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.