Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Jonah Hex V2 #33 'The Hunting Trip'


Jonah Hex V2 #33 Sep '08
"The Hunting Trip"
Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray - story, Darwyn Cooke, art and cover

We are listening to the written rememberance of a man recalling when he was young and his father took him on a hunting trip in the snow covered northern mountains on a moon illuminated night. The father and son are making their way through thigh deep snow, the father giving instructions on how to choose the best horse for mountain living.

  They come upon their slain prey, a large elk and as the son commences with field dressing the animal, the father continues with the lesson. Finished with the chore, the son packs the meat and the father the rack as they head back to camp, instructions of horse choosing still poor forth. In camp, they bed down for the night, the father still speaking, telling stories of friends in the past and during all of this, we know that all of this talk, this chatter, is welcome. It is comforting for it is given in love and in friendship. This isn't the constant ramblings of a man who is nervous or trying to hide something. The father is sure of himself and wishes to pass this confidence on to his son.

The next morning they are traversing a snow covered meadow when the father accidentally steps in an unseen bear trap. Clamping around his calf, the trap is one that won't be easily removed. The father tells his son to get the knife, they will have to remove the leg. They manage to saw off the leg and the son starts with the rescue by dragging his father through the snow. On into the night the father's condition worsens until he stops his son, telling him that it is over. He tells the boy to lay next to him, hold him close so the father can keep the boy warm through the night. As the snow swirls and covers the two, the father continues to give instruction even to his last breath.

The boy awakens to wolves chewing at the bloodied leg of his late father. He gently removes himself from the snowbank and the wolves turn at him, lunging in a hunger driven fury. Shots ring out and Jonah Hex stands there, outlined in the rising sun, casting aside his rifle as the wolf pack turns on him. With pistol and knife, Hex dispatches the pack in a fury of steel and blood that is over as quickly as it began. He stands over his fallen foes, drops to a knee and starts extracting meat for a meal, as the boy slowly and silently approaches.

Hex looks up to see four mounted men, Northwest Mounted Police, approach. The first man informs Hex that he and his boy are illegally hunting on private land.  Jonah relates the fate of the boy's father and the man asks the boy for confirmation but the boy is silent for whatever reason (I now suspect the young man is mute). The man inquires as to Hex's identity and Jonah tells him he is Fleisher, a trapper by trade.

The man says he doesn't believe it. He has heard there is an American, a bounty hunter, who has crossed the border into Canada to find the man that they currently have hooded and bound to one of their horses. The man says he heard the bounty hunter's name was Jonah Hex. Hex says he has never heard the name. The Mountie doubts the truth of that statement because he knows Hex has a hideous scar. They strip Hex down to his scivvies, bind him, and walk him out to the middle of a frozen lake. The Mountie starts in with a history lesson of who they are and Hex tells him to shut up. They grab a pickaxe and knock a hole in the ice, Hex falling, hands bound, into the freezing water.

Submerged and left for dead, Hex bites through the rope and swims down to grab a log. The Mounties ride off , leaving the boy to the elements and Hex bursts up through the hole, tossing the log across the opening so he can lay across it and make his way back to shore and his clothes. 

Hex raises up his head and shouts "Chingah" and a team of sled-dogs appear from almost nowhere and surround Hex, bringing him warmth. The boy brings Jonah his clothes and they are on their way.

Some time later they approach a fort and Hex walks in through the open gates, shotgun at the ready. As a Mountie opens the door to the first cabin Hex kills him with the payload from the first barrel, and when another Mountie investigates, he is just as quickly dispatched with the second barrel.

Tossing aside the spent double-barrel, Hex draws his pistols and takes on the rest of the fort, going hand to hand if need be until all of the Mounties are dead.

His vendetta fulfilled, Hex collapses and the boy drags him into a cabin by a roaring fire. An unknown time later Hex awakens to see the boy kneeling beside him, joy on the boy's face and a love for a newfound 'father'. Hex sits up and shoves the boy away. He gets up, readies himself and leaves. The boy follows out into the snow, finally grabbing the tail of Hex's coat to stop him. Jonah turns and backhands the boy into the snow and rides off.

The boy sits there in the middle of the fort, a winter storm falling upon him. Night falls and the snow covers the boy and under the full moon, the wolves once again appear and we learn from the narrator that of all the lessons that have been imparted to the boy through the years, the one taught to him by Hex was the most important, how to deal with wolves.....

Statistics for This Issue
Men Killed by Jonah - Twelve.
Running Total - 707 (432 past, 55 future, 15 Vertigo, 205 V2)
Jonah's Injuries - Bound and thrown into freezing water.
Timeline - The boy A day and a night, then three weeks recovery so let's say 22 days.

This one was one of my favorites due to the Cooke artwork, the snowy setting, and the period styled writing. Again, Palmiotti and Gray tell us a story ABOUT Hex, from the viewpoint of someone outside of Hex's normal circle of death. An innocent boy, having lost his father is saved by Jonah and is abandoned by the man who saved him, and relates this tale in the past tense (so we know he lives through the ordeal). I also enjoyed the nod to Michael Fleisher in the alias that Jonah tries to adopt, not unlike when he took the name Albano (and what happens next issue).

The retribution handed out by Hex reminded me of Gunfight at Murphysburg. While it didn't have the layout of the locale set out before us like a banquet feast, nor were we introduced to each of Jonah's victims, the pacing and the ruthlessness matched the prior storyline. In Murphysburg we get men burned alive, here Hex goes Die Hard 2 and stabs a Mountie with an icicle.

Rereading this, I keep trying to reconcile Jonah's actions towards the kid who nursed him back to health. Hex realized the kid was without a father, miles from civilization, marooned in a frozen wasteland, searching for a family to connect with and yet, Jonah felt the kid was better off in THOSE circumstances than being at Jonah's side until they got to a town. It was as if Jonah saw in the kid's face that the connection, if allows to bond, would never be broken and the kid would eventually be killed.

Next Issue: The one thing that Jonah can't kill continues to hunt him down....

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Weird Western Tales #49 "The Belle"

 Weird Western Tales #49 Nov 1978 

"The Belle"

Gerry Conway, story - Dick Ayers & Luis Dominguez, art - Luis Dominguez, cover

End of April, 1862. Fifty miles North of New Orleans, Louisiana.

First off, WWT goes monthly with this issue! Next we find Scalphunter sitting in a roadhouse, minding his own business when some yahoos start talking about an Injun being uppity and needing to teach him some manners. Needless to say, but I'm gonna say it anyway, this doesn't play out as the yahoos expected. Sure, they dump Scalphunter's soup in his lap and douse him with water. Sure, they get in several HAW HAW HAWs. But then they get thrown across the room, a broken arm, a chair across the head and then thrown over a table. 

When the dust settles the owner of the roadhouse pulls a shotgun and tells Scalphunter to just hold still until the railroad guards get there. Aaaaand THAT doesn't end up as intended when Scalphunter snatches the shotgun out of his hands. An older man dining at a nearby tables stands up, and tells the roadhouse owner that HE will vouch for Scalphunter and there is no need to get the authorities involved.

The man introduces himself as Judge Jeremiah Halleck and his wife Charity. The Judge invites Scalphunter to discuss some business on the train along with partaking of some tea. On the train, in the Judge's private car, the Judge explains that they are fleeing the Union soldiers that have overtaken New Orleans. He has converted all of his cash holdings into jewelry and placed it all in a lockbox. Their plan was to take the train to Montgomery but they have learned that several prisoners that the judge sentenced have escaped in the confusion of the occupation of New Orleans. The judge says the prisoners know of his wealth and he expects them to try to overtake the train and exact their revenge upon he and his wife. Of course, the judge can't seek military assistance and offers Scalphunter the job of bodyguard.

Scalphunter asks why the judge doesn't think that he will just kill the judge and take the jewels. The judge states that Scalphunter is a man of honor and the both know it. Scalphunter agrees, but only as far as Montgomery for he has business in Atlanta. The judge signals the engineer to get started.

That night, northeast of New Orleans, several escaped prisoners break into a plantation house and overpower the owner in his bed, knocking him out and taking his shotgun. Dutch, the leader, has the men search for other guns, food and horses while he takes care of 'other business' whilst he leers at the wife sitting in her bed.

The next day, Scalphunter is standing on the back of the train, watching the track vanish in the distance as they cut their way across southern Alabama. Charity comes out on the platform and comments that he is the strongest man she has ever seen. She asks what his name is, his Christian name. Scalphunter states that his father named him Brian but his real name is Ke-Who-No-Tey. Charity says that Brian is a wonderful name and it makes her weak inside, like a little girl. She starts to swoon and Scalphunter boldly asks "What do you WANT, woman?"

Charity cuts the act and explains that she is terribly unhappy, the judge is a beast and she feels so hopeless she could kill herself. Scalphunter asks if the judge mistreats her and she acknowledges that. He asks why she hasn't left and she explains that the judge gave her parents money to buy their plantation in exchange for her marrying the judge. She says that Brian is her only hope.

Then the train is making its way around a blind curve and ends up running into an avalanche. As the train topples over, Scalphunter is able to leap from the back of the train, grabbing Charity and taking her with him. He breaks her fall with his own body and then runs back to the train. 

He finds the judge, crushed in the private car. The judge explains that the jewels are for Charity and gives Scalphunter the box and the key. Scalphunter swears the box won't fall into the wrong hands.

As Scalphunter emerges from the wreckage, Charity calls out that she couldn't warn him but the prisoners have descended upon the wreckage. Dutch manages to knock Scalphunter out using his rifle butt and as he passes out, Scalphunter sees Dutch grab Charity and the box and ride off.

Hours later Scalphunter comes to and starts tracking the riders.

Later that night, by the campfire, Dutch explains that Charity's information regarding the train was so bad, they almost didn't find the right train. They were able to escape with her help of the knives she smuggled in and now Dutch is going to give her the share of the reward, as he grabs her and starts forcing a kiss on her. Just then the horses take off running and the men run off into the darkness to retrieve them, leaving Dutch and Charity to hear their horrific screams in the darkness.

Scalphunter steps out of the black and demands Dutch release Charity. Dutch pulls his rifle and Scalphunter charges with his knife. The two tumble into the campfire, battling it out and in the end, Scalphunter and Charity walk away.

The next morning in Magnolia, Mississippi (more on that later), Scalphunter is explaining the entire story to the local sheriff. The Sheriff wants to know how the convicts knew the location of a private train. Scalphunter explains that Charity was working with the convicts. Charity denies it and says that Scalphunter betrayed her husband and killed the judge. The sheriff pulls his pistol and Scalphunter knocks him out and runs out the door, dropping the key to the lock box. Charity picks it up, grabs the lock box next to her and opens it up.... to find the jewels gone!

On the road to Atlanta, Scalphunter stops by a stream and tosses the jewels into the water, fulfilling his promise to the judge that the jewels will not fall into the wrong hands.

Statistics for this issue
Men Killed by Scalphunter - Four
Running Total - 95
Compared to Jonah Hex - 11th appearance and Scalphunter has 95 vs Jonah's 65
Scalps Taken - 0
Running Total - 14
Injuries - Knocked out
Timeline - Three days. First day to meet the judge, second day to travel, and the third day to get to the sheriff. So we are very close to the end of April.

This one was pretty good. The cover promises a lot and delivers on every bit of it, the train wreck, the jewels, the prisoners. I actually laughed when Scalphunter said "What do you WANT, woman?" seeing through her charade and not having any of it. The artwork was gritty and well done, showing the action very well. 

Now about geography, They start fifty miles north of New Orleans which would have put them just north of Lake Pontchatrain, probably near Hammond, Louisiana. The test tells us they are heading across southern Mississippi. This all makes sense as they would have to head east, cross Mississippi, then into Alabama to get to Montgomery. Now the detour to Magnolia, Mississippi, THAT's the problem. Magnolia is due north of Hammond, LA and it is barely within Mississippi (just 13 miles across the state line), not enough for them to have been traveling across 'Southern Mississippi'. I guess you could argue that the geography is correct, but it didn't strike me that they would be heading due north to get to Montgomery to the northeast. ANYway!!!

The issue was rounded out with another eight page Cinnamon backup feature. 

Next Issue: The 50th issue, Scalphunter makes it to Atlanta, finds his sister, gets fitted for a suit, and gets sentenced to HANG!!!

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Weird Western Tales #48 "Slaveboat"

 Weird Western Tales #48 Sept/Oct 1978 

Gerry Conway, story - Dick Ayers & George Evans, art - James Sherman & Dick Giordano, cover

Wednesday, April 23rd, 1862. New Orleans, Louisiana.

Scalphunter has been captured by Reginald Ashe and is bound in chains aboard the slaveboat (hence the title) Swanee Dawn. The slave master is whipping Scalphunter, berating him for being a white man in warpaint making him a savage. Scalphunter grabs the end of the whip and jerks the slave master down into the hold. Even in chains Scalphunter is a force of nature and he quickly cracks the man's neck. (notice how I didn't make any mention of the word 'Cracker'? Such restraint!)

  The slaves are worried what will become of them once this is discovered. Scalphunter says that together they can free themselves.

  We see that Mademoiselle Magarit is speaking with Reginald Ashe aboard ship. She warns him about keeping Scalphunter on board but Ashe is having none of it. He has paid for Magarit's girls to be on board and he expects them to be more 'friendly'. She reminds him that this was all her plan and he plants a big wet smacker on her. They are interrupted by General St. Samuels.

  The two men retire to Ashe's quarters where the General reveals that his spies downriver that Admiral Farragut has breached the the Confederate blockade of the Mississippi and that Farragut is planning on getting past the two Confederate forts guarding New Orleans and will land troops before dawn. He says they have to cast off immediately in order to get the slaves delivered else they shall have to kill them all. Ashe says he'll get the ship underway, but what could possibly go wrong. 

  On shore we see a dark hooded figure slide from the wharf into the water and make their way on board the Swanee Dawn. The figure slips into the stateroom of Mademoiselle Magarit and reveals himself to be Wakwame!!! Wakwame explains that he knows places on the body where a knife can go that will cause no serious injury. He managed to position himself at the right time so that Scalphunter's thrust did not cause death and that his 'death' was merely an illusion of magic. Since Ashe's men thought him dead, they tossed him aside and ignored him.

  Shortly thereafter, the Swanee Dawn casts off and makes its way north. Down in the hold we learn that the slaves have freed themselves from being chained to the ship, though they still have chains on their hands (it is unknown how they actually did it). They make their way through back passages in the hold, finding a concealed door. Scalphunter slowly opens the door and knocks out the guard that was napping on the other side. Scalphunter tells the slaves they now have a knife and a gun and fire but the slaves say that without the key to the shackles, they are unable to swim to shore. Scalphunter assures them he knows who holds the key...Reginald Ashe!

  A dozen miles downriver at Fort Jackson, lookouts realize that the U.S.S. Hartford, Brooklyn and Varuna are slipping past the fort. The alarm is sounded and the fort opens fire upon the ships. However, the ships are able make their way past the fort at 03:40, making their way to New Orleans.

  Back on the Swanee Dawn, the door to the bridge opens and Scalphunter grabs Ashe by the throat, dragging him out. Scalphunter demands the key to the shackles and Ashe tosses the key down to the slaves on deck. Scalphunter then demands to know what happened to Samantha Savage. She said she loved Ashe and was going to be his wife. Ashe says he sent her east to Atlanta. He says Samantha wanted to be married but not to him, so he had Mademoiselle Magarit take Samantha to a business partner of the Madam. Scalphunter asked if Samantha worked for Mademoiselle Magarit and Ashe starts to say she was the most promising...BAM! Scalphunter knocks him out cold.

  Scalphunter tells the slaves that he needs to find Mademoiselle Magarit and the slaves proceed to take over the Swanee Dawn. Scalphunter battles Confederate guards, searching for the woman and the ship is now engulfed in flame. Scalphunter grabs Ashe once again, demanding to know where his quarry is. In a fit of rage, Scalphunter grabs Ashe and pushes both of them over the railing into the Mississippi. 

The General and others on board attempt to follow suit but find themselves entangled in chains that formerly bound their cargo. Enmeshed in the iron, everyone on board is dragged to the bottom of the river.

On the shore, Reginald Ashe is horrified at the carnage and death but Scalphunter demands to know where his sister in located in Atlanta. Ashe says she is with a woman named Maxwell but he doesn't know the address. Scalphunter turns to leave into the dark as Ashe swears he will pay for what he has done to Ashe.

 That day, at an undisclosed location, Mademoiselle Magarit is riding is a carriage driven by Wakwame. Mademoiselle Magarit says they were very fortunate to have left the Swanee Dawn prior to its departure and Wakwame says he only wants to find his brothers in Atlanta. She says that will be no trouble because they are being hidden by a woman named Maxwell.

Statistics for this Issue
Men Killed by Scalphunter - Wow, this one is tough. We see Scalphunter kill four guards but we can't really count the entire passenger list of the boat on him since the fire was started from 'spilled torches'. Were these caused by the slaves rioting? The shelling from the Union boats? I'm gonna keep it at four but it's probably a lot more
Running Total - 91
Compared to Jonah Hex- Ten appearances in and Scalp has 91 vs Jonah's 56
Scalps Taken - 0
Running Total- 14
Injuries - Whipped. 
Timeline - One day, Wednesday, April 23rd, 1862.

I enjoyed this one. More intrigue with Mademoiselle Magarit, Wakwame returns and an entire boatload of Confederates get an ironic death, and Scalphunter gets one step closer to finding his sister. This issue was part of the DC Explosion and had an 8 page backup introducing Cinnamon, a character that started off wonderfully but.... timelines and all that. I'll be giving her separate posts because I think there was a lot of potential there

Next Issue: A rocky train ride and nobody judges another man's Charity.

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 - 695 (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 - 694 (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