Monday, May 19, 2014

End of the Trail?

Well, DC comics has announced that All-Star Western will end with issue #34 in August. I was expecting this since there was a recent Justin and Jimmy interview where they mentioned that they had no plans on breaking Fleisher's Hex story count, but I thought they would have about another year before DC closed up shop on Jonah.

But, Jonah is a tough bird to keep down, he will pop-up from time to time, heck it was only 19 years between Hex #18 and Jonah Hex V2 #1 (not counting the Vertigo stuff and you know I NEVER count the Vertigo stuff). Heck, it was ten years between All-Star Western #10 and Hex #18. We've had 8 years with Jonah Hex V2 and All Star Western V2 so I guess we really can't complain.

I'll be savoring these last few issues, but I sure would have loved to have seen a Jose Lopez drawn Hex story in there somewhere.

Stay behind the saddle-horn, and I'll see ya'll next week. I have some more stuff planned in my writings and musings, I have dug up some more old comics and I'm tempted to tear into the Vertigo stuff (figuratively and literally).

Weird Western Tales #45 "Night of the Gun"

Weird Western Tales #45 Mar/Apr 1978

"Night of the Gun"
Gerry Conway - story, Dick Ayers and George Evans - art, Jim Starlin - cover

We have a new writer and a new direction for Scalphunter. Gerry Conway takes over the typewriter starting in this issue and we are plunked down square in St. Louis, Missouri in March, 1862. The Civil War has been raging for almost a year and Scalphunter strides boldly down the center of the street, people run from him and Union soldiers eye him carefully.

Suddenly the night is broken by a man getting thrown out through the doors of Clancy's saloon. Two Union soldiers run out of the saloon, their intention is to finish what they started with Bat Lash. Scalphunter quickly draws a knife and expertly throws it into the chest of one soldier while Lash swiftly gathers his wits and pumps four slugs into the other soldier. A crowd gathers and Bat Lash makes his introduction and gives his thanks to Scalphunter. Savage states that he has taken no sides in this fight but other soldiers quickly appear and the two men race away down a nearby alley and into an open doorway.

Lash realizes they are in a back storeroom of the saloon and he starts sampling some of the higher class wares of the establishment as he queries Scalphunter as to why a white man is wearing Kiowa warpaint. Savage ponders for a moment or two and then tells his story, of being kidnapped as a small child, raised by Kiowas and then finally being captured and returned home. Lash asks what Savage is doing in St Louis and the reply is that General Sterling Price was rumored to be hiding near Savages home and the Union soldiers came in and burned the town, killing several people in the process.

Cathy Masefield, a local newspaper woman, had been digging into Savages birth records and found out that the Savage's had a daughter. After Brian was kidnapped, the Savages shipped their daughter, Samantha, off to St. Louis to be raised by her grandmother. The grandmother took out adoption papers and as Cathy is about to tell Savage some more about his sister, Union soldiers ride up and start shooting. Savage tried to carry Cathy to safety but she was struck by a bullet and he took her to Doc Grey.

Scalphunter rushed back to his village but the soldiers had already been there and all but wiped out his people.

Bat Lash sits quietly and recalls his own trek of vengeance after the death of his parents then tells Scalphunter that he will need some money to be able to locate his missing sister and offers a way to make that money, if Scalphunter doesn't mind bending the law. Savage states that he does not respect the law of the White-eyes so Lash takes his new partner to the office of one Cyrus Calhoun.

Lash explains to Calhoun that Scalphunter is a white man that runs guns for a living and he would be more than able to help them handle that new Gatling Gun. The idea is that however owns the gun will be able to get rich off of it and be able to control the tide of the war. Gatling is shipping his prototype to Washington for the War Dept. and they plan to steal it.

Lash and Scalphunter take off into the night, riding east and near dawn they come to a high train trestle. Lash explains that the train will be coming around noon and he plans to blow up the bridge. He hands Scalphunter several stick of dynamite and confesses his fear of heights. Scalphunter quickly and easily clambers up the trestle and plants the explosives when suddenly Lash hears someone behind him.

Four men come riding up the canyon and are shooting at Lash. Bat returns fire and Scalphunter turns the battle in his favor by leaping from the bridge and stabbing two of the horsemen.
Bat Lash takes advantage of the diversion and quickly shoots the two remaining horsemen. Just then ten more horsemen top a nearby ridge and the leader, Bear Barker states that Lash and Scalphunter have just killed his scouts. Bear also demands to know why Lash and Scalphunter were planting explosives. Barker figures that there is gold on that train but Bat explains that there is a treasure greater than gold and if they are allowed to live, he will split it with the thieves. Barker agrees and soon the whistle of the train is heard.

Lash gives Scalphunter a rifle and asks if he can hit the dynamite from the edge of the ridge where they have taken up hiding. Savage takes aim, hits the dynamite and the entire bridge erupts, sending the locomotive and all the cars down into the gorge. At that point Bear Barker and Bat Lash are celebrating but Scalphunter merely scowls and mutters "I have done evil......" Barker wants to know what Scalphunter is referring do for doesn't he also hate the soldiers? Scalphunter explains that there is no honor is killing a man you cannot see.

They all make their way to the bottom of the gorge to find a boxcar labeled "Property Federal Government" sitting upright. Scalphunter and Lash start prying open the boxcar door. As the door slides open, Bear starts getting anxious about putting his hands on the gold. The crated Gatling Gun survived the fall and the crate is bolted and chained to the floor. Lash and Scalphunter enter the boxcar and go around to the back of the crate and start opening it. Bear, thinking that he will be happy to soon kill Lash and Scalphunter, starts shouting that he wants the gold now.

Lash grabs the handle of the gun and opens fire through the front of the crate, killing Bear and his men. Scalphunter stands silently by, looking at the carnage and then stares at Lash. There is a moment where both men try to read each other and Scalphunter picks up a large chunk of the busted crate. Lash asks what Sclphunter's plans are and he replies that there is no honor is killing men in this manner, soldiers should not be allowed to wipe out each other like bugs and he is going to destroy the gun.

Scalphunter starts pounding away at the gun but Lash quickly knocks him out with the but of his pistol. When Scalphunter comes to he is alone in the boxcar, the Gatling gun and Bat Lash both gone. Gone, but now with a vengeful Indian warrior after them.

Statistics for this Issue
Men Killed by Scalphunter - One soldier in St. Louis, two bushwackers in the gorge and an entire train of Union soldiers (50? 100?) and the train crew (Let's say 4). Being conservative that puts this issues total at 57!
Running Total - 83
Compared to Jonah Hex- 83 vs 35 Scalphunter takes the lead in a big way.
Scalps Taken - 0
Running Total- 12
Injuries - Knocked out with a pistol butt
Timeline - One night and the next day in March 1862

I have to admit I enjoyed Conway's run on Scalphunter a lot more than I did Fleisher's. Conway gave us a believable reason for Savage to move from the frontier and into 'civilization' even though it could be said that he lifted it from the TV series "The Quest" that ran two years prior. This was also a starting point in an acceptable ongoing continuity for Scalphunter, one that impressed me way back when I read it when the books hit the stands.

One thing that bothered me about this story was that Scalphunter plants the dynamite, knowing that Lash planned on blowing the bridge and killing the soldiers and he even accepted the responsibility of firing the shot to set off the explosives. Why, once it happened, did he suddenly have all of this remorse? Did he not know what he was doing? That was the one glaring moment that Scalphunter was acting totally out of character. Also, didn't he realize what the Gatling Gun would do? It's almost like he was in a daze through those parts of the story.

I did like that Cathy Masefield was removed from the series, I didn't think she really added much to the book.

Next Issue: Scalphunter gets even and Bat Lash gets lucky.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Weird Western Tales #44 "Covered Wagon to Doomsday!"

Weird Western Tales #44 Feb 1978
"Covered Wagon to Doomsday!"
Michael Fleisher, story - Dick Ayers and George Evans, art - Jim Starlin and Al Milgrom, cover

Scalphunter is hanging upside down from a tree after being captured by Sheriff Brett Harley, brother to a bank robber that Scalphunter killed as revenge for killing an Indian child. Just as Harley is ready to pull the trigger, two riders happen upon the scene. They are Obadiah Jethro, head of some Quakers heading to California, lead by their wagon master Travis Barnes.

Harley tells them to butt out, but Jethro wants to be sure that Scalphunter is taken to trial. At the point of Jethro's shotgun, Harley cuts Scalphunter down. Then they all head back to the wagon train. The wagon train stops for the night and Scalphunter is tied to a wagon wheel. When a woman and her younger brother attempt to give Scalphunter food, Harley slaps her down into the snow. Jethro steps in to sort things out.

  Jethro gets everyone to calm down and tells his folks that as long as Harley doesn't actually harm Scalphunter, they should leave well enough alone. Later that night, Davey, the brother of the clapped girl, brings Scalphunter some food and water. After making Scalphunter promise to not escape, he cuts the bonds holding one hand so he can eat. Of course, things being what they are, Harley shows up.

 Harley, doing his best Pappy Hex impersonation, is drinking and pulls off his thick leather belt and beats Davey senseless with it. Scalphunter is helpless and watches as Harley drinks his bottle empty and then breaks it on the wagon. Harley is advancing on young Davey with the broken bottle. Finally, Scalphunter reaches behind him and grabs a pitchfork off the wagon behind him and throws it into Harley, killing him instantly. Everyone hears Harley's dying scream and they come running.

Davey explains what happened but Travis Barnes has had enough, he wants to kill Scalphunter then and there. Jethro will have none of it and demands they take Scalphunter in to the authorities so everyone needs to go back to sleep. Scalphunter tells them if they sleep, they will not wake for he has seen the signal fire of Apaches on a nearby cliff. The fire signals a war dance and that they will attack at dawn.

There is a lot of fear and argument amongst the wagon train but Jethro decides to travel at first light. Scalphunter protests and Barnes clubs him unconscious with a rifle butt.

Just as the sun starts to break over the horizon, a lookout is tending the fire. Suddenly an arrow pierces the coffee pot and two more arrows pierce his sternum. The Apaches descend onto the wagon train, killing, scalping, and setting the wagons alight. As quickly as they arrived, they ride off into the snow.

From the carnage emerges Angela (the slapped girl) and Davey. Barnes comes running up. Seems he was out early looking for firewood. Davey sees something moving under a burning overturned wagon. It is Scalphunter. They right the wagon and free Scalphunter and then they realize that all the horses are dead. Scalphunter offers to lead them to Fort Onondaga (more on that later) but it is a two day walk, so they should get moving. Barnes doesn't want to be led anywhere by an Indian so Scalphunter takes a cue and leads Barnes to...PAINVILLE!

Angela breaks up the fight and says they HAVE to trust Scalphunter. Barnes agrees but he will turn the Indian in to the Fort authorities.

Later, as they are walking through the snow covered forest, a mountain lion leaps out of a tree and attacks them. Scalphunter draws his knife and prepares to vanquish the huge cat, but Barnes panics and unloads five shots into the cat. Davey goes bananas, telling Barnes that every Apache in the county heard those gunshots and now they are in deep doo-doo. On top of it, in the excitement, Angela twisted her leg and can't walk.

Scalphunter tells Barnes and Davey to hide the cougar in the nearby brush and then they will hide for the night in that nearby cave up on the cliff. Some time later, Davey is keeping lookout with a spyglass and sees some Apaches find the dead cougar. Scalphunter asks Barnes how much ammo he has left. Surprise!! He's empty, having panicked and unloaded on the cougar. Scalphunter then concocts a plan.

We see Angela standing out on a snowy overhang, not a care in the world as the two Apaches sneak up on her from below. Higher above her is Scalphunter, Davey, and Barnes. Scalphunter will take out the first Apache and Barnes the second. Scalphunter gives the signal and jumps, boots to the Apache's face. Barnes, however, totally has a panic attack and freezes in his tracks. Davey grabs a knife and jumps over the edge himself, knocking away an Apache that was sneaking up behind Scalphunter, but suddenly Davey is in trouble so Scalphunter finishes off his attacker and then rescues Davey.

Two days later at Fort Onondaga the General of the Fort hears their story and promises to go round up the Apache. He then asks how did Ke-Woh-No-Tay come to be teamed up with the Quakers. Barnes is about to spill the truth when Angela interrupts and says that Scalphunter was hired as a guide. A few hours later Scalphunter rides off with the scalps that will prove that he has completed his Death Stalk.

Statistics for This Issue
Men Killed by Scalphunter - 3
Running Total - 26
Compared to Jonah Hex- 26 vs 28 Jonah still leads.
Scalps Taken - 2
Running Total- 12
Injuries - Dropped on his head, knocked out with a rifle butt,
Timeline - This covers about two days.

I was getting ready to write this and then decided to check my draft folder. Surprise! I had written this waaaaaay back in 2012. It always pays to work ahead! I really enjoyed this issue. The cover was great with the tilt to the cover and I always enjoy covers where they incorporate the title of the book into a word balloon. I'm a sucker for that. 

 Death by pitchfork is another soft spot for me. There just isn't enough DbPf in books nowadays, in my opinion. Scalphunter's offering the scalp to Davey and the steps Davey takes during this issue as he matures were other good steps in the storyline. A fine ending to a multi-issue story. We wrap it up next week when Scalphunter returns with the scalps to finish his Death Stalk.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Uncle Scrooge musical?

Besides Jonah Hex, the comic character I enjoy most has to be Uncle Scrooge McDuck. Some time ago I read on Comics Alliance about a Finnish group actually writing a rock Symphony based on Scrooge McDuck. CA posted this video

and I did a little more digging and found this interview with Rosa as well as with the head of the band

Don't know that I have ever purchased a Finnish Rock Symphony, but you can bet I will be giving this one a listen. Hopefully, they'll only charge me 3 cents an hour to listen to it (In honor of the great duck himself)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Jonah Hex: Two-Gun Mojo #5 "Showdown"

Jonah Hex: Two-Gun Mojo #5 Oct 1993

Joe E. Lansdale, story - Tim Truman and Sam Glanzman, art and cover

Well, after quite some time (and a little prompting from a certain fangirl) I decided that I HAVE to finish this series, along with the rest of the Vertigo Hex.  If you need a recap, you can read
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Okay, up to speed? Good. When we last left Jonah, he was in a huge depression in the desert with some soldiers that had been escorting Doc Williams and his band of goons. Now everybody is pinned down by a bunch of rampaging Apaches.

The story starts off with a young Apache child, clutching to a doll, smiling as his dad rubs his head and walks away... to kill all those people in the desert. The Apaches have our 'heroes' pinned down and it is pretty much a shooting gallery with a lot of internal exposition by Jonah himself. Zombie Wild Bill Hickok is standing tall and proud, pulling the triggers endlessly on his six-shooters. Of course, once he is out of bullets, he is pretty ineffectual until Jonah shouts at him to reload. This he does, and starts shooting again.

Eventually there is a lull in the attack and we get to meet the Sarge in charge of this cavalry. The Sarge explains that his men were escorting Williams and his band to protect them from Indians (how THAT came about, we don't learn). Sarge says that without Hex's fine shooting and that strange fella who never misses (except when he runs out of bullets), they would have been goners.

The sun starts to set and Sarge asks if Jonah knows Doc and the freaks. Jonah replies that they were in the church choir together and later they're gonna have a come-to-Jesus- meeting. Sarge says that he would appreciate they hold off on getting religion until AFTER they get out of this hole. As it starts to get dark, smoke rises from beyond a nearby ridge as the Apaches start cooking up the fallen horses of the cavalry. Sarge offers Jonah some chaw and then tries to catch some sleep.

Jonah heads over to talk to Doc (who is taking a dump with Wild Bill wiping Doc's bum). Jonah asks if Doc remembers him and the crazy doctor says that he must be hallucinating, he saw Hex go into the river. Jonah  replies that he has a strong stomach and that if the Apaches don't finish off the Doc, Jonah will and since he doesn't know if this band of freaks is alive or dead, he'll teach them dead one more time just to be sure.

Night falls, and under cover of darkness (I always wanted to use that line), the Apache move in. As the Indians get to edge of the hole, gunfire erupts and as the clouds pull away from the moon, we find Doc Williams in his repaired wagon with Stringbean and the Fat Lady pulling it away, Wild Bill shooting out the back and Pumpkin Dwarf trying to repair a wheel.

As the wagon pulls away into the inky blackness, the Apaches close in on the remaining men in the hole. It devolves into hand to hand combat and Jonah and the Sarge manage to make their way out of the hole and onto higher ground. Hex shoots and Indian off his horse and jumps aboard. The Sarge says that he can't leave his command but Jonah reminds him that his command are all dead.

Seeing things in a new light, the Sarge jumps on behind Jonah but manages to get shot in the posterior in the process. They ride until the horse collapses, sometime into the morning, and they are holed up behind some rocks. However, the dust on the horizon indicate that the Apache are closing in. Sarge tells Jonah to leave him but Jonah won't hear of it. Then the Sarge forces Jonah's hand by taking his own life at the end of his pistol.

Jonah realizes that time is short but his horse is almost played out, so he lights a saddle blanket on fire and when it is full ablaze, he swings it underneath the horse to get it up and running. Throughout the rest of the day, Jonah rides the faltering stallion until it finally collapses, dead in the heat. Jonah, near death himself, slices open the horses neck and drinks its blood for sustenance.

Now on foot, what distance he had between himself and the Apaches starts to fade. Finally Jonah comes across Doc Williams Wagon of Miracle and the body of Stringbean. He continues on, seeing some smoke over the ridge and when he makes his way through the rocks he finds...

Here is where I threw up my hands with this series. I understand now that this was supposed to be a horror comic with Jonah wedged inside and I get how Vertigo is all edgy and harsh-toned, but this pushed me over the line.

Jonah finds.... Pumpkin Tom, dead, hanging upside down from a tree over the camp of Doc Williams. Zombie Bill stands by the fire as the Doc tends to the roasting torso of the Fat Lady. We even get to watch the good Doc slice off a piece and bite into it with his fanged teeth.

Hex breaks in to the little 'party' and the Doc orders Hickok to gun down Hex. What transpires next is probably the best dang part of all five issues as the red soulless eyes of Zombie Hickok stare into the brown soulless eyes of Jonah Hex and finally both men fire.

 Hex, however literally bends over backwards as Hickok's bullets sail over his head and Jonah returns fire, right square into the zombie's eyes. That, however, isn't enough to stop Hickok as he continues the pull the triggers on both pistols until he finally topples over dead... for the second time.

Doc Williams falls to the ground, begging for his life. Jonah states that he won't kill the Doc, he will let the Apaches do that work. Jonah calmly aims his pistol and blows away one of the Doc's kneecaps. Doc starts crying that Jonah promised not to kill him. Jonah replies that he is just helping out the Apache and then shoots out the other kneecap.

Jonah reminds the Doc that since the Apache have a live victim, his death will probably last 3-4 days tops and then Jonah sneaks off into the hills. The Apache advance slowly until they realize how helpless their quarry actually is and then they descend quickly, with years of pent-up hate driving them forward.

Quite some time later Hex is in a saloon, quietly drinking a toast to the dead Doctor. A couple of men at a nearby table recognize Hex and decide to collect the reward being offered in in Texas. As they easily advance upon him, Jonah suddenly pivots on his heal and shoots both men dead. Jonah lights his cigar, asks "Anyone else?" and upon receiving several negative responses, exits the saloon and rides off.

Statistics for This Issue
Men Killed By Jonah - Wow, this is gonna be a hard one. There were soooo many Apache, so let's tally up how many shots we see fired and the actual dying Indians. I count about 16. This is my blog, so I go with 16. Plus the two guys in the saloon will make the total 18.
Running Total 627 (432 past, 55 future, 33 Vertigo, 117 V2)
Jonah's Injuries - None
Timeline - This issue covers several days.

Once again, this is a Vertigo title, so they do their best to be 'edgy' showing us people defecating and then actually eating the roasting torso of a dead woman. That is the main reason I discount these stories so much. They are too over the top just for the sake of trying to be over the top. Bleh, I don't need that junk.

I did like the story with the odd alliance in the hole, Jonah's relationship with the Sarge and the final showdown between Jonah and Hickok.

Rereading this story made me realize that Neveldine & Taylor, those two men who got paid for the Jonah Hex movie script, were influenced by the Lansdale Hex rather than the Fleisher Hex. They even had a scene from this book in their script (Waving a burning blanket under the horse).

Well, I made it through and I have to admit, it was easier than a colonoscopy. With that said, I think I will jump into the second Vertigo series because I think there are some hidden gems in there to be mined.

I will also continue on with Volume two of Jonah Hex as well. I need to get cracking to catch up with the current series.

Next: I realize that I skipped issue 18, so I head back and face the bear.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Jonah Hex V2 #19 "Texas Money"

Jonah Hex #19 V2 Jul '07

"Texas Money"
Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, story - Phil Noto, art and cover

Looking For A Bad Man Texas, Jonah rides into town and finds a large ring of folks surrounding a big burly man who is wielding a knife. Jonah asks what is going on and one man replies that it's a Mexican Tug of War. The man with the knife is calling everyone all kinds of names for coward. Hex asks one guy if he is going to take up the challenge of a fight. The man declines and Hex replies that the man in the circle has everyone bluffed. Hex grabs his tomahawk and enters the ring, demanding an explanation. The man explains that he works for another man looking to hire someone with enough sand to do a difficult job.

A Deal is Struck - Jonah is led into a nearby saloon and introduced to the owner, Mr. Parks. Jonah asks for the details and Parks starts in on a long winded story. Jonah asks if he is going to get to the point. Parks declares that he is not one to be talked to in such a manner. Hex starts to walk out saying to send for him when the stories are over. Parks says that he needs some men found and killed.

Jonah asks how much. Parks replies with three thousand in gold. Two of his nephews were kidnapped. Jonah is surprised that THAT amount of money wasn't enough to stir any of the townsfolk into action. Parks explains that he does have men working for him that could do it, but they are conducting other business for him. He has been expecting a ransom note, but none has been forthcoming.

Hex smells something wrong and asks how long the nephews have been gone. Three days. Jonah asks for a list of Parks enemies. Parks is taken aback at the accusation but Jonah insists that a man as powerful as Parks has made at least a few enemies. Parks admits that he has used his money to smooth over some infractions that the nephews have instigated. Hex takes his leave and Parks offers the aide of his man, Hector (the knife guy). Hex declines and leaves.

Madam Blood's Treasure - Kansas, one month later. Madam Blood helps a cowboy named Tom Leverlock into her bedroom. He is boasting of several things, his rich zinc find, his way with the women, and how handsome he is. While she distracts him with her feminine wiles, she pulls a small derringer and shoots him in the head, taking all of his money.

As she is going through the dead man's pockets, one of her girls walks into the room. Madam Blood pitches a fit and fires the girl on the spot. She then yells downstairs for Samson, her huge mentally handicapped flunky. She orders him to dispose of the body in the abandoned Creedis mine with the others and to be sure to go out the back.

The fired callgirl is standing outside and watches everything that Samson does. After some inner reflection, she goes directly to the sheriff's office.

We cut to the inside of a mine. Hex, the sheriff, a few deputies, and a handcuffed Samson are looking at the decomposing bodies. The sheriff states that Blood has been doing this for years and it appears that over twenty men have fallen victim to her. They were able to locate the mine with Samson's aid. The sheriff hands over a wanted poster for Blood and Hex says that he'll take the job, but first they have to wrap up their other business, then he'll be heading back to Texas.

Pay Attention To Details - Texas, one month later. Hex rides into the Texas town pulling a wagon with two coffins. Parks comes out and demands to see inside. Hex demands his money. Hector opens the coffins and Parks said that the deal for the money was that Hex bring in the men responsible for this. Hex explains only one man is responsible for what Parks sees, Hex himself.

Parks is stunned and demands to know who Hex is. Hector, along with several men in the shade of a nearby building explain that he is Jonah Hex, a bounty hunter, cold-blooded Confederate, and Apache raised abomination.

Hex demands his money. Parks wants to know why he should pay the man that killed his nephews. Jonah states that the state of Kansas killed the nephews after a fair trial and it took a little bit of extra work (of which Parks will pay more for) to get the bodies out of Kansas. Parks pulls a pistol and Jonah grabs Parks windpipe.

Hector and the men by the building pull their weapons and tell Hex to let go. Jonah demands his money. Hector tells Parks to pay Hex and Parks shouts that he will pay THEM the three thousand to kill Hex. Hector states that money does the dead no good.

Parks gets the money and pays Hex and then Jonah rides off. Parks tells Hector that he wants revenge on Hex and Hector strikes a deal. If he gets cut in as a full partner in all of Parks dealings, then he is on the job.

Blood runs Cold - The Oklahoma, three weeks later. I'm assuming they mean the Oklahoma territory. Jonah rides into town, locates the nearest woman and says that he is looking for a woman. She says that SHE is a woman and Jonah shows her the wanted poster. The woman says that Blood came into town a week ago, set up in the Rio, and run off a couple of girls working there. Nobody would miss Blood if she was to be gone. Hex tosses her some money and tells her to take the night off.

As Jonah approaches the Rio, he is approached in turn by one of the workers. He shrugs her off and goes inside. He flashes the wanted poster and Blood sees him from the upper floor railing. She shouts for her goons to kill Hex and as the gunfight breaks out, everyone scatters and Jonah tosses a Molotov cocktail across the room, lighting up the place like the Fourth of July. 

With Bloods men shot or running away, Jonah walks through the burning building and heads up the stairs. He spies Blood attempting to escape across the porch roof and he shoots her in the leg, pitching her off the roof and into a horse trough. He holds her under water until she cools off.

Public Service Free of Charge - Hex and Blood are in a mine and Blood is tied up. Blood says that she has gold hid, a lot more than what Hex will get paid for bringing her in, and Hex is SUPPOSED to bring her in. Jonah replies that he got Texas money just this week.

Blood starts screaming that he can't leave her to starve. What did she ever do to him? Jonah replies:

Statistics for This Issue
Men Killed By Jonah - 4. Three of Blood's men and Blood herself
Running Total 609 (432 past, 55 future, 15 Vertigo, 117 V2)
Jonah's Injuries - None
Timeline - This issue covers a few months and has to take place around 1890.
Rape Percentage - 37% (7 out of 19) 

This issue was pretty good. So good, in fact, that it was made into a DC Showcase cartoon that followed the Madam Blood storyline. 

The 1890 time is from the fact that Oklahoma became a territory in 1890. It was called Oklahoma prior to that, but it was mostly referred to as The Unassigned Lands. In 1879 it was illegal to reside within the borders of the Unassigned Lands and after a long battle, Land Runs were set up and folks started settling in 1889. So I'm sticking with 1890 or thereabouts.

I do enjoy Noto's work, but some of stuff seems so machine-like. The wallpaper in Parks office and the lettering on building signs has that 'nice' computer generated feel to it. Bleh. Also, some of the folks in the book all look the same, only distinguishable by facial hair. Heck, half the time I couldn't tell that Hector was Hector.

So I give the story higher marks than the artwork. Also, re-reading this issue, I noticed a joke that Jonah made prior to entering the brothel in Oklahoma. It's subtly and a little too tasteless for me to explain here. I'm  ashamed of a couple of things. First, that I understood it and second, that I didn't get it until rereading it six years later.

Next - Vultures, Wolves, and the return of......

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Marvel Premiere Featuring: The Coming of Caleb Hammer

Just a slight diversion before we jump back into the Jonah Hex books. Marvel Premiere was Marvel's answer to DC's Showcase, a series of one-shots to see what would work and what. In 1980 they produced this western, written by Peter B. Gillis, penciled by Gene Day, and inked by Tony DeZuniga. Here the, is the story of Caleb Hammer.

The Devil's Starry Anvil

Our story starts in 1890, in Manacle, Wyoming. A young buck walks up to a man in a bar and calls him out. The young man draws and the man, Caleb Hammer, rushes him and knocks him clean out, tossing him into the street. The sheriff comes by, wanting to know what is going on. Hammer explains that he is with the Pinkertons and that he is looking for two men, Crawford McKie and Jake Lovelace.

They took part in the campaign to capture Geronimo but after that they took up bank robbery, murder, and other things. The sheriff explains that they did come through, but Manacle wasn't worth their time and they moved on, up in the valley. The sheriff offers Hammer a drink, but he declines and moving on.

In the morning, Hammer is riding into the valley when the youngster that he trounced the night before comes riding up, saying Hammer won't get away with treating him that way.

FLASHBACK: 1885. A Union soldier storms into a woman's bedroom, calling her Molly. The woman isn't Molly and the soldier shoots her dead, claiming that she cheated on him. A crowd gathers and Hammer is among them. He realizes that his wife has been killed and the soldier, drunk out of his mind, starts shouting that he had the wrong hotel room. Hammer had been training for the ministry and his faith has abandoned him.

Present day: The young gun demands his chance to have revenge. Hammer dismounts, picking up a fist-sized stone. The young gun jumps off his horse and draws on Hammer, who responds with throwing the stone into the young man's shoulder, breaking it. The man goes down and Hammer walks over, picks up his pistols and snaps the cylinders off and rides off.

Night falls and Hammer comes upon a ranch, having followed the outlaws trail. The cabin shows signs of a struggle and when he checks the barn, he snags his boot on a tripwire and the barn explodes, he manages to grab a colt and rescue it from the flames.

FLASHBACK: 1886, the McCormick Harvesting Machine factory in Chicago, Illinois. There is a union strike and as scabs try to cross the picket line a fight breaks out and six men are killed in the riot. One of them is Isaak Hammer, Caleb's younger brother. Caleb was visiting his brother to get over his wife's death, but once again his faith crushed him.

Present day: Hammer notices that there is a cabin on the cliff overlooking the ranch he just found. He spots a reflection from inside the cabin and realizes that his prey is up there, watching the burning barn.

Inside the cabin, Crawford and Jake are sure that 'the Pinkerton' is dead, but just in case, they still have the ranch family as hostages. Nora, the wife, has had enough and demands to be let go because Jimmy has 'got himself a sickness'. The crooks ignore her.

Outside the cabin, Hammer gets closer and realizes the cabin sits on The Devil's Anvil, a solid piece of rock outcropping that offers no cover whatsoever. Hammer realizes that the only weapon that he has is..... fear. He puts his hands near his mouth and start howling like a wolf.

In the cabin, Crawford gets a little spooked but the rancher explains that there are no wolves. It must be the Indian wolf-spirit whose lands they have defiled. Just then they look out the window and spot Hammer outlined against the full moon, his arms raised and draped in some cloth. Just as quickly he vanishes.

FLASHBACK: 1888, Montana. Hammer bursts into a cabin to bring in an outlaw and ends up shooting the man in the shoulder but a huge snowstorm moves in and they are snowed in for five months. Sadly, the shot man dies and when Hammer leaves the cabin he is a man completely devoid of any faith at all.

Present day: The rancher explains that the Devil's Anvil was an Indian holy place and the two crooks actually helped capture Geronimo. The Wolf-Spirit wants to punish them for that. Hammer pulls his ghost stunt once more and the crooks are getting more and more edgy, starting to believe the rancher.

Just then Jimmy falls to the floor in convulsions and one of the crooks takes that as evidence of the wolf-spirit trying to get into the cabin. He lets loose with a barrage of bullets, killing teh boy just as Hammer kicks in the door. He punches the crooks senseless as one of them starts screaming that it was the wolf-spirit that was trying to get them.

It is then that Caleb Hammer realizes that it was the fear that HE instilled in the crooks that led them to kill Jimmy. Hammer picks up the boy's body and takes him look at the stars.

Thirty four years ago I loved the heck outta this book. Re-reading it, Marvel was doing their spin on Jonah Hex with some slight twists (unscarred, not a bounty hunter). Caleb Hammer was a man whose life was full of tragedy but he didn't turn to booze and he didn't shoot to kill. He just turned his back on God and busted guns with his bare hands. Of course, Marvel got DeZuniga to do the inks so that it would even LOOK like a Jonah Hex book.

A lot of this artwork was muddy and in some places they had white letters on a black background, darn near unreadable on newsprint

I can understand why this never took off, the Western was pretty much dead at this point except for Jonah and he only had five years left as a Western himself. It would be fun for Justin and Jimmy to 'borrow' this character from Marvel and clash with Hex once he gets back to his own time.