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June 25, 2011

Image Comics Reviews: Deadlands: The Devil’s Six Gun

Title: Deadlands: The Devil’s Six Gun
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: David Gallaher
Artist: Steve Ellis
Cover: Steve Ellis

If there’s one genre that’s making a comeback in comics, it’s westerns. Whether it be Pale Horse or non-gunslingers such as Foster Broussard: Demons of the Gold Rush. The good part about western comics is that you tend to get either very inventive stories or ones that are familiar yet well written. In the case of Deadlands: The Devil’s Six Gun, you get the best of both worlds.

The story itself doesn’t start out with a gunslinger in Anywhere, Texas. Instead, the main story starts off in Prague with an inventor turned gunsmith (Copernicus) who receives an offer he can’t refuse. Which is to head out to the American West and build a gun that could kill the devil.

In many ways this isn’t just your western tale or even your mad scientist tale. In some sense it’s your Citizen Kane and The Aviator story. The tale of a man so driven by his craft until he is consumed by it. Rather than simply having the story tell itself, we also have a narrator here. Now, this could easily end up turning into an annoying addition that clutters the panels with text boxes, but rather, this feels like we’ve pulled up a stool next to someone in a saloon that knows how to spin a good tale.

Of course, the story has a handful of tropes and stereotypes. Before anyone misreads me, I don’t mean racial or any type of negative stereotype. Rather, I mean things like good guy gun or bad guy gun. Artistic flairs the artist puts in that triggers our brains to know what happens next (Comic Rule #66: Beware of the stout old man with the sly grin). However, most of these are familiar friends rather than common annoyances.

With that being said, DL:tDSG certainly did have quite a few wonderful twists and turns here and there. I won’t spoil the the small Showdown at the end of the comic, but it was a pleasant surprise to say the least.

This is all in part due to writer David Gallaher. He knows how to tell a full an complete story within a single issue. Even though it’s a western about a man building a devil killing revolver, it fortunately has more story than mind numbing action. Not to mention that the dialog here feels more natural than most comic book dialog.

And kudos to the other equal half of the story, the artwork. Steve Ellis certainly has his own style. But what I like most about him, is the way he draws characters as interesting human beings, rather than man with big gun or woman with big boobs. Going back to the stereotyping, it would have been easy for the artist to turn Copernicus into a slick badass or a brainy weasel. But Ellis makes us ask “Who is he and what side is he on?” when we first see the enigmatic inventor. It’s also interesting to see how his looks and demeanor subtly change over time as he goes deeper and deeper into his obsession and success.

Also, a quick shout to letterer Troy Peteri. With so many narration boxes, it would’ve been easy for the panels to get messy. But they didn’t thanks to Peteri.

Deadlands: The Devil’s Six Gun isn’t just a good story, but it’s also a great tale that feels refreshing from the cowboy vs. werewolf/zombie/nazi/vampire stories. Now, I know what you’re saying. “Is it worth adding another series to my pull list?” That I cannot answer (depending on if you like westerns or craftsman-gone-obsessed stories). But since the story is just a one-shot and you get part one of The Showdown (which blends in perfectly with DL:tDSG and is on par quality with writer C. Edward Sellner and Oscar Capristo), you might as well check it out.

Andrew Hudson



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