A Wicked Western. The Sixth Gun, Vol. 1: “Cold Dead Fingers”

“Cold Dead Fingers” is the first collected volume from supernatural horror western comic series The Sixth Gun, out recently from Oni Press.

The story is set after the Civil War where Mrs Hume, beloved wife and murderous sociopath, is determined to find her missing and very dead husband, General Hume. She has also hired the Pinkerton Agency to locate and retrieve some stolen property that belonged to the General, the most  important being the legendary Sixth Gun, an artefact of power. The weapon has a bloody and vile history—some think it came from Hell itself—and is so evil it cannot be destroyed. Mrs Hume is using every resource at her disposal, mystical and mundane, to find it, but she is not the only one looking, as whoever gets to it first will have access to unnatural powers.

This trade collects the first six issues of the ongoing series, and after reading the first issue a few months ago, I was immediately hooked. There are a lot of really interesting and clever ideas packed into this comic and it mixes together several genres which makes it very unique.

General Hume was a monster during the Civil War. He was a feared and legendary leader who won countless victories with brutal efficiency. Some people believe his success was because of a pact he made with a demon, a result of which were six guns. The infamous guns, each with its own disturbing and unnatural power, twist the owner in mind and body. Once a gun is bonded to an owner, the person can only be released by death. Each gun was given to a brutal killer with a soul almost as dark as Hume, and together the six gunmen were unstoppable. Despite all of his powers, Hume was eventually defeated by a righteous man. (Whose identity I won’t reveal, as it would be a big spoiler.) Hume was so evil he didn’t stay dead and both he and the Sixth Gun went missing. Of course, nothing stays buried and hidden forever.

Years later, we meet a mysterious man named Drake Sinclair who is also seeking the Sixth Gun in parallel to Mrs Hume. His quest brings him into contact with Becky Montcrief, the inheritor of the Sixth Gun. At the start of the story Becky is an innocent girl who gets caught up in events she doesn’t understand. She is also unaware of the evil creatures that are crawling around, but as the story progresses she toughens up and takes control of her own destiny. Unlike female characters in some westerns, she is not a wallflower, and doesn’t stand around letting other people save the day.

None of the characters in The Sixth Gun are truly white hats, perhaps with the exception of Becky. Drake is very grey and is willing to do whatever is necessary to get what he wants. If this means lying or killing someone, then he will do it. Despite all of his deeds, Drake still looks like a saint when measured against General Hume and the other men who wield the mystic guns.

As mentioned The Sixth Gun mixes together several genres, and while it is primarily a western, there are supernatural, horror and mystic elements throughout. Without spoiling anything, the guns are not the only supernatural powers in the story. Fans of George Romero will be happy reading this comic.

There is a lot of good stuff packed into this first volume. It delivers an exciting and creepy adventure story full of gunfights and weird powers. It also reveals the true origin of the six guns. All of the main characters are nicely fleshed out too, and yet despite all of this information, the story is not overladen with exposition. It is very difficult when creating a world with its own mythology to find a good balance between plot, action and world building. Writer Cullen Bunn and artist Brian Hurtt have done an admirable job in only six issues. By the end of this first volume I was fully up to speed and very eager to know what happens next.

The book has a 13+ age rating for a good reason despite the bright and colourful artwork. There is an awful lot of killing and gunplay which is not too unexpected given the mix of genres and adult themes. A lot of well known comic book writers have provided cover quotes for this first volume, but the most telling and apt comes from author Joe R. Lansdale. His name alone tells you plenty about what to expect. The Sixth Gun is a fantastic new series from a publisher that always produces diverse and interesting comics.

Stephen Aryan is a lifelong fan of comics, science fiction and fantasy. He co-hosts the Comic Book Outsiders podcast and writes fantasy and comic book reviews at Walker of Worlds.


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