"G.I. Joe" #21 is probably the most famous "silent issue" of comics, in which Larry Hama told a story involving the non-speaking character Snake Eyes entirely without dialogue. There have been silent issues before and since then (Marvel once had an entire month devoted to nothing but silent issues), but in modern comics it's hard to stray away from that issue. It's rather apt, as a result, that Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt have chosen to make "The Sixth Gun" #21 their own silent issue as "A Town Called Penance" continues.
Bunn set up the issue last month with our heroine Becky temporarily deafened by an explosion as she breaks into the underground fortress of the Knights of Solomon to try and rescue the captive Drake. From there, it's a combination of infiltration, attacks and new mysteries. Bunn quickly reminds readers of Becky's current deafness (having Hurtt open the issue by focusing on the trickle of blood coming out of her ears), but then immediately reminds us why she's managed to stay alive, despite everyone wanting her dead in order to claim the Sixth Gun for themselves. We see Becky dispatch her foes through a combination of brute force and cleverness; sometimes it's as straightforward as walking in and shooting, other times she mixes the power of the Sixth Gun with some maneuvers of her own, sneaking about to get the drop on the bad guys.
With no dialogue, though, Bunn avoids the inevitable pleading for clemency or snarls of vengeance. It's quite pleasant to have those clichés neatly avoided, even as you know that they would have otherwise occurred strictly through human nature. While Becky can't talk to allies or enemies alike, we still manage to learn things about the Knights of Solomon throughout this issue. There's one bombshell in particular that actually benefits a great deal by the silent nature of "The Sixth Gun" #21. Unable to hear, it prevents Becky from stopping and asking questions in an admittedly sticky situation, deferring those queries until much later.
Bunn gives Hurtt a lot of great things to draw here, too. The composition of the pages and panels looks excellent; I love the panel with the mirror images of Becky walking through one another, which is staged perfectly. There's an "ugh" factor here too, as we finally see what exists beneath the Seers' hoods (you just knew it wouldn't be pretty) or Doc Fingerbones' living torture tools. All the while, it's hard to keep from feeling like the underground caverns inhabited by the Knights of Solomon are mammoth, from the large arc of the cavern ceiling above, to the walkways and waterwheels that they've constructed over the years. It helps give the Knights an extra punch, making them more than just a random group of bad guys.
"The Sixth Gun" is strong month in and month out and it's fun to see Bunn and Hurtt stretch themselves with a slight twist that still feels like a natural growth of the current story. "The Sixth Gun" is more than the best series you're not reading; it's one of the best series being published right now. Read this book, read this book, read this book. You'll thank me later.