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