3 out of 5
I remember first reading this arc and feeling like I needed to reread what preceded it; where we were and characters’ motivations became unclear to me. Bunn had successfully set up his rebuild-the-world-with-their-power mythology for the titular guns, and looped in warring factions and a core group of heroes and antagonists for whom we cared for, and/or rooted and/or jeered for, but we enter the run’s midsection and so it’s time for some wheel-spinning: separate the group. Drake has been kidnapped by the Knights of Solomon; Becky is under the care of the Sons of Abraham but kicks off Penance by making her way back to her four gun-owning mate. And had Bunn, perhaps, made this more about that journey, it could have crossed over into the all-important realm of character building, but she gets to her destination – the town of Penance – mighty quick. Similarly, there was potential to build on the town’s function – it’s tied to the Knights of Solomon – but it’s explained away in a fashion that makes it clear it’s just a stalling device. As such. what should be an epic set of battles, especially issue #21, told without dialogue and an absolute technical bit of mastery from Brian Hurtt and Bill Crabtree, end up not feeling quite earned: they arrive and depart without as much impact as they should have. The feelings above are compounded when the arc essentially ends in issue 22, but then Tyler Crook steps in for 23 to help Bunn stuff in an epilogue to explain what Kirby Hale is up to. This is a bit of segue-ery that is necessary for getting characters into place, but dedicating a whole issue to it and considering it the conclusion to the arc feels unnecessary.
A Town Called Penance has some big, interesting ideas that it zooms by too quickly. Inbetween, Bunn and Hurtt execute some fun – if shallow – action, and it reads well, but never clicks as being integral to the larger story.