Or – “Fifty Issue, Fifty Graves…”

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I’m actually remarkably impressed at the longevity of this book in a climate where even superhero titles are tanking with regularity.  It’s most assuredly not just a “superhero with guns instead of capes” title, focusing on a protagonist who doesn’t even like HIMSELF, and a rotating cast of misfits, rogues and malcontents who don’t really like him either.  This issue marks an important milestone for Jonah Hex, both for the title and for the man himself… 

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Jonah Hex #60

Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art and Covers by Darwyn Cooke

Previously, on Jonah Hex:  A former Confederate soldier and long-time outcast, Jonah Hex has faced many a tragedy in his day:  the loss of his mother; his father selling him into slavery; his horrific scarring at the hands of Apache warriors; the loss of wife and child; even his best friend turning against him.  Notwithstanding a run spent in the far future (which may or may not have happened anymore, reports are unclear) Jonah has spent a majority of his adult years as a bounty hunter and gun-for-hire, bringing his peculiar brand of morality to the wild, wild west.  Recent issues have seen old enemies return, old friends alienated, and the resurgence of Tallulah Black, whom some might call the female version of Jonah.  They don’t like each other much, either, but that hasn’t stopped them from engaging in an on again/off again something or other involving self-loathing and cowboy sex… 

We open our story on the plains as a couple dozen desperados run from something, guns a’blazin and hooves thundering.  Before they can escape through a canyon, Jonah Hex and Tallulah Black appear and open fire, killing each of the criminals in cold blood.  Bounties won, the scarred duo heds back to town, where Tallulah drops a handful of gold on a bar, and tells the owner to come back in the morning.  Jonah awakens the next morning surrounded by clothing and empty bottles, with Tallulah nowhere in sight.  Before exiting town, Jonah is offered a bounty (by a man dressed in the classic garb of the Lone Ranger, a funny little bit of business) on various remaining vaqueros.  Fifty men in all, two thousand dollars apiece, and Hex sets out to capture the men dead or alive.  Over the course of weeks, he finds them, one after another, shooting them down, dragging them in, and in one case, aiming a lit CANNON at an outhouse to get his man.  Jonah is relentless, even dragging one of the bounties from the church where he has set up a life as a priest.  Meanwhile, Tallulah Black rides into the town of Silver Springs, bringing her horse to a stop in front of the sheriff and inquiring, “Might ya direct me ta the nearest dress shop?”  Tallulah informs him that she’s done with her old life, intending to return to ladylike ways and spend time in a “nice town full of nice folk with an overprotective sheriff.”  He aquieses, and points her to the dressmakers… 

Some time later (how much time actually passes is never clear) a group of the suriviving bandits meet in the dead of night, banding together from remote galaxies in order to finally put Hex six feet under.  Back in Silver Springs, a very pregnant Tallulah goes about her life, fitting in as best she can, while certain elements of the town quielty disapprove.  She buys some land, builds a home, and gets heavier with child as winter sets in.  Old sins come home to roost, though, as the gang of ruffians comes to hole up in Silver Springs, awaiting Jonah Hex and killing the sheriff.  Tallulah gets blindsided by a crazy woman, who slashes her repeatedly with a scissors and delivers her child.  Only the arrival of Jonah himself saves her from death, but Hex is enraged to find that Tallulah was going to raise his child alone.  “Ah’ll save the child,” he drawls, “but from here on out, we’re done as friends an’ lovers.”  Jonah tracks the woman down, finding her jailed after having been arrested on a train with the body of an infant.  The woman laughs maniacally, throwing fundamentalist jargon at at Hex as she proudly admits to murder.  The jailer takes this moment to leave on his daily rounds, advising Hex that he’ll be gone for the better part of an hour.  The woman prays to her lord as Jonah unholsters his gun.  “The Lord ain’t here,” he says.  “Just the devil.”  What comes next goes unseen, but back in Silver SPrins, the saloon full of criminals prepares for their gunfight with Jonah Hex…  who throws a stick of dynamite into their midst and opens up with a Gatling Gun, mowing down each man in a hail of lead.  “Fifty,” he intones, lighting a cigarette.  The postscript comes as Tallulah Black answers a knock on her door only to find a tiny pine casket on her step as a horse rides into the night…

Wow.  This issue carries one helluva punch, with Jonah Hex in full-out ‘Man With No Name’ regalia, a star turn from Tallulah Black, and some incredibly beautiful art from Darwyn Cooke throughout.  The opening plays comically, with some cute bits, slowing turning horrific as the pages keep turning.  I actually audibly gasped as the madwoman began slashing at the pregnant Tallulah, and the ending actually brought tears to my eyes.  Usually, I go off on a rant about threatening or injuring a child, but the deft hand with which Cooke, Gray and Palmiotti tell this story didn’t set off my anger, only sadness and a profound sense of loss on Jonah and Tallulah’s behalf.  As saddened as I am to see whatever is between them going this way, the non-linear narrative of this title doesn’t preclude seeing the Hex/Black pairing at different points in their history.  Watching Jonah track down the men in his cold and calculating way is horribly contrasted with his silent rage at the sight of the woman who killed his daughter, but the end result is the same:  death to all who get in his way.  This book has long been a favorite, and I’m stunned and pleased to see that it has lasted nearly five years in today’s publishing climate…  Jonah Hex #50 is a beautiful, tragic story, with stunning art and coloring, and earns 5 out of 5 stars for perfectly executing an incredibly difficult story with subtlety and style.  This issue is a rare achievement, in more ways that one…

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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3 Comments

  1. December 10, 2009 at 5:40 pm — Reply

    Your review was so interesting that I went out and found a copy and read it for myself — and I’ve never been interested in Hex. Well done!

    (And yes, it was quite a good issue.)

  2. December 10, 2009 at 9:09 pm — Reply

    Well written review and thanks for the props. Glad you enjoyed it!!

  3. Ocho
    December 11, 2009 at 11:51 am — Reply

    This has been and continues to be the comic that defies expectation. This was a true heartbreaker. Good review, Matthew…and thanks to Jimmy.

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