Cowboy Reed Gunther and his trusty…uh, bear…
Sterling blaze headfirst back into adventure in their second book, Reed Gunther in a Stalac-Tight Spot! This newest tale of one the most off-beat westerns you’ll ever see starts out with a little history sequence which sets up the tale about to unfold. Seems that a certain Professor Turk and his young companion John are on a secret excursion deep into some stalactite and stalagmite draped caves in order to keep a terrifying herd of strange, underground dwelling creatures, that aren’t too friendly, sealed away in the bowels of the Earth. Years later (15 to be exact) John, who has been charged by Professor Turk to protect the town and keep its inhabitants from entering the caves, must hold off a group of prospectors searching for gold in “dem’ dar hills!” Reed, always ready to lend a helping hand, and make a few dollars, gets
Sterling and himself mixed up with this group of prospectors, who are led by an opportunist with his own secrets and agenda…
Following on the heels of Reed and
Sterling’s debut, Reed Gunther and The Steak-Snacking Snake!, their second adventure, Reed Gunther in a Stalac-Tight Spot! gives us more of the same, and in this case, that’s a good thing. Reed’s first adventure was a slapstick, somewhat spooky, and weird (in the coolest of ways) adventure that mixed elements of 50’s camp horror with comedy, action, and some great art. While a great read, in hindsight, as compared to Reed’s second outing, it was lacking in storytelling. It served as a fine introduction to the two lead characters, and their not-so-in-distress damsel, Starla. She’s the female rancher who, to much applause from this reviewer, makes a return appearance in this second issue, and hopefully is going to be a regular in Reed and
Sterling’s adventures. The story in the first adventure was pretty straightforward and relatively easily resolved. This time Shane Houghton, writer and co-creator, with his brother Chris, of Reed and
Sterling, go for more story depth. They add a certain amount of mystery that isn’t easily figured out and holds a great deal of potential. The mysteries in need of solving include the mysteries surrounding an idol-like statue, the strange creatures themselves, the question of why they’re in these particular caves, what their potential origins might be, and how Professor Turk knew about them and the need to return the idol to their caves. None of these questions particularly need answering, we’re still wondering where the giant snake came from which gobbled up so much steak in the last issue, but with Stalac-Tight Spot! we are definitely getting a more multi layered story. Even if the Brothers Houghton don’t reveal all by the end of this tale, the ride we’re going to be taking will make up for it.
Chris’ art is a great blend of Bruce Timm inspired characters with a Scooby-Doo type eerie setting, that comes out totally original. He braches out and does a terrific job of shading, adding gray, and leaving an unfinished charcoal penciled look to the black and white color scheme in order to differentiate between the opening sequence, which is in the past and the rest of the book, which is set in Reed and Sterling’s present day. It’s a great way to show contrast between past and present. We also get some shading in the present scenes when Reed,
Sterling, and their group enter the caves as well, and the gray shades definitely add to the visual appeal of the book.
One completely unique and interesting artistic creation in Stalac-Tight Spot! is the uncanny sound the creatures make. Rarely, if ever, has a sound effect in a comic book been as interesting as this one was to me. It actually had me sounding it out to in order to figure out how to pronounce it! Luckily, no one heard me while doing so! The sound though really clues the reader in as to the nature of the creatures. Try saying it and see what you come up with: “KRALPK!”
Overall, the best aspect of this second helping of Reed Gunther and
Sterling is that this isn’t a self contained story, and actually leaves the reader hanging, and looking for more. The hallmark of any comic book worth its salt is two fold. There’s got to be great art, and you have to leave your readers wanting more. This issue accomplishes both. When you add in humor and purposefully silly, yet interesting characters, you have the makings of something special. Check this book out now before you’re forced to have to track it down after the inevitable Saturday Morning cartoons, and movie deals put it out of your collecting price range, or you too might be shouting KRAAAALPK!