If you've glanced at comic shelves in the past few years, you've probably noticed that there are a lot of books out there that try to do mashups of genres and iconic character types that don't normally go together. Cowboys. Pirates. Ninjas. Robots. Steampunk. Lovecraftian monsters. Zombies. Vampires. A meets B meets C in a crazy mixed up world unlike anything you've ever seen before! Right? For the love of god someone please buy our book! But the sign of a comic that uses so many elements well is that you don't realize the full extent of what's going on until you've finished reading it and then begin to think about it again later. And no book has been doing this anywhere near as well as The Sixth Gun, written by Cullen Bunn with art by Brian Hurtt and published by Oni Press.The series wrapped up its first arc with issue 6 this week, finishing off a great first story while establishing a solid foundation for what I can only hope will be a long-running series to follow.

The Sixth Gun is a western that mixes elements of horror and magic and mythology, with characters ranging from cowboys to civil war veterans to holy men to Pinkertons. Central to the series is a set of centuries-old mystical weapons that have changed in form and function throughout the ages. Currently in the guise of revolvers, the guns are central to the plans of General Hume, a cruel ex-Confederate army leader who has risen from the grave and assembled his old gang to reclaim his gun from the set and use all six to open a protected seal that will increase Hume's dark powers.

Standing against Hume are Becky Montcreif, daughter of the preacher whole took Hume's gun, Drake Sinclair, a former follower of Hume who turned his back on the evil man, and Drake's friend and Billjohn O'Henry, a skilled gunfighter. Issue 6 sees a decisive climax to the conflict as Hume's gang and its small army of zombies assaults the run-down fort surrounding the Maw, the deep pit where the seal Hume seeks to open is to be found.

And it's a great end to this first arc. The battle has a fittingly apocalyptic, chaotic tone to it, thanks in large part to the excellent crowd shots and panel layouts by Brian Hurtt. Hurtt frequently uses two-page width panels in the middle of the action to give a sense of the full fury and breadth of the battle being waged, and they're all well done. Cullen Bunn's writing also rises to the occasion, jumping from showdown to showdown across the scattered fighting until the climactic final confrontation. And the characters really step up, each showing a knack for fighting or selflessness they haven't shown before.

What's been so great about this series, and what continues to be great about it, is that it's created a rich, complex world while very rarely lapsing into any sort of long periods of narration. As in previous issues, we learn about the characters and the setting as we watch the action unfold before us. The book doesn't feel the need to hold the audience's hand and walk it through, carefully explaining everything. It believes that if it shows the character's actions, shows the weapons in use, shows use the fantastic creatures and magic in the book, we'll be able to understand what's going on ourselves as long as the story's well told. It is, and we do.

It's halfway through November now, so I feel safe in saying that The Sixth Gun is the best new original series from an independent publisher to come out this year. If you haven't read the book yet and you're the patient type, make certain to pick up the trade paperback of the first volume when it comes out next year. If you're not the patient type, then I recommend finding the first six issues as soon as you can and catching up on this great story.

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