REVIEW: Six Guns #1

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Marvel looks to showcase some of its Wild West characters in the first issue of the Six Guns miniseries, but is setting this book in the modern era doing it any favors?

SIX GUNS #1 OF 5
Story: Andy Diggle
Art: Davide Gianfelice
Colors: Dave McCaig
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover Art: Butch Guice & Jason Keith
Assistant Editor: John Denning
Editor: Alejandro Arbona
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99

The Six Guns miniseries updates a few of Marvel’s Western characters such as the Black Rider and Two Gun Kid for a modern setting. It’s a Western in the sense that No Country For Old Men is a Western, in that the first issue takes place in Texas and features gunplay and cowboy hats. The characters sport nicknames such as Tarantula and the Black Rider, referencing Western characters of yesteryear. But if you strip away the setting, hats and the legacy codenames, it is clear that this is an action story like any other. And a frustratingly predictable one at that.

WHERE’S NORRIS

The basic setup is this: a pair of Texas Rangers is on prisoner transport detail, with the criminal in question being Tarantula (the Maria Vasquez version, from Heroes for Hire). Tarantula is the only ostensible link to the wider Marvel universe, and I suppose they chose her to evoke ANOTHER Tarantula, a Ghost Rider villain from the 1960s. And no, not the flaming skull Ghost Rider, but the older cowboy Ghost Rider who is now the Phantom Rider and that’s all a bit confusing so let’s not worry about it too much. Anyhow, what should be a routine prisoner hand-off gets fouled up as conspiracies are hinted at, a biker gang intervenes, shady bureaucrats cause drama for everyone involved, stuff blows up and revenge is sworn. It looks like the rest of the book will be trading Texas for fake South American country San Diablo (Saint Devil…? Only in comics…).

This issue reads like the first act of a typical action film. None of the characters come off as memorable individuals, and all the violence and double-crossing is of the unfortunately expected variety. There’s a loose cannon law officer working outside the law, a shadowy conspiracy, a criminal-type looking for revenge. All of this has been done before. Andy Diggle isn’t doing anything bad, and his dialogue is pretty good, but it’s all standard stuff. This could have been a good opportunity to inject some fresh life into the Marvel comics landscape just by utilizing a different genre, but Six Guns #1 is just too safe.

DIRTY DEEDS DRAWN DARN GOOD

Davide Gianfelice’s art is chunky and thick. The perspective is screwy at times, but mostly this looks well done. He can block an action scene and he provides just the right amount of detail in his lines. I might have liked to see more scenery and landscapes in a Western comic, but my complaints on art are few. On the whole, the art is a positive for this book; Gianfelice knows how to draw a biker gang, and Dave McCaig’s bold colors match the broad action story-telling.

A MISSED OPPORTUNITY

A five issue miniseries requires a certain economy of storytelling, and unfortunately, Andy Diggle does not use his 20 pages very economically here. Three characters are introduced: Tarantula, the Black Rider, and Tex Dawson, but they all come off as run-of-the-mill action movie character clichés. Two of the characters have revenge as a motive, and the third is essentially the MacGuffin. More characters are promised in future stories, but when you’re introducing the Two Gun Kid a fifth of the way through your story, you’re not leaving a lot of room for characterization. Quite why this book needed attachment to some of Marvel’s western properties is an enigma, since any of the connections are rather arbitrary. All in all, this is at least a little different from the usual Marvel offerings, in that it’s rather low-key and there’s no spandex to be seen. If you’re looking for some mindless action, Six Guns is not a bad place to find it. But if you’re looking for the next good Western comic, this isn’t it. Six Guns #1 earns a perfectly average two and a half out of five stars.

Rating: ★★½☆☆