By Andy Mansell | Contributor Published: 07/19/2013 10:00 am EST
Publish date: July 10, 2013 Publisher: BOOM! Studios
We are only one-third of the way through Six-Gun Gorilla, the six-issue mini-series from writer Simon Spurrier and artist Jeff Stokely, and I am hooked.
Six-Gun Gorilla reminds me of so many things—everything from Planet of the Apes to Dune to The Hunger Games to Rollerball to American Flagg (nicely done!) and even Lonesome Dove. And yet I am intrigued by its overall originality, which comes from the blending of so many influences and is executed with genuine storytelling talents. This is a comic book first and foremost, and Six-Gun Gorilla does things only a comic book can do.
Above anything else, the story reminds me of the novels of Gene Wolfe. Mr. Wolfe is a great writer; his most successful technique is the use of the unreliable narrator. Wolfe throws the reader into completely alien world and the explanations as to how the world works come as he sees fit. Frustrating at times, especially when you’ve been handed a dozen brand new proper nouns for which the reader has zero frame of reference. It demands some work and something akin to a leap of faith, but the payoff is more often than not extraordinary and well worth the effort.
The same can be said for Six-Gun Gorilla, but it takes the conceit one step farther. A comic has a bit more going for it because the drawings, the pacing, and the editing of the story can be used to keep the audience slightly more off-edge. The visuals can misdirect the reader.
I don’t want to give away much of the plot, so very briefly—Earth is fighting a war in another dimension. In order to provide our jaded future selves with cutting edge entertainment, anyone can commit suicide and make a neat profit for their beneficiaries by becoming a Blue-Tech PV. This means you are sent into firefights as walking cannon fodder and you have a camera implanted in your brain, so the bloodthirsty, voyeuristic civilians back on Earth can actually experience your death from the inside out. The story centers on one of these volunteers, who calls himself “Blue”.
It sounds pretty grim, and it is, but thanks to the terrific storytelling and well-executed art that marries westerns and sci-fi, the story moves at a brisk pace and the main plot point offers the opportunity for just a bit of hope. And there is an armed super-gorilla—what more can you ask for?
How about some in-depth subtext? This book is really telling the story of all the freelance work-for-hire comics professionals who blazed trails (especially in the late ’50s when western and gorilla comics were all the rage!) and ended up with a zero share of the pie for their own beneficiaries.
In order to pull off this multi-textual storytelling without drowning the story in pathos and symbol, Spurrier keeps the action moving and makes the characters far more than two-dimensional.
And there are giant turtles—a cross between an Imperial Walker and an Oliphaunt and the denizens of the Blister World (brrrr—and I thought living in the Deep South in summer was bad….)—who are subject to giant dust and light storms. And in issue #2 a great supporting character named Dora is introduced. She has a son who has no eyes because he is a “snow child”. Through issue 2, the boy, Yancy, is always jumping around and smiling, treating the everyday terrors of his world like they are a game because that is what little boys do. What the hell is a snowchild? Damned if we know at this point. And on a sub-textual side note: Who were my daughter’s two favorite heroes growing up? Blue, the dog from Blue’s Clues, and Dora the Explorer—I’m just sayin’…
The Gorilla (Dora refers to him, in her frontier accent, as a “Griller”) is a fantastic character. He is drawn just a bit more photo realistically than the slightly cartoony humans, and that really adds yet another dimension (heh) to the storytelling.
Just how good is this book? I want #3 right now. I don’t want to wait until next month. And when next month finally arrives, I plan to re-read the first two issues as well. Don’t miss this!
Andy Mansell lived in Chicago for over 40 years until his doctors advised him that he would die soon unless he got as far away from the land of Italian combo sandwiches and soft serve frozen custard. He is currently growing rather old rather quickly in Charlotte, NC as a member of the Waistline Protection Program. He lives for four things: his family, baseball, opera, and of course great comics. He is also looking for a ride back to Chi-town for just one more breaded steak sammich. He will provide gas, guaranteed. Contact him at this address.