Thursday, July 25, 2019

Jonah Hex V2 #29 "Return to Devil's Paw"

Jonah Hex V2 #29 May '08
"Return to Devil's Paw"
Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti - story, Rafa Garres - art and cover

Strange Days Have Found Us

We are treated to a wonderous page of scorpions, spiders and rattlesnakes as the narration expounds:
There comes a moment in most every man's life when he reflects upon some distant action or indiscretion that led him to a particular dilemma. 

For some, it's a woman that corrupted their soul and poisoned their heart.

For others, it's a moment of weakness -- whether in crime, drink, gambling, murder or adultery -- that can condemn an otherwise decent man to a dark and perfidious end.

You'll be well served in the knowledge that bounty hunter Jonah Hex had a very long list of such incidents, including a few best not mentioned in polite company.

Once More into the Grasp

  Hex, his hands bound with rawhide, is leading Jones and his men into the Devil's Paw, a place of horror and mystery, a place where Jonah encountered the outlaw Montana, and eventually gunned them down in 'nearby' Plimpton. Jones accuses Jonah of killing Montana but keeping the looted money for himself and Jones demands to be taken to the Devil's Paw so Hex can turn the cash over to them.

  Hex and the men ride into the twisting pathways leading into the Paw when one man, Clancey, takes an arrow to the neck, and Jones gets one in the arm. Hex spurs his horse to escape as another man gets an arrow to the head. Jones and the rest of the men fall under the knives of an ambush of Indians. Hex realizes that he is also surrounded and he quickly dismounts and fights as best he can, but he finally succumbs to the tribesmen.

Tribe of the Red Scorpion

  and that brings us back to the beginning, with Jonah bound and dangling over a pit of poisonous critters. A warrior shows up, cuts Jonah down and then leads him up into a pueblo to what appears to be the shaman. The old man produces a stone box with a hole in it and Jonah is forced to put his arm into the hole. Tense seconds pass and then Jonah feels a painful bite. A red scorpion falls out of the box and Jonah swirls into unconsciousness.

Warnings Ignored Repeatedly

  The town of Plimpton, a three day ride from the Paw, four days later. Detective McCoy, supposedly of Pinkerton employ, is being briefed by the sheriff on recent events, including Jones (also a Pinkerton) and his men taking Hex up to the Paw. McCoy asked if the sheriff had told Jones of the horrible reputation held by the Devil's Paw. He replies in the negative but that Hex had warned them more than adequately. McCoy tells the sheriff to get his horse ready, they are going to the Paw.

 Hex awakens to the amazement of the Indians. Jonah can't understand them and asks a boy standing nearby if he speaks English (he does). Jonah gets to his feet and stands before a warrior, Avenging Wind, who welcomes Jonah and offers him to live with the tribe, since he survived the bite of the red scorpion.

  Jonah demands his clothes back and Avenging Wind wants to know why Hex brought white men to the Paw. Jonah explains about the money and how men will keep coming until the money is recovered. Avenging Wind states that they will kill all who come and that Jonah cannot leave as he is now part of the tribe. Jonah gets into a knockdown dragout fight with Avenging Wind and defeats him just as the sound of rifle fire echos into the pueblo.

  An entire troop of U.S. Army show up and start slaughtering the tribe. Jonah locates his stolen boots, shirt and rifle, then starts making his way out of the pueblo. Avenging Wind awakens to see his entire people dead. He leaps from the highest point of the pueblo, knife drawn, ready to kill any soldiers he encounters. Needless to say, Avenging Wind is cut down in a hail of rifle fire and hits the ground, dead.

  Hex then spies the young Indian on an overlook, rifle in hand and drawing a bead on the Sgt. The young one's shot is true and the Sgt's head is blown open. The rest of the soldiers return fire but Hex and the boy escape after driving off the soldier's horses.

They ride on into the emerging night and Jonah tells the boy that he should wait a night or two for the soldiers to leave the Paw. Hex even suggests the boy find a new home, but the boy explains that the Paw is home. Hex mounts up as the boy heads back to the Paw.

Statistics for This Issue
Men Killed by Jonah - None, even though he beats the living tar out of several Indians.
Running Total - 670 (432 past, 55 future, 15 Vertigo, 178 V2)
Jonah's Injuries - Bitten by a scorpion, knocked out
Timeline - Ten days. The folks in Plimpton say Hex left a week ago and then they ride to the Paw, a three day ride.

  I am very conflicted about Garres's artwork. The characters are so incredibly fluid and dynamic, almost to rubbery comic proportions, but that also shows movement and intensity. Like a freeze frame of a super-slo-motion camera when some gets punched. But the inking is so heavy, so much black, that it can be difficult to figure out who is who in the book. A lot of his characters look the same or at times they same character isn't recognizable through the book.

  Parts of the story are confusing. The sheriff of Plimpton talks to a man called Detective McCoy (and I assume he is with the Pinkertons, like Jones) McCoy tells the sheriff they are all going out to the Paw, but instead, we see the Army show up. The Sgt has facial hair unlike that of McCoy or the Sheriff so I don't know if Garres messed up on the artwork or what happened. It's sad when a jarring glitch like that has you paging back through a book trying to figure out if you missed something.

  All in all, a fair book and a nice return to a prior story.

Next Issue: Something familiar, something peculiar, something for everyone...

Monday, July 08, 2019

Jonah Hex V2 #28 "Townkiller"

Jonah Hex V2 #28 Apr '08
Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti - story, John Higgins - art and cover

A man runs in desperation, across the desert, pursued by men on horseback. He is roped around the ankle and then drug toward a lone tree. A noose if fashioned and crowd consisting of men and women forcing the man into the noose. He pleads and begs but still they hoist him aloft and then start throwing rocks at him. Finally he is dead and then they light the dangling man on fire and watch until he is burned and the rope parts, dropping the flaming corpse to the sand. Then they leave, the tree afire, not unlike a burning cross.

  Some time later, a man rides up and views the carnage. He kicks dirt on the flames and then kneels by the body, weeping.

Everyone's Gotta Die Sometime

Hex and Halstead stand off, facing each other in the street. Needless to say, Hex kills Halstead and then the sheriff makes an appearance, thanking Hex. The sheriff pays Hex and adds a little extra so that Jonah will leave town that much quicker. Jonah throws the insult money in the sheriff's face and retires to the saloon.

Jonah is standing at the bar, tossing a few back when the man from earlier comes in with a business proposition. Jonah declines what he sees as a sexual advance and the man explains that he only wants Jonah to kill a town. Jonah's interest is piqued but he requests an explanation. The man explains that an innocent man was lynched and he would like everyone killed, men and women alike. Jonah asks if he is supposed to be an orphan maker or should he kill the kids as well. The man stutters that he hadn't thought of that and Jonah states that the man's best option is to leave.

The man restates his position that this heinous crime was visited upon his friend for reasons he isn't comfortable sharing. Jonah states that he doesn't care "how ya sit in the saddle." and he only finds amusement in those that condemn such "ridin' habits". Jonah declines the job because he doesn't want to spend his days looking over his shoulder waiting for someone seeking to exact revenge. The man persists once again and Hex tells him to leave now as a saloon girl walks up and starts stroking Jonah's shoulder.

Later, Jonah is getting a bath provided by the saloon girl. She inquires why Jonah wouldn't help the man and Jonah grabs a handful of her hair, stating he isn't interested in question from a ten-dollar whore (which ain't exactly cheap, $230 today, but I'm not sure of going rates and values of such things.) Jonah ends up kicking her out when she continues to talk.

Two days later, a small church is getting ready for service and we see a line of gunpowder, alight and burning towards a barrel of gunpowder and cask of dynamite. The resulting explosion burns everyone inside alive. This brings a smile to the face of the man seeking revenge.
He mounts up and rides off, through the night, back to the town where he left Hex.

Rain falls as he walks into the saloon, asking the saloon girl if she knows where Hex is at. She states that she does and it will cost him. He pays her and asks again where Hex is. Turns out Jonah is standing right behind him. The man smiles because he no longer needs Jon...POW! Hex pounds him right in the kisser.

Jonah asks him if he's feeling good about his revenge. The man says no judge would care, but Jonah counteracts with judges care about murdered babies and children and pregnant women and old men. Jonah grabs the man's tongue and....
The saloon girl smashes a bottle upside Jonah's head and then pulls a shotgun on him and starts shooting. She condemns Hex...

The sheriff finally shows up and assess the carnage. The sheriff tells Jonah to leave town NOW and hex complies. The saloon girl gets in one last jab and Hex tells her to be careful. As Jonah rides off, the Sheriff tells her to calm down because Hell's waiting on Hex, no doubt.

Statistics for This Issue
Men Killed by Jonah - None
Running Total - 670 (432 past, 55 future, 15 Vertigo, 178 V2)
Jonah's Injuries - Bottle smashed upside the head
Timeline - Three days, one day at the start, and then two days later.

I wasn't a big fan of this one, because we once again see the Crazy Church People as a main force in the story, chasing down a homosexual man and killing him in cold blood. More lazy writing, either depending on tropes  to tell a narrative or trying to push an agenda.

I did think Jonah's reaction to the man (who was never named) was interesting. I felt he jumped to a rather quick assumption thinking the man was soliciting him (there was nothing in the manner he was drawn or the language he used that made me think that until Jonah brought it up). Jonah's disinterest was pretty much spot on for Hex. He really doesn't care what people do, as long as innocent people are not bothered. And, of course, Jonah has little to no use for religion or it's followers.

The art wasn't very interesting but I did enjoy the cover in that the knife obscured Jonah's scars but the blood running down the knife mimicked his injuries. And the reflection of the man's mouth in the knife lines up fairly well with Jonah's own scarred eye.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Jonah Hex V2 #27 "Star Man"

Jonah Hex V2 #27 Mar '08
"Star Man"
Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray - story, Jordi Bernet - art and cover

A man walks towards us, light blasting all around him, streaming from him, blurring all details. Hex is tied to a tree and the man offers Hex some water from a canteen. He bends forward and explains why he didn't kill Hex when he had the opportunity even though he KNOWS what Hex did all those years ago....

New York Harbor

A young man named Victor and his father, who has a wooden leg, disembark from a ship into the teeming mass that is New York City. They locate lodging and inquire as to possible employment. The hotel clerk gives them directions and then adds "You'll find slim pickings since after the war ended this week,"....... We'll come back to that later.

The two go to the room and the father instructs Victor to stay put and hide the rest of the money and he'll be back soon. The father locates an employment line that is for hiring policemen. When he gets to the head of the line he tells the men at the head table that he was a peace officer in his old country. They insult him and say he will be needing both feet to work. The father explains that he also taught literature until he went into the military and that he also will not stand for being insulted. One of the men, a New York Sheriff, shoots the father's wooden leg in two. Laying on the floor, surrounded by lawmen with their pistols pulled, the father eyes a priest sitting at the head table and asks if he condones this treatment of an unarmed man.

The priest replies that they don't have time for this, kill the cripple and take him outside as a warning to others. As they ready to shoot him, they ask if he has any last words. The father explains that he has a boy. The Sheriff states that he now has an orphan.

We see Victor waiting the rest of the day, all night, and then at daybreak he inquires of the hotel clerk. The clerk states he has been at the desk all night and not seen him. He does tell Victor where he sent the father for work and Victor takes off through New York to find his dad.

Victor finds the corpse of his father hanging from a statue of a saint outside a church.people casually pass by as if it is an everyday sight. A drunk in the gutter spins the tale of what transpired and points Victor in the direction of the employment line. Victor spies a pistol on the hip of a man, pulls it, walks past the line and exacts his vengeance upon the priest, a sheriff, and another man at the head table. He is about to kill another sheriff when he is pistol whipped on the back of the head.

Cut to.... Jonah Hex is speaking to two men in an office and they are instructing him to sign the proper papers in order for the funds to be transferred to him. Hex signs and leaves the office and walks through the streets of New York. He stops to ask directions to the train and then heads out to follows the directions. Suddenly we see Victor steal Hex's sidearm and run into the employment office. 

Hex gets into the office and we realize that it was Hex that knocked Victor out. He tells the Sheriffs that the boy is no relation and he only wants his pistol back. The head man doesn't believe him and they have a stare down with Hex winning. Hex picks up his gun and the Sheriff says the boy is staying with them. Hex doesn't care and the Sheriff states they'll beat the boy within an inch of his life, 'have some fun with him', and then hang him. Hex walks out holstering his pistol.

  Walking down the street Jonah remembers his own childhood at the hands of his father Woodson. He stops, pulls his firearm and next we see him killing every last man standing in the employment office.

Jonah takes the limp form of Victor to a Catholic orphanage and leaves him in the care of the nuns.

Back to present day, the man of light stand over Hex and we realize he is Victor. Victor postulates he has been tracked by Hex for three days and Victor is now worth four hundred, maybe six hundred dollars? Jonah states the amount is now one thousand dollars and asks if Victor is gonna kill him or just blind him with that coat? We then see that the light coming from Victor are Sheriff badges from lawmen he has killed over the years. He has been gunning down crooked lawmen as he roots them out after learning of the  corruption back in New York.

  Victor tells Hex that Hex's horse is tied up a few hours north along with all of Hex's supplies. Victor is going to head South and finish what he has started. Hex will be able to get out of his bonds and the next time the two meet Victor will not just sneak up and knock him out, he WILL kill Hex. Victor explains that he does 'private' bounty hunting for folks seeking justice and are unable to obtain it through conventional means. He has eight hundred dollars he has saved. He gives the money to Hex, thus appeasing Jonah's sole motivation in this encounter.

  Jonah snarls that he isn't the only one hunting Victor, and Victor is two hundred short.Victor rides off, the money scattered around Hex.

  An unknown time later, Hex comes upon a campfire in the night. Victor is stripped, gagged and died to a tree. Three Indians sit nearby when a lawman, Sheriff Pete, comes riding up.  He ask why the Indians have ripped off his clothes seeing as he only told them to capture him and tie him up. They explain that Victor killed one of their men. Pete replies that they get to split the hundred dollars three ways instead of four, then.

Pete explains that a man Victor recently killed, Christopher Casey, was Pete's brother. Pete pulls a knife. Pete asks if Victor has anything to say and pulls away the gag. Victor shouts for Hex to save him and take him into custody. Hex steps from the shadows and guns down the three Indians as Pete hotfoots it out of there. Hex unties Victor who grabs a knife and runs off into the dark, we hear a scream and Victor returns covered in blood and tells Hex to take him in.

Next day Hex wonders why they have to go all the way to Yuma when they were closer to Sterling. Victor explains that he killed the Mayor's Brother-in-law in Sterling. In Yuma, Hex turns Victor over to Sheriff Dokes. Victor asks Dokes if he remembers a family named Michaels that lived on the land Dokes now owns. Dokes tells Victor to shut up or he won't get a fair trial. Victor taunts Dokes, asking if it would be like the fair trial Mrs. Michael's husband and children got when Dokes killed them all?

Victor snatched Dokes' gun and holds it on both Hex and Dokes. Dokes says he won't get away with it, but Victor states that he will, he was paid handsomely to kill Dokes. He instructs Hex to drop his gunbelt and lock himself in the cell.

Later we see Hex killing time in the cell, reading the paper and smoking. A woman walks in to the office and frees Hex. She says that she was sent by Victor to let Hex out and to give him an envelope. Hex opens the envelope and pulls out two hundred dollars. He asks the woman's name. She is Mary Michaels. Jonah smiles and....

Statistics for This Issue
Men Killed by Jonah - Three men in New York and three Indians in Arizona.
Running Total - 670 (432 past, 55 future, 15 Vertigo, 178 V2)
Jonah's Injuries - None.
Timeline - This one has a wide time range, we don't know how long it took Jonah to hunt down Victor but it took about four days to ride to Yuma once Hex apprehended Victor. This is based on what information I could uncover regarding Sterling, Arizona (founded in 1865 in present-day Prescott) places it about 220 miles from Yuma. That makes it about a three-four day ride.
Rape Percentage -  33% (9 out of 27) I'm counting this one in the 'Rape Story' column because of comments made by the Sheriffs in New York.

Overall, this was a good story and Victor was a good character but there were flaws that takes this one down a few notches in my eyes.

First off, the timeline. The hotel clerk states "after the war ended this week" so that puts the tale in early April, 1965. But I did some digging and Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9th, 1865, BUT President Johnson didn't officially declare the war over until August 20th, 1866 (there was a LOT of other stuff going on.) We do know that Hex was scarred in 1866, but not exactly when. So, while I initially bristled at this timeline 'error', I guess the clerk was being factually accurate in his statement. Therefore, this story takes place in August 1866. (guess this doesn't count as a negative then)

Next up, Crazy Church People make their appearance. Yup, we have a Catholic priest that is just fine with killing a crippled man for no good reason (granted, we do get to see nuns, albeit without guns, practicing mercy and compassion). There are corrupt 'Church People' just like there are corrupt people in every facet of society (in fact, I once had a pastor that said "you haven't been screwed over until you've been screwed over by a Christian.") but the 'evil church person' is becoming a reoccurring theme in Hex V2, almost as much so as the 'rape story' trope. 

Which brings us to the comment made by the Sheriff about 'have some fun' with Victor and 'when he is spent', leads me to lean toward rape being discussed. Sigh, such lazy writing at times. By the way, for folks wondering why I DO keep a Rape Percentage Counter going, It's because Chris Sim's actually dropped this book from his reading list because of using that plot device as a crutch too many times.

The positives? Well, Bernet's artwork is a big plus on this one. At times all of his women look the same, but he usually is able to make the men in the book distinctive enough that he reminds me of Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, although a very scratchy version of Mr. Lopez.

I also enjoyed Jonah's motivation for saving Victor, remembering what a hell-hole his own upbringing was AND, despite Woodson quoting the Scripture at time while beating Jonah, Hex still took Victor to a religious organization for safe-keeping.

Next Issue: I may need to start more Percentage counters as we encounter more Crazy Church People and have another tongue cut out.