I have never regretted the many hours that I have spent reading but I do find that the more I read, the harder it is for me to fall in love with a book. As you read brilliant stories, you get pickier and pickier about what captures your imagination. And then there are books that are so wonderful that you just don’t give a damn about anything else when there are adventures to be had. The Sixth Gun, written by Cullen Bunn and illustrated by Brian Hurrt, is one such series. I’m stretching my chosen horror category for this month a bit by including it but as a weird western, it’s got enough horror elements to count. For those not familiar with the genre, weird westerns combine elements of the western genre with those of another literary genre, typically horror, the occult or fantasy. It’s not a genre that I’ve read much of in the past but The Sixth Gun is easily my favorite and I devoured all eight volumes in two days of reading despite having plenty of other things that I should be doing. And yet, I don’t regret one single moment of it.
As a weird western, this ain’t your grandma’s Old West. The Sixth Gun introduces us to a world crafted and destroyed and re-crafted over and over again by six supernaturally powerful guns known collectively as The Six. Each gun has a special power that can only be wielded by its owner until that person’s death. And anyone who controls the Six has the power to open a vault that will recreate the world to that person’s desires, whether that means heaven or hell on earth. When the story opens, the situation is looking dire. In the aftermath of the Civil War, a courageous group of men killed and imprisoned a powerful Confederate general named Oliander Hume, preventing him from opening the vault with the Six and recreating his own hellish version of reality. Unfortunately, evil that dark is not defeated so easily and Hume’s widow and a band of four loyal horsemen are working to awaken him. Standing in the way is a young, naïve farm girl named Becky Montcrief who has just inherited the sixth gun from her father and now is poised to take up the terrible burden of keeping the weapon away from Hume and his allies. Aided by a gunslinger named Drake Sinclair with motives of his own, Becky must figure out a way to stop Hume from creating hell on Earth without being corrupted by the dangers of the sixth gun.
The pacing in The Sixth Gun is insane, non-stop action. If you want moments to breathe as you race through a story, this series is not for you. Character development happens slowly and Bunn builds an understanding of both Becky and Drake as the story progresses but focuses much more on driving the plot first and foremost. This means that aside from Becky and Drake, some of the characters aren’t particularly well developed. That said, I thought the nuances of the two main characters more than made up for it. Becky starts as the naïve farm girl and I’ll admit that I was a bit worried she’d be your stereotypical lost female character who constantly needs male direction to survive. Becky surprised the hell out of me in the very first volume by being smart, sassy and fully capable of taking care of herself despite her lack of worldliness. She’s not some damsel in distress and there are several points in the story where people, both friend and foe, learn that the hard way.
Drake was a similarly surprising character. In most westerns, he’d be set up as the White Knight who rides in and protects Becky from both danger and her own impulsiveness. Fortunately, there’s a bit more to Drake than that. Bunn slowly reveals Drake’s past while making it clear that Drake can be a selfish bastard when the mood strikes him. I loved that Drake was slowly revealed as this character who had motivations which weren’t exactly as pure as Becky might have hoped. Both Becky and Drake felt like real, complicated human beings with a host of motivations and problems rather than just cardboard cutout stereotypes.
As much as I absolutely loved Cullen Bunn’s writing, Brian Hurrt deserves just as much credit for the magic of this series. His artwork felt a bit cartoony at the beginning but it didn’t take me long to fall in love with it. There are a lot of horrific creatures and events that happen in this story and Hurrt does an amazing job capturing all the gory detail. It’s not the kind of artwork that makes you gasp but it’s perfect for this story and honestly suits it better than anything like Alex Ross’ work would. Best of all, The Sixth Gun doesn’t make the mistake of having to tell you what’s going on in every single panel. I sometimes get frustrated by graphic novels that feel the need to tell rather than show the reader what’s going on. The great thing about graphic novels is that the art can make you feel like you’re watching a movie rather than reading a book and Hurrt capitalizes on this throughout the series. There are entire pages where the action is revealed through his artwork rather than Bunn’s writing and it’s just perfectly accomplished. I was so thoroughly under its spell that I honestly would be worried that a movie or television show wouldn’t do it justice.
I generally try to provide balanced reviews for my articles and note the good as well as the bad but I just can’t do it with The Sixth Gun. Everything about this series makes me want to gush about it to everyone I know and force them to read it with me looking on and clapping with glee. My only complaint about the entire series is that there isn’t enough of it. Bunn has stated that he intends for the series to have about fifty issues total and so far has released forty seven of them. The last issue ends with a hell of a cliffhanger and if I didn’t love it so much, I’d want to strangle the creators for leaving me foaming at the mouth for more. I don’t care what genres you love, The Sixth Gun is so jam packed with action and horror and excitement that I would recommend it to any person who would stand still long enough. I suppose I should warn that it can get gory, disturbing and dark but even if you’re squeamish, it’s worth every second!