The basic story here is that during the Civil War bad guys found six pistols of otherworldly power. Eventually, the most dangerous weapon, the Sixth Gun, was lost. It has now been found and it is the hands of an innocent young woman. The bad guys are after her and the gun. Her only aid and companion is a gunfighter, Drake Sinclair, who has his own checkered past and history with the bad guys. If that all sounds a little like a Western "Lord of the Rings" that's ok. This series has enough character, novelty, excitement, action and mythology that it can embrace and shrug off that comparison and then steam along quite nicely on its own.
So far there have been 36 comics published. They have been collected in six trade paperback editions. Five editions have already been published. Number 5, "Winter Wolves", came out on September 18, 2013. Number 6, "Ghost Dance", which collects issues 30 through 35, will come out on February 5, 2014.
This current volume is a five-issue spin-off. General Oliander Hume was the head bad guy, and he died early on in the series, (or did he?). His four cutthroat accomplices are the "Sons of the Gun" who are featured in this release. Each of them has one of the guns and these are their stories. Each gun has its own unique dark power, so each gunman's story is different from the others'. At the outset the four sons of the gun have become scattered after General Hume's death. Each one gets a chapter as we follow his wandering and adventures and learn about his gun's unique power. After those four episodes, the sons are reunited and we are ready for the rest of the story to develop.Since these "four horsemen" feature heavily in the upcoming Volume 6, knowing their stories will add a lot to both understanding more about past issues and appreciating everything that is going on in Volume 6.
Now, all of that is very well, but it begs the question whether any of the issues are worth reading. I'm not a hugely knowledgeable fan of graphic novels and don't have a great depth or breadth of knowledge about the genre, but I can say that this series has been one that has maintained my interest and has been both rewarding and entertaining. On the plus side, each son is a unique and distinct character, so we get more than the same cowboy story over and over. The quality of the writing is very sophisticated and there are many arresting or compelling observations or bits of dialogue that make this a rewarding reading experience, which you might not otherwise expect from a graphic novel. On the negative side, some of these stories are extremely violent, (sort of "graphic violence" in a literal sense), and "The Sixth Gun" in general and this spin-off in particular trend toward horror/zombie/bloody mutant territory. These are not cowboy stories; this is basically horror in a cowboy setting.
That said, these are interesting guys, as tormented bad guys often are, and they easily fill out this spin-off. If you're into the whole series you pretty much have to read it, and you'll want to anyway. If you are new to the series this isn't a bad way to sneak up on it from the side and get its flavor. To me, a happy addition to the canon.
Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.
on 2 June 2014
The Sixth Gun is Oni Press’ best series since Scott Pilgrim though unfortunately, like Bryan Lee O’Malley’s masterpiece, it is a finite series that is now winding down. How to get as much out of it without diluting the potency of the story? Spin-off prequels like Sons of the Gun!
This isn’t something I’m automatically against as The Sixth Gun is a wonderful comic and more of it can only be a good thing. Except… this is a book about the villains of the story, the four horsemen of General Oliander Hume’s and how they received the guns before they were taken by Drake and Becky, and, frankly, their stories didn’t really need to be told. They’re just not that interesting enough characters in the first place and this book doesn’t do much to convince the reader otherwise.
The four are: “Bloodthirsty” Bill Sumter (possessing the gun with the force of a cannon), Will Arcene (possessing the gun that fires the flames of perdition), “Filthy” Ben Kinney (possessing the gun that spreads flesh-rotting disease), and Silas “Bitter Ridge” Hedgepeth (whose gun calls forth the spirits of the dead). Missy Hume, the General’s evil wife, possesses the fifth gun which keeps her young so long as she keeps murdering, though she doesn’t figure much in this book.
Ben Kinney’s origin story is a fairly plain Beauty and the Beast-type tale – Ben is physically deformed but strikes up a relationship with an attractive young woman through letters who falls in love with him. Until of course when she sees what he looks like and poor Ben realises love isn’t on the cards for him and goes back to the gunslinger’s life. Bill Sumter’s story is a very forgettable tale of a brigand whose appetite for loot gets him into some sticky situations.
Will Arcene’s story is pretty good but is something we’ve seen before in The Sixth Gun – supernatural and monstrous creatures massing in the Southern swamps, mixed in with black magic. It’s still entertaining but predictable as we know Will’s life is never in danger because this is a prequel. Silas’ story of becoming a plague doctor in a doomed township is probably the best as we see his character’s personal philosophy being formed – seeing people suffer from plague only for their suffering to be alleviated with his gun which resurrects them as weird mud creatures.
The book ends in a pretty terrible fight scene between the four and a giant kaiju-esque monster that looks like it stepped out of Pacific Rim. This kind of threat doesn’t feel like it belongs in the world of the Sixth Gun and seemed arbitrary – the four characters needed a common foe to unite them, so this’ll do. The story of the doomed four horsemen of the Sixth Gun is something most fans of the series will pick up out of love of the main books in the title, but for this fan? It wasn’t bad and some stories were entertaining but it didn’t add much to the overall series and I could easily put this book down. Sons of the Gun is unnecessary but ok.