Si Spurrier and Jeff Stokely continue to build a fun, impressive, and inventive world and cast.
One of the things that I liked most about this series’ first issue, and it continues here in the second, is Spurrier’s ability to develop his larger sci-fi setting and the individual characters at the same time. This issue, Six-Gun Gorilla relates his backstory, explains the science behind his weaponry, and introduces both a new animal and weather feature of the planet he and his new partner Blue are on. And that all only takes about three pages, two of which also include Six-Gun and Blue fleeing said animals, the “Tumblesquids,” in an thrilling chase sequence. It is just one of several such action scenes, but Spurrier balances them nicely with informative and lively conversations. New character Dora is introduced, along with her son Yasper, who both make for interesting additions to the book. Yasper mostly because of his appearance, but Dora because she represents a new point of view: the common people, those not directly involved in the ongoing war that Blue is meant to be a part of. Dora openly detests the war, sees it as pointless and finds evil on both sides, but in her cynicism the reader learns more of what the conflict is all about. It has to do, apparently, with the rights of settlers on new planets that belong to Earth. The details are still somewhat vague, but its more than we had before, and Spurrier does a good job of explaining it through dialogue without the expositional aspects coming across as forced. Both Dora and Blue already know the history, so there’s no point in having them reiterate all of it to one another. They discuss the present state of affairs rather than the past events that brought them there, but it educates the reader nonetheless.
Meanwhile, there is a brief glimpse of another new character, Sue, who presumably is the woman who broke Blue’s heart and led him to the decision of signing up as an “expendable,” i.e. a soldier who’s only job is to die and broadcast that death back home for people’s entertainment. I make this assumption based only on her reaction to seeing his face on TV, which lasts only a single panel, but Stokely fills it with such shock, heartbreak, and guilt that her relationship with Blue is easy to suss out. Actually, Stokely packs this whole issue with a lot of very strong emotion, but it’s easy to miss when held up against the zany and often gory mash-up of western and sci-fi action that fills the rest of the pages. Whenever Six-Gun Gorilla is on the move, it’s enthralling. Stokely captures his enormity and physical fluidity on every panel. He is a skilled soldier, and his body moves like a well-oiled machine. His hard-boiled attitude also shines through, and is a strong contrast to Blue’s fumbling naïveté and hopeless romanticism. I think my favorite visual, though, when you get down to it, was the Tumblesquids. Stokely displays their perpetual motion so seamlessly, making each panel they’re in feel like it fills more space than it actually does. Of course, the crowded and stunning full-page splash at the end of the issue is also in the running, and acts as equal parts well-timed comedic relief and gripping cliffhanger.
Another candidate for the issue’s top image is the arrival of “The Blaze,” an event that happens at high noon and burns alive anything left outside. Stokely nails the inescapable grandiosity of the moment, but it is colorist André May who really brings that page home. A blend of numerous shades of orange, from the brashest to the warmest and most welcoming, displays the intensity of the heat. And Six-Gun Gorilla’s face, peaking out from his protective cloak, is a strong spot of black survival in a sea of bright destruction. May’s colors are a big part of the overall visual tone of the issue from top to bottom, reminiscent of classic western desert hues but exaggerated enough to fit a foreign planet, too. Also, Blue’s namesake, his blue-tinted lenses that serve as the camera for his live stream back to Earth, are a consistent break from the sun-bleached colors of the environment. It’s a small but significant thing to have Blue stand out this way, setting him apart in the artwork from the chaos that surrounds him, much the same way Spurrier does in the script.
Only two issues deep, and Six-Gun Gorilla has a richer reality and character lineup than some series ever achieve. Spurrier, Stokely, and May are an immediately successful creative team, able to keep their narrative rolling forward full steam ahead without ever quite losing the reader. And the chemistry between Blue and Six-Gun Gorilla that is established this issue, not only in their dialogue but in their complementary looks and attitudes, might well be the series’ biggest strength. These are highly likable protagonists in a fascinating situation, combatants in a fight that isn’t really theirs for reasons that have nothing to do with the war itself. To top it all off, this has exactly the sense of humor you want from a book with such a ridiculous title, the comedy frosting on a delicious comicbook cake.