Or – “Cut M’Self Shavin…”
Jonah Hex has longÂ been a favorite character of mine, even dating back to my first interactions with the DCU.Â A great part of his appeal came from the character’s wry humor (when asked how he got his horrific scar, he replied “Toothpick slipped…”) and dry wit.Â Far from being just a brutal thug (though he is kinda that, too) Jonah’s position as premiere gunslinger is well deserved.Â Now, it looks like he’s havin’ a crossover event, and all his six-gun compadres are invited to ride along the open range…
Previously, on Jonah Hex:Â Raised among theÂ Apache after his alcoholic father sold him into slavery, Jonah Hex became an all-around frontiersman, skilled at trackin’, shootin’, survival and various and sundry unpleasant methods of making people do what y’ want ’em t’ do.Â In his years on the range, he’s run into all sorts of characters, including Mexican bandit El Papaguayo, and Quentin Turnbull, the sinister man with the eagle-topped cane (later revealed to be the father of one of Hex’s closest friends.)Â Among those who ended up on the RIGHT side of Jonah’s six-guns are Bat Lash, the gentleman gambler; Tallulah Black, as scarred and misanthropic as Jonah himself; Johnny Thunder, though probably not the one you know; El Diablo, demon-possessed mystical gunslinger; which is a pretty long list of pals for a guy as antisocial as Jonah when you think about it.Â Of course, now that things are about to heat up in the west, it’s a good thing that he has some backup.
The setting is Texas…Â the year unknown…Â the weather fierce.Â Cresting a hill, keeping his head low to avoid the whipping wind and rain, Jonah witnesses one of the most terrifying sights nature has to offer: a massive tornado, scooping man, horse, andÂ anything else it enounters up and hurling it to it’s doom.Â Once the sky clears, Jonah travels on to find a ruined camp and a cavalry man with a suspicious story.Â Jonah easily sees through the ruse, but is still poleaxed to find that the whole thing is a trap set to capture him.Â His old enemies Turnbull and El Papaguayo have come together to get their revenge on the man called Hex.Â “Beat him…Â But don’t kill him,” says Turnbull to his hired guns.Â “Not YET, anyways.”Â Jonah is savagely beaten and tortured, but still laughs in his captors faces when they try to get anything out of him.Â Turnbull and his thugs take Jonah to a boneyard, where they stick him in a pine box and bury him alive, feeling suffocation to be an appropriate death for a man such as Jonah.Â ‘Course, they don’t reckon on a pair of grave-robbers who, in their quest for gold and valuables, accidentally dig Hex up instead.Â He takes their help, drinks a deep drink from their whiskey, and staggers away into the night, headed for Mexico.Â
A couple of weeks later, we find ourselves in a gin joint in Chihuahua, where a game of cards has started to turn sour on one of the players.Â “I am playing in YOUR establishment with YOUR marked cards,” Bat Lash tells his opponents.Â “The simple fact that I’ve managed to uncover your ruse and turn it against you only serves to disply my superior intelligence.”Â As always, Bat ends up with guns in his face, but the timely arrival ofÂ Tallulah Black saves his bacon.Â Bat and Tallullah escape intact, but end up face to face with El Papaguayo and his band of hooligans, with no Henry Fonda around to run them out of Fire Creek.Â Tallulah takes an immediate dislike to Papaguayo, and isn’t afraid to tell him so.Â “Anyone ever tell ya’ that yer breath makes horse manure smell like honeysuckle?”Â Heh…Â No stranger to The Dozens, El Papaguayo retorts, “I can always take a bath, but you will always be an ugly one-eyed whore.”Â I do b’lieve thet there gentleman jest signed hisself a death warrant…Â Bat and Tallulah are dragged away at the ends of two ropes, while not that far away, Jonah staggers into a ruined town filled with corpses, seeking out assistance.Â Lazarus Lane, the host of El Diablo, has been locked away by the villains, his alter ego thus unable to escape.Â Before he can unlock the cell, though, Hex succumbs to his injuries and finally falls.Â “Don’t you dare die on me, Hex!”Â
Wouldn’t that just tick Josh Brolin off?Â This series is one of the strangest things that DC is putting out right now, a book with no continuity ties (most of the time) set in the old west, with nary a cape nor cowl in sight, and yet it’s one of my most anticipated reads each time.Â Jonah’s adventures are hard-edged things, filled with death and unpleasantness, and I like the hell out of them, especially the rough-egded hero.Â Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have been turning in wonderfully realized done-in-one stories for several years, with this being their first noticable foray into multi-part stories (a Crisis on Finite Dodge Cities, if you will) and the setup has me interested, if only to see Hex and Talullah give Turnbull and company a taste of their own medicine.Â Art this issue is by Cristiano Cucina, who gives the proceedings an appropriately Spaghetti Western feel, and the overall effect of the book is impressive, dirty, and reminiscent of stories like ‘Unforgiven.’Â Jonah Hex #44 earns a trick-shootin’, range-ridin’, hard-drinkin’Â 4 outta 5 stars overall.Â Month after month, Hex’s book one of the Big Two’s most consistently entertaining reads, even without those pesky caped crusaders on board.