Wednesday, September 28, 2011

All Star Western #1 - First Impressions

WOW! Oh, you want a little more specifics that that? Well, okay. Let's break this down little by little:

Writing: It's Palmiotti and Gray. And it's GOOD Palmiotti and Gray! The dialogue, the phrasing, pacing, cadence, everything about the language rings true for the place and period. There isn't a missed note in the speech of these characters.

Art: I had never seen Moritat before but his work here is fantastic, especially with the coloring work. The art is detailed and yet somehow loose. Hex is a little bigger and bulkier than thatof Noto or Bernett, but it works here. The GRIT and DIRT of Gotham is almost overpowering, in fact, it overwhelms sunlight to the point that the entire town is encased in smoke and dirt, muting all the colors. There is just enough color to keep this book from being a black and white book, but the palette is very ominous and depressing.

Story: Remember when Jonah ended up in Brazil? How hard it was for him to cope with society? Remember when he went to China? Remember when he went to 2050, well, okay, don't remember THAT! Hex in Gotham is somewhat like that, Jonah Hex not in his natural element, shooting and bunching the living hell outta anything that moves, BUT it's different in that, while he has a 'guide' in Arkham, he is also the scout, leading Arkham through the underbelly of his own town.

There are a lot of things I could compare this to: McCloud; a gun-toting Batman; Victorian version of Firestorm (Arkham = brains, Hex = brawn). But this is a new book and I think it will stand well on it's own two feet. The story has peril, action, depth, and mystery and for about $4, it's well worth the cash.

Can't wait for next month to see where this is headed and the onset of the backup feature.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Jonah Hex V2 #3 "Eye for an Eye"

Jonah Hex V2 #3 March 2006
"Eye for an Eye"
Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, story -  Luke Ross, art - Phil Noto, cover

Jonah Hex comes across several wagons of settlers that have been slaughtered by Indians and examines the arrows and the footprints.

Cut to a trading post. The owner is begging three men to let him and his sick wife live. The leader of the three men says that he can't allow them to tell a posse that it was them dressed as Indians that killed the wagon train. They herd the man, carrying his wife, outside just as Hex rides up. The leader tells Hex that the post is closed. They threaten Hex and he tells them that they need to save their bullets for the Apache

Jonah tells them that the Indians are about thirty minutes away and two of the gunmen start to panic. The store owner says that the Apache are coming for revenge, to kill these men who have been committing murder dressed as Apache. Jonah pulls his pistol and shoots the three men dead. Hex asks the post owner if he would testify that these men were murderers and the owner replies that he would. He then asks Hex what can they do about the Apache war party? Jonah calmly says that there ain't no Apache war party.

Later that night, during a downpour, Hex and the store owner roll into the town of Kent. The sheriff, who is getting a shave, is called out by a local to see Hex dragging the three corpses behind his horse. The sheriff looks at the dead ringleader and whispers "Nate". The sheriff then pulls a pistol on Hex but the store owner starts to tell the story of what happened. The sheriff arrests Hex but the owner says "You don't know these men" to which the sheriff reveals that the ringleader is his kid brother.

Later Hex is in the jail cell asking what became of the store owner. The sheriff explains that he reasoned with the man and his distance and silence would be insured. Hex then asks what is to become of him. The sheriff tells his goons to do their best.

Much later, the two goons are on a raft if the river with a large  box on it. They wonder out loud how much longer they and the sheriff can keep up the Indian masquerade. They slip the box into the water, commenting on how Hex wasn't that tough after all. One goon says that he would prefer to hang Hex, the other replies that maybe Hex will wash ashore and someone can have Hex stuffed.

The box, with Hex inside, floats down the river and starts slowly leaking. Jonah struggles with the ropes around his wrists but is helpless as the box floats on and hurls over a waterfall, smashing to bits on the rocks. Hex manages to barely swim to shore and passes out.

A man rides up with a lantern and asks Hex if he tumbles over waterfalls for his own amusement or is there a paying audience hidden in the darkness? The man cuts Hex free and asks his name. Jonah tells him and the man introduces himself as Bartholomew Aloysius Lash, gambler by trade, womanizer by design and outlaw by tragic error (the best introduction ever written...ever! Doubt me and I'll fight you and WIN!). Hex said that he's never heard of Bat Lash and Bat is very happy, considering Hex's trade. Hex asks what Lash's business is and Bat confides that he is heading into Kent. Seems that earlier in the day Bat came across a dying girl that had been raped by by white men posing as Indians looting wagon trains.

Jonah confides that he had a run-in with those men and they ended up dead, however, the brother is still alive and was backing the whole plan. Lash and Hex hatch a plan and head into town.

Later that night, Lash is in a poker game, women draped about him, and he is winning in every meaning of the word. One player accuses Lash of cheating and all hell breaks loose. 

The sheriff shows up and takes Lash and the brawler to jail only to find Jonah Hex sitting in the office, guns drawn. Lash locks up the deputies and the brawler but Hex won't allow the sheriff into the cell. Lash demands that justice be served according to the law but Hex states that this point is where he and Lash will part ways.

Hex escorts the sheriff outside as Bat looks on.

Morning finds Hex on horseback, leading another horse carrying a bound sheriff. They come upon a group of mounted Indians and Jonah has a few words with them. The Indians ride up and jerk the sheriff off his horse. The sheriff starts screaming for Hex to save him but Jonah says that he has no control over free men and that their money is just as good as anyone elses. The Indians scalp the sheriff alive and then finish him off.

Bat Lash rides up in time to see the payoff. He rides off with Jonah in one of the most classic endings in any western ever.

Statistics for This Issue
Men Killed by Jonah - 3
Running Total - 508 (432 past, 55 future, 15 Vertigo, 6 V2)
Jonah's Injuries - Boxed up and sent over a waterfall.

This is probably one of the most perfect westerns that I have ever read. Jonah is spot on, Lash is wonderfully light without being a lightweight and with this issue Gray and Palmiotti have hit their stride with this book. There are little touches that make this story great: the Indian seen in town that, we learn later, is known by Hex; Lash's sarcastic comments that his opponents don't understand; the evil kid brother who looks like Matt Dillon.
The only downside is this is the beginning of what Chris Sims points out as a over-reliance on rape as a motivator, even though it is only mentioned in passing by Bat Lash. Don't worry, we'll being hearing and seeing a lot more of that plot device in the upcoming years (Rape Count: 1 reference)

Next Issue: The man who won't stop talking, a woman who can't start talking, and the plot device that won't die.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Jonah Hex V2 #2 "Dia De Los Santos Reyes"

Jonah Hex V2 #2 Feb 2006
"Dia De Los Santos Reyes"
Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, story - Luke Ross, art - Leonardo Manco, cover

Children are playing with a pinata at a Spanish mission when several men come riding in on horseback and start slaughtering everyone in town. One of the riders kicks in the front door of the church and the priest there knows him. The priest starts reprimanding the man and is quickly shot. The thieves then come in and grab the large cross on the altar.

The priest stumbles down the hallway to a room where his niece Alma is tending to a wounded man on a cot. The priest tells Alma to tend to the wounded in the courtyard. She leaves and the priest talks to Jonah Hex. He begs that Hex will repay the kindness they have shown him by bringing back the sacred cross and then he falls dead.

Hex tells the dead priest to rest easy because tomorrow all the thieves will be dead.

Hex gets dressed, mounts up and heads out of town, but right alongside him is Alma. Jonah says that she isn't going, she says that she is. Alma then explains that the man who killed her uncle is Santiago, an orphan that her uncle took in and raised him along with Alma as brother and sister.  Jonah says that he can't afford to have anything slow him down. Alma pulls out a knife, asks Hex if he can see the knot in a sapling about fifty feet away. She hurls the knife while riding and Hex pauses, grunts and then tells her to try to keep up.

They continue riding and come upon the outskirts of Silverton, a mining town. There are two sets of gallows outside of town with a total of eight men hanging from them. They ride into town to witness a man getting gunned down in the street and then ripped apart by a mob that digs the silver bullets out of the corpse. Hex tells her to be quiet about the Santaigo and the cross. One man, Branson Ironside, steps forward and inquires what business Hex and the Alma have in town.

Hex tells Ironside that he has quite a town. Ironside says that after the war he was not happy to reside within the Union. Hex asks about the men hanging outside of town and says that he has been tracking them for six days, but it appears there are a few missing. Ironside states that he will rectify that slight by noon tomorrow. Ironside then invites Hex to stay in town and 'join their ranks'. Jonah politely declines and he and Alma head for the hotel.

Ironside then tasks one of his men, Chester, to tail Hex.

At the hotel, Alma asks if the town knows about the cross and Hex figures that they do. Later that night in the room, Hex postulates that since the town does not have a bank, the cross must be in the jail, locked up with Santiago. Jonah is going to snoop around and pilfer some dynamite from the supply store. He has Alma strip and prance in front of the hotel windows in order to distract anyone tailing him.

Jonah climbs out of the hotel and then breaks into the supply store. He stocks up on dynamite and matches, leaving payment for both on the desk. He makes his way to the jail, verifies his suspicions about the cross and Santiago, and then places several sticks of dynamite around about the town. Finished, he heads back to the hotel room.

He climbs in the window and is greeted by Alma, Ironside, and two gunmen. Ironside has Hex's guns removed and states that he will hang Hex in the morning as a warning to everyone that enters the town. Jonah replies that sooner or later the cowardly greedy bastards in town are going to turn on Ironside and learn that he is a coward. The gunmen knock Hex out.

Later, Hex is escorted into the middle of town. Everyone is gathered around and Ironside is getting a shoeshine in the middle of the street. He hands Hex a pistol with a single bullet in it. Ironside addresses the town, stating that he has gathered them in order to learn that Hex has come to town to steal the silver from their mine. Hex denies it, but Ironside asks who can trust the word of bounty hunter that lives off the plunder of corpses.

Hex draws and fires, shooting past Ironside and rupturing the kerosene streetlight. Ironside, sweating bullets, is amazed that Hex has missed but he takes his time to draw and aim, knowing that Hex is out of bullets. He asks "Who's the coward now?" to which Jonah replies, "See me runnin', Ironside?"

Just then the burning stream of kerosene ignites the dynamite hidden under the boardwalk behind Ironside and things start getting blown to hell. Ironside fires a few shots and miss, but Jonah slugs a gunman, grabs his pistol and nails Ironside right between the eyes. Hex then grabs a flaming board and tosses it across the street, igniting another stick of dynamite and that starts a chain-reaction of building after building exploding. The townsfolk are running in a panic and Hex and Alma head for the jail.

Hes opens the cell with the cross and grabs it, heading out. Santiago pleads to be released or he and the others will die in the jail. Alma says that the Lord will have his justice on Santiago on His own terms. As Alma and Jonah leave the jail, the entire town has mounted up and headed for the mine. Since Ironside is dead, they plan to gut the mine as quickly as possible. Hex loads up the cross onto a wagon and head out of town, along with the entire populace.

Everyone rushes into the mine but there is a sudden cave-in and everyone dies. Alma says "Those poor people." and Jonah, driving the wagon into the rising sun, replies, "Not so poor...they're buried in silver."

Statistics for This Issue
Men killed by Jonah - 1 (Ironside)
Running Total - 505 (432 past, 55 future, 15 Vertigo, 3 V2)
Jonah's Injuries - Knocked in the head

An average issue, we pick up with Jonah in the middle of an adventure, not unlike the prior issue. I enjoyed the character of Ironsides, how he knew Hex and thought that he could just offer him a job in order to control him. The ending of the story seemed rushed with the mine collapse, there was nothing to indicate that it could happen and it was just a quick wrap-up to get rid of the towns people and give them what they deserved. I did like the view of Jonah's scarred back, making me wonder if this was a nice reference to the Ship of Doom.

There was also a couple of gripes about the artwork, one page was waaaay to static, almost reminding me of Renato Arlem and his photostats. And there were a few misplaced word balloons on the next to the last page. All in all, the series is like a toddler finding its footing, a mis-step here, a wobble there, but all in all, this book is up and walking.

Next Issue : Hex encounters an "Outlaw by tragic error."