Monday, April 15, 2024

Jonah Hex V2 #36 "Seven Graves Six Feet Deep"

 Jonah Hex V2 #36 Dec '08
"Seven Graves Six Feet Deep"

Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti - story, Rafa Garres - art and cover

Birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan
Pulaski, Tennessee, 1866

Another issue with massive amounts of prose in the caption boxes that gives the story behind the story, making this another difficult tale to recap. We see Hex, unscarred, riding through dense forest and he happens upon a young Black woman washing clothes near a series of waterfalls. As he rides up, he starts to ask her for directions to the nearest town. Of course, things being what they are, with Hex still wearing his Confederate Grays, the woman panics and runs off, slipping and falling into the rushing river. 

She gets swept away and Jonah starts riding along the banks, unleashing his rope, attempting to save her. He tosses a lasso and she grabs at it as she loses her grip on the rock to which she has been clinging. Swept away and over the falls, he body tumbles and twirls, entangling her in the rope and she strikes her head on an outcrop of rock, and sinks beneath the surface. Hex quickly dismounts and rushes into the river, but sadly, by the time he reaches her, she has expired. Jonah takes her to the bank, lays her down and tries to resuscitate her. 

During this, the captions explain the beauty of the area, and delve into why Hex continued to wear the Gray after the War Between the States was completed. We are given a recap of Hex's history, his marriage to Mei Ling, his enslavement by the Apache, his surrender to the Union forces and the number of men killed by Hex (400+)  and that less than 20 of those had been former slaves, all outlaws with a price on their heads.

Suddenly there is a cry from the woods and seven Black men rush from the timber and they tackle Hex and beat him senseless, determining that Hex killed the woman. One man pulls Hex's pistol, but another stops him from using it, for the gunfire will bring the 'others' if they are near. They strip Hex and grab the rope, determined to hang him then and there. And elderly man amongst them stays their hand, citing the woman is wet, what if she had fallen in the river and Hex had tried to save her. The others count that as foolishness and hoist the naked Hex aloft. Since they are raising him, Jonah is suffocating (rather than getting his neck broken as happens when a gallows is used.).

Shots ring out as four men ride up, gunning down all of the Black men, even chasing them into the woods to murder every last one of them. They restore Jonah's clothes to him and take him home.

Popular Misconceptions

Nathan, the ringleader, stands at he fireplace, waxing on the evils of the Reformation (Lincoln's, not Luther's). The others are seated at a table, agreeing with the downfalls of the Administrations policies. Jonah comes walking into the room and they exchange names. They offer Jonah a drink as thanks for wearing the uniform of the Confederacy as they lament how many of them have been driven to ground by carpetbaggers invading the land.

They have been contemplating a new uniform to strike fear into the hearts of the 'negros and scalawags', perhaps something white. They raise their glasses in a toast but Jonah declines. They take that as an insult. Jonah expresses his appreciation at being saved from death, he doesn't cotton to the killing of unarmed men, and for another thing, he isn't a son of Dixie.

At that point, the men start postulating that perhaps Jonah stole the uniform off a dead soldier or perhaps he is a spy. Jonah assures them the uniform is his, earned through and through, and the thinking behind the Blue and the Gray is anathema to him. Suspicious looks are exchanged all around the table and Nathan asks what prompted Hex to don the Confederate uniform and Jonah relates that he was a young man looking for comradery after years enslaved to the Apache. Nathan comes to the conclusion that Hex has taken leave of his senses. Jonah cites that he is done talking and any further thoughts he will take to his grave at a later date, but for these men, they can take theirs with them now, and with that he opens fire as they start to attack him.

Nathan sustains a gunshot to the knee, the other three are dispatched to the great Beyond.

Returning to the Scene of the Crime

Amidst the darkness, Nathan hobbles forward, frightening away a raccoon feasting on the dead Black men by the river. Jonah tosses Nathan a shovel and tells him to start digging. Nathan says he will not bury vermin to which Jonah responds by dismounting and kicking Nathan's injured knee. Nathan lies in agony, saying he will be dead before the first grave is finished but Hex states that Nathan will dies when Hex says he can. Nathan refuses and Hex buries the point of the shovel into Nathans leg. 

Throughout the night, Nathan digs seven graves, buries the men he killed, and then expires himself. Jonah then digs one last grave for the Black woman that died and gently lays her to rest, riding off into the dawn. 

During this, the captions explain that the author, having studied Hex, has concluded that Hex had no distinct hatred of men of color. He wore the Confederate Gray as a symbol of personal shame, knowing that people would greet him with hatred and revulsion. Others, evil in their heart, might extend a hand of friendship, thus exposing themselves to Jonah's wrath. An anger flowed through Jonah to the extent that he didn't hate his fellow humans based on any outward appearances, he hated all people equally, because he had no friends, just two companions, Death itself and the acrid smell of gunsmoke.

Statistics for This Issue
Men Killed by Jonah - 4. 
Running Total - 736 (432 past, 55 future, 15 Vertigo, 234 V2)
Jonah's Injuries - Beaten and hung.
Timeline - One day in 1866. This is prior to Jonah's scarring at the hands of his adopted Apache father.
Rape Percentage - 25% (9 of 36)

This is one of the best stories in all of the Jonah Hex books and it answers the question of why Jonah continues to wear his old uniform (much better than any other theories put forth). The captions, a narrative by a future historian, outline the history of Hex and the state of Tennessee so wonderfully, one is fully immersed in the inner workings of the mind of this man without hardly a word being said by him. 

Normally I'm not a big fan of Rafa Garres, but here, his dirty, warped humans and bizarre angles really really sell the action and savagery of the beatings and murders. I can't think of another artist that could have done this story justice.

Next Issue: Once again, Jonah's trouble with the ladies comes in threes.