Monday, April 15, 2024

Jonah Hex V2 #36 "Seven Graves Six Feet Deep"

 Jonah Hex V2 #36 Dec '08
"Seven Graves Six Feet Deep"

Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti - story, Rafa Garres - art and cover

Birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan
Pulaski, Tennessee, 1866

Another issue with massive amounts of prose in the caption boxes that gives the story behind the story, making this another difficult tale to recap. We see Hex, unscarred, riding through dense forest and he happens upon a young Black woman washing clothes near a series of waterfalls. As he rides up, he starts to ask her for directions to the nearest town. Of course, things being what they are, with Hex still wearing his Confederate Grays, the woman panics and runs off, slipping and falling into the rushing river. 

She gets swept away and Jonah starts riding along the banks, unleashing his rope, attempting to save her. He tosses a lasso and she grabs at it as she loses her grip on the rock to which she has been clinging. Swept away and over the falls, he body tumbles and twirls, entangling her in the rope and she strikes her head on an outcrop of rock, and sinks beneath the surface. Hex quickly dismounts and rushes into the river, but sadly, by the time he reaches her, she has expired. Jonah takes her to the bank, lays her down and tries to resuscitate her. 

During this, the captions explain the beauty of the area, and delve into why Hex continued to wear the Gray after the War Between the States was completed. We are given a recap of Hex's history, his marriage to Mei Ling, his enslavement by the Apache, his surrender to the Union forces and the number of men killed by Hex (400+)  and that less than 20 of those had been former slaves, all outlaws with a price on their heads.

Suddenly there is a cry from the woods and seven Black men rush from the timber and they tackle Hex and beat him senseless, determining that Hex killed the woman. One man pulls Hex's pistol, but another stops him from using it, for the gunfire will bring the 'others' if they are near. They strip Hex and grab the rope, determined to hang him then and there. And elderly man amongst them stays their hand, citing the woman is wet, what if she had fallen in the river and Hex had tried to save her. The others count that as foolishness and hoist the naked Hex aloft. Since they are raising him, Jonah is suffocating (rather than getting his neck broken as happens when a gallows is used.).

Shots ring out as four men ride up, gunning down all of the Black men, even chasing them into the woods to murder every last one of them. They restore Jonah's clothes to him and take him home.

Popular Misconceptions

Nathan, the ringleader, stands at he fireplace, waxing on the evils of the Reformation (Lincoln's, not Luther's). The others are seated at a table, agreeing with the downfalls of the Administrations policies. Jonah comes walking into the room and they exchange names. They offer Jonah a drink as thanks for wearing the uniform of the Confederacy as they lament how many of them have been driven to ground by carpetbaggers invading the land.

They have been contemplating a new uniform to strike fear into the hearts of the 'negros and scalawags', perhaps something white. They raise their glasses in a toast but Jonah declines. They take that as an insult. Jonah expresses his appreciation at being saved from death, he doesn't cotton to the killing of unarmed men, and for another thing, he isn't a son of Dixie.

At that point, the men start postulating that perhaps Jonah stole the uniform off a dead soldier or perhaps he is a spy. Jonah assures them the uniform is his, earned through and through, and the thinking behind the Blue and the Gray is anathema to him. Suspicious looks are exchanged all around the table and Nathan asks what prompted Hex to don the Confederate uniform and Jonah relates that he was a young man looking for comradery after years enslaved to the Apache. Nathan comes to the conclusion that Hex has taken leave of his senses. Jonah cites that he is done talking and any further thoughts he will take to his grave at a later date, but for these men, they can take theirs with them now, and with that he opens fire as they start to attack him.

Nathan sustains a gunshot to the knee, the other three are dispatched to the great Beyond.

Returning to the Scene of the Crime

Amidst the darkness, Nathan hobbles forward, frightening away a raccoon feasting on the dead Black men by the river. Jonah tosses Nathan a shovel and tells him to start digging. Nathan says he will not bury vermin to which Jonah responds by dismounting and kicking Nathan's injured knee. Nathan lies in agony, saying he will be dead before the first grave is finished but Hex states that Nathan will dies when Hex says he can. Nathan refuses and Hex buries the point of the shovel into Nathans leg. 

Throughout the night, Nathan digs seven graves, buries the men he killed, and then expires himself. Jonah then digs one last grave for the Black woman that died and gently lays her to rest, riding off into the dawn. 

During this, the captions explain that the author, having studied Hex, has concluded that Hex had no distinct hatred of men of color. He wore the Confederate Gray as a symbol of personal shame, knowing that people would greet him with hatred and revulsion. Others, evil in their heart, might extend a hand of friendship, thus exposing themselves to Jonah's wrath. An anger flowed through Jonah to the extent that he didn't hate his fellow humans based on any outward appearances, he hated all people equally, because he had no friends, just two companions, Death itself and the acrid smell of gunsmoke.

Statistics for This Issue
Men Killed by Jonah - 4. 
Running Total - 736 (432 past, 55 future, 15 Vertigo, 234 V2)
Jonah's Injuries - Beaten and hung.
Timeline - One day in 1866. This is prior to Jonah's scarring at the hands of his adopted Apache father.
Rape Percentage - 25% (9 of 36)

This is one of the best stories in all of the Jonah Hex books and it answers the question of why Jonah continues to wear his old uniform (much better than any other theories put forth). The captions, a narrative by a future historian, outline the history of Hex and the state of Tennessee so wonderfully, one is fully immersed in the inner workings of the mind of this man without hardly a word being said by him. 

Normally I'm not a big fan of Rafa Garres, but here, his dirty, warped humans and bizarre angles really really sell the action and savagery of the beatings and murders. I can't think of another artist that could have done this story justice.

Next Issue: Once again, Jonah's trouble with the ladies comes in threes.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Jonah Hex V2 #35 Nov  '08
"A Crude Offer"
Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti - story, J.H.Williams III - art and cover

A huge posse of men, lead by Marshall Roth, careen down a wooded hillside when they are suddenly set upon by the Trevor gang in their hideout, armed with a Gatling Gun. Roth and his men are pinned down and Roth quickly asks Jonah Hex if he would like to double his money. Hex states that Roth has gotten into a bit of a pickle. Roth asks why Jonah says that and Jonah replies "Might be all the bullets and corpses."

Hex then quickly plinks the man working the Gatling Gun, but another thug takes his place and starts firing. Jonah says that killing them one at a time isn't going to work.

Interlude of a small field mouse.

Gunfire is exchanged again and Sy, the brother of Deputy Cort, is shot and dies in his brothers arms.

Interlude of the small mouse.

Hex tells Cort is brother is gone as we see a hawk circle overhead. An enraged Cort jumps up and starts firing, only to be quickly mowed down. Roth turns to the sound of pounding hooves.

Interlude of rattlesnake.

Hex comes riding down the hill, jumping over Roth and his men, rides over the barricade around the hideout and guns down most of the bandits. He takes over control of the Gatling Gun and proceeds to slaughter most of the remaining outlaws (much like Christmas with the Outlaws).

Interlude of hawk carrying away a rattlesnake.

Marshall Roth comes up to Hex in the bloody aftermath stating that was the bravest thing he ever seen. Hex comes back with "There ain't much of a' the world from behind a desk." Roth agrees and says that Dan Trevor and his brother got away, but Hex interrupts, saying that he wants his pay rather than listening to Roth ramble.Roth states the bank will be closed by the time they get to town and invites Hex to supper with Roth and his wife.

Some time later they arrive at Roth's house and meet Marcy, his wife. She is working on repairing the porch rail. She states she'll get washed up and get supper on the table.

During supper the talk is of the days adventure but Roth doesn't want to go into detail.Marcy asks why Hex is eating with his guns on and he mentions he normally eats at saloons with his back to the wall. Hex compliments Marcy on the meal and she thanks him, mentioning obviously that Jonah fought for the Confederacy. She asks if his family is down there and he replies that he can't very well say. She apologizes for prying and goes to get dessert. Marcy gets up to go get the pie anyway.

When she is gone, Roth says that Marcy is something else and Jonah agrees. Roth says that he would give Marcy anything at all and Jonah asks if he is in such a giving mood, how about giving Jonah his money? Roth sits in silence and finally reminds Hex the bank is closed until morning. Roth starts to ask a favor of Hex when Marcy comes back in with the pie.

With the pie finally finished, Roth and Hex retire to the porch to talk. Smokes alight, Roth recounts that Helena, his first wife, left him and married the blacksmith because she wanted children. Something she and Roth never had, but now Helena has three kids. The local doc says the problem must therefore be Roth. 

Silence from Hex.

Roth notes that once Hex gets his money, he will probably be on his way, to which Hex agrees. Roth continues with Marcy wanting a family and Roth notes that Hex has courage and strength and he is thinking...

Hex interrupts and says he sees where Roth is going and doesn't like that path. Roth says it wouldn't exactly be adultery, nor is Roth a pimp. Roth knows that Marcy loves him and would never run off with Hex and Jonah's appearance has a great hand in that. Jonah looks at his glass of whiskey and notes that something ain't right. He staggers and starts to fall.

Roth says in the morning he'll get Jonah's money, Hex will leave and nobody will know the child is Jonah's. Once Roth and Marcy know she is pregnant, they will pull up stakes and move on. Hex starts hallucinating, saying that Roth has poisoned him, but Roth assures him it ain't poison and will pass in a few hours. Marcy comes out and they take Hex's pistols. Jonah kicks Marcy off the porch while Roth tries to hold Hex down.

Marcy starts to straddle Hex as Jonah quickly grabs the dropped broken whiskey glass and buries it in Roth's leg. Marcy rushes Jonah and he punches her off the porch. Roth grabs for Jonah's pistols but Hex is quicker and even in his compromised state is enough of a danger for Roth to know he is beaten. Hex rides off, saying he'll be at the bank in the morning and Roth better think real hard as to why Hex ain't killed him....yet. Hex rides off into the night and throws up in the darkness.

Next morning finds Roth standing in the street outside the bank. Hex rides up and states "Money. Now"

Roth starts to respond but just hands over the cash. Hex starts riding down the street and notices a rifle aiming out a second floor window. He spots a shadow of a gunman in an alley. He stops as Roth calls out "Hex!", pulling a pistol on Hex.

Hex, his back to Roth, states "Yore none too bright, Marshall. I Reckon ya didn't think on it long enough." and Jonah slowly draws his left pistol. Roth says he has the drop on Jonah, but Hex responds with...

and then rides off. He snorts that Roth is gutless and Jonah had hoped Roth would have taken the shot.

Interlude of a hawk.

Statistics for This Issue
Men Killed by Jonah - Wow, we see at least 10 but it is more likely 20. 
Running Total - 732 (432 past, 55 future, 15 Vertigo, 230 V2)
Jonah's Injuries - Drugged and almost raped.
Timeline - This one is just one day/night and the next morning. No indications of when it takes place.

First off, the story is great, the characterization of Roth and Marcy really resonate, with Roth appearing older and Marcy seeming to be several years younger and quite the looker. The interplay with the mouse/rattlesnake/hawk appears again during Jonah's hallucinations when he sees Roth as an attacking snake (inspired by the marshall's hatband). Roth, we thought was the mouse, a coward, but is really the conniving rattler. Jonah, the hawk, wins over any snake that comes his way. 

Williams artwork is fantastic, especially during the hallucinations caused by the drugged whiskey. There were several double-page spreads and in some cases his work reminded me of Tony DeZuniga. There was great use of sound as art, with the gunfire overpowering the scenes in some situations. I did have one gripe in that the manner in which Jonah had his pistol trained on Roth, while very cool to look at, would have been incredibly painful to Hex had he actually pulled the trigger. I imagine the recoil would have buried that pistol high into Jonah's right armpit.

But the biggest thing to talk about with this story is the lead-up. How Palmiotti and Gray had wanted the Marshall's last name to be Dent, rather than Roth, and for the rape to be successful, thereby putting Jonah Hex as a forefather to Harvey Dent, aka Two-Face. There was some back and forth, with P & G saying that DC wouldn't let them do the story. I, personally, was against the idea, and I'm very happy with how this story turned out, without the DC 'hook'. This one ends up being one of the upper tier stories of the run.

Next Issue - A rescue gone wrong, a misunderstanding, and the REAL reason Jonah wears the Grey.                                                            

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Jonah Hex V2 #34 "Outrunning Shadows"

 Jonah Hex V2 #34 Oct '08
"Outrunning Shadows"
Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray - story, Mark Sparacio - art, Andy Kubert and Pete Carlsson - cover

There is a lot of narration with this one, so I'll explains the visuals in normal text and the narration afterwards in italics. We start off in a rainstorm and we see Hex's coat, hat, and pistols placed into a box with the Confederate flag burnt into the lid. The wooden box is placed in a hole and Hex buries it. Hex walks away from a graveyard, soaked to the skin, new hat, shovel over his shoulder and bottle to his lips, sauntering down the hill away from the graveyard he just visited.

The narration explains about Jonah coming to Oregon, trying to reinvent himself, getting away from his past. What led up to this decision were the events outlined in issue #28 and the declarations of the town, judging Hex pushed him to hanging up his irons and starting over.

Killing Old Habits

Jonah, by himself, is sawing logs, framing up a house. The leaves fly as time passes and when the snow hits, Jonah bags and guts a deer.

Jonah's past company was mostly horses and an occasional dog, any people that became close to him eventually died. Having amassed a fortune in bounties over the years, he no longer had need for gainful employment and he took to spending his time building this new life. His father taught Jonah carpentry and other manual skills (probably by forcing him to do the work while Woodson sloshed about in his liquor). People can get along quite well when they are newly married, but once the house is settled and children are gone, the true test of a person is how they handle the quiet, when the mind works on itself.

This Was a Bad Idea.

Jonah arrives in town on a buckboard and goes into the Clarkson hardware store. Picking up four bales of hay for his horses, Jonah is asked his name and he replies "Hillwig". The store owner's daughter inquires if Jonah is the man that built out by Red Creek and Jonah states that he is. Getting his supplies loaded, the store owner suggests that Jonah come to church so that folks in town aren't so suspicious of him.

Just then five men ride into town, commenting on the appearance of the daughter standing in the doorway of the store. One of the men takes affront to Jonah not acknowledging them and they ask where they can find a room and drink. As the men leave, the owner tells Jonah that he best leave such men alone, and Jonah replies that cowards act brave in numbers.

As Jonah rides off, the daughter comments on Jonah being a strange man and her father tells her to stay away from him, as the daughter has a propensity to hang with men of trouble.

In the saloon, the men, led by Elmsford, explain to the proprietor that they will start taking fifty percent of the profits in order to provide protection. When the saloon owner resists, they start shooting up the place until he agrees.

Some time later we see Jonah digging a hole for his newly constructed privy as the daughter rides up with a blueberry pie and a lot of flirtateous ways. Jonah brushes her off but she is having none of it, priding herself on getting her way. As she rides off, Hex tosses the pie, basket and all, into the outhouse hole.

Some unspecified time later Jonah is seen riding into town and the hardware store is a smoldering ruin. Jonah asks a kid what has happened. The kid explains that Mr. Clarkson had a fire in his store and some say the new guys in town started it. Hex asks if Clarkson is around and the kid gestures over to a funeral procession going down main street. The gang of men tip their hats to the daughter at the funeral goes by and she has to be restrained to keep from attacking them.

During the funeral atop the cemetery hill, Jonah stands back, far from the crowd. The daughter sees him and the ceremony ends.

Another unspecified time passes and we watch Jonah chopping wood.

The daughter, Sandy, talks to the saloon owner, taking a job as a saloon girl.

Hex is chopping wood.

A drunken fat man in the saloon says he would like to break in the new girl, indicating Sandy.

Hex breaks a sweat chopping wood.

Sandy runs away from the customer, insulting his manhood.

Hex chops wood.

The customer beats Sandy.

Hex throws an axe.

Sandy, bloodied, falls to the floor.

Hex walks away, the axe buried in the tree.

Sandy stands outside, bruised and bloodied, crying to the heavens, asking for someone to help her.

More time passes.

Darkness at the Hex cabin. Jonah sits in front of the fire and Sandy shows up, saying she had nowhere else to go. Hex shuts the door in her face and she throws it open, shouting that he can't turn her out. She jumps him and they make love right there on the cabin floor.

The next morning Sandy wakes up on the floor and finds Hex out chopping wood. We get to see just how much firewood Hex has stockpiled. He tells her that all he wanted was to stay away but her manners and politeness and sex and pies is not what he wants and he is not going to save her.

She says that she needs help and Jonah says that someone is always needing help, someone always needs to see the bullies punished, someone always needs their father avenged and Hex isn't interested in her as a friend or a wife so she can just hike back to town. He calls her a whore and she leaves.

Later Jonah is sitting in his cabin, in front of the fire. He is speaking aloud to God, stating that God is forcing Jonah's hand into action. God uses persistence and guilt and the horrors that others experience to get His ways accomplished. Jonah states that the Word conflicts with itself and that angels are just assassins with wings and when the judgement comes, men like Hex will be condemned as killers and sinners.

More time passes and Jonah drive the wagon into town during a downpour. He sees Elmsford and his men in front of the saloon. They greet Hex and he tells them to not go anywhere. Jonah then asks  the kid from earlier where Sandra is. The kid explains that she can be found in the local cemetery due to a freak accident that some townsfolk think was foul play. 

Jonah ends up at the graves of Sandra and her father. Jonah chastises her for not leaving him alone, dragging him into her problems and a wrathful God using Jonah to settle the score. Jonah digs up the box he buried earlier and we then watch Jonah, soaked to the skin in his old Confederate garb, storm into the saloon. He calls out Elmsford, saying Elmsford has the blood of innocents on his hands.

Elmsford, confused, asks why Hillwig has shooting irons. Jonah replies, "Muh name ain't Hillwig. It's Jonah Woodson Hex, the man what dangles from strings that reach ta the heavens grasped in hands as cruel as any can imagine."

Jonah fires six times, Elmsford stopping a bullet in the heart and forehead, his four henchmen getting it in either the heart or forehead.

We then see Hex astride his horse in the storm, his cabin fully engulfed in flame, and the narration states that men often try to change their ways, but for Jonah Hex, escaping the past is as useless as trying to outrun his own shadow.

Statistics for This Issue
Men Killed by Jonah - 5.
Running Total - 712 (432 past, 55 future, 15 Vertigo, 210 V2)
Jonah's Injuries - None.
Timeline - This covers quite some time as Jonah builds the cabin, goes through Fall, Winter and into Spring. We see Sandras tombstone giving her death as April 16th, 1871, so this is Summer 1870 to Spring 1871. So let's say nine months. Sandra's father died on April 12th, four days earlier.

This story has me sooooo conflicted. The writing is top notch, completely out of the park. It has Jonah trying to leave a past that won't leave him alone, not in old enemies reappearing, like Quentin Turnbull, but in circumstances of innocent people suffering at the hands of evil men. Jonah being in the wrong place at the wrong time, his sense of Justice being heavily stirred, ends up doing what he does best, killing the evil men. And all of this Hex blames on a God that delights in using men for His own ends, a God that won't allow Jonah to have the peace that his soul longs for. This is prime tragedy in the Hex tradition.

But the artwork by Mark Sparacio is what almost craters this issue for me. It is stiff, it is flat, it is almost amateurish and is among the worst that appeared in this series. Some characters were almost photorealistic but Jonah never appeared fearsome, his scar never horrifying, and oft times his face changed from panel to panel. And I actually laughed out loud when we finally see just how much firewood that Jonah has chopped in all of his sexual frustration.

This story spanning a huge swath of time is something that is unique in this series, it does present a small problem in that during Christmas of 1870, Jonah was dealing with Mark Harley back in issue #5. I suppose that Jonah COULD have still been bounty hunting during this story, but it seems very unlikely, given his stated desire to leave his past behind.

So thumbs up for the story, but thumbs down for the artwork.

Next Issue - A cowardly sheriff, a young wife, and we wade into a small bit of controversy.

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!