Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Jonah Hex #24 "Minister of the Lord"

Jonah Hex #24 May 1979
"Minister of the Lord"
Michael Fleisher, story - Luis Dominguez, art - Luis Dominguez, cover

This is the first story in a long time that doesn't have an exclamation point in the title. That is noteworthy, as are several other items in this story. I will ravage them ...., uh, point them out as we go along.

Jonah is tracking the Sam Bronson gang and he is being accompanied by the Reverend Julian, who is looking for some company while on his way to his next assignment. As they ride along, Jonah notes that the Bronson gang is known for doubling back and laying ambushes. Just then a bullet pierces the Reverend's canteen. See Rant #1

Jonah & Julian jump off their horses and hightail it to some rocks for cover. Jonah hands Julian a rifle so he can help fend off the Bronson gang. The Reverend is a pacifist and starts quoting scripture just as a bullet hits him right between the eyes. Looking at Julian's corpse, Jonah hatches a plan.

The Bronson gang is keeping watch on Jonah through a pair of binoculars. They know that they hit the preacher but it appears that Jonah is still hunkered down in the rocks holding his rifle. Just then, Jonah Hex walks up behind them, wearing the Reverend's clothes and that gives us this wonderful visual. See Rant #2. Jonah shoots and kills two of the five and that's when they hear it, a low rumble.

The gunshots have started an avalanche and as the three outlaws run off, Jonah dives towards the face of the cliff. The rocks and dust finally settle and it is hours later that Jonah finally claws his way to the surface. He remembers diving for the face of the cliff so that the rocks would fall past him (didn't work so well) but he can't remember anything prior to the avalanche, including his own name.

Examining his clothes, he determines that he is a member of the clergy and he finds a letter saying that he is the new chaplin of the 6th cavalry at Fort Onondaga. He hightails it to the fort, only to find it under seige by a massive group of Apaches. He decides that the only way in, is to gallop straight through to the gate.

Inside the fort, the soldiers provide what cover fire they can and when Jonah rides into the fort, the Captain is amazed to find out that the brave rider is their new Chaplain. The fort isn't in good shape. 75% of the men are dead, ammo is low, and reinforcements aren't due for a week.

Tha Captain says that they will all probably be dead by morning. Jonah asks if there are any fireworks in the fort. The puzzled Captain says that this isn't the time for any celebration. Jonah thanks the Captain and then talls to the quartermaster.

Later that night the Captain sees Jonah walking toward the gate with a large box kite and large quantity of firecrackers. Jonah says that he figures that ther is a strong breeze up on the mesa, so he thought he would go fly a kite. Despite the Captain's protests, Jonah heads for the top of the mesa. Out in the darkness, Jonah remembers that the Apaches believe that Koishisa, a serpent-bird, appears to medicine men to warn them of impending doom. Jonah's plan is to fly a bunch of firecrackers over the Apaches and make them think that Koishisa has come.

Jonah gets everything ready, lights the fuse and then he is attacked by a lone Apache scout. Jonah holds off the Indian's knife but starts praying for a way for him to survive without resorting to violence. Back at the fort the Captain asks a Sergeant what is going on out there. The Sarge, using a pair of binoculars, recounts what is happening on the mesa. The Captain asks if the sarge can do anything, so the sarge pulls out his rifle and manages to shoot the Indian in the back. See Rant #3.

Jonah jumps up, grabs the kite, runs, gets it aloft, the firecrackers go off and the Apaches are scared out of their loinclothes. See Rant #4.

Over the next few weeks, Jonah spends his time holding religious services, counseling cavalrymen and tending to the sick & wounded. Then one day one of the Bronson gang rides in to the fort, scouting it in order to rob the Army payroll. The outlaw dismounts and asks the Chaplain for help and is amazed to see that it is Jonah Hex, even to the point of shouting his name. Jonah insists that he is Reverend Julian. The outlaw, badly shaken, heads back to camp and tells everything to Sam.

Sam figures that either Jonah got wind of their plan or that his brain got rattled. Either way, they plan on riding to the fort & killing Jonah. The three of them burst in on Jonah at the fort, drag him out into the courtyard and strap on a pair of pistols. The whole time Jonah is protesting that he is Reverend Julian and doesn't believe in violence. The three men square off against Jonah and on the count of five, the shooting will commence. See Rant #5.

Sam counts, in a very nice one page layout, and when he hits five Jonah's memory comes flashing back and he draws and kills all three men. The last panel shows Jonah, in his old clothes, riding into the sunset, giving a tip of his hat to Reverend Julian's grave. See Rant #6.

Statistics for this issue
Men killed by Jonah - 5
Running Total - 219
Jonah's Injuries - Amnesia from crushing rocks
Timeline - hmmmm, no clues whatsoever in this issue.

Rant #1 - I know that it is a literary device to have the hero give exposition in order to lay groundwork for the action that is to take place later. I just wish that Jonah could finish his sentence before the tragedy that he is detailing befalls him. (Ex. "Ah hope I don't git mauled by uh Grizzl....AAAAAA!", or "Just mah luck this is a used rope that will probably brea....AAAAAA")

Rant #2 - The whole story revolves around the fact that Jonah gets amnesia while wearing clergy clothes. There have been several instances where Jonah has substituted a dead man for himself, but this is the first time he ever wore their clothes. Heck, one time he showed up in his red longhandles.

Rant #3 - The Sarge manages to shoot an Indian, in the dark, on a mesa that incredibally far away. He shoots him in the back, even when the Indian's back is not toward the Sarge.

Rant #4 - Dear God in Heaven, how slow IS that fuse?!?!?

Rant #5 - The outlaws hold a gunfight in the middle of the fort and nobody does a thing? The whole damn fort is empty!!

Rant #6 - After several weeks of serving at the fort, Jonah goes back and buries the Reverend. I liked that. Jonah puts on his clothes that have been on the bloated putrifying corpse that has been laying in the desert sun for weeks. Of course, you just just say that proves how badass Jonah really is.

Okay, I have 6 big valid rants against this issue, but I still enjoyed it, in a very very guilty pleasure way. Yeah, it is a gimmicky plot, yeah, the pacifist Jonah was a reach, yeah, yeah, I know. But I still liked it. Mostly because of this...

Next Issue - More Jonah, more dynamite, the one-armed man. Toto, we're back in Kansas!


SallyP said...

Heh. I loved the rants. Sometimes you just HAVE to use logic, Jonah Hex story, or not!

The soldier in the fort being able to shoot the Indian in the back, from VERY far away and in the dark, reminds me of old Westerns where a rifle, pointed into the air, by a woman with closed eyes, can still kill six Indians, all on fast horses.

As for the clothes and the bloated body of the Reverend, perhaps he was actually devoured by coyotes or something, all of whom politely removed Hex's clothes first. And folded them on a rock for his later use.

Wendy said...

Well of course the woman with her rifle "can still kill six indians". After all, they've got nothing but tomahawks and are nearly naked - SO easy to kill!

Abe Lucas said...

"Minister of the Lord" was included in the digest, "The Best of DC" #5 aka "The Year's Best Comics Stories" for 1979, published in February, 1980.