I think Free Comic Book Day is a great idea, but one thought that has always struck me when looking at each year's offerings is, "Which of these books might bring someone back for more?" Oni Press has clearly thought this question through as well, so in addition to providing a sampler of some of their other series, they've debuted their new series "The Sixth Gun" on Free Comic Book Day. That's right, the first issue is free. And quite frankly, I'll be shocked if people who pick up "The Sixth Gun" #1 don't come running back for more.
Cullen Bunn's story is a strong one, with the Pinkerton Detective Agency hired by a mysterious Mrs. Hume to recover various artifacts of power; a lantern, a tarot deck, a gun. But it's the Sixth Gun that seems to be the most dangerous, rumored to be so vile that it's not only indestructible but that Hell itself wouldn't take the item back. And it's that artifact that not only the Pinkertons, but an independent agent called Drake Sinclair is also trying to find. The problem is, once someone's touched the gun, they're bound to it for life, and that's when things start getting sticky.
Bunn's narration on the first few pages draw the reader in almost instantly; he's got a strong writing style, and his way with words contains just the right touch of mystery and promise without coming across cliché or laid on too thick. His mystical world that overlays the rest of ours also shows up just enough to be fascinating without overstaying its welcome. By dipping into the pool with items like the oracular Gallows Tree, it's hard to not get your sense of wonder tickled a bit, even though the items and people that Bunn comes up with are hardly safe by any sense of the world. You still want to see more, and it's how Bunn finishes pulling the audience in.
Brian Hurtt's art has always been strong, but I think he's at the top of his game here. Drawings like the Gallows Tree actually remind me of P. Craig Russell with the way the branches and roots twist and turn, and the way he draws the visions that the holders of the Sixth Gun experience is perfect with their red hue and diagonal shading. The fantastical elements of Bunn's script come across as just that thanks to Hurtt, and it's exactly what the book needs when you consider that this is supposed to appeal to not only seasoned comic readers but a brand new audience as well. Hurtt handles the mundane just as strongly, too; I love how Mrs. Hume has such an angular face with tiny pupils in her eyes, or that look of curiosity and expectation that Drake Sinclair has when he first uses the map. With a strong action sequence that's drawn in a way that feels lively and exciting, I've got nothing to complain about.
I do wish that "The Sixth Gun" #2 was scheduled for June instead of July, but that's only because I don't want new readers to forget about the book. This is a great debut, and a smart way to do it. (And if your retailer runs out, well, there's a non-FCBD second printing of #1 also solicited for July alongside #2.) I'd have cheerfully paid full price for "The Sixth Gun" #1, and that's when you know you have a winner. Highly recommended.