After thirteen issues in a row (including an oversized one in the mix, at that), it makes sense that co-creator Brian Hurtt might want a month off from "The Sixth Gun" to catch his breath. Having a guest artist step in for an issue isn't something that one would bat an eye at in this day and age, after all. What I appreciate, though, is that writer Cullen Bunn is taking advantage of this opportunity to pause the main story and give us the origin of Asher Cobb.
If you don't normally read "The Sixth Gun," abandoning the main cast for a month might sound like a disruptive switch. But the mummy named Asher Cobb was introduced two issues ago and has menaced our heroes up until now. With this issue, Asher has transformed from rampaging monster into intriguing and interesting character that I want to see more of, and that's no small feat.
It helps that Bunn tells Asher's story as that of tragedy: a misshapen boy born of a dead mother that was feared by almost all of the townsfolk and thought of as a monster. With the horrible gift of prophecy (because as regular readers of "The Sixth Gun" know by now, there's no mystic or supernatural power that is truly a blessing to its holder), poor Asher is tortured by his visions, even as he tries to do good and help both the country and the girl he loves. Having Asher helping President Lincoln through the Civil War is a great touch, and the book still worrying about the smaller, intimate details of Asher wanting to also save Ruth keeps it human.
When Asher makes the decision to try to save Ruth that turns him into what he is in the present day, Bunn has made Asher a rich and understandable enough character that it is a logical and realistic choice. (Even if it's one that you can instantly tell won't end well.) With the issue's conclusion, you're seeing poor Asher in a completely different light, and it makes you that much more eager for the next installment of "Bound."
Tyler Crook is an artist who's been popping up everywhere these days. He's the new artist for "B.P.R.D. " at Dark Horse, and he also drew the just-released graphic novel "Petrograd" at Oni Press. Looking at his art it's easy to see why he's so in-demand. His figures are expressive and lively, ranging from sweet to creepy and everywhere in-between. When Regis looks sidelong at his assistant and says, "This ain't the real Asher Cobb," it's slightly unnerving even as it's entertaining. And this is just a guy in a hat; we haven't even gotten to the monsters yet, who look great. Crook draws the visions of Asher's in a painted, washed-out style and they jump out at the reader as a result. They instantly tip the reader off (due to the shift in style) that it's a vision rather than the present day, and it feels almost dreamlike by the way they drift and melt across the page.
"The Sixth Gun" is a consistently fantastic comic, and it's great to know that even if Hurtt takes a month off the level of quality isn't going to drop. I'm glad Hurtt's back with the next issue, but if he never needs another break, I hope Crook can fill in again. Just like with Hurtt, we've got a good rapport between Bunn and Crook, and we the readers are the clear winners.