There's nothing like a good western, but something you don't see all that often is one set in the modern-day. But that's what Andy Diggle's Six Guns is setting out to do by revamping Marvel's classic genre gun-slingin' characters, and the results are pretty cool so far, two issues into this five-issue series. Maybe it's inspired by Sons of Anarchy, but there ain't really nothin' wrong with that.
Here's the character rundown for the uninitiated:
Tarantula: There was once a Zorro-esque villain who went by that name in the early issues of Ghost Rider from the 1960s, back when he was still a phantom riding a horse instead of a flaming skull in leather. The modern day version was created in Heroes for Hire, and she goes by the name of Maria Vasquez. She's tough and brutal, but not evil. Here she's right at the center of some big mysterious international criminal conspiracy stuff centered in the South American nation of San Diablo. Saint Devil. Who cares? It sounds westerny.
Texas Ranger Tex Dawson: Originally The Western Kid back in the 1950s, the new incarnation of Dawson is as a swaggering lawman who was extraditing Tarantula when they were overtaken by the Black Riders, an outlaw motorcycle gang who lifted the woman from their care in broad daylight. Dawson's partner was killed in the fracas, and he's out to avenge the man and figure out what's what – outside the law.
The Black Rider: Once, he was a reformed criminal known as the Cactus Kid who took up the secret identity to fight bad guys. Now, he's riding solo, trying to track down the bastards who hired his gang to spring Tarantula, only to doublecross them and bomb them to smithereens. An outlaw with a moral compass all his own, lookiing a bit like Lobo without the alien space nonsense.
That's all in Six Guns #1. In issue #2, we get to meet these guys.
Matt Slade, Bounty Hunter: Known in the 1950s as either Kid Slade or Matt Slade, Gunfighter, now he's a no-nonsense bounty hunter corraling supercriminals on the lam – or at least that's how we meet him, bringing in some laser-eye guy on the Most Wanted known as Knight Vision after smacking him around son. His eye catches Tarantula's picture on a Wanted poster, and we know his angle.
Two-Gun Kid: Well, he's always been the Two-Gun Kid. But this new youngster doesn't seem to be related in any way to the guy from the 1940s or the 1960s who showed up in She-Hulk for a spell. At least not yet. We never get his real name – we just see he's a young man on a quest for justice for his brother at the barrel of a gun, in classic western style. That mission dovetails with the Black Rider's search for answers, and everyone seems to be converging on San Diablo for a reason.
While the series doesn't go out of its way to be edgy, it certainly doesn't shy away from depicting the nastiness of gun violence. Artist Davide Gianfelice shows us the brain splatter and we even see a dude's head blown clean off with a shotgun in a bloody mess. His style is a bit exaggerated and rough, but it certainly works pretty well for a story like this.
This may ruffle a few feathers as far as continuity goes, but bringing back non-superhero characters from the old school always seems like a fun exercise to support. There's also something just viscerally cool about these loner frontier-justice style characters that feels like an even more natural fit fo the inherent vigilante premises that dominate comics today. When you read about a guy who can wear a cowboy hat and actually pull it off the way it was meant to be pulled off instead of being some honky tonk douchebag or country singer, it's hard not to like.
Let's just hope this series manages to be completed, and that it doesn't fall victim to Marvel's "new budgetary mandates" before it gets a chance to conclude.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 8/10