Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Weird Western Tales #47 "City of Shame!"

Weird Western Tales #47 Jul/Aug 1978 
"City of Shame!"
Gerry Conway, story - Dick Ayers & George Evans, art - George Evans, cover

Tuesday, April 22nd, 1862. New Orleans, Louisiana.

In the French Quarter, after a harsh rain, we find Scalphunter slipping in the muddy streets, almost falling under the thundering hooves of a horse drawn carriage. He goes flying face-first into the mud, much to the enjoyment of the onlookers. Scalphunter stands, snarling and one by one, the crowd quietly disperses, all except for one woman, herself an object of disrespect and scorn by many.

  She steps forward and introduces herself as Mademoiselle Magarit. She offers her 'house' to Scalphunter so that he may bathe and she will have his clothes cleaned.

  After his bath, several of Magarit's 'girls' are admiring Brian's chiseled form. Magarit apologizes for not being able to remove the bear smell from Scalphunter's coat but he replies that the bear had much medicine and he is proud to carry the scent. Magarit asks his business and he replies, walking out the door, that he seeks Reginald Ashe. As he leaves, Magarit calls over Judith and gives her a secret task.

  Not long after, Scalphunter finds himself at the docks in front of the Swanee Dawn where he witnesses a slave owner getting ready to whip a female slave. Without thinking, Scalphunter draws his knife and advances but is quickly stopped by Wakwame. Wakwame warns Scalphunter that he can't help the woman by interfering, he must stay silent and come with him. As they leave, Wakwame explains that he is about to use his Shaman medicines to help free his African brothers. Scalphunter acknowledges that Wakwame once saved his life and is willing to help.

  Sadly, they are deep in conversation and do not see the two Confederate soldiers approach them and start taunting them. Something snaps inside Brian and he lunges, tackling one of the soldiers. Wakwame throws a knife into the neck of the other soldier as Scalphunter quietly snaps the neck of the man he holds down. Brian then scalps the man and the two leave to continue their plans elsewhere.

  Later than night, at Magarit's house, she is entertaining Reginald Ashe and Confederate General St. Samuels. She explains about Scalphunter looking for Ashe and she fears he may upset their plans. Ashe tells them there is nothing anyone can do, the Swanee Dawn will sail upriver tomorrow and that is that. The General rants that Ashe doesn't have a grasp of the situation. Farragut is about to capture New Orleans and even now is outside Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip. Ashe tries to ease St. Samuels fears and states that he has to leave for his mother's birthday party. He gives Magarit a deep kiss and leaves. Samuels puts forth "That man will doom us all."

  A mile northeast of the city, deep in the swamps, Scalphunter and Wakwame talk around a fire. Scalphunter tells of his search for his sister, Samantha, and how he learned she was in New Orleans. The trail has lead to Reginald Ashe. Wakwame also explains that his quest leads to Ashe due to a vision he received last month. Wakwame has learned where Ashe lives and they will go there tonight.

  Later, under cover of darkness, Scalphunter easily overcomes the wall surrounding Ashe's plantation. He dispatches a guard via quick use of a club and then enters the mansion, knife drawn. There is a large party taking place and Scalphunter makes his way to Ashe's office. Once there, he searches through Ashe's desk and finds a daguerrotype, more recent than the one he carries, but obviously it is Samantha. Just then a voice from the doorway reveals that Scalphunter has been discovered.

  Reginald Ashe stands there with two Confederate guards, gloating of how they captured Wakwame and how he will kill him and Scalphunter. The guards open fire as Scalphunter dives to the floor, rolling under a couch. He picks up the couch, using it as a shield, rushing the two guards. An unseen third guard comes from behind and knocks Scalphunter out.

  Some time later, Scalphunter regains consciousness and he finds himself in a ring surrounding by a roaring crowd. Lit by torches, the ring is one for battle. In the sand before him is a knife and across the ring is Wakwame, already armed. Ashe explains that the two captives are to battle to the death for the pleasure of his friends. Scalphunter refuses but Ashe explains that he will shoot all of the slaves unless the battle takes place. Wakwame whispers to Scalphunter that they have no choice and he rushes at Scalphunter. 

  The fight ensues, during which Wakwame reminding Scalphunter that the African is a man of medicine, medicine of Africa, or Kiowa and even of voodoo. Even though Wakwame may be cut, may bleed, may even die, he cannot be defeated. The pitched battle continues for half an hour until Wakwame moves into position and Scalphunter drives his knife home. The African shaman slumps to the sand, thanking Scalphunter, exhorting him to free the slaves until Wakwame returns.

  Scalphunter watches his friend fall to the sand, he turns and rushes towards the nearest guard, but the butt of a rifle comes down upon his skull, once more thrusting him into darkness. When he awakens, he is bound in chains upon the Swanee Dawn along with a boatload of slaves, Reginald Ashe standing before him, gloating at the Kiowas fate.

Statistics for this Issue
Men Killed by Scalphunter - One wharf guard and Wakwame
Running Total - 87
Compared to Jonah Hex- Nine appearances in and Scalp has 87 vs Jonah's 39
Scalps Taken - 2
Running Total- 14
Injuries - Knocked out twice. 
Timeline - One day, April 22nd, 1862.

A nice issue with a reappearance of Wakwame from issue 41 from the year prior. Just one major problem... dates. Surprised? Issue 41, written by Michael Fleisher, took place in Summer, 1862 and once Gerry Conway took the reins, two issues ago, he placed us firmly in March, 1862. So, I'm calling an audible and saying that since there is nothing in issue 41 tying it historically to 1862, I'm gonna say Scalphunter and Wakwame first met in 1861. I like Wakwame as a character and how he is his somewhat appalled at Scalphunter taking scalps.

I enjoy that they are putting Sclaphunter in actual history in a believable timeline. He was last seen in St. Louis in March and now we're in New Orleans in the end of April. A nice amount of time to cover that distance. 

Next Issue: Scalphunter finds himself up the river without a paddle, and Matching Dragoons takes the Cinnamon Challenge!

Monday, September 07, 2020

Jonah Hex V2 #32 'The Matador'

Jonah Hex V2 #32 Aug '08
"The Matador"
Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti - story, Jordi Bernet- art and cover

Spectacle of Blood and Sorrow 

Jonah is sitting at a bullfight in Mexico with Esteban and his wife, Rosa. Esteban states that he wants Hex to kill the man who "Stole my wife's heart and tasted her sweat". It is the matador, Carlos Rocca, the best in Mexico and who is about to face his adversary in the ring at that moment. Hex refuses and Esteban says he can't find anyone in Mexico that is willing to kill the most famous bullfighter in the country.

We watch the fight as Carlos spears the bull repeatedly and it finally expires. The crowd starts chanting for the bear to be released against a bull. Esteban explains the thrill of this conflict to Hex, and what the stakes are for the bear and how she is fighting to protect her cub from the bull. Hex wonders what all the fuss is about. Esteban got his woman back so why revenge?

Esteban's wife's veil falls revealing her face and that her lips have been cut off, leaving a gaping mouth of teeth.

Hex asks if the Matador did that and Esteban says "No" and shows Hex a knife.

In the ring, the bull charges the bear to the delight of the bloodthirsty crowd. The bear bites and slashes at the bull and they both die in the short contest. As the ring is cleaned up, Hex rises to leave. Esteban asks him to reconsider for if a gringo kills the matador, Esteban can rally his countrymen to fight back against the Americans that are invading his country. Hex refuses again and leaves.

Deaths Dancing Maidens

That night, Jonah stumbles into a graveyard, drinking. Suddenly he is surrounded by dozens of women in black shawls and they start dancing around him, finally pulling staffs from their cloaks and beating him. As he falls, a few pull pistols just as Jonah strikes his head against a tombstone and lapses from consciousness.

When You Mess with the Bull

Jonah awakens to find himself stripped and tied to a large target on the wall of the Bullring. Esteban is there, giving him one last chance to accept the offer. Hex tells him to get things over with because Hex is gonna get loose and kill him and all his bitches. Esteban laughs and tells Hex that he has prior commitments for Dia de Los Muetros, but Hex will be dead soon.

  Esteban and the women leave and a speared bull comes charging into the ring and crushes Jonah against the wall. The Bull backs up and hits him again.

Just then, Carlos, the matador, appears and lures the bull away. Carlos is about to kill the bull when Jonah asks him to stop.

Chula Maria Espinoza

Three weeks later...

Jonah is taking some target practice, left handed, against a suargo cactus, shooting off spines one at a time. A woman stands in the doorway of an adobe house, telling Jonah how watching him excites her. Jonah tells her to get back inside out of the heat. She keeps taunting him and we learn that she is Chula Maria Espinoza, the sister of Carlos, the matador. She continues to taunt Jonah and he keeps telling her to keep her distance. Finally he has to shoot at her feet to get her to back away. Hex grabs her and she fake swoons so Hex slaps her and threatens to tie her to a chair.

Carlos rides up with an extra horse. Jonah gets his gear assembled and mounts the horse. Carlos asks what Hex will do now and Jonah draws his gun and aims it at Carlos. Carlos stammers back that he saved Jonah's life, surely Hex can't turn on him now. Carlos said he didn't discard Rosa, Esteban has too many men for Carlos to kill himself. Hex tells Carlos that if someone cuts the face of the woman you love, you do something. Carlos offers to purchase Hex's services and Jonah refuses and rides off.

The Last Bullfight

A pack of wild dogs battle against a speared, bloody bull as Hex walks up and sits down next to a startled Esteban. Hex tells him he should have stuck around to make sure the bull finished things and Jonah stabs Esteban with his own knife. Esteban dies and Rosa hands Hex a bag of money. Hex tells her to keep it, this one is on him. Hex asks if she wants the bloody knife as a keepsake and she refuses. Hex gets up, turns to walk away and says "For whut it's worth, the matador still loves ya."

Statistics for This Issue
Men Killed by Jonah - One, Esteban.
Running Total - 6844 (432 past, 55 future, 15 Vertigo, 193 V2)
Jonah's Injuries - Beaten over the head by the 'maidens' and his head strikes a tombstone. Then he is, well, not gored, but is crushed by a bull, twice.
Timeline - A day and a night, then three weeks recovery so let's say 22 days.

I liked this one a lot. Bernet's artwork added quite a bit to this one and one small thing was the gutters between the panels changed color, white for day, murky brown for the graveyard, blue for the night with the bull, and dark red for Esteban's death. It added the passage of time and an emphasis on what was happening. Nicely done.

I also enjoyed the characters, each one was unique and even Esteban's wife, though she said nothing, Bernet's portrayal of her spoke volumes. Even Chula, with her odd comedic interlude, was a joy to behold. All in all, an issue worth seeking out.

Next Issue: A hunting trip gone wrong, evil Mounties (but I repeat myself) and Darwyn Cooke

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Jonah Hex V2 #31 'Red Mask'

Jonah Hex V2 #31 July '08
"Red Mask"
Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti - story, Paulo Siqueira and Amilton Santos - art, Richard Corben - cover

  The whole town is in church and the Sheriff is addressing them, Jonah Hex at his side. A bandit by the name of the Red Mask, has been laying waste to the pocketbooks of the townspeople and the sheriff proposes that they hire Hex. His payment will be any loot that he finds on the bandit. Dozens of men have been searching the nearby canyons will no luck and Hex is their last hope.

  Just then, the town drunk, Cletus Hambone, crashes into the church, drunk to the level of skunk. Cletus raises such a ruckus that the Sheriff has Cletus posterior deposited in the local hoosegow. The Sheriff, returning to business, offers the help of any townsfolk that Jonah would like to have at his side. Hex, being Hex, declines the company of 'Idjits' and takes off on his own into the canyon lands.

  Night, and Jonah is roasting a rabbit, when about a dozen Apache approach him from behind. As one attempts to stab him, Jonah stops him and shoots him through the head. An intense gunfight ensues leaving just Jonah and one Apache alive.

   A week later, Cletus wakes up in jail, the Sheriff tossing him out. Cletus asks if Hex has had any luck. The Sheriff states that they haven't heard from him. Cletus warns the Sheriff that Hex is crafty and they better watch out so as not to be double-crossed. The Sheriff explains that he is smart, smarter than folks give him credit for. He has a plan. He knows that Hex will get the Red Mask and when Hex does, the Sheriff will make sure that Hex doesn't return with the stolen loot. The Sheriff has 'Grady and the boys' shadowing Hex and they'll kill him once the Red Mask is taken care of.

  Cletus walks off into the blazing sun, with the Sheriff warning him to change his ways or he'll wind up in the ground next to Hex.

  Hex is still on the trail and comes up on a cave with a campfire burning inside. He sneaks up on the figure hunched over the fire and draws his pistol, getting the drop on the man. But sadly, Jonah has been suckered by one of his own tricks as it is a dummy sitting by the fire. Another man stands behind him, a stick in Hex's back (Jonah being told it's a gun), and the man tells Jonah to drop his pistol as he takes Jonah's other pistol. He then clubs Hex with it.

  We see Jonah laying on the ground, Cletus standing over him, clutching a red mask. Cletus tells Hex to stay down, they only have a few minutes to talk before they get there. Cletus puts the mask on Hex and explains about the Sheriff's men coming up here to kill him and the Red Mask but they'll 'discover' that Hex IS the Red Mask.

  Cletus is gloating over how much smarter he is than the local rubes and Hex asks where the loot is buried. Cletus reveals it is under some rocks 'over there'. Jonah asks what is taking the others so long to get there and he stands up. Cletus orders him back down and Jonah says he doesn't take orders. Cletus fires four times, click, click, click, click and Jonah grabs the pistol and punches Cletus and knocks him to the ground.

  Cletus on the ground, Jonah reloads his pistol and asks what the take was on all the robberies. Cletus confesses it was about $600 in gold. Jonah states that Cletus must be wondering about the Sheriff's boys and we have a short flashback of Jonah talking to the Apache warrior.

  The Apache bargains with Hex, telling him that three men are following Hex. The Apache attacked first in order to get any gold or guns they thought the men were wanting to take from Hex. The Apache takes Hex to the campsite of the men and Hex allows the Indian to go. He then ties the ankle of each man to a different horse and then stampedes the horses off into the night, dragging the men with them.

  We're Back, Cletus is digging up the gold, handing it over to Hex. Cletus tries to bargain with Hex, wanting to be partners, but Hex explains that they are going back to town and Hex wants to see the Sheriff's face when Hex shows up alive and with Cletus wearing the mask. Jonah binds Cletus's hands and has him walking behind the horse. Cletus chuckles...

Statistics for This Issue
Men Killed by Jonah - Wow, let's see, Cletus and 10 Indians (were they 'little'? Get it? Never mind.) So eleven.
Running Total - 6843 (432 past, 55 future, 15 Vertigo, 192 V2)
Jonah's Injuries - Pistol whipped
Timeline - Let's see, a week out on the trail and another day or two for Cletus to find him? Let's say twelve days.

  I really really liked this one. The story was great with the crooked Sheriff, Cletus as the town mastermind, the bargaining Indian, Jonah falling for his own trick (or DID he?!?!?). Top notch scripting all the way around on this one, good pacing, good twists and great action.

  Now the artwork.. where has Siqueira and Santos been? Their style is fresh, clean and wonderfully cinematic and I would put it up there with Jose Luis Garcia Lopez (and ya'll KNOW how much I love  that man's work). The fight sequence with the Apache is perfect and the angles on the panels in the rest of the story is like something out of Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul, spot on! I wish they had become regulars on the book.

  If you don't have this one, go grab it as soon as you can.

Next Issue: Jonah encounters a Bull and Bear Market south of the border.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Jonah Hex V2 #30 "Luck Runs Out"

Jonah Hex V2 #30 June '08
"Luck Runs Out"
Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti - story, Jordi Bernet- art and cover

Jonah is passed out on the desert sand, whiskey bottles spelling out his name. We are given a two-page sepia flashback of Jonah's life, leading us to this moment. His birth, his mother leaving, the abuse by his father, being sold to the Apache, the Civil War, his scarring, bounty hunting, meeting Mei Ling, Jason being born, Mei Ling leaving in the night with Jason, and finally, Jonah drinking himself into a passed out stupor in the town of Desperation.

Last Stop for the Damned

Desperation, population 10 6. The train pulls into the station and everyone in town perks up from their dreary lives. The people that get off the train are not the regular workers, they are Lucky Dave and his outfit. They kill the engineer as the train stops and Dave tells the station master to get everyone in town into a safe place where he can keep track of them.

  Dave tells Samson, Whitey and Belle to secure the townsfolk. Chuck and Gary will help Dave open the safe on the train. Dave figures they have a few days to get out of town before the Texas Rangers show up. Dave demands of the station master information as to how many horses are in town. He tells Dave that there is an old mare and then the horse that belongs to the fella sleeping off a drunk in the hotel. Just two horses.

  When Dave had scouted the town, there was a working stable. Now they are rethinking having killed the engineer.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

 Whitey, Belle, and Samson herd everyone over to the hotel so they can gather up the drunk. Samson heads upstairs and when he enters the room, he finds it empty. Jonah jumps out from behind the door and plunges a broken whiskey bottle into Samson's throat.

All Things in Moderation

  Back at the train, Chuck and Gary are questioning the amount of dynamite that Dave has placed around the safe. Dave assures them that he learned safe cracking from Wilcox Monroe (whom Gary remembers as missing fingers on his right hand). They back off a safe distance and light the fuse and blow the entire train to hell and back. The engine is damaged and all the boxcars are on fire.

  Dave hurls his hat to the ground in disgust, cursing a blue streak and Gary and Chuck start chuckling. Dave takes umbrage and guns them both down. Standing over their warm corpses, Dave states that there are two horses in town, one for him and one for Belle (which doesn't bode well for Whitey or Samson)

  Speaking of Samson, upstairs in the hotel, blood is spurting from his throat through the neck of the bottle. He pulls out the bottle and throws Jonah on the bed, strangling him. Jonah reaches up, into Samson's throat, and pulls out as much tissue as he can. Samson falls dead to the floor. Jonah stands up, finds a bottle, drains it.

  Downstairs, Whitey and Belle are getting nervous. Dave walks in and Whitey wants to know if the safe is open. Dave wants to know where Samson is. Whitey says Samson is still upstairs and Dave orders Whitey upstairs.

  As Whitey leaves, Dave whispers to Belle that Chuck and Gary used too much dynamite and destroyed everything. They have to grab the two horses and get out of town. Just then they hear a scream and Whitey's mutilated body crashes to the ground outside. Dave grabs Belle and heads outside. The smoke from the burning train can be seen for miles, drawing the Rangers straight to this town.

  They arrive at the stable and find the old mare....dead. Dave loses it and kicks the dead horse, only to have the side cave in and he gets his foot stuck in the rotting carcass. The townsfolk show up and grab Belle and Jonah enters the corral, gun drawn. Jonah wants to know who named Dave 'Lucky'. Dave states that it was his Mom, since he was the only kid to survive birth.

  They trade barbs back and forth and finally Dave demands to know who is holding a gun on him.

  Belle starts entreating Dave to shut up, but Dave continues to berate and insult Hex. Jonah tells the townsfolk to help Dave up and put a gun in his hand. The station master obliges and tells Dave just who Hex is but Dave is having none of it. He shoves the station master aside and stands his ground.

  Dave pulls his pistol and gets off three pulls of the trigger....

Statistics for This Issue
Men Killed by Jonah - Three, Samson, Whitey, and Lucky Dave
Running Total - 673 (432 past, 55 future, 15 Vertigo, 181 V2)
Jonah's Injuries - Strangled
Timeline - Three days. The station master mentions that Hex showed up three days ago. Spring of 1876, right after "The Haunting."

  This is one of the funnier stories, what with all the 'luck' that Lucky Dave has. One thing about being lucky, you have to know if you have good luck or bad luck. I think that Dave was blessed with the latter. Bernet's artwork sets a nice tone here and the town itself reeks of bad luck itself. All in all, plusses all the way around for this tale.

Next Issue: Jonah encounters the Red Hood... Mask

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.