Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Jonah Hex #30 "Birth of a Bounty Hunter!"

Jonah Hex #30 Nov. 1979
"Birth of a Bounty Hunter!"
Michael Fleisher, story - Luis Dominguez, art & cover
Jonah Hex strides down the street, folks run for cover, and a young dandy nearby questions a old-timer in a rocker as to why folks are fleeing. The old man explains who and what Jonah Hex is and who & why he will be killing the folks that need a good killing (in this case, the Cranston Boys down by the express depot (not to be confused with the Home Depot, but I digress within double parentheses yet!)). The young dandy is amazed that anyone would be come a bounty hunter and the old timer says that he has wondered about it as well, but wondering is one thing and walking up to Jonah Hex and asking is something entirely different.
Jonah continues his trek down the street, but he has overheard the two men talking and his mind races back to the Civil War where he is embroiled in a bloody fight. His platoon has managed to corner the Union boys and are winning the battle, but then Jonah rides off in order to scout out a suspected Union paymaster delivery that his platoon has been planning on raiding.

Later, Jonah has taken up position on a cliff overlooking the road and spies the paymaster wagon, but he is discovered by two Union soldiers on patrol. They knock him out and take him back to camp for questioning. When Jonah comes to, he is tied to a tree and being doused with water. The Union captain asks Jonah where his outfit is, but Jonah only replies with his name, rank (Lt.), and serial number (according to the Geneva Convention, first adopted in 1863). One of the Union soldiers offers to 'soften him up' for more questioning, but the Captain declines. Just then several sticks of dynamite land in the camp, blowing four Union soldiers to hell and halfway back.

A Corporal comes running out of the carnage to report to the Captain that the Rebs have them surrounded and the remaining soldiers take cover behind the paymaster wagon, leaving Jonah tied to tree, watching the explosions and gunfire in the distance. Jonah is baffled, because his platoon didn't have that much firepower. Finally, Eddie Cantwell, one of Jonah's men, emerges from the brush and orders the Unions men to throw down their weapons and sit down against a nearby cliff. Eddie then unties Jonah and confesses to Hex that they are all alone. Eddie had gotten worried about Jonah not coming back and rounded up some dynamite and cartridges. He built several fires and tossed the dynamite & bullets into the fires to simulate random gunfire and cannons in order to trick the Union men. Eddie tells Jonah to grab his gear and Eddie will tend to the prisoners.

Jonah gets his jacket and gunbelt and is surprised to hear gunfire. Running around the paymaster wagon, Jonah is horrified to see Eddie using a Gatling gun to mow down the Union men! Jonah berates Eddie for killing prisoners of war, but Eddie says that there was no way that their platoon could effectively guard that many prisoners, besides, Eddie didn't want any witnesses to he and Jonah making off with the paymaster's chest, holding more than $100,000 ($2.1 million today) in gold coins.

Jonah protests that the money belongs to the Confederacy and Eddie says that he could shoot Jonah and take the money for himself. Jonah agrees with Eddie but then Eddie relents and they take the money to their superiors.

Then, on April 9, 1865 at Appomattox Courthouse (which is an entire town, not just a courthouse) in a house owned by Wilmer McLean, Lee surrendered to Grant, thus ending the war.

Two weeks later, on April 23, 1865, Jonah Hex and the 7th light cavalry, surrendered at the federal stockade in Lynchburg, Virginia. So how do we reconcile this with WWT #29 and the Fort Charlotte massacre? Is it possible that Jonah, having once joined the Confederacy, surrendering to the Union, then basically being made a scapegoat by the Union for the slaughter of his platoon, had enough anger at the Union behavior and decided to rejoin the Confederacy and then surrender once the war was over? Earlier stories with Turnbull (the man with the Eagle topped cane) never addressed why Turnbull's thirst for vengeance never surfaced prior to WWT #22 (or we just hadn't seen it prior to that issue). Anyway, I find it odd that the survivors of the massacre, who had also sworn vengeance on Jonah, never tried to to get their revenge during the remainder of the Civil War, prior to Turnbull's kangaroo court. Communication back then, obviously wasn't what it is today, and it could be that Jonah returned to the Confederacy, explained the massacre, was reinstated into the military, and the survivors either did not hear of the outcome or refused to believe it. Personally, I think it is a topic that needs to be handled and could make for some good story-telling by the current chroniclers of Jonah's exploits.

Back to the story! Jonah and the 7th surrender and he and Eddie part ways. There is a brief recap of Jonah being scarred by the Apache and then in the winter of 1866, Jonah is sitting in a saloon eating dinner. The sheriff comes bursting in, demanding that every man in the place join his posse because the Anderson boys just robbed the bank. Jonah keeps eating as everyone hits the door. Jonah explains to the sheriff that HE didn't have any money in the bank and it's not his fight. The sheriff calmly explains that Jonah will be stashing his brains in his boots if he doesn't get up & help them recover the money.

Needless to say, Jonah does help.

Several hours later finds the posse having cornered the crooks in Hampton's Bog. That means that the crooks can't get out, but it also means that since the crooks have their back to a cliff and bog full of dead trees in front of them, they can wait out the posse without fear of being charged or shot. The Sheriff decides to wait them out, should only take a week or so. Upon hearing that, Jonah gets hopping mad at the thought of being with the idiot posse for that long, grabs a rope and heads for the high ground. As he storms off, one of the deputies asks the sheriff if HE thinks Jonah knows that there is a $1,000 bounty on each of the crooks. The sheriff doubts it and decides not to tell Jonah.

Up on top of the cliff overlooking the Anderson gang, Jonah fixes a rope to a dead tree and decides to slide down and surprise the gang. But Jonah, obviously having not heard of Positive Confession, thinks that the tree doesn't look to sturdy and it swiftly breaks, dashing Jonah to the ground. The seven Andersons hear the crash, but before they can collect their thoughts, Jonah is on his feet and has the drop on them. Three of them draw on Hex and he mows them down like ripe wheat, causing the remaining four to surrender.

Jonah brings them back to the sheriff, who promptly strings them up from the nearest cottonwood. Jonah asks why there isn't a trial and the sheriff explains that everyone there saw them steal the money, they have the money on them and what is the town supposed to do, support all of the crooks for 8 months waiting for a judge to ride through? After the hanging, the sheriff tells Jonah that there wasn't any reward, otherwise he would have cut Jonah in for 10%, but would Jonah like a deputy job for $30 bucks a month ($381)?
Jonah declines and the sheriff doesn't blame him one bit. The sheriff does tell Jonah that there is money to be made in bounty hunting, matter of fact, the sheriff has a wanted poster with him that has big money. He pulls it out and hands it to Jonah. The poster is for $10,000 ($127,000) for the murderer and bank robber named.... Edward Cantwell!

Statistics for this issue
Men killed by Jonah - We see Jonah shooting a Union soldier in battle and then killing the three Andersons. Total - 4
Running total - 240
Jonah's Injuries - Knocked out by a rifle butt and falls off a cliff.
Timeline - I'm not sure WHEN this story starts, but the flashback does cover prior to April 1865, 1865 for sure, and the winter of 1866 (with a recap of Jonah's scarring also in 1866).

I did enjoy the story, seeing more of Jonah's past and his old acquaintances. It was pretty bothersome (alright, downright jarring) to try to reconcile this story with the Fort Charlotte massacre. I do think that there is a story that needs to be told placed between the massacre and this tale. I can only assume that the massacre took place prior to this story, otherwise Eddie would have died in the massacre or swore vengeance upon Hex.

But honestly, my favorite part of the book HAS to be the cover. It has everything... Guns, people running scared,

a subtle reflection of Jonah going for his gun, and cheesecake!!

Next Issue - Jonah is chased outta town, old friends meet, and Arbee Stoneham teaches Jonah a lesson he'll never forget.

1 comment:

SallyP said...

You're right Dwayne, everything you could possibly want in a Jonah Hex cover is depicted beautifully here.

I try not to think too hard about the Civil War continuity, because it just gets my blood pressure up.