Reed Gunther #5
“Reed Gunther and the Freakshow Showdown!”
Reed Gunther #6
“From Cowboy to Cowman!”
Writer/Letters: Shane Houghton
Artist/Cover artist: Chris Houghton
Colors: Ciaran Lucas & Jose Flores (#5)/Josh Ulrich & Jose Flores (#6)
Not long ago, I was thumbing through comics recent comics and files I’d received, looking for something a bit off-beat to read, specifically for review purposes. I was putting together one of my Quick Critiques posts, and I wanted to bring some variety to it with a non-super-hero property published by an outfit other than DC and Marvel. I never have a shortage of possibilities, and these two issues of Reed Gunther were near the top of a reading list I had on my desk. So I decided to check them out, not knowing what to expect. Man, have I been missing out on an irreverent, all-ages comic that serves as another example of the strength and diversity Image Comics has to offer those with a love of comics. The Houghton brothers clearly have a passion for comics and for light, goofy adventure. Each issue — hell, each panel — exudes so much personality and whimsy, one can’t help but smile at the title character’s triumphs and gaffes. I was so pleased with what I found in this title, I felt the need to write a full review rather than just a capsule.
The hapless but brave Reed Gunther and his strong and loyal bear rush to the rescue of the lovely Starla, whom the nefarious Mr. Picks has spirited away to New York City, along with the mystic idol that allows him to summon forth and control monsters. Picks uses Starla in his latest monster show, but Gunther storms the stage to save the day. He not only has to get the idol away from the villain, but he has to hide it somewhere Picks and no one else will ever find it. But the frontier-born Reed Gunther doesn’t exactly know the lay of the land in the Big Apple. After that adventure, Reed tells Starla of his childhood and how he met Sterling, his ursine pal and partner.
Chris Houghton’s style is one that draws inspiration and influences from the world of animation. His work looks like a cross between the styles of Bruce Time and John K. He conveys movement quite well with his exaggerated but simple linework, and the same holds true for the strong personalities that popular each of these stories. I was also put in mind of the styles of such cartoonists as Paige (The Martian Confederacy) Braddock and Chris (Crogan’s Vengeance) Schweizer. The monster designs look as though they were the result of a collaboration between Scott Morse and Mike Mignola. There’s a brightness to the figures that makes all of the characters likable, including the bad guys.
Shane Houghton’s scripts are pleasantly accessible. Reed Gunther #5 is the climactic chapter of the opening story arc, but I had no problem getting up to speed on the plot and characters. And the sixth issue is a nice change of pace: a done-in-one origin issue that distinguishes itself nicely from the longer-form plot that preceded it.
One of the things about this title that’s so appealing is the sheer zaniness of the plotting. Shane Houghton has included some weird, even dark supernatural elements that one might expect would temper the goofier, frenetic qualities of some of the characters, but it all merges into a great, big ball of fun (and fur). A young Reed’s encounter with a ghoulish, inhuman figure in a secluded forest could have played as too scary in tone for this book, but somehow, it comes off as bizarre and even a little menacing, but not frightening. The title character’s bravery keeps the darkness at bay, both literally and thematically.
Another strength of Reed Gunther — both the comic and the character — is its/his unrelenting optimism. Reed is dedicated to doing the right thing, but he also never has any doubts things will work out as they’re meant to be. It allows him to enjoy the adventure all around him even as danger nips at his heels. His attitude of goodness, awe and elation becomes the reader’s attitude. The brightness of the book is infectious. Reed Gunther‘s lightness and simple tone make it a great selection for younger comics readers, and its energy will tickle the fancy of even the most jaded, cynical of adult comics enthusiasts. 8/10
Follow Eye on Comics on Twitter.