The Damned #9 (April 2018)

The Damned #9

After The Damned reprinted–with color–the original Damned sequel now we’re getting a Damned prequel. Literally, it’s a prequel arc to the original Damned. And the first arc in this series. It seemed like the reprint of the sequel series–Prodigal Sons–was to set up the future, but it turns out it was to set up the past.

And it’s a fine past. I mean, it’s Bunn and Hurtt doing pre-Damned Eddie. He, Morgan, Wyrm, and Sophie (I really wish I remembered more about Wyrm and Sophie) are a thirties heist gang holding up the demons. But only Eddie and Morgan know about the demons. Their mom is still alive (albeit on her deathbed).

It’s a new kind of Eddie (an old kind) and some great back story for the relationship between him and Morgan. It seems world-buildy, something Bunn has always struggled with on The Damned. At least, until he got to this series.

The Hurtt art is gorgeous (and heart-breaking). The plotting’s good. It’s not what I was expecting, but it’s a good Damned comic. The Prodigal Sons reprint had me slightly wary. Not anymore.

CREDITS

Bad Ol’ Days, Chapter 1; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Chris Crank; editors, Desiree Wilson; publisher, Oni Press.

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The Damned #8 (February 2018)

The Damned #8

I’d forgotten how Damned: Prodigal Sons ended. Now it makes sense why it’s included–it was a setup for another series. But it didn’t happen back then.

So in the context of setting up what’s to come in Damned? Sure. It’s a fine arc. Kind of deserved two more issues, as it’s clear Bunn needs the five. I don’t even think the original Damned was five.

There’s some great pacing with Hurtt’s art here. There’s a talking heads action sequence, then a real action sequence. A fight sequence, in fact, with Eddie’s brother kicking demon ass.

Sons works as an arc in an ongoing. It’s still got a lot of problems. But for the finale, the biggest problem is it’s rushed. Bunn needed to spend time with these new characters. A page here or there.

Anyway. Can’t wait for #9 and the return of the new.

CREDITS

Prodigal Sons, Chapter 3; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Chris Crank; editors, Randal C. Jarrell and Desiree Wilson; publisher, Oni Press.

The Damned #7 (January 2018)

The Damned #7

So, following up on my Damned #6 post. Turns out Prodigal Sons is really just a reprint of the Prodigal Sons limited. It was underwhelming Damned sequel. This time with Bill Crabtree colors.

And, despite the awesome art and colors–Crabtree brings vibrancy to Hurtt’s action–despite those successes, Damned #7 (or Damned: Prodigal Sons Color Edition #2) reminds what’s wrong with the original comic.

It’s way too slight.

There’s a fight, a walking sequence, and a cliffhanger. Nothing else.

Eddie’s brother does the fight. There’s some awesome action, but nothing else. Eddie does the walking. It’s funny–his guide is this (mildly) sarcastic demon–but it’s just a walk. The cliffhanger is slight too.

In some ways, I’m glad. I’ve always thought I was too hard on Prodigal Sons, which kind of ruined The Damned brand back in the day. Hopefully this repeat won’t screw up the book too much. Bunn and Hurtt did magic with the first arc (surpassing the original Damned).

One more colorized rerun to go.

CREDITS

Prodigal Sons, Chapter 2; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Chris Crank; editors, Randal C. Jarrell and Desiree Wilson; publisher, Oni Press.

The Damned 6 (December 2017)

The Damned #6

Not only is Eddie’s baby brother back, this story arc of The Damned has the same title as the lackluster second series–Prodigal Sons.

Except now it’s great. Because Bunn’s learned how to do his exposition. He’s learned how to pace it, he’s learned what Hurtt does best and how to enable the best possible result. Damned has this easy visual flow, even when it’s disturbing subject matter; there’s only so much danger for protagonist Eddie, but there’s always only so much sympathy for him.

Damned is often fairly bright for noir, yet Bunn’s able to keep that distance from Eddie. The reader’s only so invested in Eddie as protagonist. There are a lot of forces moving around him–demons in this issue–who control things far more than he does. Or can even imagine. Eddie’s not a narrator but his unreliability extends to the reader… it’s impossible to get too worked up about him.

That being said, it’s easy to get worked up about the poor saps Eddie brings into his life, like his palooka brother. The brother, a giant boxer longshoreman type, is played sweet and innocent. He can handle himself in a fight against demons, but he’s a nice guy. Nothing like Eddie. So part of Damned is hoping Eddie isn’t screwing over the people you like.

And knowing there’s little chance he isn’t.

It’s such a good book. And Hurtt’s art is spectacular.

CREDITS

Prodigal Sons, Chapter 1; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Chris Crank; editors, Charlie Chu and Desiree Wilson; publisher, Oni Press.

The Damned 5 (October 2017)

The Damned #5

The Damned finishes off its first arc, full of sadness and demons and misery. And beautiful Hurtt art. Achingly beautiful Hurtt art.

It’s a wonderful Eddie issue, following him around, everything else–the flashbacks, the subplots–happening in this completely different world. One with possibility. Eddie’s world, as usual, doesn’t have any. Even when he thinks it does.

Great writing from Bunn, which is particularly nice. As I recall the original Damned limited series didn’t end particularly well; this one’s reassuring. Bunn can close it down now, open a window. Such great dialogue throughout. It’s real good.

CREDITS

Ill-Gotten, Chapter 5; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Chris Crank; editors, Charlie Chu and Desiree Wilson; publisher, Oni Press.

The Damned 4 (September 2017)

The Damned #4

One of the things I always forget about The Damned is just what a shit protagonist Eddie can be. It’s part of the comic’s DNA. Luckily, Bunn hasn’t forgotten. Needless to say, no spoilers, but it’s an excellent issue. There’s an action sequence, there’s a soul-selling flashback, there’s demons, there’s rain–all things Hurtt excels at illustrating. There’s so much weight in every panel. Damned is haunted in the best possible way.

CREDITS

Ill-Gotten, Chapter 4; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Chris Crank; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

The Damned 3 (July 2017)

The Damned #3

Eddie takes his friend Pauly around town to talk to people about Pauly’s score and their deal for redemption. There’s some awesome demon stuff, some character development for Eddie, some excellent gangster banter courtesy Bunn, and, of course, the glorious Hurtt artwork. It’s a fine issue–laying hints for what’s to come–and it’s nice to see Bunn and Hurtt have found their Damned tone again.

CREDITS

Ill-Gotten, Chapter 3; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Chris Crank; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

The Damned 2 (June 2017)

D2

Bunn and Hurtt open the issue with an atmospheric, ominous ride in the car for Eddie. It turns out to be less immediately dramatic and more about Bunn setting up Damned as an ongoing series. Eddie exists in a world with a lot going on; it’s not all about him. As the issue goes on, maybe there’s a little bit too much world-building and exposition, but it’s for Hurtt art so one can’t complain too much. Bunn’s definitely filling the book with content.

CREDITS

Ill-Gotten, Chapter 2; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Chris Crank; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

The Damned 1 (May 2017)

The Damned #1

The Damned is back. Gloriously so. Brian Hurtt art. Gangsters and demons. Who cares if it’s good–it’s good, but when you see a double-page spread of Eddie’s club and it reminds of Casablanca all of a sudden, you know Hurtt’s enough to get it over any of the hurdles. And, really, the only hurdle is Cullen Bunn’s too talky narration. There’s lots and lots of it–which makes sense for the first issue of a relaunch–but it still gets tiring, sensical or not. The plotting’s good, the characters are good, the art’s wonderful. It’s so nice to have Damned back. I didn’t even realize how much I missed it.

CREDITS

Ill-Gotten, Chapter 1; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Chris Crank; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

Harrow County: Countless Haints (2015)

Harrow County Volume 1: Countless Haints

Cullen Bunn really likes half-heard whispers. I mean, Harrow County itself is a half-heard whisper, if only because Bunn is making sure the other half of the whispers are completely inaudible. The reader goes into the story with more information than the protagonist, but neither has enough. And Bunn takes his time getting around to revealing it. One of the most effective things about this collection is how Bunn handles all the revelations.

When the book starts, he introduces the reader to protagonist Emmy. She lives on a farm in sometime in the indistinct, probably pre-WII past–automobiles but not everyone had electricity so maybe the twenties or thirties. It doesn’t matter because Emmy lives on the farm and doesn’t have much contact with the outside world. Just a weekly visit from a salesman and his daughter, who’s about Emmy’s age. They’re black, however, which Bunn uses to throw suspicion on Emmy’s father (either we aren’t supposed to like him because he’s racist or we aren’t supposed to like him because he’s suspicious).

Emmy sits in contemplation
Emmy sits in contemplation

Bunn does a fabulous job setting up the first issue because there’s no hint where the story is actually going. He still hasn’t given anyone–not Emmy, not the reader–enough information. When he does get around to doling it out, he reveals it at a pace to get up the reader’s expectations for upcoming scenes. It’s effective. Harrow County is an effective, well-structured comic book. Just because it has a cute little calf doesn’t mean it’s not a serious book.

Tyler Crook’s art is an essential, just because he handles Emmy’s innocence and determination so well. Her character has to develop through the collection while getting in dutch with the reader. Bunn gives her a lot of defining stuff real early on because the eventually Harrow County slows down a lot and goes scene-to-scene. Crook is able to speed up and slow down as needed. His establishing panels, utilizing foreground and background focus, are phenomenal. Crook handles the passage of time better than Bunn; whenever Bunn does it, there’s immediately a stronger reinforcement from Crook. It makes the book a bit of a treat to read, once it’s established, because of the way they’re able to deal with the events and the players. Harrow County doesn’t have any laughs, but it does have its humor.

Emmy and Bernice in trouble.
Emmy and Bernice in trouble.

And while Emmy’s the lead, Bunn’s narration is instead a close third person. Even though the narration doesn’t do any information dumps to get the reader caught up, it direct the reader’s attention. The story is about Emmy, Emmy is the protagonist (it’ll be interesting to see how Bunn handles Emmy being more active with this approach to narration), and the reader is sort of along for the ride. There’s a folk tale element to it all, with Emmy being the one who realizes the world’s not a folk tale.

As a first collection, Harrow County is a standout. It establishes its characters, quickly defines its setting, quickly defines its dangers, makes promises about what’s to come, plants expectations in the reader’s mind, has some great art. It even has an out of left field cliffhanger, but also one completely in line with the world Bunn and Crook set up. It’s interesting as the separate issues don’t have the same kind of cliffhanger–Bunn knows how to keep the reader interested. Not even guessing, just interested. And it works because Emmy’s such a strong character.

Emmy's protector keeps lookout.
Emmy’s protector keeps lookout.

With the exception of forcing the reader to make judgment calls on characters (one time), Bunn’s writing is excellent. Even when he goes on too long with the narration, it pays off because of the art. Crook creates a terrifying, but acceptable vision. The boy without skin and skin without boy who end up as Emmy’s sidekicks–oh, forgot to mention, she’s a reincarnated witch who’s trying real hard not to be bad–they ought to be too disturbing, but Crook makes them somewhat adorable. Even if they are dangerous (possibly to Emmy).

Like I said, it’s a standout. Harrow County sets a high bar for itself.

CREDITS

Writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Tyler Crook; editors, Ian Tucker and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Godzilla: Cataclysm 1 (August 2014)

Godzilla: Cataclysm #1

I wanted Godzilla: Cataclysm to be good. Not before I started reading it, but as I read the first few pages where writer Cullen Bunn sets it all up. It’s got an intriguing ground situation–after the monster war, humans have to make do in their wrecked world. So it’s post-apocalyptic but not futuristic.

And there’s no attempt at explaining the monsters.

Dave Wachter’s monster art is decent too. Giant monsters fighting, lots of detail in the panels. It’s good stuff.

Then the issue gets going and it gets worse and worse as it goes along. Like Bunn not establishing characters; characters need to be interesting even if giant bugs don’t attack them. The bugs would’ve been an adequate menace for the issue, but Bunn can’t help upping it.

Only Wachter doesn’t want to up his game–instead of detail, he does huge sound lettering as backgrounds.

Cataclysm indeed.

C- 

CREDITS

Writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Dave Wachter; letterer, Chris Mowry; editor, Bobby Curnow; publisher, IDW Publishing.

The Empty Man 1 (June 2014)

The Empty Man #1

There's an air of not-so-quiet desperation about The Empty Man, like writer Cullen Bunn is sitting in the front row of a class with his hand up, practically leaping out of his seat, trying to get the attention of the great Hollywood gods who can option his new comic and turn it into a TV show.

Only, like most desperate people, he's forgotten to be original and is instead recycling already existing media properties for most of the comic.

There's something of a prologue–or two–before the main characters appear. They're FBI agents and are in a world of dark magic where evil spirits (or one) roam the real world. They have terrible chemistry too. Bunn tries too hard with everything, ending on a weak hard cliffhanger.

Vanesa R. Del Rey has a distinct style and I love she modeled one character on Clark Gable. But it's far from enough.

C 

CREDITS

Writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Vanesa R. Del Rey; colorist, Michael Garland; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editors, Chris Rosa and Eric Harburn; publisher, Boom! Studios.

Sinestro 1 (June 2014)

Sinestro #1

You know, Dale Eaglesham does do a great job on Sinestro. I wouldn’t subject my brain to another issue of this prattling, but Eaglesham’s art is really good.

Writer Cullen Bunn has the task of bringing Sinestro back from a self-imposed exile. For all the endless expository narration from Sinestro, I’m unclear why exactly he’s in exile. It’s kind of hard to care too, because Bunn doesn’t make him a particularly interesting lead. He fights lions or tigers, talks to some inexplicably scantily clad lady with writing on her and then they go off and have a space adventure.

Apparently the comic’s supposed to be engaging because Sinestro’s an anti-hero–he only saves people of his planet from being killed, not the other people he could also save.

So he’s a bastard, who cares? Maybe if Bunn put him in an interesting situation, but he doesn’t.

It’s tripe.

D 

CREDITS

Blackest Day, Brightest Night; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Dale Eaglesham; colorist, Jason Wright; letterer, Dezi Sienty; editors, Chris D. Conroy and Matt Idelson; publisher, DC Comics.

Captain America and Black Widow 640 (February 2013)

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It’s another all action issue–there’s some talking heads for the planning and the various plot twists, but it’s an action issue. A bunch of slightly different superheroes–the Black Knight has a magical chainsaw and Venom can pilot a spaceship and Ghost Rider’s techy–attack some slightly different other superheroes who are now bad. Human Torch is a burning skeleton, I think.

It’s all confusing but very nicely illustrated. Francavilla has a great time with the battle scenes.

Otherwise, Black Widow gets the most important scenes. Cap gets none. His promise to the lizard people gets a summarized follow up. The multiverse thing gets even sillier.

Bunn fails at the one duplicate of the bad lady he needs to get right. The other one he does in this issue, he does well. But not the important one.

It’s not a success, it’s mildly disappointing, but at least it’s competent.

CREDITS

Writer, Cullen Bunn; artist and colorist, Francesco Francavilla; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Jake Thomas and Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America and Black Widow 639 (January 2013)

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Apparently, in some realities, Captain America is a dick. Bunn gets how to write Steve’s honesty and morality. It helps here, but doesn’t fit with Bunn’s style otherwise.

I also didn’t get the guy in the Doc Ock arms was the Lizard. My bad. I just thought it was some creature. But no, it’s Curt Connors and he’s not too terrible a guy in this alternate reality.

Decent art from Francavilla. It’s mostly talking heads. The alternate Black Widow talks at length (as usual) about the multiverse. The big action is in the background or in extreme close up, so Francavilla never really shines . I guess I’ve gotten used to how he does the close up conversations.

Bunn giving Steve a promise to help people in the garbage planet dimension makes the comic immediately more interesting. Of course he’s getting home, but will he be able to keep the promise.

CREDITS

Writer, Cullen Bunn; artist and colorist, Francesco Francavilla; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, John Denning and Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America and Black Widow 638 (December 2012)

Captain America and Black Widow Vol 1 638

You can tell the Black Widows apart by their belts. I hadn’t realized that detail. My bad.

Once again the Francavilla art is good. He’s stronger on the distance shots than he is during the close ups. Not to knock him–he’s good all the time but there are a couple fantastic long shot panels this issue.

It’s another all action issue. It takes place over twenty or so minutes, approximately five times longer than it takes to read the comic.

There’s a tiny bit with the bad lady and her duplicates. The scene features Bunn’s best writing. He’s not good for the existing character stuff. He needs to be generative, not repackaging Steve and Natasha exposition. The other best writing bit, for example, is the two Black Widows talking. The bad one’s much more compelling.

It’s a technically competent issue; it’s a waste of time in the important ways.

CREDITS

Writer, Cullen Bunn; artist and colorist, Francesco Francavilla; letterer, Cort Petit; editors, Jake Thomas and Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America and Black Widow 637 (November 2012)

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Clearly I haven’t been reading Marvel comics for a while. Since when do they talk about a multiverse like it’s early eighties DC and what’s the deal with the big tripod monsters?

Confusion aside, it’s a fairly good issue. Bunn’s plot twist is somewhat unexpected–supervillain arms dealer only employs her multiverse selves; there’s none of the cool different back stories this issue, which is too bad.

Instead, Bunn and Francavilla do an action issue with some occasional confusing talking bits. There are two Black Widows and it’s unclear who is who… But it doesn’t really matter, since the issue moves so fast.

As far as the writing, Bunn’s got Steve telling a proctologist joke. It’s an odd moment, making one wonder if Steve’s really a multiverse double too. It’s not good banter for him.

It’s an interesting misfire–way too heavy on the dystopian sci-fi–with nice art

CREDITS

Writer, Cullen Bunn; artist and colorist, Francesco Francavilla; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Jake Thomas and Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Captain America and Black Widow 636 (November 2012)

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I like Francesco Francavilla. He’s a little awkward with Captain America out on a mission and the superhero stuff, but he makes the talking heads interesting and he’s got a great rendering of Central Park at the open.

As for Cullen Bunn? He has a similar problem. The issue’s perfectly well-written, somewhat confounding stuff about an arms dealer seemingly with clones. Except all these clones have different memories, which Bunn covers in the narration. There’s a great bit with Hawkeye complaining about different dimensions.

But Bunn’s Steve Rogers lacks personality. He plays off people–Hawkeye, Iron Man, the bad arms dealer lady. Even when there’s a good line–Captain America liking Sizzler–it passes quickly. Does Steve Rogers really like Sizzler? There are Sizzlers in Brooklyn?

Bunn can probably get away with it, since the story’s intriguing (and he writes Black Widow well) but it’s unfortunate Steve’s so vapid.

CREDITS

Writer, Cullen Bunn; artist and colorist, Francesco Francavilla; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Jake Thomas and Lauren Sankovitch; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Sixth Gun 23 (June 2012)

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I’m unsure why this issue is called “Part Six” of the previous story arc. It’s a done in one setting up the next story arc a little, but also catching up with previous guest star Kirby Hale. In turn, he runs into some other former guest stars and Bunn’s plan for the next arc becomes somewhat clear.

Tyler Crook fills in on the art and does a fine job. Bunn writes Kirby as incorrigible, almost more likable after each page. Especially the finish. Bunn gives him a great exit line.

But where are Becky and Drake? It really didn’t seem like Bunn was done with them in the last issue and here they just get an off page mention. Maybe my expectations are out of whack as Bunn identifies this issue as part of the last story….

Titling concerns aside, it’s another excellent issue. Bunn clearly has his favorite guests.

CREDITS

A Town Called Penance, Part Six; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Tyler Crook; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Douglas E Sherwood; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

The Sixth Gun 22 (May 2012)

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Turns out I was wrong–last issue did end with a soft cliffhanger. Becky and Drake are relatively fine as this issue opens; Bunn does not acknowledge the dialogue-free previous issue either. It’s sort of strange, not to mention it, but the issue works anyway.

Bunn continues showing Drake’s viciousness, which is another interesting move. He’s juxtaposing that viciousness against the real possibility Drake is some kind of magical guy. Like an immortal soul tied to the metal in the guns. And Becky is along for the ride. There’s a great moment of conflict for her, when she internally questions Drake’s behavior. Of course, this internal questioning is just between lines of dialogue and in Hurtt’s art. It’s a great scene.

Neither the reader nor the characters know all the details about the guns, leading to a deferment in moral judgment to characters’ behaviors.

Bunn writes a good comic.

CREDITS

A Town Called Penance, Part Five; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Douglas E Sherwood; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

The Sixth Gun 21 (April 2012)

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Bunn does a dialogue-free issue. It should be called, “One Helluva Rescue,” as Becky saves Drake from his captors and they battle the Order in its stronghold.

But the issue isn’t just free of dialogue, it’s silent. When Becky and Drake communicate, they do it through body language. It’s not like Bunn and Hurtt are inferring they’re talking between panels. It’s just silent and that silence emphasizes the action.

The issue follows Becky until the last couple pages. How she finds the hideout, how she gets down to free Drake. Bunn even sticks with her when Drake takes his revenge–that moment, her waiting–is when it’s clear how far Bunn and Hurtt have taken their characters in Sixth Gun.

The issue also has a hard cliffhanger masquerading as a soft one. The leads are in danger of drowning.

It’s an awesome issue with some gorgeous artwork from Hurtt.

CREDITS

A Town Called Penance, Part Four; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Douglas E Sherwood; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

The Sixth Gun 20 (March 2012)

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Brian Hurtt has a very pleasant style to his artwork. It’s often warm, regardless of content. This issue, however, featuring Drake tortured, it’s not so pleasant. The aged doctor doing the torturing is almost cute in an eccentric mad scientist way, but he’s doing such terrible things. Hurtt’s art style leads to The Sixth Gun being a constant surprise.

Also a constant surprise is how low Bunn is willing to take Drake and still keep him a sympathetic character. Even when he’s being tortured, Bunn manages to reveal something else unpleasant about the character.

Meanwhile, Becky is in the middle of a shootout–which has a couple surprises–and it becomes clear Bunn’s keeping the arc’s supporting cast distant for a reason. While Drake’s scenes are interesting because it’s a lot of information about the backstory, Becky’s half of the issue is pure Western shootout excitement.

It’s an excellent issue.

A 

CREDITS

A Town Called Penance, Part Three; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Douglas E Sherwood; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

The Sixth Gun 19 (February 2012)

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Bunn still doesn’t have much of a story for Drake. He pretty much gets a good meal and then gets in a bunch of trouble. Or he’s about to get in a bunch of trouble. There’s the threat of it….

But Becky does get in a bunch of trouble, a couple times even. Bunn gives her the Yojimbo plot, which is more interesting because of the gender roles. Also because there’s a big secret she discovers and it plays into the plot a little.

Bunn’s really good at toying with reader expectations. There are a couple tense moments in the issue, lead characters in danger, where it seems like it could go either way.

And Hurtt gets some varied action to render. There are only two action scenes but they’re quite different.

There’s still a lack of spark to the new supporting cast members, but Gun’s starting to cook again.

CREDITS

A Town Called Penance, Part Two; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Douglas E Sherwood; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

The Sixth Gun 18 (January 2012)

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It’s a setup issue. Becky is in a desolate, starving town looking for Drake. Drake is meanwhile dealing with his captors. They both make–or think about making (it’s unclear so far)–unexpected deals.

And that recap is about it. Bunn introduces some new characters, but none of them resonate except the ones Becky encounters. They only resonate, however, because their situation is so desperate.

It’s not lazy writing, or even unimaginative… it’s just very workman. Bunn has to get the next arc setup and he does, only without making it compelling on its own. Instead, he lets the series’s momentum carry the issue through.

Sadly, the lack of action gives Hurtt little to do. His art’s excellent as usual, there’s just nothing dynamic going on.

The issue is too passive. Becky and Drake’s respective supporting casts are far more active than the leads. The imbalance makes the issue drag.

CREDITS

A Town Called Penance, Part One; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Douglas E Sherwood; editor, Charlie Chu; publisher, Oni Press.

The Sixth Gun 17 (November 2011)

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Billjohn’s back. Heck yeah.

I’ve been missing Billjohn and Bunn and Hurtt reveal he’s back in the first couple pages this issue.

This issue finishes the “Bound” arc and shows how complicated Bunn’s plotting is on The Sixth Gun. While nothing big happened–except Drake’s disappearance–the reader learns a great deal about Becky and Gord. Bunn waits until now to reveal another layer to the whole picture as well.

He’s got to have some kind of outline.

There’s more action than in the last couple issues here, with Gord fighting himself (sometimes literally) as he struggles to deal with a devil. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

And then Becky has her big moment, along with a quieter one where she discovers more powers of the Sixth Gun.

This arc gives Bunn and Hurtt a lot more toys and somehow revitalizes the series, even though it didn’t need to be.

It’s excellent.

The Sixth Gun 16 (October 2011)

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I can see now why Bunn put all the action at the beginning of this arc. It’s not about action, it’s about the calm following the action.

For example, the scenes with the most action this issue are Gord’s flashbacks. Except it’s not exciting Western action, it’s the terrible things Gord went through. And it’s all off-panel. Hurtt either shows the lead up or the results. It keeps the issue active, but calm and dreary.

Bunn also comes up with some more great flashback tools. Becky’s father is able to look in on her from the past, which provides some necessary foreshadowing, makes the issue subtly tragic.

The issue, overall, is a complete downer. Gord remembers bad things and Becky discovers bad things (and people). As usual with Sixth Gun, it’s difficult to predict where Bunn is going.

Particularly great Hurtt art at the end closes the issue well.

The Sixth Gun 15 (September 2011)

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Anything after last issue was going to be a letdown and, while this issue isn’t as strong, Bunn and Hurtt are being very deliberate and careful. They’re slowly revealing the past of Gord and Becky. The beauty of The Sixth Gun being a supernatural Western is Bunn doesn’t have to use flashbacks.

Instead, he gets to use ghosts. In Gord’s case, the haunting is a little more literal for the most of the issue. While he’s walking through his past, conjuring up people long gone, Becky is getting acclimated to the weird monks protecting her.

She’s also pining for Drake, who’s missing (but not suspected dead).

The monks live in this huge castle and I really hope Bunn explains a castle in the Old West. I don’t doubt he’d explain it well, I just really want to read it.

Hurtt’s art is calm and quiet, silently majestic.

Gun‘s reliably strong.

The Sixth Gun 14 (August 2011)

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Darn that Bunn. After his first semi-weak (for Sixth Gun) issue I can remember, he comes back with an utterly outstanding one.

This issue concentrates entirely on the life of the giant mummy, who either is going to be a new major character or Bunn is just flexing his writing skills. It’s a Western gothic; fill-in artist Tyler Crook nails it. While Sixth Gun usually has a lot of horror elements, this story is far more visually disturbing. And the disturbing stuff isn’t even the horror content.

Sixth Gun is a tragedy and this issue really showcases it. The humanity Crook brings to the protagonist’s face, physically twisted and internally determined, is some of the series’s better art–no slight against awesome regular artist Brian Hurtt.

A negative person might point out the issue delays resolving the cliffhanger.

But why be negative about such a great comic book.

The Sixth Gun 13 (July 2011)

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The issue ends with a very peculiar turn of events. So much so the issue feels incomplete, like Bunn forgot to resolve something. He changes up Sixth Gun’s status quo in the second issue of an arc… it just feels funny.

The issue’s pacing is also funny. It’s an all-action issue (but none of those awesome Hurtt double page action spreads), with the protagonists literally putting the brakes on everything at the finish.

The great big mummy (he’s actually not so much big as super tall) proves an interesting foil for the issue, even though he doesn’t have any real dialogue. It’s a strange presence in the already strange situation of zombie cowboys after the protagonist.

Bunn’s got the tone right, Hurtt’s got the art right, but something’s missing. The cliffhanger is too quiet, too soft… the issue really needs some bite.

It’s technically excellent… but, again, something’s missing.

The Sixth Gun 12 (June 2011)

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Is there anything not to love about this comic book? I mean, it ends with this beautifully paced reveal of the big villain–and I quote–a “giant mummy.” In the Old West. It’s just fantastic how Bunn and Hurtt pull off these fantastical reveals and make them work perfectly.

Speaking of Hurtt, this issue features some more of those wonderful Sixth Gun double page action spreads. It’s a great approach to action sequences, though I think Hurtt doing the art makes it work.

Bunn opens the issue–the first of a new arc–with a little recap, something Gun hasn’t had before. He works it nicely into the story, giving the issue a gradual start. Things get disturbing pretty fast, though Gun‘s handling of the supernatural is always somewhat genial.

If the book were too disturbing, it would overshadow the Western feel.

It’s truly an exemplar comic book.

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