Comics

The Sixth Gun’s Thrilling and Scary World

Michael D. Stewart

Horror-Western The Sixth Gun forges ahead with its 16th issue, casting light on the backstory of the mystic guns themselves. But, with 15 issues published, how much more could this Weird Western yarn have left? Plenty.


The Sixth Gun #16

Publisher: Oni Press
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt
Price: $3.99
Publication Date: 2011-10
Amazon

From issue to issue, Oni Press’ The Sixth Gun doesn’t waste any time, moving from chapter to chapter with abandon, all the while building a weird world of gunslingers, outlaws, mystics, mummies, zombies, preachers and other worldly creatures. It’s a testament to the Horror-Western subgenre that has come in vogue in recent years. The unsettling nature of its plot is only enhanced by its dusty trail, 19th century aesthetic. With 15 issues published, how much more could this Weird Western yarn have left? Plenty.

Saddle up, as The Sixth Gun is a complex tale. Six Guns imbued with different supernatural elements, the sixth being the most dangerous, are central to the book’s core. Holding the last six shooter is Becky Montcrief, whose wild eyed innocence is only surpassed by her stubborn determination. She is both parts heroine and damsel. Her companions, former soldier turned rogue gunslinger Drake Sinclair and former slave and current mystic Gord Cantrell, are equally representative of the various types of heroes highly associated with the Western genre. Their mission, to simplify things, is to find a way to destroy the guns. Yet forces conspire to use the guns for other reasons, and the motivations of Sinclair waver from page to page as he plays his intentions close to the lapel of his waist coat.

All of these characters and plot points, with their supernatural elements, combine to create the otherworldly that also happens to be grounded by the rich Western setting. With issue 16, The Sixth Gun expands its universe by pulling back the veil a bit more on the backgrounds of its characters.

Former slave Gord returns to the plantation he once new, now deserted and haunted by the ghosts of his late wife and children and the sorcerer slave master he killed years before. Looking for some ancient tomes to shed light on the mystic guns, he must confront his past to push forward into the future.

Becky, using the divine powers of the sixth of the guns, revisits her late stepfather, understanding just a bit more about his place in all this, his motivations for, and knowledge of, the guns themselves. The past and present occupy the same space, if only by the power of the gun, giving Becky more insight about her current predicament – a seeming prisoner of the Sword of Abraham, a group of religious types battling the horrors of the world.

These points, which have been building since issue one, are ever expanding, representing the immense world building writer Cullen Bunn has been achieving with each issue. There is an epic nature to the book, partly due to the setting and the context of the period, but also due to the layer upon layer of story Bunn has built. It is quite the work, both in so far as one-off issue storytelling and the whole combined to represent the immensity of the entire project.

Bunn throughout the entirety of the run has shown a perverse talent for mixing the creepy with straight ahead adventure, weaving the dueling narrative elements seamlessly. Early on, his dialogue was a constant reminder of where the story has been, but as he reached the year milestone, that trick slipped away, leaving a much better developed point of view for each character and a cleaner approach to each issue. The story stays with you, so the constant reminder of the plot points was unnecessary. Bunn’s transition as far as dialogue demonstrates a certain amount of evolution in the execution.

What has stayed consistent has been the pencil and ink work of artist Brian Hurtt. Aside from one issue with a guest artist, Hurtt has done every panel, every page of The Sixth Gun. He's delivered a quality that is at times conventional and at other time penetrating. His work seems to anticipate the story beats, delivering lines and inks that are startlingly strong and poignant just as they are about to set the next movement of characters and story. The horror-fantasy elements, as well as the western context, are handled equally deftly, cementing the dual nature without ever letting one piece fall by the wayside.

Aiding that effort is the color work of Bill Crabtree. His palette is expansive, yet restrained, never moving beyond the expected, except when necessary for the story. It’s part of the grounded nature of the book, so that the horror elements evoke the type of suspense and thrills they are meant to in a relatively familiar world.

This world is familiar, yet it is not. The duality of which is the point and what makes The Sixth Gun such an exciting read month to month. Bunn and Hurtt have created a rich world of western horror, which has become a strong place to tell their tale. They have opened the gates, so to say, allowing the story to venture off in new directions, but stay ever close to the core of the book. It’s a thrilling and scary world that has no end in sight – even after this particular plot is finalized.

7

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image