Monday, June 6, 2011

Tommy's Take on Deadlands: The Devil's Six Gun


Yeah, regular readers of my blog and reviews probably know I'm a bit of a Deadlands fan, so I was more than a little interested in the announcement of new Deadlands comics...and then I got the opportunity to read the first one in advance of its June 15th release date!

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Published by Image Comics in conjunction with Visionary Comics, The Devil's Six Gun is the first of four Deadlands one shots being released this summer, for $2.99. What you get is a self-contained, 20 page primary story, as well as a five page back-up story that is merely the first of four parts that will run through each comic. Oh, and a goody for Savage Worlds fans, too...but I'll get to that.

The Devil's Six Gun is helmed by the creative team of High Moon, a werewolf western that was part of DC's Zuda project (and I admit, I have no prior experience with High Moon...bad Tommy), writer David Gallaher and artist Steve Ellis.

The Devil's Six Gun stars Copernicus Blackburn, in Deadlands parlance a Mad Scientist on a revenge kick. In tone, it is a fairly dramatic shift from what you tend to expect from Deadlands fiction...no big monster fights, no wild west gunslingers, not even a Huckster to be seen. What we instead get is a peek into just how a Deadlands scientist becomes a "Mad Scientist", as he struggles with trying to invent a gun that can "kill the Devil".

For the Deadlands fans, Darius Hellstromme also factors into the story, though I won't say how, and the story builds to a satisfying climax, I thought. Bonus points if you can pinpoint someone becoming "Shaken" in the comic.

At points, Steve Ellis' art reminds me of Dan Brereton, and I only mean that in a good way. The colors are muted, a far cry from the very much "Image-style" Deadlands one shot released years ago (featuring Ronan Lynch versus a Hanging Judge), and truer to the source material, by my reading.

The back-up story is written by the Creative Director of Visionary Comics, C. Edward Sellner, and Visionary has asked that reviewers not spoil the back-up, so I will not. However, I will say that my jaw dropped at the last page hook.

Finally, for Savage Worlds fans, the Devil's Six Gun is given full game stats in the back of the book as a relic...I can't say what it does without spoiling the story, but I can say it can be both potentially devastating and disasterous...like any good Relic should be.

WHAT WORKS: I have no idea if David Gallagher is a gamer, but he sure seemed to "get" Deadlands. Neither the art, nor the story, evoked a terribly "campy" feel, either...and while I have no issue with camp, in Deadlands or outside of it, too many folks seem to think that's ALL Deadlands is. It was rather cool as a Deadlands/Savage Worlds GM/Marshal to see things like a Mad Scientist's inspiration and a game mechanic like Shaken show up in a story...and the Relic's abilities match what is seen in the story. Oh...and that back up story...just...yeah.

WHAT DOESN't WORK: If you hate comics, $2.99 is going to seem like a lot to pay for a single relic. You may also hate cliffhangers, so that back up story could well tick you off. The main story is also fairly low key, for most of it, at least, and that may not fit your image of Deadlands (Deadlands fits a fairly broad spectrum to me). Finally, the quality of this issue is no indication of the next one, for better or for worse, as each one shot features a different story and different creative team (aside from the back-up).

CONCLUSION: As a Deadlands fan, Devil's Six Gun is a much better effort at a Deadlands comic than the One Shot originally released years ago. As a comic geek, setting geek and a game geek, I was very pleased with the end result and, with any luck, this will only be the first step in truly building the Deadlands "brand" up where it should be.