Jonah Hex #50 - 'The Great Silence' - Gray, Palmiotti and Cooke
Story - I used to read Jonah Hex, but I dropped it. I initially picked up the series with a lot of excitement, I loved Westerns, and the Frank Quitely cover to #1 was absolutely brilliant, but the series itself... there was something missing, I felt that the 'done in one' nature of the issues meant that the endings of each story were too rushed, and hurt the series overall, I thought Palmiotti and Gray should have tried their hand at longer storylines. So I dropped it with #7, and never looked back.
Until I looked back, with #33, an issue which featured artwork by the incomparable Darwyn Cooke (more on him later). I enjoyed that issue a lot, but mostly for the art, and didn't carry on with the series beyond that. But now Cooke is back, for the big 5-0, and wow, hey, Graymiotti have really stepped up their game, this was a fantastic single issue (albeit over-sized) which packed a real punch, and added a new dimension to the usually character-less Hex.
For me, the issue started off oddly, Hex and his girlfriend, Tallulah kill a bunch of Varmints in a pretty exciting fight scene, they go back to a Saloon and fuck, and then Tallulah leaves. Just like that. I was kind of confused as to why, there was a disconnect, and I think Jonah felt it too, if only for a little while, because he's back, hired to kill 50 men (a clever thematic tie-in to the issue's number) for some reason, and he does so in some very witty and funny ways, the panel with Jonah pointing a Cannon at a man on the toilet is an all-time classic. So I thought this was going to be a fun Western romp with Jonah, an all-action issue. But boy, I was wrong.
We catch up with Tallulah and see why she left, she's Pregnant with Jonah's child, and has moved to a peaceful town in order to raise this child. Her story and Jonah's entertwine and come together in a way that shocked and hit me in a way I wasn't expecting from a Jonah Hex book. I don't want to spoil it, because it's a shocker. I just hope no religious readers get offended by how they are portrayed!
Luckily, we and Jonah get our vengeance, and it's particularly brutal, but unlike the other Westernish comic we've reviewed lately (Giant-Size Old Man Logan) this revenge isn't cathartic and enjoyable, it's empty, and Graymiotti and Cooke perfectly convey this.
I was really surprised by how good this issue was, my previous experience with Hex was that it was a decent, if somewhat inconsequential book which had a strict status quo, but this issue... it has changed my perception of the character, and makes me interested into where he's going in the future. Highly recommended.
Art - As my avatar will attest (for those reading the front page article, it's from The Hunter), I am a huge fan of Darwyn Cooke, ever since New Frontier, his style has just clicked with me, it's just what I want from comics. In this issue, he adjusts his style slightly to fit the Western milieu and it really works. In many wats, Jonah is simply a Cowboy version of the Parker character Cooke is currently working on, both are driven and taciturn, it's an interesing comparison to make. The art here is scratchier than his usual style, with more hatching, it's more Kubert, more Russ Heath. It's dusty and expressive, I can't think of anyone better in the industry right now, and it's amazing how well he can adjust his style. I hope he does more Hex, because I'd definitely be up for it. I also loved how he managed to tell the story when Graymiotti choose not to use words, that final page in particular, or when Jonah and the Sherriff are in a stand-off at the Jail.
Best Line - 'Fifty'