There has never been a better time to get into comics (end of the hyperbole). The box office and the upcoming TV schedule are both filled with productions based on stories from the funny books. While we can debate how long this era will last until the Age of Apocalypse, there’s no denying that the studios believe comic book adaptations can hold our interest for at least the next five years. Given that some of the characters we’re seeing converted from the comic page to the movie screen have already been entertaining fans for over sixty years, it’s hard to see the likes of Batman and Captain America disappearing from our screens anytime soon.
For many people the idea of reading comics can interest and scare them in equal measure. There are many titles out there, and so many continuities. How do you tell your Ultimate Spider-Man from your pre-crisis Flash? Once you’ve got a grasp of that, you still need to figure out how to get your hands on them. Not every town has its own comic store, and single issues with a monthly release schedule may not be the reading experience you’re looking for anyway. So in this new feature we are going to look at the different comic titles out there, from the big three (Marvel, DC and Image) to other publishers like Dark Horse and Avatar. We’ll try to point you towards stories that are suitable for new and longtime readers alike. We will, for the most part, be focusing on the modern era. It is unlikely that we will be making the normal recommendations, like Watchmen. I feel like recommending Watchmen to new comic readers is like recommending Citizen Kane to someone new to cinema. It’s technically brilliant, but not necessarily the best place to start if you’re looking for a fun story.
So without further ado…
The Sixth Gun – Vol. 1 (Cold Dead Fingers) – Oni Press
The elevator pitch for the Sixth Gun is amazing. This is the Lord of the Rings set in the Wild West. In this first volume we are introduced to the idea of Six Guns. Each gun has its own power, and whoever posses the gun can be gifted with a special ability, whether that’s eternal life, visions of the future or power over the dead, to name a few. To become the proud owner of one of the guns someone will need to pry it from the cold dead fingers of its previous owner. While over the course of the series we are introduced a number of factions, each with the their own ideology for how the guns should be used, this volume introduces us to our Frodo Baggins, Becky Montcrief. Becky lives on the frontier of the west, with her ageing step-father. When this old war hero passes away he leaves Becky with the mysterious Sixth Gun, which changes her life forever. There have been a number of books recently with strong female leads, and I feel Becky could easily stand shoulder to shoulder with Ms. Marvel, Batgirl and the Rat Queens. After Becky realises the destructive power of the guns, she sets out to destroy them before they can fall into the wrong hands and begins her own hero’s journey.
While Becky is certainly the lead protagonist of the series, she is not alone in her quest. She is accompanied by Drake Sinclair, a half Han Solo, half John Constantine-style antihero. While Drake and Becky form an alliance, and watching their friendship develop is a highlight of the series, it’s clear that Drake has his own agenda for the Guns, and a dark past that’s hot on his trail. Particular a recently resurrected Confederate General named Oleander Hume, who had his own plans for the guns.
The creators, Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt, send Becky and Drake through this strange frontier filled with Voodoo Shadow-men, skin walkers and circus freaks. They aim to find a way to gather the six guns and destroy them, but along the way they learn of their true origin and power. There are currently eight volumes chronicling Becky and Drake’s journey, with four non-essential spin-offs (Sons of the Gun, Valley of the Dead, Dust to Death and Days of the Dead) which provide back stories on a few background characters introduced over the course of the series. There is even a Dungeon’s and Dragons style role play game based on the series, which demonstrates how detailed the world is Bunn and Hurtt have created.
The art style is simple, but strong in every chapter. Hurtt is able to convey his character’s emotions and even without dialogue their thoughts are often clear. There are a number of different and other worldly character’s through the series and Hurtt gives each of them their own design. So much so that despite a mostly human cast, it is always easy to remember who’s who in any particular scene. So while Hume’s gang is filled with a number of crazed Cowboys, they each standout in their own gruesome way.
The ninth volume, due out shortly, will be the finale of the series, so if you are looking for a comic saga with a beginning, middle and end this might be a good place to start. Each volume is available online or can be bought digitally as single chapters. I have been reading the Sixth Gun in collected editions since the series started, and each volume has seen the series grow stronger and stronger. Back in 2013 there were talks of SyFy commissioning a pilot to turn the series into a TV show, and while Michiel Huisman (currently in Game of Thrones) was cast as Drake Sinclair, the pilot was not picked up for a series, though that doesn’t take away from the strength of the book. The creativity of the series seems endless, and I will certainly miss it when it concludes later in the year.
If you’ve read the Sixth Gun and want to share your though below please do so. If this article had encouraged you to pick up the series please let us know how you like. If this series doesn’t sound like the right fit for you come back next time and we’ll find another jumping on point, and please don’t leave me hate for the Watchman comment.