Thursday, July 25, 2019

Jonah Hex V2 #29 "Return to Devil's Paw"

Jonah Hex V2 #29 May '08
"Return to Devil's Paw"
Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti - story, Rafa Garres - art and cover

Strange Days Have Found Us

We are treated to a wonderous page of scorpions, spiders and rattlesnakes as the narration expounds:
There comes a moment in most every man's life when he reflects upon some distant action or indiscretion that led him to a particular dilemma. 

For some, it's a woman that corrupted their soul and poisoned their heart.

For others, it's a moment of weakness -- whether in crime, drink, gambling, murder or adultery -- that can condemn an otherwise decent man to a dark and perfidious end.

You'll be well served in the knowledge that bounty hunter Jonah Hex had a very long list of such incidents, including a few best not mentioned in polite company.

Once More into the Grasp

  Hex, his hands bound with rawhide, is leading Jones and his men into the Devil's Paw, a place of horror and mystery, a place where Jonah encountered the outlaw Montana, and eventually gunned them down in 'nearby' Plimpton. Jones accuses Jonah of killing Montana but keeping the looted money for himself and Jones demands to be taken to the Devil's Paw so Hex can turn the cash over to them.

  Hex and the men ride into the twisting pathways leading into the Paw when one man, Clancey, takes an arrow to the neck, and Jones gets one in the arm. Hex spurs his horse to escape as another man gets an arrow to the head. Jones and the rest of the men fall under the knives of an ambush of Indians. Hex realizes that he is also surrounded and he quickly dismounts and fights as best he can, but he finally succumbs to the tribesmen.

Tribe of the Red Scorpion

  and that brings us back to the beginning, with Jonah bound and dangling over a pit of poisonous critters. A warrior shows up, cuts Jonah down and then leads him up into a pueblo to what appears to be the shaman. The old man produces a stone box with a hole in it and Jonah is forced to put his arm into the hole. Tense seconds pass and then Jonah feels a painful bite. A red scorpion falls out of the box and Jonah swirls into unconsciousness.

Warnings Ignored Repeatedly

  The town of Plimpton, a three day ride from the Paw, four days later. Detective McCoy, supposedly of Pinkerton employ, is being briefed by the sheriff on recent events, including Jones (also a Pinkerton) and his men taking Hex up to the Paw. McCoy asked if the sheriff had told Jones of the horrible reputation held by the Devil's Paw. He replies in the negative but that Hex had warned them more than adequately. McCoy tells the sheriff to get his horse ready, they are going to the Paw.

 Hex awakens to the amazement of the Indians. Jonah can't understand them and asks a boy standing nearby if he speaks English (he does). Jonah gets to his feet and stands before a warrior, Avenging Wind, who welcomes Jonah and offers him to live with the tribe, since he survived the bite of the red scorpion.

  Jonah demands his clothes back and Avenging Wind wants to know why Hex brought white men to the Paw. Jonah explains about the money and how men will keep coming until the money is recovered. Avenging Wind states that they will kill all who come and that Jonah cannot leave as he is now part of the tribe. Jonah gets into a knockdown dragout fight with Avenging Wind and defeats him just as the sound of rifle fire echos into the pueblo.

  An entire troop of U.S. Army show up and start slaughtering the tribe. Jonah locates his stolen boots, shirt and rifle, then starts making his way out of the pueblo. Avenging Wind awakens to see his entire people dead. He leaps from the highest point of the pueblo, knife drawn, ready to kill any soldiers he encounters. Needless to say, Avenging Wind is cut down in a hail of rifle fire and hits the ground, dead.

  Hex then spies the young Indian on an overlook, rifle in hand and drawing a bead on the Sgt. The young one's shot is true and the Sgt's head is blown open. The rest of the soldiers return fire but Hex and the boy escape after driving off the soldier's horses.

They ride on into the emerging night and Jonah tells the boy that he should wait a night or two for the soldiers to leave the Paw. Hex even suggests the boy find a new home, but the boy explains that the Paw is home. Hex mounts up as the boy heads back to the Paw.

Statistics for This Issue
Men Killed by Jonah - None, even though he beats the living tar out of several Indians.
Running Total - 670 (432 past, 55 future, 15 Vertigo, 178 V2)
Jonah's Injuries - Bitten by a scorpion, knocked out
Timeline - Ten days. The folks in Plimpton say Hex left a week ago and then they ride to the Paw, a three day ride.

  I am very conflicted about Garres's artwork. The characters are so incredibly fluid and dynamic, almost to rubbery comic proportions, but that also shows movement and intensity. Like a freeze frame of a super-slo-motion camera when some gets punched. But the inking is so heavy, so much black, that it can be difficult to figure out who is who in the book. A lot of his characters look the same or at times they same character isn't recognizable through the book.

  Parts of the story are confusing. The sheriff of Plimpton talks to a man called Detective McCoy (and I assume he is with the Pinkertons, like Jones) McCoy tells the sheriff they are all going out to the Paw, but instead, we see the Army show up. The Sgt has facial hair unlike that of McCoy or the Sheriff so I don't know if Garres messed up on the artwork or what happened. It's sad when a jarring glitch like that has you paging back through a book trying to figure out if you missed something.

  All in all, a fair book and a nice return to a prior story.

Next Issue: Something familiar, something peculiar, something for everyone...

Monday, July 08, 2019

Jonah Hex V2 #28 "Townkiller"

Jonah Hex V2 #28 Apr '08
Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti - story, John Higgins - art and cover

A man runs in desperation, across the desert, pursued by men on horseback. He is roped around the ankle and then drug toward a lone tree. A noose if fashioned and crowd consisting of men and women forcing the man into the noose. He pleads and begs but still they hoist him aloft and then start throwing rocks at him. Finally he is dead and then they light the dangling man on fire and watch until he is burned and the rope parts, dropping the flaming corpse to the sand. Then they leave, the tree afire, not unlike a burning cross.

  Some time later, a man rides up and views the carnage. He kicks dirt on the flames and then kneels by the body, weeping.

Everyone's Gotta Die Sometime

Hex and Halstead stand off, facing each other in the street. Needless to say, Hex kills Halstead and then the sheriff makes an appearance, thanking Hex. The sheriff pays Hex and adds a little extra so that Jonah will leave town that much quicker. Jonah throws the insult money in the sheriff's face and retires to the saloon.

Jonah is standing at the bar, tossing a few back when the man from earlier comes in with a business proposition. Jonah declines what he sees as a sexual advance and the man explains that he only wants Jonah to kill a town. Jonah's interest is piqued but he requests an explanation. The man explains that an innocent man was lynched and he would like everyone killed, men and women alike. Jonah asks if he is supposed to be an orphan maker or should he kill the kids as well. The man stutters that he hadn't thought of that and Jonah states that the man's best option is to leave.

The man restates his position that this heinous crime was visited upon his friend for reasons he isn't comfortable sharing. Jonah states that he doesn't care "how ya sit in the saddle." and he only finds amusement in those that condemn such "ridin' habits". Jonah declines the job because he doesn't want to spend his days looking over his shoulder waiting for someone seeking to exact revenge. The man persists once again and Hex tells him to leave now as a saloon girl walks up and starts stroking Jonah's shoulder.

Later, Jonah is getting a bath provided by the saloon girl. She inquires why Jonah wouldn't help the man and Jonah grabs a handful of her hair, stating he isn't interested in question from a ten-dollar whore (which ain't exactly cheap, $230 today, but I'm not sure of going rates and values of such things.) Jonah ends up kicking her out when she continues to talk.

Two days later, a small church is getting ready for service and we see a line of gunpowder, alight and burning towards a barrel of gunpowder and cask of dynamite. The resulting explosion burns everyone inside alive. This brings a smile to the face of the man seeking revenge.
He mounts up and rides off, through the night, back to the town where he left Hex.

Rain falls as he walks into the saloon, asking the saloon girl if she knows where Hex is at. She states that she does and it will cost him. He pays her and asks again where Hex is. Turns out Jonah is standing right behind him. The man smiles because he no longer needs Jon...POW! Hex pounds him right in the kisser.

Jonah asks him if he's feeling good about his revenge. The man says no judge would care, but Jonah counteracts with judges care about murdered babies and children and pregnant women and old men. Jonah grabs the man's tongue and....
The saloon girl smashes a bottle upside Jonah's head and then pulls a shotgun on him and starts shooting. She condemns Hex...

The sheriff finally shows up and assess the carnage. The sheriff tells Jonah to leave town NOW and hex complies. The saloon girl gets in one last jab and Hex tells her to be careful. As Jonah rides off, the Sheriff tells her to calm down because Hell's waiting on Hex, no doubt.

Statistics for This Issue
Men Killed by Jonah - None
Running Total - 670 (432 past, 55 future, 15 Vertigo, 178 V2)
Jonah's Injuries - Bottle smashed upside the head
Timeline - Three days, one day at the start, and then two days later.

I wasn't a big fan of this one, because we once again see the Crazy Church People as a main force in the story, chasing down a homosexual man and killing him in cold blood. More lazy writing, either depending on tropes  to tell a narrative or trying to push an agenda.

I did think Jonah's reaction to the man (who was never named) was interesting. I felt he jumped to a rather quick assumption thinking the man was soliciting him (there was nothing in the manner he was drawn or the language he used that made me think that until Jonah brought it up). Jonah's disinterest was pretty much spot on for Hex. He really doesn't care what people do, as long as innocent people are not bothered. And, of course, Jonah has little to no use for religion or it's followers.

The art wasn't very interesting but I did enjoy the cover in that the knife obscured Jonah's scars but the blood running down the knife mimicked his injuries. And the reflection of the man's mouth in the knife lines up fairly well with Jonah's own scarred eye.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Jonah Hex V2 #27 "Star Man"

Jonah Hex V2 #27 Mar '08
"Star Man"
Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray - story, Jordi Bernet - art and cover

A man walks towards us, light blasting all around him, streaming from him, blurring all details. Hex is tied to a tree and the man offers Hex some water from a canteen. He bends forward and explains why he didn't kill Hex when he had the opportunity even though he KNOWS what Hex did all those years ago....

New York Harbor

A young man named Victor and his father, who has a wooden leg, disembark from a ship into the teeming mass that is New York City. They locate lodging and inquire as to possible employment. The hotel clerk gives them directions and then adds "You'll find slim pickings since after the war ended this week,"....... We'll come back to that later.

The two go to the room and the father instructs Victor to stay put and hide the rest of the money and he'll be back soon. The father locates an employment line that is for hiring policemen. When he gets to the head of the line he tells the men at the head table that he was a peace officer in his old country. They insult him and say he will be needing both feet to work. The father explains that he also taught literature until he went into the military and that he also will not stand for being insulted. One of the men, a New York Sheriff, shoots the father's wooden leg in two. Laying on the floor, surrounded by lawmen with their pistols pulled, the father eyes a priest sitting at the head table and asks if he condones this treatment of an unarmed man.

The priest replies that they don't have time for this, kill the cripple and take him outside as a warning to others. As they ready to shoot him, they ask if he has any last words. The father explains that he has a boy. The Sheriff states that he now has an orphan.

We see Victor waiting the rest of the day, all night, and then at daybreak he inquires of the hotel clerk. The clerk states he has been at the desk all night and not seen him. He does tell Victor where he sent the father for work and Victor takes off through New York to find his dad.

Victor finds the corpse of his father hanging from a statue of a saint outside a church.people casually pass by as if it is an everyday sight. A drunk in the gutter spins the tale of what transpired and points Victor in the direction of the employment line. Victor spies a pistol on the hip of a man, pulls it, walks past the line and exacts his vengeance upon the priest, a sheriff, and another man at the head table. He is about to kill another sheriff when he is pistol whipped on the back of the head.

Cut to.... Jonah Hex is speaking to two men in an office and they are instructing him to sign the proper papers in order for the funds to be transferred to him. Hex signs and leaves the office and walks through the streets of New York. He stops to ask directions to the train and then heads out to follows the directions. Suddenly we see Victor steal Hex's sidearm and run into the employment office. 

Hex gets into the office and we realize that it was Hex that knocked Victor out. He tells the Sheriffs that the boy is no relation and he only wants his pistol back. The head man doesn't believe him and they have a stare down with Hex winning. Hex picks up his gun and the Sheriff says the boy is staying with them. Hex doesn't care and the Sheriff states they'll beat the boy within an inch of his life, 'have some fun with him', and then hang him. Hex walks out holstering his pistol.

  Walking down the street Jonah remembers his own childhood at the hands of his father Woodson. He stops, pulls his firearm and next we see him killing every last man standing in the employment office.

Jonah takes the limp form of Victor to a Catholic orphanage and leaves him in the care of the nuns.

Back to present day, the man of light stand over Hex and we realize he is Victor. Victor postulates he has been tracked by Hex for three days and Victor is now worth four hundred, maybe six hundred dollars? Jonah states the amount is now one thousand dollars and asks if Victor is gonna kill him or just blind him with that coat? We then see that the light coming from Victor are Sheriff badges from lawmen he has killed over the years. He has been gunning down crooked lawmen as he roots them out after learning of the  corruption back in New York.

  Victor tells Hex that Hex's horse is tied up a few hours north along with all of Hex's supplies. Victor is going to head South and finish what he has started. Hex will be able to get out of his bonds and the next time the two meet Victor will not just sneak up and knock him out, he WILL kill Hex. Victor explains that he does 'private' bounty hunting for folks seeking justice and are unable to obtain it through conventional means. He has eight hundred dollars he has saved. He gives the money to Hex, thus appeasing Jonah's sole motivation in this encounter.

  Jonah snarls that he isn't the only one hunting Victor, and Victor is two hundred short.Victor rides off, the money scattered around Hex.

  An unknown time later, Hex comes upon a campfire in the night. Victor is stripped, gagged and died to a tree. Three Indians sit nearby when a lawman, Sheriff Pete, comes riding up.  He ask why the Indians have ripped off his clothes seeing as he only told them to capture him and tie him up. They explain that Victor killed one of their men. Pete replies that they get to split the hundred dollars three ways instead of four, then.

Pete explains that a man Victor recently killed, Christopher Casey, was Pete's brother. Pete pulls a knife. Pete asks if Victor has anything to say and pulls away the gag. Victor shouts for Hex to save him and take him into custody. Hex steps from the shadows and guns down the three Indians as Pete hotfoots it out of there. Hex unties Victor who grabs a knife and runs off into the dark, we hear a scream and Victor returns covered in blood and tells Hex to take him in.

Next day Hex wonders why they have to go all the way to Yuma when they were closer to Sterling. Victor explains that he killed the Mayor's Brother-in-law in Sterling. In Yuma, Hex turns Victor over to Sheriff Dokes. Victor asks Dokes if he remembers a family named Michaels that lived on the land Dokes now owns. Dokes tells Victor to shut up or he won't get a fair trial. Victor taunts Dokes, asking if it would be like the fair trial Mrs. Michael's husband and children got when Dokes killed them all?

Victor snatched Dokes' gun and holds it on both Hex and Dokes. Dokes says he won't get away with it, but Victor states that he will, he was paid handsomely to kill Dokes. He instructs Hex to drop his gunbelt and lock himself in the cell.

Later we see Hex killing time in the cell, reading the paper and smoking. A woman walks in to the office and frees Hex. She says that she was sent by Victor to let Hex out and to give him an envelope. Hex opens the envelope and pulls out two hundred dollars. He asks the woman's name. She is Mary Michaels. Jonah smiles and....

Statistics for This Issue
Men Killed by Jonah - Three men in New York and three Indians in Arizona.
Running Total - 670 (432 past, 55 future, 15 Vertigo, 178 V2)
Jonah's Injuries - None.
Timeline - This one has a wide time range, we don't know how long it took Jonah to hunt down Victor but it took about four days to ride to Yuma once Hex apprehended Victor. This is based on what information I could uncover regarding Sterling, Arizona (founded in 1865 in present-day Prescott) places it about 220 miles from Yuma. That makes it about a three-four day ride.
Rape Percentage -  33% (9 out of 27) I'm counting this one in the 'Rape Story' column because of comments made by the Sheriffs in New York.

Overall, this was a good story and Victor was a good character but there were flaws that takes this one down a few notches in my eyes.

First off, the timeline. The hotel clerk states "after the war ended this week" so that puts the tale in early April, 1965. But I did some digging and Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9th, 1865, BUT President Johnson didn't officially declare the war over until August 20th, 1866 (there was a LOT of other stuff going on.) We do know that Hex was scarred in 1866, but not exactly when. So, while I initially bristled at this timeline 'error', I guess the clerk was being factually accurate in his statement. Therefore, this story takes place in August 1866. (guess this doesn't count as a negative then)

Next up, Crazy Church People make their appearance. Yup, we have a Catholic priest that is just fine with killing a crippled man for no good reason (granted, we do get to see nuns, albeit without guns, practicing mercy and compassion). There are corrupt 'Church People' just like there are corrupt people in every facet of society (in fact, I once had a pastor that said "you haven't been screwed over until you've been screwed over by a Christian.") but the 'evil church person' is becoming a reoccurring theme in Hex V2, almost as much so as the 'rape story' trope. 

Which brings us to the comment made by the Sheriff about 'have some fun' with Victor and 'when he is spent', leads me to lean toward rape being discussed. Sigh, such lazy writing at times. By the way, for folks wondering why I DO keep a Rape Percentage Counter going, It's because Chris Sim's actually dropped this book from his reading list because of using that plot device as a crutch too many times.

The positives? Well, Bernet's artwork is a big plus on this one. At times all of his women look the same, but he usually is able to make the men in the book distinctive enough that he reminds me of Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, although a very scratchy version of Mr. Lopez.

I also enjoyed Jonah's motivation for saving Victor, remembering what a hell-hole his own upbringing was AND, despite Woodson quoting the Scripture at time while beating Jonah, Hex still took Victor to a religious organization for safe-keeping.

Next Issue: I may need to start more Percentage counters as we encounter more Crazy Church People and have another tongue cut out.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Batman 100-page Giant #8-10 "Batman Universe"

Batman 100-Page Giant #8 2019
"Batman Universe"
Brian Michael Bendis - story, Nick Derington - art & covers

These are the Wal-Mart exclusive 100-page Giants series. These books really bring up some good memories for me. I lived in a small town in NE Illinois and I didn't have access to comic books unless we made a trip to my Grandma's down in the Ozarks. On those thips I would walk all over town buying every single book I could afford. Well, when the DC Dollar comics hit the shelves, my local drugstore started carrying them. I was in heaven. I got a brand new story along with several reprints of hard to find older stories.

  The format today doesn't thrill me as much since these cost $4.99 and while you do get some reprints, they are reprints of ongoing stories, so if you miss an issue, you are clueless as to what is going on in the next one. Ah, the good old days of Done-in-One stories. Anyway, Jonah Hex has made an appearance in the current run in Batman. For a quick recap, the Riddler has stolen a Fabrege egg that Batman has determined used to belong to Jonah Hex. Batman tracks down Jinny Hex (in #6) and questions her about it and she says she wants nothing to do with it.

  Batman tangles with Vandal Savage and then teams up with Green Lantern. They both head for Dinosaur Island where they spy on Savage deep within a mountain, contemplating how to activate the egg. Savage leaves the room and when Batman and GL get closer to the egg, they find themselves thrown back in time to the old west where they encounter Jonah Hex.

Batman 100-Page Giant #9 2019
"Batman Universe"
Brian Michael Bendis - story, Nick Derington - art & covers

Jonah draws down on Batman & GL and they remove their masks to prove they aren't crooks. Batman asks Jonah if he has ever heard of Vandal Savage. Jonah admits that one doesn't forget a name like that but admits to nothing else. Batman explains they are from another time and they are tracking down an article that Jonah has either owns or will own in the future.

Batman goes on to explains that the egg sent the two of them here and they found out about the egg from Jonah's Great-granddaughter. Jonah dismisses the other cowboys riding with him and then mutters "Not from this time..."

A short talk about their attire and GL uses his ring to hide his uniform. However, his 21st century clothes aren't much better. They head to a nearby town and Jonah pays for some appropriate duds for his two visitors. They decide to head after Savage but Hal reminds Batman that he has only 39 minutes left of charge in his ring and since he doesn't have the battery with him....well, things aren't looking good for them getting back home.

 Jonah tells them to mount up, what he knows of Savage lies a six days ride to the north. Hal decides to speed things up by handling the travel arrangements.

Needless to say, Jonah has never traveled like this before.

The trio end up in the town where Jonah last saw Savage. He relates that their encounter was an accident and Savage thought Jonah was after a treasure or something. Suddenly, Hal's ring starts acting weird and Hal vanishes from sight.

As Batman and Jonah try to figure out what just happened, Vandal Savage shows up with several friends in tow.

Batman 100-Page Giant #10 2019
"Batman Universe"
Brian Michael Bendis - story, Nick Derington - art & covers

Savage addresses Batman and Jonah, stating that as he understands it, Batman is from the 21st Century, there to steal the egg from Savage's hand. Jonah, on the other hand, brings up some unfinished business between he and Savage. Savage tells Jonah to settle down, since he barely remembers Hex.

Batman and Savage discuss the egg, how it brought Batman here and how it creates wormholes. Savage states his first inclination is to just leave Batman stuck in the 1800's since he would probably be happier here. Batman somewhat agrees. Savage then says that he will have his accompanying members of the Black Order kill them both, to which Jonah responds...

Savage takes one right through the heart but is only staggered, not killed. Jonah is annoyed and then the fight breaks out between Hex and Bats and several members of the Black Order.

There is a rollicking two page fight and then Batman sees the egg starting to glow in Savages hand. He shouts for Savage to drop the egg but the egg quickly flies from Savage's hand into Batman's grip. Then, not unlike what happened to GL, Batman floats up into the air and vanishes.

Batman finds himself in Crime Alley in the present day just as the Batmobile pulls up and out steps Vandal Savage holding a blaster. Savage states he's been looking for Batman for over 150 years and then opens fire, taking the egg from the fallen Batman.

Statistics for These Issues
Men Killed by Jonah - Undetermined, since the battle is a free for all
Running Total - 664 (432 past, 55 future, 15 Vertigo, 172 V2)
Jonah's Injuries - None within this storyline.
Timeline - All within the span of a day.

As a guest appearance, this one was pretty good. Jonah was written true to character with not much phasing him, other than some ring-assisted air travel. I enjoyed the reference to Jonah having encountered Vandal Savage before. While it is possible that the refers back to when they were last in that town, it COULD be a call back to The Return of Bruce Wayne #4 or even All-Star Western V3 #18. 

A few things were off. In issue #9, the horses weren't very well drawn. The legs were so large the horses would have been 7-8 feet tall at the shoulder. Also, in one panel, GL and Bats word balloons were swapped, giving Bats a smart-ass reply when it had been GL mouthing off all issue.

Now, about Jinny Hex being Jonah's Great-granddaughter, let's do some math. Jason Hex, was born in 1876 and in 1899 we see he has a child (when Jason would be 23 or so). We also know that Woodson Hex was a private detective in the 30' and 40's. The time frame is about right for Woodson Hex P.I. to be the son of Jason, that we see in JH V2 #25. 

Now working backwards from Jinny Hex, who appears to be about 20-25 in 2019. That puts her birth around 1994-1999. Going with 1994 as the earliest she could be born let's estimate her father's age. According to Social Security statistics, the average age of the father at the birth of his first child in 1994 was 28. In 1994, most families had almost two kids. If Jinny was the second child, her dad was probably 30 when she was born. This would put HIS birth year at 1964.

So for Jinny to be a Great-granddaughter, Woodson would had to have fathered Jinny when he was 95? Possible, but improbable. So we currently have:

Jonah Hex
Jason Hex - son, 1876->1899
Woodson Hex - grandson, 1899 - ?
Jinny Hex - Great grand daughter, 1994

So I am postulating that Jason had another son, possibly as late as when he was 55 (1929) and this son (let's name him, I dunno, Dwayne Hex?), brother to Woodson, fathers Jinny when he is 65 in 1994. This is putting things really out on the fringes of what normally happens, but it is possible. 

It would have been a whole lot easier for Jinny to be a Great-great-granddaughter.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Jonah Hex Via Pony Express Podcast is now live!

Four fans have gotten together via the wonder of international 21st century technology and produced a podcast devoted to the Scar-Faced Bounty Hunter, Jonah Hex. We are working on getting it on iTunes and other platforms, but for now you can find us here
Jonah Hex Via Pony Express

In the first episode, I join Hex historian Susan Hillwig, corraler of Hex information Darren Schroeder, and Hex newcomer and fan artist Arreah Bihary (who provided the artwork above) as they provide a quick publication history of Jonah Hex throughout the years. We also recount how each of us first encountered Jonah so we cover a timespan of some 40+ years.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Jonah Hex V2 #26 "Four Little Pigs: A Grindhouse Western"

Jonah Hex V2 #26 Feb '08
"Four Little Pigs: A Grindhouse Western"
Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray - story, Guiseppe Camuncoli - layouts, Stefano Landini- finishes, Camuncoli and Schwager - cover

Once Upon a Time, There Were Four Little Pigs

A woman stands outside her side barn, wearing a blood-covered butcher's apron, leaning against an axe, shading her eyes against the sun. Jonah rides up and asks if she has seen the man on the wanted poster Hex is holding up. He mentions that the man is riding with Lewis Himelhoch, Mike Hewison, and  Loy Turns. She says that she hasn't seen anyone in two months. Hex starts to leave and she offers him dinner, seeing as the ride into Holsten is a far piece and she hasn't had anyone to talk to that ain't crawling and squealing.

  Jonah inquires after her husband. She states her name is Holly and her husband ran off last spring. She asks if Jonah is a lawman and that is when Jonah notices three saddled horses in her corral.

  During dinner she quizzes Hex about his bounty hunting and speaks about the service Hex is doing, ridding the world of worthless men. Jonah is short on words and long on silence. Holly asks what Hex's god-given name is and he replies "Jonah is what my father named me."

  The liquor continues to flow long after dinner and Holly starts quoting Jonah 4:10-11. Jonah points out that she is drunk and if she leaves the Bible out of the discussion they'll get along fine. Jonah eventually passes out but Holly is still awake and...

 The Big Bad Wolf Dearly Loved to Eat Fat Little Piggies.

Later, under a full moon, Holly goes out to the barn to slop the 'pigs' and that is when we see four human tongues nailed to the inside wall of the barn and the 'pigs' she is slopping are four men, their tongues cut out, their arms cut off at the elbows and their legs cut off at the knees. They runt and squirm for the food as Holly grabs a whip and starts flailing the men. Suddenly Hex is in the doorway, telling Holly to drop the whip. She replies that it is not yet his turn when suddenly a shovel cracks the back of Jonah's skull.

 To Market, to Market, to Buy a Fat Pig. Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-Jig.

Jonah awakens to find himself trussed up in the dark barn and in the darkness he hears the other men stirring. He calls out the names of the men he has been hunting and they grunt their acknowledgment. Hex comments that they look terrible. The men wiggle over and start chewing their way through Hex's bonds. 

  In the house, Holly is speaking to Hannah about what to do with Hex. They head towards the barn, axes in hand. They find Hex gone and they take out their anger by whipping and kicking the four men.

 Birds of a Feather Flock Together, and So Will Pigs and Swine.

 Back in the house Holly and Hannah debate if Hex is still around. They decide since his horse is gone, Hex has gone to Holsten in order to bring the law back. They decide to 'clean out' the barn so there is no proof and they argue about Hex. Holly thinks he's a dumb man that deserves the fate they mete out because he has probably wronged many women. Hannah says that Holly shouldn't flaunt herself but they can't afford to get sloppy. Holly quotes Proverbs 23:7 "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he." and she knows he'll be back for vengeance. Hannah heads out to get some firewood.

  After a bit Hannah doesn't come back and Holly goes out to check on her. She finds blood by the woodshed and as she examines it, Hex knocks her out with a pistol.

What to do with Her? Says That Pig. Kiss Her to Death, Says This Pig.

Dawn, and Holly and Hannah find themselves trussed up in the barn. Jonah sits in a rocking chair, axe in hand and lighting a smoke. Jonah notes all the tongues nailed to the wall and he starts to wonder as to why...

  Hannah starts in with...

Jonah speculates that the four men in the barn aren't the first ones to meet their fate at the hands of Holly and Hannah just as the four wiggle their way into the barn. Jonah notes that the men prefer that Jonah not use the axe on the two women. Jonah sits down as the four men wiggle towards the women and proceed to savage them with their teeth, chewing the women to pieces to the point of decapitating them.

 The men start begging for Jonah to shoot them but he refuses as he still has a job to do.

Give to a Pig When it Grunts and a Child When it Cries, and You'll Have a Fine Pig and a Bad Child.

Much later we see Jonah riding into Holsten leading two horses with the four men strapped atop them. The sheriff comes out and wonders at what Hex has done. Jonah explains that it wasn't him but the women outside of town. Jonah would have dispatched the men, but the warrant specifies them alive, not dead. The sheriff draws down on Hex and tells him to leave town. Jonah states that he will comply as soon as he is paid. 

The sheriff replies that he would rather shoot Hex than pay him and Hex punches him straight in the nose. Jonah explains that he will be paid or there will be one less lawman in town. Jonah gets his money and bids farewell to the four men.

Statistics for This Issue
Men Killed by Jonah - None, but he did help facilitate the deaths of Holly and Hannah
Running Total - 664 (432 past, 55 future, 15 Vertigo, 172 V2)
Jonah's Injuries - Brained with a shovel.
Timeline - Given a day to ride to Holsten, I'll say two days..
Rape Percentage -  30% (8 out of 26)

Obviously influenced by Grindhouse, this is one of the more gruesome tales of Jonah Hex. It was a far far cry from the Hex penned by Michael Fleisher but oddly enough, it reminded me of Fleisher's work on The Spectre. The fate of Holly and Hannah was fitting and had a wonderful EC comics vibe to it. I loved the grittiness of the artwork and the colors, it really sold the book. I do believe that three of the butchered men were named after actual Jonah Hex fans, can't remember where I read that. (possibly on the Paperfilms forums)

My main gripe with the story had to do with a 'teaser' that Justin and Jimmy posted on their now-defunct Paperfilms Forum where they described the story as their 'sickest one yet' (if I remember correctly). Stating something is 'sick' strikes me as... I don't have a word for it. It reminds me of folks being proud in 'keeping Austin weird' or 'keeping Portland weird.' Weirdness (as well as sickest) isn't bestowed upon a person/place by the person/place itself, but by others. Self-proclaimed Weird isn't Weird at all, just sensationalistic advertising.

A secondary gripe is with Holly and Hannah, two devout Scripture quoting murderous women. That doesn't smack of lazy bigoted writing now, does it? But it does prod me once again to actually pen that Hex and Christianity piece that has been rolling around in the back of my head for a decade now.

Next Issue: Back East, an error in the timeline?, and Starman appears.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Jonah Hex V2 #25 "My Name is Nobody"

Jonah Hex V2 #25 Jan. '08
"My Name is Nobody"
Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray - story, Russ Heath - art, Garres - cover

Mexico, 1899

We are treated to excerpts from An Oral History on the Old West, co-written by Woodson Hex, private detective in the 1930's and 40's. During the recap of Jonah's life we see the aged bounty hunter setting up camp overlooking a desert valley. Off in the distance, dust clouds rise, driven skyward by several men on horses being chased by other mounted riders. Jonah figures it's bandits running from the local law so he takes cover so that he has a chance against the fifteen desperadoes. 

  As the bandits get closer, Jonah picks off one and the rest scatter. The bandits regroup, trying to decide how best to flank the unknown gunman up the rocks. Meanwhile, Jonah bides his time, hoping he can hold them off long enough for the rurales to show up. Jonah unloads his pack mule and lets it wander off into the mountains. He pulls out a photo of Mei Ling and a young boy, about the age of ten. 

  Jonah takes up a vantage point with his rifle. Soon enough, one fo the bandits tries to make a move and Jonah kills him. Drawing a bead with his rifle, he spots the backside of another bandit and Jonah manages to shoot the pistol in the man's holder. The bandit jumps from cover and.... thirteen left.

  The bandit leader shouts to Jonah to stop shooting his men. Jonah replies that it might be safer for them to turn themselves in. The Bandit asks Jonah's name to which Jonah replies with rifle fire. Five bandits suddenly rush Jonah and ..... nine left. That's when Jonah notices that they shot and killed his horse.

  The bandit leader tells Hex that they need his location to ambush the rurales. He asks Jonah's name again, announcing that HE is Jesus Escobar Ramirez. Jonah replies that he is Jonah Hex. The bandit's stare at each other and then decide Hex is lying. Everyone knows that Jonah Hex is dead. 

  They rush him once more, managing to hit him in the left shoulder but Jonah takes down three more of them....six left. Another quick attack and Jonah takes out two more, the rest coming at him with knives. Jonah smashes one in the head with a pistol and starts punching the crap out of him to boot. The others come up, about to shoot Jonah in the back of the head when a hail of bullets cut them down. Jonah kicks his combatant over the edge of a cliff.

  The rurales have arrived in time. A man leading them doesn't appear to be Mexican. The man says that Hex looks familiar, maybe they know each other? Jonah says that the man doesn't know him.

  Later that evening in a cantina the man offers to buy Hex a drink, asking his name. Jonah replies with  "Mister Albano".  Jonah says that he would like to drink alone. The man introduces himself as Jason Hex. He's a tracker, helping the locals. Jason says that the Mexicans ain't against folks of mixed blood as much as the folks up north. He is half Celestial on his mother's side and his father was a bounty hunter... and that's when Jonah attacks him. 

  They get into a knock-down drag out fight which ends with Hex on the floor and Jason holding a iron on him. Jason says he has no intention of killing Jonah, he only wants to talk. Jonah says they have nothing to talk about. Jason asks if Jonah wants to know about Mei Ling. Hex states he ain't the one that left and folks have a right to do as they like. Jason states that Mei Ling is dead and that not everyone dies from a bullet. Jason still wants to talk but Jonah has none of it.

  He says that what you see is what you get and that's the reason Mei Ling took Jason away. She didn't want Jason to know him and that's that. Jonah exits the cantina and meets a Mexican woman in the street, holding a baby. She tells Jonah, who is still drinking from a bottle, that the stuff will kill him. Jonah replies that he hopes it does.

  Jonah mounts up as the woman approaches Jason as he, too, exits the cantina. She asks who that ugly old man was. Jason takes the child from her arms and answers "That was nobody".

Statistics for This Issue
Men Killed by Jonah - Eleven. The Banditos didn't fare well against Elder Hex.
Running Total - 664 (432 past, 55 future, 15 Vertigo, 172 V2)
Jonah's Injuries -Shot in the left shoulder.
Timeline - At most, one day and a night.

Rape Percentage -  32% (8 out of 25).

One the greater Hex tales because of so many things. Russ Heath is back and illustrating another tale of 'old' Hex, we meet Jason as an adult trying to reconcile a meeting with his absent father, Jason's quick appearance of Jason's wife and his son, a quick nod to Mr. Albano, the black borders, and a slight reference to Johnny Cash (Boy Named Sue lyric "and ya got the right" vs. Jonah's "Ya earned the right.").

We see so many people encounter Hex and die a quick death, friends that pass through and are forgotten. Any time we are treated to something that builds upon the Hex family tree or revisits a known character, I feel that we are getting a deeper glimpse into the agony, tragedy, and the tortured mind of our favorite bounty hunter. 

Next Issue: A heavy Tarantino influence and ya never wanna watch the sausage getting made.