope of his scenes with many short but rectangular and wide-screen panels which span many two-page spreads. These panels really highlight the huge battle details throughout this issue. To top it off the battle scene is staged during a heavy downpour and this is also greatly detailed by Hurtt. The fighting is bloody. It’s brutal. And it’s so well done. The swarthy companion Billjohn gets killed and then revived as a clay-face golem dedicated to covering Sinclair’s back. The General goes down (perhaps not forever), Mrs. Hume gets cut up but grows some limbs and escapes. Cantrell bands up with the trio, who now possess all six guns. There follows a simple but beautiful aftermath/dawn scene with wonderful colors before they end up relaxed, refreshed, newly clothed and with money to spend in a town that reminds of New Orleans. Sinclair seems to have come into some undisclosed wealth (turns out to be connected to the hanging trees that were prominently featured in earlier issues and not referred to again until now) and Becky begins to see visions of more trouble ahead (a side effect of the sixth pistol’s power).
I’ll be back for more. If you enjoy Jonah Hex and weird western tales you should check this out.