"The Hanging Tree"
Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, story - David Michael Beck, art - Art Thibert, cover
Our tale begins at night with Jonah Hex, hands bound behind him, hanging by the neck in a tree with other hanging bodies as well as skeletons. Standing below the tree, watching Hex twitch and kick, are the freaks from the Romanoff Traveling Side Show. The freaks watch a short while longer, then pack up and move on.
An unknown amount of time later, a rider comes along and that rider uses his whip to snap the limb that Hex is tied to. The rider?..... El Diablo. Diablo cuts him loose and gives him some water along with a warning to not tease the Devil. Diablo mentions that Lazarus is in nearby Encita but he must leave now since he has work to do.
Next day, Encita, California. We find Jonah Hex riding into town and proceeds to the Grand Hotel. As he approaches, a man starts to stop him, holding out a hand to stop Hex. Jonah grabs the mans fingers, bending them backwards, breaking them, and then proceeds to beat the man into submission. Hex's arm is stopped by Lazarus Lane. They have a quick, unfriendly exchange and then head into the local saloon.
Inside, Hex is pushing down a meal and Lane is quizzing him as to why the Carny folk were after Hex. Jonah explains that he killed their boss. Lane warns Hex that things are changing, the frontier is vanishing and there will soon be no room for people that hand out their own justice. Hex mentions that at least he doesn't wear a stupid mask. Lane asks Jonah how he is going to move forward since he has no money, no guns, no horse (despite riding into town on one). Just then a cowboy walks into the saloon and Jonah stands, saying that things have a way of working out.
We next see Jonah dragging that cowboy through the street to the sheriff to collect a $500 reward.
The Carnival of Torture and Death - It's night, an unknown number of days later and an unknown distance away. The Romanoff carnival is being terrorized by about a dozen men and several of the freaks lay dead. The tattooed lady is being drug across the desert by a man who states that has broker her spirit but she should be good for a few more rides. Another man comes up and drags her off, going past two men who have tied up the Siamese twins and are trying to pull them apart. Another man has a freak tied to the wagon's wheel and is heating up a stick with which to burn him. The man says that since Romanoff ain't around to pay the Pearson Gang, they will do what they damn well please.
The tattooed lady is begging with her tormentor to let her go and when he demands that she tell him his fortune she quotes Revelation 19:11. The man tells her that the Good Book ain't gonna help her none. Just then Jonah Hex rides up behind him and says that HE will help her and then shoots the man dead.
Back at the camp a few men spot two pairs of weirdly glowing eyes. Thinking they belong to wolves, they shoot into the night. The eyes, however, belong to El Diablo & his horse. Hex rides into the campfire light and the men ask who in the hell Hex is. Jonah says that if they want to know about hell, just turn around. El Diablo comes into the light and snaps one man's neck with his whip. Jonah shoots two more and Diablo leaps from his horse as three other men try to gun him down.
The Troubled Souls of Men - Lazarus Lane is asleep in his bed and Jonah Hex stands over him, holding a pistol on him. Lane jerks awake and asks if Hex was going to shoot him in his sleep. Jonah confesses to thinking about it. Lane fixes them a drink and says that he is not adverse to Hex killing him, he drinks himself to sleep most nights and wakes up screaming.
The tale ends with Jonah riding off and the narrator verifying the Tattooed woman's prophecy.
Statistics for This Issue
Men Killed by Jonah - 6
Running Total - 573 (432 past, 55 future, 15 Vertigo, 71 V2)
Jonah's Injuries - Hung by the neck
Timeline - It appears that this takes place across two nights and one day.
Rape Percentage - 45% (5 out of 11)
I'm conflicted about this issue. Personally I have always enjoyed Jonah being apart from the DCU and this was the first 'canonical' story of Jonah interacting with a character that had some sort of super power. Being Jonah, he took it all in stride, practically staring down the Devil himself (or at least a minion). While the story may have been lacking (or not up to my liking), Gray and Palmiotti once again write caption boxes and dialogue like it's nobody's business. I find myself reading their books out loud over and over again.
Beck's art, while at time almost photographic, does come across incredibly stilted and stiff most of the time. I can't say as I'm a fan.
Next Issue - Mormon Bashing is taken to the extreme.