Review time! with Six-Gun Gorilla: Long Days of Vengeance

It's always fun to get comics in the mail!

You might recall Six-Gun Gorilla, the Boom! series, the trade paperback of which came out in 2014. The character of Six-Gun Gorilla, though, was first published in 1939 in Wizard (here's a bit about it). The character is in the public domain, so the Boom! series is not the only one in which Six-Gun Gorilla is featured. Recently, Brian Christgau sent me four issues of his comic, Six-Gun Gorilla: Long Days of Vengeance, which is his take on the character (and, of course, I'd like to thank him very much for sending them to me - I always appreciate the chance to read seriously indie comics!).

What makes Six-Gun Gorilla so interesting to comic book writers and artists? Well, I suspect it's the oddity of it all, while visually, it's a striking image. But what do Christgau and artist Adrián Sibar (along with colorists Guillermo Ucha on issue #3 and Damián Peñlba on issue #4 and letterer Dave Sharpe on issues #1 and 2 and Bram Meehan on issues #2, 3 and 4) bring to the character?

Christgau plays it about as straight as you can play a story about a genius gorilla. After a brief prelude in which our hero (his name is Kumba) shoots a bad guy, we get a straightforward biography of the gorilla, beginning with his infancy in the Congo in 1849. A stereotypical English hunter shoots his entire band, but decides to take the baby. While heading back to England, the hunter loses the gorilla in a card game to Malloy, a huckster (he cheated at cards), who later heads to the U.S. and starts a circus. By 1865, his circus is in full bloom, he's educated Kumba to the point where the gorilla can read better than most people, and his daughter, Abigail, is the ape's best friend. Into this idyllic world comes an Italian stranger who stole something that the evil Mr. Gravesend has been hired to get back, and of course, when Gravesend and his men show up and don't find the Italian (whose name, somewhat inexplicably, is Giuliano Schmidt), they shoot Malloy in the head, almost kill Abigail, and burn the circus.

Abigail frees Kumba from his cage before she passes out, and then it's time for revenge! By issue #4, Kumba has already killed a lot of bad guys and we have discovered that Schmidt took something from Alexander Chilblain, a British aristocrat who has rebuilt his ancestral estate and created a greenhouse with a jungle inside it in the middle of the desert. It has something to do with the Civil War - Schmidt was dispatched by George McClellan to see what was going on with Chilblain (depending on the timing, this might not make sense, as McClellan ran for president in 1864 and resigned his commission in November, so maybe he sent Schmidt before that and it's taken him a while to do his job) - but we're still not sure. I imagine it will all play out in the final two issues, and lots of bodies will drop. Kumba seems to kill fairly indiscriminately.

It's not a bad story, although a lot of the interest in it comes from the fact that the "lone gunman" is a giant gorilla rather than a man; if we replace Kumba with a regular dude, it just wouldn't be as good.

Christgau apparently has an idea about Kumba's intelligence and why he's so darned smart, but so far, he hasn't gotten into that. Kumba hasn't learned to talk, which is a good idea, as he remains somewhat enigmatic (not too much, of course - he wants revenge for his "father's" death), and it allows the team to portray him more as a force of nature. Meanwhile, we haven't learned too much about Chilblain yet, but the dude built a jungle in the middle of the desert, so he obviously has some nefarious scheme, and it might even include an ape. Christgau doesn't throw too many curves into the story, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have its intrigue, as we're only two-thirds of the way through the story. But Christgau has set things up fairly well, and he powers on ahead, keeping things lively.

Sibar does some nice work on the book. I don't see his art that often, and it's odd that I'm reviewing this not long after the collected edition of Bang! Tango came out, which also features Sibar's artwork. He has a fairly sketchy style that he can adjust pretty well, and that works for this book, as we're getting a lot of dusty places and scattered action. Sibar's characters are a bit cartoonish, which makes Kumba fit better in the world and also helps him stand out from it, as Sibar tends to make him a bit more detailed, as befits the star of the book. Kumba's "acting" is drawn well, which is good because of the aforementioned lack of speech.

Sibar can get a bit complicated with page layouts, but he reins it in here, as he presents this fairly straightforwardly. He does a terrific job with the saloon battle in issues #3 and 4, as Kumba tears through the entire population of the small town (it seems) as he tries to find Malloy's killer. Sibar does a good job making Kumba look gigantic compared to the men, and while we're fairly certain he's going to win (it's the Inverse Ninja Rule, after all), Sibar makes sure to add as many men as he can cram into the page to show that Kumba really does have to work hard. There's a good amount of violence in the book, and Sibar is able to make it feel traumatic without drenching the book in blood. His cartoonish style helps with this, and it also helps with his world-building, as he loads the pages with many different kinds of men, in some cases the uglier the better. The book is fairly dense, but Sibar's clean art keeps it coherent, which is nice.

There's not a lot more to say about Six-Gun Gorilla. Once you get past the hook of Kumba, it's a straightforward tale of Old West Vengeance, and whether or not Chilblain is an interesting villain is yet to be determined. It's an entertaining comic, but nothing spectacular. I'm curious about the way Christgau ends the story, but not obsessively so. I'm somewhat mild with my recommendation, but that's the way it is. It's not a bad comic, but it's not a great one. It's fun to read. That might be enough for you! You can get digital or print copies of Six-Gun Gorilla at the web site, to which I linked above.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

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