My Week in New York: Thursday

It had been fun seeing New York City, but with the arrival of Thursday it was time to get down to business: New York Comic Con was upon us.  After another 6:30am rise and a hearty breakfast to set me up for the day, I headed down on the brief walk to the Javits Convention Center.  I had scoped the place out on my first day in NYC, and it had seemed pretty barren, an empty vessel waiting for a sense of purpose.  But what a difference a few days make.  Now, the Javits Center was getting ready for New York Comic Con!

The Javits Center

Once I arrived, I discovered that Tyler James and Joe Mulvey – my booth partners, who would be bringing the tables, chairs and our supply of comics – had been held up in that notorious New York traffic.  And since we needed Tyler, who’d booked the booth, to get our exhibitor passes, I had to just sit around in the foyer for a while.  But eventually, the rest of the gang arrived, and while Joe seeked out a parking place outside, I got to meet the mighty Tyler James, glorious leader of ComixTribe, for the first time.  I always get a kick meeting people I’ve talked to online in person, and so far I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve not had an experience of someone I thought was alright over MSN or Skype turning out to be a weirdo in person (probably because I’M the one who’s the weirdo in person), and Tyler was no exception, turning out to be as smart and cool in the real world as the virtual one.

There was a brief scare where it seemed like our passes had been lost, or accidentally given to someone else, but thankfully it was resolved before too long, and we were kitted out with the Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket that is a Comic-Con exhibitor pass.  Meeting up with Joe and his friend outside, we went through the arduous task of dragging our heavy bundles of stock and equipment from the car park to our booth on the show floor.  An interesting aside: over the course of the week, I only noticed that the escalator from the foyer up to the show floor had stopped working on two occasions.  The first was on this day, meaning we had to haul all our stuff up it like it was a regular flight of stairs.  The second was on Sunday, when we had to haul all our stuff back down it again.  Typical.

Another problem emerged once we located our corner booth just near Artist’s Alley.  Namely, that it wasn’t a corner booth.  We were located quite inconveniently next to what I can only call a massive China exhibit.  If that sounds vague, it’s because that’s the impression they gave.  It was this collection of 8 connected booths that ran in a big line next to where our booth was, all with the words CHINA written on top of them, but each with its own hazey subtitle, like “Skyworks Technologies” or “Guangzhou Daley Media Co” or something similarly uninformative.  And these booths were typically partitioned off, and often empty.  And I don’t just mean no con-goers stopped by – though people rarely did – I mean that even the exhibitors themselves were barely there.  It must have been an expensive bit of real estate, but obviously these guys must have had a lot of money to throw around to book all that space then not really use it.  And the problem with these massive booths was that they jutted right out onto the floor, far beyond the reach of our table, meaning anyone walking past them was automatically cast at a distance away from our table, breaking that essential passing trade connection.  On the plus side, I pointed out, we were at a good place to catch people headed to the nearby bathroom.

The ComixTribe gang set up the booth while I... take pictures.

I have to say, it was really exciting setting up the ComixTribe booth.  Sure, I got a little thrill laying out my comics at my table for the Glasgow Comic Fair, but this was on a whole other level.  Organising not just The Standard, but the rest of ComixTribe’s diverse lineup, reminded me of the stellar company I keep being a part of ComixTribe.  The absolute best thing about The Standard being published through ComixTribe is that I get to be a part of such a fantastic roster of talent, and an incredible lineup of titles.  I had already read and loved Runners, Tears of the Dragon and Epic, but once the booth was set up, I was able to sit down and read Joe Mulvey’s Scam, and The Red Ten by Tyler James and Cesar Feliciano.  Both are just great comics, which I highly recommend checking out if you possibly can.  Here’s the thing that helped me a lot while pitching all the ComixTribe titles over the weekend: I didn’t have to be dishonest in my shilling.  My enthusiasm and passion for each of these comics and their quality was absolutely genuine.

With the booth ready, we all headed out to a local deli for lunch.  And, like the sophisticated artistic souls we are, we spent the entire meal sharing puke, shit and fart stories.  Classy, my kinda people.  Afterwards, we headed back to the convention center, and I took the time to have a look around the show floor.  The layout was actually quite a lot like San Diego, only with less TV and movie booths, and more of a central focus on comics.  I also noted that Marvel had situated itself far away from the rest of the comics booth, instead settling down right in the middle of the video game section.  This struck me as a bit isolationist, and because it was so far off my beaten track, I actually never visited the Marvel booth save for passing by it on my way into the show floor in the mornings.  I’d say the trifecta of the DC Comics booth, the Image booth and the Midtown Comics booth felt more like the central hub of the show floor, with the well-furnished Archaia booth situated well in amongst them.

After a while, the doors opened to the public (at least, those with 4-day VIP passes), and the first day of selling began.  In all honesty, business was a little slow on this first day.  We did have a steady flow of eyes on our table, but we had our quiet periods.  My problem was that I couldn’t get my salesmanship down.  My pitch for The Standard was overlong and clunky, and I could practically see eyes glazing over as I launched into it.  I just didn’t seem to have a good knack for it, and was grateful that the affable Joe and the super-efficient selling machine that was Tyler were there to take my slack.

Shifting from my exhibitor hat to my fan hat, I took a wander around Artist’s Alley.  The first familiar face I got to meet was Mikel Janin, the talented rising star artist of Justice League Dark.  He very kindly agreed to sign my copy of Justice League Dark #1, and we parted on what I thought was a good note.  But then I realised, to my horror, that I had given Mikel my sharpie pen, and forgotten to take it back.  Now, those who know me from work will know that I am paranoid about ensuring nobody takes it from me, and I will stand and watch people use the pens they borrow fro me to make sure they give them back when they’re done.  So I launched into this awkward moment where I had to go back to this gifted artist I admire, and politely ask him to give me my pen back.  Thankfully, my subsequent friendly Twitter chat with Mikel would suggest this faux pas was not too disastrous.

The next folks on my list were Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt, the esteemed writer/artist team on cracking Western series The Sixth Gun.  Long-time followers of this blog will know I’ve devoted a lot of time to promoting this comic, reviewing the first graphic novel collection and several other subsequent issues and bestowing superlative but well-deserved praise.  I tried my best to convey this praise to the team in person, telling them that The Sixth Gun had so much content packed into each issue that every individual comic was a rewarding read in itself, and that this most definitely wasn’t a comic for trade-waiters.  I then gave them a trade to sign.

But perhaps most exciting of all for me on this day was the chance to meet Jason Aaron.  Regular readers may know that I have gushed about The Sixth Gun, but they’ll also know that I’ve lavished numerous dissertation-length odes of devotion to the seminal Verigo crime series Scalped, a title I’ve not been in shy in saying I’d rank as definitely the best comic on shelves today, and well on its way into entering the canon of the all-time greats.  Considering all this, getting to meet Scalped writer Jason Aaron was one of the things I was most excited about going into the New York Comic Con.  And I’m pleased to say he didn’t disappoint.  This is something that has struck me about all the folks in comics I’ve been fortunate enough to meet over the past couple of years: they’re all nice guys.  It must be really deflating to meet one of your heroes, and they’re a jerk.  But the comics creators I’ve had the chance to talk to have all been friendly, and keen to chat with their fans, and Jason Aaron was no exception.

At first, Jason bamboozled me a bit: when I produced Scalped #25 and told him that, after much painful deliberation, I had decided this was my favorite single issue of the series, he asked me the dreaded question, “Why is this one your favorite?”  I garbled at him in incomprehensible Glaswegian for a while as I struggled to come up with a good answer (I failed), and then I introduced myself as the writer of the Studying Scalped columns he had kindly linked to on his blog.  It was great that Jason knew who I was enough to thank me for the columns I’d written.  I also told him I was the guy who’d asked him to bring along Scalped #3, #15 and #16 to the con, and he responded by producing them from his backpack.  Getting these elusive comics given to me by the writer himself!  I was ready to pay double the cover price or more, but Jason amazingly said I could just take them for free!  What a classy guy.  With these issues in my collection, I was now the proud owner of every Scalped single issue save for issue #1.  I tried to fire a couple of quickfire Scalped questions at Jason before leaving.  Will there be any Scalped deluxe hardcovers in future?  Probably not.  Will there be any Scalped retrospective panels at San Diego 2012 or next year’s NYCC?  Again, probably not, but Jason did mention I could take part in some kind of series of closing interviews at the end of the series, which would be amazing.  I gave Jason copies of The Standard #1 and #2, then gushed some more about how Scalped was one of the greatest comics of all time, before finally making my exit.

In terms of stuff I bought, I was able to grab almost all the issues of Zot! my friend Jamie Fairlie was missing from his collection, and I picked up two T-shirts from DC’s Graphitti Designs booth: a Swamp Thing T-shirt, and something I’ve wanted for a long time: a grey Batman with a black Batman logo.  That’s right, none of that “black T-shirt with the black bat logo inside a yellow circle” movie bullshit for me, I’m a comics purist, baby!  And a nerd.

Back at the ComixTribe booth, Steve – the friendly fan from Jim Hanley’s – stopped by to say hello.  He had read and enjoyed The Standard #1 after buying it at the signing, so was here to get his hands on The Standard #2.  I have to say, this happened a few times over the course of the con, and it was the biggest compliment.  When someone buys and reads the first issue one day, and takes the time to come back the next day, tell you they loved it, and buy issue #2?  That’s quite possibly the most rewarding thing about writing these comics.  It’s a great feeling.  Steve also ended up buying the rest of ComixTribe’s lineup too, which was great.  Perhaps our first convert of NYCC.  Thanks, Steve!

Tyler and I at the ComixTribe booth.

Once the NYCC preview night wrapped up, I stopped back at my hotel to make a quick change and drop off my heavy satchel bag (this bag, filled with books I wanted signed, was the bane of much of my travels during the con), before heading down to Tempest Bar for ComixTribe’s Drink & Draw event.  Food was provided in the form of giant pizzas brought in from a nearby pizzeria.  Yes, that’s right, pizza again.  And these ones were MASSIVE, dwarving even the oversized slices from Pronto Pizza.  Quite possibly the biggest pizza I’ve seen in my life.

Drink & Draw started off quiet, but once it got going we ended up with a good crowd of comic creators at the event.  Now, I say “quiet”, but what I actually mean is that deafeningly loud music was banging away at all times, and it seemed like the louder I tried to speak, the louder the music got.  See, I just don’t get this.  I see a bar as a place meant for socialising, so while ambient music is fine, what’s the point of cranking up the volume so loud you can barely communicate?  And remember, I was trying to make myself understood to a bunch of New Yorkers with a thick Scottish accent as it was, so I was already fighting an uphill battle.

I did get to have a few good conversations, though.  In particular, I got to have some lengthy chats with Rich Douek, regular ComixTribe commenter, and writer of an intriguing title called Gutter Magic that I was able to get my hands on at NYCC.  And I also got one of Tyler’s friends to draw up an image for one of the artist edition covers of The Standard, which was greatly appreciated.

After hanging out for a few hours, I took my leave, feeling a little sick from the watered-down Coke and oversized pizza.  But it was a good kind of sick.  The New York Comic Con was off to a great start.  And it was only going to get better.

NEXT: I go to far too many panels.

REVIEW: The Sixth Gun #13

In the past, I’ve spent quite a bit of time singing the praises of The Sixth Gun.  This supernatural Western series from Oni Press, written by Cullen Bunn and drawn by Brian Hurtt, was one of the best new comics of 2010.  The first storyline, “Cold Dead Fingers”, was a pulpy rollercoaster ride that served as the perfect antidote to the “deconstruction” of many contemporary comics, with more packed into each single issue than you’ll find in 6 issues of many Marvel titles.  The second arc, “Crossroads”, showed an impressive change of pace, Bunn demonstrating that he was equally adept at the slow boil in a more horror-tinged tale seeped with atmosphere that showcased a steadily escalating sense of dread.  And all the while, as each issue provided a full and satisfying reading experience in its own right, the overarching mythology of the series continued to be built upon and the characters continued to be developed.  Now, as The Sixth Gun enters its second year, can it maintain the high quality?

Unfortunately, it would seem that The Sixth Gun #13 and this current arc, “Bound”, aren’t quite up to the level of what has come before.  This is something I’ve never had to say about a chapter of this series before… but it was a very quick read.  One of the things I’ve loved about The Sixth Gun thus far is it felt like every issue took us to some new and exciting place or situation.  But the entire body of this issue is just a continuation of the fight that began last issue.  And while the comic normally gives us gasping cliffhangers, this time round I literally turned the page to make sure there wasn’t more story I was missing, because the issue just ends, practically mid-conversation.  “Is that it?” is not my normal reaction to reading an issue of The Sixth Gun.

However, I don’t want to come down too hard on Cullen Bunn, as there is plenty he does right.  One of his biggest strengths with his work on this title has been his ability to continually add strange and interesting new characters to the mix, effortlessly building on his ensemble and making even bit-part players and single-service heavies feel rounded and compelling enough that they might be featured stars of extensive sagas in some lost world.  That trend continues this issue, with the further development of last issue’s new arrivals: sinister necromancer Eli Barlow, and Asher Cobb, a hulking mummy who may have more complex motivations and connections to the history of the narrative than we first believed.

Bunn also continues to do well with his established central cast, particularly our enigmatic protagonist Drake Sinclair, whose development takes a surprising turn here.  The final page may not have been a cliffhanger, but my anticipation over finding out what comes next for Drake will be more than enough to bring me back for issue #14.

One area where this issue certainly isn’t lacking is the visuals.  The action setpiece that dominates the issue revolves around zombies (and the aformentioned mummy) laying siege to a train, in a monster-mash homage to the classic “train robbery” setpiece of many a classic Western tale.  And the illustrations of Brian Hurtt, combined with the lush colors of Bill Crabtree, perfectly bring this to life.  Hurtt’s panel layouts emulate the sense of rapid movement one might get in a runaway train, with his cramped panel layouts suggesting the confined space of a train carriage.  The visuals put us right in the heart of the drama.

This may not be one of the better issues of The Sixth Gun, but even a weaker instalment of this excellent series is better than much of the comics on the market.  And I’ve built up enough faith in Cullen Bunn’s storytelling abilities to feel confident that, in the end, “Bound” will all come together just as nicely as “Cold Dead Fingers” and “Crossroads”, and The Sixth Gun will continue to excel in its second year.

REVIEW: The Sixth Gun: Cold Dead Fingers

In a recent review on this blog, I mentioned how impressed I was by The Sixth Gun #7.  I commended it for how much of a satisfying read it was in its own right, how much plot and character it squeezed into its 22 pages, and how based on the strength of that issue I would be seeking out the graphic novel collecting the first 6 issues.  Well, after picking up this graphic novel, Cold Dead Fingers, I was surprised to discover that issue #7 is actually what passes for a quiet, uneventful installment in this inspired supernatural Western series.  For as far as opening arcs go, the first 6-issue storyline of The Sixth Gun is a belter.

A widely circulated trend in comics these days is comics that read like they’re tailored for trade-waiters.   You know the feeling.  When put together in a 6-12 issue chunk you feel like you’re getting a whole story, but on an issue-by-issue basis you feel like you’re just treading water.   Not a problem for The Sixth Gun.  As much as I like the graphic novel package (the matte-finish paper stock on the cover gives the book a nice feel) I kinda wish I’d been getting the single issues from the start.  Most of the six chapters included in here are jammed with enough content and narrative progression to make up a six-issue arc of their own in a typical comic in this age of decompression.  Every second chapter boasts an issue-long fight scene, and even the “quieter” chapters in-between have their fair share of bloodshed, as well as extensive world-building and character establishment.

That’s not to say, however, that the story at any point feels rushed.  Writer Cullen Bunn gives us with Cold Dead Fingers a meticulously plotted and structured book.  Much like that other great Western/supernatural hybrid comic to debut in 2010 – American Vampire – every issue adds to the greater mythology of the series, while at the same time serving as a worthwhile standalone package that a new reader could use as a jumping-on point.

The comparison with American Vampire is perhaps apt, as The Sixth Gun can be seen as an intriguing companion piece to Vertigo’s latest breakout hit.  While American Vampire is a comic that is very much looking forward, viewing the frontiers of the Wild West as the fountains upon which the bloody secret history of 20th Century America was built, The Sixth Gun is a story more preoccupied with looking back, with its contemporary Wild West setting the tip of the iceberg in a saga that delves into ancient magic spanning back centuries.  This is an uncharted world, still fool of unexplored corners with myths and mystic things, and the old-school pulp adventure heightens this aesthetic.  You get a sense that the Wild West is perhaps the last era a story like this could be told in, before the science and industry of the modern age stamped out fantasy once and for all.  While American Vampire paints the canvas of the Wild West as a beginning, you get a sense with The Sixth Gun that is used to mark an ending, the last flourish of a now-lost time.

But amidst all the plot mechanics and ideas, it’s the characters that truly draw us in and make us want to keep reading.  And the character at the core of Bunn’s tapestry is compelling anti-hero Drake Sinclair.  This is a character who is at times hard to like, and indeed our feelings for him shift as his history and motivations are gradually peeled back in layers.  We first interpret him as the grim lone rider with a heart of gold in the Clint Eastwood vein when we first encounter him, but it quickly seems Sinclair has a much more cynical, selfish bent to his personality – such as when he leaves a dying man in the desert for the buzzards to eat – painting him as something considerably darker.  But as the story goes on, we begin to question if maybe he does have that heart of gold after all, just very well and deeply hidden.  The story cleverly places him in situations where his reactions can be ambiguously read as either altruistic or self-serving, and though by the end of Cold Dead Fingers he seems to be more settled on the heroic side of things, we get a sense that we still have much to learn about Drake Sinclair’s murky past.

Less successful is the other core character, Becky Montcrief.  While she is given the important position of being owner of the eponymous “sixth gun”, right now we’re in a position where there is little to define her other than that weapon, aside from generalities of being “brave” or “strong-willed”.  While Drake Sinclair is a masterful example of a character shaping the progression of the plot, Becky Montcrief too often serves as an unfortunate example of the plot solely defining the character.  I wouldn’t call Becky a lost cause yet, though.  Throughout the graphic novel there are flashes of her innocence corroding, and her growing attachment to this cursed gun in issue #7 hints that there could be dark times – and with it, meaty character exploration – lying ahead.

The supporting cast of goodies is rounded out by aging bounty hunter Billjohn O’Henry – whose grumpy sidekick role becomes a lot more interesting in the book’s second half when it takes on a poignant, fatalistic twist – and escaped prisoner Gord Cantrell, whose hulking frame makes him one of the more visually engaging characters in the series, but who at this early stage remains something of an enigmatic blank slate awaiting further development.

But I’d argue Bunn’s biggest success in characterisation comes with his depraved roster of villains.  I call stories like The Sixth Gun Metal Gear Solid stories”.  Not because the video game was the first by any means to set up such a dynamic (Die Hard and Robocop are notable cinematic precursors), but simply because it’s one story that stands out in my mind at doing it particularly well.  What I mean is a narrative that sets up multiple villains – a “Big Bad” and a selection of other “bosses” working under him – then is subsequently constructed around how these formidable foes get taken out one by one.  Telling a “Metal Gear Solid story” is a kind of artform in itself: getting all the dynamics right, making each villain distinct and memorable in their own right, the craft of making the second-in-command or “Mini Big Bad” stand out from the other villains in their own right while still not overshadowing the main antagonist.  But Cullen Bunn pulls it off with panache in Cold Dead Fingers.

The towering devilry of this graphic novel, and the figure who will likely stand as the ultimate enemy of The Sixth Gun as a whole, is General Oleander Hume, at one time one of the most feared strategists and wartime leaders of the Confederate army, now a rotting undead zombie attached to his coffin by magic-tinged chains, shouting abuse at anyone within hearing distance.  He’s certainly visually striking, as far as villains go, and he’s built up as a soul-crushingly evil menace as much by the terrified testimonials of others as by his actual on-panel antics.  Interestingly, while undoubtedly evil and despicable in his words and deeds, you can’t help but develop a grudging sense of admiration for the crazy old coot – too stubborn and hateful to even let death do more than slow him down, we see him facing down mythical creatures and seemingly insurmountable odds in a manner that we have to acknowledge as bravery, of sorts, particularly when considering that in one instance he does so to protect the men under his command.  And there are even brief, fleeting moments where it seems General Hume might have a warped sense of honor lurking within his black heart.

The Revolver Ocelot of our story, to continue the analogy, is Missy Hume, the General’s scheming widow, and the first visible face of evil in the opening chapter before the more overtly supernatural enemies are revealed.  Of course, as we later discover, Mrs. Hume resides within the realm of the supernatural herself: able to heal from any wound, and apparently immortal and eternally young, making her a nice contrast to her zombie husband.  Missy Hume is so vile that she almost upstages her husband in the villainy stakes, and does so with apparent relish – while the General is on a quest for power and conquest, we get a sense that Missy is driven largely by the sheer exhileration of being bad.  She’s also at the centre of one of the graphic novel’s most gruesome set-pieces, examining the consequences of her gun-toting hand being amputated.  All this, combined with the great way Brian Hurtt draws her – look at the way her cheekbones give her a kind of Glasgow smile, as well as those sinisterly expressive cat eyes – make her possibly my favorite character in the book.

The rest of the rogues gallery is populated by Hume’s four henchmen – each wielding one of the six guns – who seem to reference the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the nature of their guns’ respective supernatural powers.  Each of these characters has their own singular design to make them stand out, and as noted above, much of the narrative’s forward thrust comes from their undoing.

I’ve touched upon it a few times throughout the review, but I should give specific mention to the massive contribution made by Brian Hurtt to the book’s success.  Comics are a visual medium, and so a big part of a character’s success is how distinctive and identifiable their appearance is here.  On this front, Hurtt delivers the goods, with his designs doing just as much (and at times more) to establish these characters as Bunn’s skillful writing.

As mentioned in my review of issue #7, Brian Hurtt is an artist with an incredible sense of place.  And that trend is readily apparent throughout Cold Dead Fingers, with our characters journeying through multiple locations, and each one rendered in detail to give it its own distinctive atmosphere.  For example, note Chapter 5.  We start the chapter in the early morning, and as the narrative progresses we are taken through daytime, then sunset, and end the chapter in the dead of night.  This is not done obviously or with attention called to it, but it’s there in the background, subtly enhancing the sense of building dread and impending doom.  The Sixth Gun is as much a triumph of aesthetic as it is a triumph of ideas.

So, I’m all caught up with The Sixth Gun now, and I’m surely onboard for the long haul.  I have to commend Oni Press for this cracking series, one which skillfully juggles genres while expertly utilising the potential of the comics medium.  I regret that I wasn’t reading this book when I compiled my Top Ten Comics of 2010 list, as I believe it may have ranked quite highly.  As it stands, I’m very excited for where The Sixth Gun is headed in 2011, and if you like good comics, you should be too.

REVIEW: The Sixth Gun #7

I love me some Westerns.  There Will Be Blood and Once Upon a Time in the West rank up there among my all-time favourite movies.  Red Dead Redemption was one of the best games I’ve played in a long time.  I’m currently searing through the Deadwood complete series DVD boxset that was surely my best Christmas present this year.  And though I eventually had to drop it when trimming my pull list, for a long time I faithfully picked up the Jonah Hex comic by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray.  There’s just something about that period of American history that fascinates me.  I think much like sci-fi, westerns can explore the idea that, out on the extremities of the frontier, we can often get a unique perspective into human nature.  While sci-fi often comments on where we could be going, the western at its best often examines how we came to be.

Given this interest in the genre, for a while now I’ve had a yearning to try writing a Western comic myself, despite being an outsider looking in as regards that most American of genres.  So when I started hearing good things about The Sixth Gun, the new series from Oni Press – with many industry creators citing it in a recent mass interview feature on Comic Book Resources as one of the best comics of 2010 – I wanted to check it out for myself to see what it was doing right.  As it turns out, the answer is “a whole lot”.

I was originally intending  to get the graphic novel collecting issues #1-#6 of the series, get myself caught up.  But due to a shipping problem here in the UK I couldn’t get my hands on the book last week.  So instead, I picked up #7 and decided I’d use this issue to get a feel for the series, and see if it was something I wanted to invest in further.  This can be a risky strategy, as when I can I prefer to start a series from the beginning and read chronologically.  But it was not a problem for The Sixth Gun, with the introduction on the inside cover getting me caught up on the key characters and plot points.

Reading the comic, it soon becomes clear this is not your typical Western.  Writer Cullen Bunn has skillfully blended the Western genre with elements of fantasy and horror.  Even a new reader like me is quickly immersed in the expansive mythology Bunn has crafted with this story, with Western archetypes like the cocky gunslinger and the treasure hunter seamlessly interacting with golems and spider-demons, neither world being given short shrift.

It helps massively that the setting of this issue is New Orleans, known for its rich and varied history.  And artist Brian Hurtt does a commendable job bringing New Orleans to life and conveying its unique atmosphere, from the architecture of the old buildings to the shadow-drenched menace of the swamplands.  While location too often feels interchangable in comics, this is a comic that’s drenched in a sense of place.

Speaking of Hurtt’s art, as well as the illustrations he is also responsible for the lettering, making him the chief architect of the book’s visuals – though the crisp, vibrant colours of Bill Crabtree should also be commended.  The way Cullen Bunn writes the narrative captions, it’s like the telling of a weird western tale, an old folk story that might have been the subject matter of pulp fiction back in the days of the Wild West.  And in his presentation of these captions with his lettering, Brian Hurtt totally captures that vibe too.  But it’s Hurtt’s pencils and inks that are the major contribution, providing a cartoonish vibe that contrasts nicely with some of the dark subject matter.

So, a very strong introduction for me into the world of The Sixth Gun.  Certainly enough for me to pick up that graphic novel containing the first six issues.  This is a comic that not only shows how the familiar iconography of the west so associated with classic film can be adapted into other mediums, but also how the genre can be subverted and used as the basis and grounding for a quite different type of story.  This is a book to keep an eye on.