Alasdair Stuart writes for Bleeding Cool;
Six Gun Gorilla, out this week from Boom!, sounds like the sort of book that will trade off the pure pulpy joy of its title. That joy is certainly there, but this is a Si Spurrier book so it’s got a lot more going on besides ‘Look! A gorilla with a gun!’ Inspired by 1930s pulp, this particular pistol-packing primate has plenty of shots left in the chamber, and here are six of them;
1.The Tomb of The Unknown Creator
The dedication that opens the book is the first clue to what’s going on here. Sometimes ideas outlive their creators, and sometimes, that’s when ideas are truly free. It’s a nice acknowledgement of what’s gone before too, especially given the odd relationship Blue- 3425, the book’s hero, has with pulp fiction.
2.(Sort of) Our First Look At Six Gun Gorrila
A gorilla, laden down with ammo bandoliers, running towards a train in the Old West. It’s completely ludicrous and brilliant and the more you look at it, the more threatening it becomes. Is the gorilla robbing the train or defending it? Is he chasing the two cowboys hopping aboard? The idea is ridiculous but like the best ridiculous ideas it’s presented with an absolutely straight face. Hold that thought. The creative team clearly have.
3.Welcome to the Blister. Now Duck
This is Blue-3425. He’s our hero and he’s both resolutely normal and anything but. Blue is a librarian, a man who used to look after a collection of pulp fiction and he’s had his heart broken. So, he’s signed up to be a Holehead. Holeheads are canary cameras, expendable soldiers who have a psychic tumor implanted in their brain that transmits a live feed of everything they see back to Earth. They’re expendable soldiers, and Blue-3425‘s unit includes Holeheads with terminal diseases, dangerous criminals and people who just want to die. It’s a wonderfully nasty concept, and one that sits in the middle of a constellation of them. This is a clockwork and windup war, silent apart from the wet noises its soldiers make as they tear each other apart.
The Blister, where the war is being fought, is where the book shines. From the opening reveal of the troopships to the closing gunfight, the sun-drenched and blood-red colors of Andre May, Steve Wands‘ loose, flowing lettering, Jeff Stokeley‘s frantic but considered art and Spurrier‘s maniacal invention combine to create a hellish environment you’ll have nothing but fun watching. There’s clearly a hugely considered, nuanced world under all this and we get hints of it, but for this issue we’re literally in Blue-3425‘s head, running for cover and trying to survive.
Which is odd, given that he signed up specifically to die isn’t it?
4.Me and My Monkey, With A Dream And A Gun
This isn’t quite the first reveal we get on Six Gun Gorilla, there’s a flash of him (Maybe two), earlier in the book. This is his first real entrance though and it’s a doozy. Again, look at Andre May‘s sun-blasted desert colors, and how they emphasize just how wrong Gorilla is. He’s a colossal, jet-black impossibility, whose polite greeting of Blue-3425 is somehow charming and threatening all at once.
5. Meanwhile, Back Home
Back on Earth, the war is the top-rated show, and everyone obediently plugs in to watch what Blue-3425, the last Holehead standing and therefore the sole camera broadcasting, is seeing. He’s asked to return a watch to a dying General’s wife and, being an embittered, cynical sort he throws it away. Then, because he’s not as embittered and cynical as he thought, goes back and picks it up, vowing to deliver it. This would be fine as a plot all by itself but Spurrier isn’t about to let Blue off that easily. The watch is a very different object to what Blue’s been told and powerful people are searching for both it and him. As the series goes on, it looks like we’ll find out just how badly he wants to live.
6.Six Gun. One Shot
And the monkey pulls the trigger. The closing gunfight gives us a full reveal on Six Gun himself, but it’s this shot, literally, that stays with you. The scale of the hand gun, and the hand it’s in, are almost as intimidating as the damage it’s inflicting. This sort of violence looks to be the book’s trademark; brief, brutal, absolute. It’s a style that suits Six Gun down to the ground, and it neatly misdirects attention from the big questions the first issues raises. Questions like; Why did Blue-3425 really volunteer? What is the actual purpose of the watch and perhaps most tellingly, why does it seem like Blue-3425 is dreaming of Six Gun before he meets him? Does the Blister shape reality? Is Blue-3425 more than he seems? Why do Six Gun‘s guns work when no one else’s do? Nothing but questions, but, for now the Gorilla isn’t talking.
Six Gun Gorilla would have been fun enough if it had stuck to the basic premise of the title but there’s so much more going on here. The odd, sci-fi western setting is full of neat, and frequently horrific, ideas and the implication that Blue-3425 and Six Gun may be connected in some way, both to each other and old pulp fiction suggests this is a book on it’s way to very surprising places. Clever, inventive and nasty science fiction, this one will hit you right between the eyes.
Six Gun Gorilla, written by Si Spurrier, with art by Jeff Stokeley, colors by Andre May, letters by Steve Wands and cover by Ramon Perez is published by Boom! and is out this week priced $3.99