Comic Review: Reed Gunther #6 from Image Comics

Origin stories. Ptoo! Who needs ’em? Some sad sack has always got some sob story about how their own dark, tragic back-story which led them to become the shiny, happy hero they are today. “Waaah! My parents were killed by a hooligan in a dark alley!” “Boo-hoo! My parents were blown up on home planet!” Enough already with the dark, tragic pasts. Are heroes only born out of horrific childhood traumas? It’s just so cliché at this point! Thankfully the brothers Houghton, Chris & Shane have given us the most hilarious hero origin story you’ll ever read in the form of this month’s Reed Gunther, from Image Comics. Reed Gunther #6 tells the tall tale of how Reed (the eponymous cowboy) and Sterling (the bear) met many years ago.

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It turns out Reed Gunther didn’t begin life as the stalwart knight of the plains we see today, but as a clumsy child who wasn’t good at, well, anything. He couldn’t even ride a horse! His father, who Reed strived to be like so badly he wore a fake mustache in order to emulate him, becomes sick and needs Reed to go into town to retrieve Pa’s medicine from the general store; quite the trek for a young man who can barely put one foot in front of the other. Whilst traveling into town, Reed happens upon a bear stuck in a hunter’s trap and has to decide whether or not he should let the seemingly good-natured bear go or continue on his own journey to fetch his pa’s medicine.

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Shane Houghton’s writing continues to be the kind of all-ages fun that is truly ALL-AGES (as in not just for the kiddies). There’s an element of humor in this story that reminds me of the cinematization of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs – witty and humorous without being needlessly bawdy. This issue Shane shows us where Reed gets his tenacity from. Despite the fact that he doesn’t appear to be good at anything his father needs him to do to keep the farm afloat, he never gives up. It also shows us that sometimes you need a friend to help you hit your stride and find your niche in life. Without Sterling, Reed was just a bumbling, clumsy kid who could barely keep his hat on straight, but with Reed – well, he’s still kind of bumbling, but his hat is on straight most of the time and that counts for something!

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Actually it is the inclusion of Sterling into Reed’s life that seems to give him the confidence to follow his father’s advice and not take any “guff” (whatever that is!) from anyone, including a trio of grungy hunters picking on Sterling.

Reed Gunther #6’s art is no longer just manned by the Chris Houghton, as Josh Ulrich joins in this issue as the comics colorist and what a job they’ve done. The comic’s colors look great and the art is top-notch as usual. The pacing of the panels where Reed is chased by chickens, breaks the window pane with a rake and sets the barn on fire is perfectly in sync with the pacing of the words creating well-timed comedy gold. That sequence is repeated again when Reed attempts to ride a horse with equally hilarious results.

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Another panel of note is when Reed discovers Sterling caught in the bear trap.  Chris uses the comic book equivalent of the “over-the-shoulder reveal” to really give the reader the sense that we’re discovering this bear along with young Reed. He then hits us with a close up on Reed’s astonished face; with this panel you can almost feel the dolly zoom (reverse pull or stretch shot as its known) as Reed says, “whoooooa…” The entirely cinematic feel of the comic makes each panel come to life as if you’re already watching the Reed Gunther Animated Series (hopefully…one day).

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So why is this particular issue of Reed Gunther so freakin’ awesome? You’d be hard-pressed to find a comic that will give you more laughs-per-panel than Reed Gunther. The chuckle-to-page ratio is easily 6-to-1, if not higher, and as far as origin stories go, finding one that is entertaining and not full of heartbreak and sorrow is a rarity. Plus there’s a small child wearing a fake mustache and riding a bear. Unless you’re programmers forgot to include “awesome” in your emotion simulator unit – you should be stoked to pick up this comic!

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