Despite the meme-like appearance an internet search will disclose for the term “six-gun gorilla,” Simon Spurrier and Jeff Stokely are the latest on the market with the concept and point their ideas in an interesting direction. While that internet search will reveal they aren’t the first (and likely not the last) to depict the actions of a gun-wielding great ape, they pack suspense and mystery into a story that could all-too-easily turn into a by-the-numbers snoozer.
Gorillas have long been a staple of comics. While some of them are weapons specialists (like Monsieur Mallah and Gorilla-Man), but Spurrier and Stokely elect a different approach for this adventure, choosing to relegate the ape to the background for most of this issue. That move is brilliant in the immediate, steaming suspense it dumps into the reader’s lap as more than one person is certain to buy this comic simply for the gorilla on the cover. After all, legend of the comic book industry Julius Schwartz knew gorillas moved product.
Instead of a great ape shoot-’em-up, we are shown a different tale of young men and grizzled veterans riding into battle. “Six-Gun Gorilla” #1 starts off looking like an Old West story, but quickly slides over to something a little more bizarre, like a long-overlooked, short Ray Bradbury story given lots of sunshine and plenty of fertilizer. It becomes quite clear as Spurrier familiarizes readers with the soldier designated Blue-3425 that this comic is going to be filled with weird stuff: blisterquakes, red landscapes, mysterious fatalities and giant tortoises with train cars attached to them. More than once, I found myself thinking I was reading an issue of “Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.”
Part of the blurring of that line is due to the art of Jeff Stokely. Well suited to draw weirdness, Stokely doesn’t muddle things up unnecessarily, but instead delivers Todd Nauck’s animated sense of motion combined with Rafael Albuquerque’s lines, filtered through Alberto Ponticelli’s sensibilities. It winds up being a fantastic look for an odd collection of frontier concepts. Andre May’s colors blend in nicely, giving Stokely’s lines depth and texture without overpowering the book’s kinetic energy. Steve Wands’ lettering could tighten up in some spots, but the shifting baseline adds uncertainty to the story and shakiness to the events surrounding Spurrier’s stopgap protagonist.
While the notion of reality shows gone wrong is running a little thin, Spurrier takes a simple concept and drops it in with other simple concepts, but each of those notions is just a little left of center, mixing together into a bizarre gumbo that makes “Six-Gun Gorilla” #1 a comic book worth reading.