‘The Sixth Gun’: Murder, mayhem and demons in the Old West

In my review of Greg Pak’s Kingsway West, I discussed the genre of Weird Westerns. The Sixth Gun falls into that category. Rather than rehash my overview of this genre, I’m going to jump right in, assuming that you’ve already read that prior review. Right?

Ever since I discovered Stephen King’s Gunslinger chasing the Man in Black way back in early 1980s  in an issue the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, I’ve been hooked on Weird Westerns. So, when going down the aisles at Midtown Comics for something strange and interesting, my eye was caught by Bunn and Hurtt’s The Sixth Gun published by Oni Press.

The title, as well as the cover of Western gent and lady holding six shooters surrounded by nefarious villains and ghouls, was intriguing, but the endorsement from Joe R. Landsdale on the back sealed the deal. “Man, this is how it’s done. Great mix of six guns and wooly boogers. My favorite comic on the market right now.”

Landsdale wasn’t wrong. Bunn and Hurtt have taken great elements from westerns and mixed it up with ghouls and demons. In a way, unlike Pak’s work, which is a mix of magic and steampunk, Bunn and Hurtt have taken a more traditional approach by using familiar elements from the west and horror to weave this disturbing tale.

The West is well haunted by ghost stories. And no wonder why, it is big and empty of people. Don’t believe me? Drive on I-10 from Waco to El Paso.  Or drive  from Big Bend National Park to Marfa.  The land is flat and there are no other cars but yours. The emptiness can suck out out your soul.

The story opens with the widow (?) of Oleander Hume, a notoriously evil Confederate general, looking for “The Sixth Gun.” She has hired the Pinkertons to find it. The gun is so evil that “not even Hell would take the weapon back…”

We are next introduced to Drake Sinclair. He is presented as a man “who had known one or two decent folks in his time, [but] he didn’t rightly count himself amount their number.” He is seeking information about “the conqueror’s riches,” from the Gallows Tree, place where dead men hang from a tree like macabre Christmas ornaments. The information leads him to the Montcrief farm, but too late. The farmer was killed by the Pinkertons and their hired guns, but when Montcrief’s daughter picks up his gun, she gets a vision and passes out.  The Pinkerton tells his hired gun who foolishly tried to pick up the gun “The gun’s bound to the girl now that she’s touched it. It belong to her. Nobody else can so much as touch it while she’s alive.”

The first part ends with four horsemen raiding an adobe church to recover the chained and still moving corpse of General Hume. He complains that his murder left him weak, but he will soon gain strength to walk and raise his army. “But first, I want my gun back.”

This is a great weird western.  Bad guys who have made a deal with an unknowable evil, an anti-hero who might be looking for redemption or maybe just revenge and loot, and a damsel in distress who is anything but helpless.  Bunn’s story and script are sharp and clean as prairie night. Hurtt’s art captures but the essence of the western and as well as the elements of horror.

Lansdale was right. This has it all.

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