Jonah Hex #50
Jonah Hex, both the man and the book, are an enigma. As for the latter, this title is made up almost entirely of "done in one" stories, with the exception of one or two longer arcs. I started reading the current series with issue #1 and loved it. After reading so many comics that attempt to tell a two or three issue story over the course of six months, this felt like a breath of fresh air.
Unfortunately, the feeling did not last. After twenty issues or so, the format started to feel a bit tired. The stories certainly did not decline in quality, but the title lacked some of the epic feel of the great westerns when all the stories concluded in the course of 22 pages. I eventually dropped the title, reluctantly, because I did not feel that I was getting anything new.
Now we turn to the complications of Jonah Hex the man, which underlies this story. The story begins with a brutal encounter between a group of bounties, Hex, and his sometimes lover, Tallulah Black. We then get a rare tender moment between Hex and Black. Black flees the next day, and Hex falls right back into old patterns, taking a job to bring in fifty bounties.
Meanwhile, we find out that Black is pregnant with Hex's baby, and has opted to give up the bounty hunting life to raise her child in peace. These scenes are contrasted by scenes of Hex brutally taking down his fifty bounties, including a priest that he drags out in the middle of a church service. Hex's actions eventually catch up to him, as the remaining bounties decide to band together in the very town where Black resides.
This story is an excellent example of the inherent tragedy in Hex's life. Underneath his grim exterior, Hex is ultimately a good man. His sense of honor earned him his disfigurement, and anything good that comes into his life eventually turns sour, usually because of his inherent sense of right and wrong. Here, Hex allows himself to open up to a person, which ultimately leads to betrayal and tragedy. At the same time, it is hard not to think that Black was right not to tell Hex about his daughter. Hex lives and breathes trouble, and even without trying he inadvertently led to his daughter's death. Still, despite the pain of this tragedy, Hex remains a decent person. He gets his revenge on the person who ultimately killed his daughter, and gives some closure to Black despite her betrayal. One wonders if Hex's declaration that it is over between him and Black was less to shield himself and more to protect her from the life he leads.
Darwyn Cooke was, as always, brilliant, although he is far from my favorite artist on this title. His pencils are beautiful, but they lack some of the grittiness that should be inherent to this sort of title. Still, Cooke is hard to beat.
This was a great issue, and may have been enough alone to get me back on the Jonah Hex bandwagon. At the very least, I will pick up one or two trades of the issues I do not already have.