Writer: Brian Christgau
Artist: Adrián Sibar
Letters: Bram Meehan and Dave Sharpe
Note: Brian Christgau provided me with this review comic. The thoughts expressed in this post are entirely my own (obviously because who else would write an intense ode to a fictional gorilla?) and are honest representations of my opinions.
There’s something cathartic about watching a gorilla shoot the hell out of bad guys.
When I was trying to describe Six Gun Gorilla‘s premise to one of my friends, I wound up saying that it was something close to what you’d get if the long dead Edgar Rice Burroughs and Quentin Tarantino had a baby and if that baby was cooler than its parents while also being a gorilla.
As far as descriptions go, it’s a bit nonsensical, but it’s also what makes Six Gun Gorilla my kind of comic book. It’s a comic set in the American West during the times of cowboys and cattle rustlers and there’s also a gorilla running around blowing people’s heads off.
I’m sorry, was I supposed to refrain from falling in love with this ridiculously awesome comic?
The titular six-gun gorilla is Kumba, a massive gorilla that watched his family killed in front of him by poachers who then went on to shove him in a cage. During the voyage, the poachers lose Kumba to a traveling entertainer who cheats his way into victory and Kumba’s ownership during a round of cards. Kumba grows up with this Professor Malloy and his daughter Abby. He becomes part of their family, their son and brother, and they think of him as just that.
It’s actually super sweet.
But sweet moments in this story are few and far between because about a third of the way through this story, death comes to the traveling show thanks to a group of men who’re both on the hunt for Giuliano Schmidt and sadistic a-holes.
Here’s the thing about this comic, from the outside, it’s easy to take it via a shallow reading. It looks like something that calls back to earlier days of comics that weren’t always good. In fact, the golden age of comics and pulps is where the creators got the bare bones of the premise from.
But Six-Gun Gorilla is about more than “just” a gorilla with some massive guns, it’s a story about morality and revenge and being able to live with who you become if you give up or shift your morality for revenge. It’s amazing. I went into the reading expecting a story that would make me think back to the days of marathoning westerns as a sort of visual comfort food with my dad, but got something that was super nuanced and interesting.
The comic is set during the Civil War so that means that we’re dealing with multiple kinds of conflict at the same time. The Civil War was one of the earliest periods in history where people could see the aftermath and the horrors brought forward by a war. The things that people did to one another in the name of trying to keep other humans enslaved –
They were horrific. We have photographic evidence of how soldiers died and how people lived during that time and honestly, so many of them were horrible. Actual predator animals don’t commit the sort of atrocities that actual humans committed against one another during the Civil War and slavery. Humans really are a unique kind of monster.
The idea, that Kumba is a gorilla and yet infinitely more capable of care and empathy than the people around him, kind of hits deep because we can see how different and noble he is when compared to the minions working for Chilblain. Kumba’s one of the most genuinely kind characters that you see in this story. He’s not a human being and yet he’s more human than most of the characters that he comes up against.
And the violence that he winds up enacting on his quest for vengeance changes him. Just a little. It makes him question everything that he’s known and that he’s done up until that point because now he’s got blood on his hands. A lot of blood. It’s like one of the ultimate questions of morality: if you do a bad thing for a good reason, are you a bad person?
I’ve never been able to answer that one.
I genuinely like this book. Six-Gun Gorilla is a thinky sort of western. You come for the gorilla killing everyone while on a quest for revenge, but then you stay for the questions that it raises about what it means to be human and how to keep your hold on what makes you you. There are also interesting thoughts to be had about religion and revenge as well so that’s another awesome thing!!
My favorite kinds of comics are the ones that exceed expectations. Six-Gun Gorilla: Long Days of Vengeance definitely does that for me and I have a feeling that it’ll do it for you (my proverbial readers) as well.
Right now, we’re a week away from the end of a Kickstarter campaign to bring Six-Gun Gorilla: Long Days of Vengeance to completion. The campaign goals are to help finish the first ten-issue arc and release a graphic novel for it. Simple, right? I lowkey need this kickstarter to come to completion. I need it to do well because I’m not patient and I need to know what comes next.
If you’re interested in a comic that has all of the good and almost none of the bad things associated with the Western genre, please head on over to the kickstarter and show them some love (while throwing money at the campaign of course). Six-Gun Gorilla: Long Days of Vengeance is an interesting and fun comic that draws you in with the weirdness of a Western with a gorilla lead and keeps you reading thanks to the depth of his character.
How can you do anything but love it?