Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Jonah Hex #32 "Gunfight at Murphysburg!"
Jonah Hex #32 Jan. 1980
"Gunfight at Murphysburg!"
Michael Fleisher, story - Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, art - Luis Dominguez, cover
The cover blurb states that this is the most spectacular shootout in Jonah Hex's history. It is almost an understatement. This post is going to be pic-heavy, because that is the only way to do this issue justice.
But first, we start out with Jonah riding down into Murphysburg in the spring of 1874. Jonah is looking for Arbee Stoneham, a bounty hunter that humiliated Jonah 8 years ago. We have a nice 2 page recap of last issue and then Jonah arrives in town, heads for the saloon and starts asking about Stoneham's whereabouts. The barkeep says that Stoneham is staying at Minnie Franklin's boarding house on the other side of town, over by the stockyards. A man standing at the bar looks surprised and then sneaks out of the bar.
Jonah orders a steak and the surprised man hightails it across town to the livery stable where he tells everything he has just heard to Jason Crowley and his gang. Crowley wonders if Hex is telling the truth about looking for Stoneham or if it is a cover for tracking down Crowley. Either way, Hex has to pass by the stockyards and Crowley decides that is the best way to ambush Hex.
However, there is an old man up in the hayloft sleeping off a drunk and overhears everything. He crawls out of the loft and finds Jonah has Hex exits the saloon. The old man tells Jonah everything, telling him that Crowley has eleven men in his gang, plus Crowley. Jonah tosses the man a $20 gold piece and decides that Stoneham will have to wait. Hunting down Crowley is business and paying back Stoneham will be pure pleasure and he heads off towards the stockyards.
There is no way that I can do this story and art justice, so I'll just let it speak for itself (with very little commentary)
Statistics for this issue
Men killed by Jonah - 12
Running Total - 255
Jonah's Injuries - shot in right shoulder, shot in left ribcage
Timeline - The whole story takes place in one day in early 1874.
How can I even begin to explain how much I love this story? I realize that 80% of it is due to Lopez's art. The man can set an entire scene and then show us that location from every angle possible and never deviate from it or surprise us with some unexpected element. In the opening shot of the stockyards you see the barn, the windmill, the haywagon, the cattle pen, everything. Each member of the gang is an individual either by dress, choice of hat, or ethnicity. On top of that, you can see all eleven members of the gang in the opening shot in the livery. This man is such an incredible artist and storyteller with his page layouts spilling out of the panels, overlapping and almost leaping off the page. Lopez is one of the three greatest artists/storytellers of all time.
But what about the story? We start with a Jonah that is bent on personal revenge, puts that on hold to conduct a little business (and granted, to save his own live), returns to his mission and then in the end, forgets his personal vendetta and shows some surprising compassion in his final treatment of Stoneham, probably seeing his own possible future in the life that Stoneham now leads. This is near perfect storytelling by Fleisher and coupled with Lopez's cinematic work, this turns out to be one of the top 3 Jonah Hex stories of all time. I just wonder how it would have worked with less dialogue on Jonah's behalf.
Next Issue: Jonah battles predatory sub-prime lending practices. Ok, he doesn't, but a bank mortgage IS involved!!!