If the review group will allow me to do, I'm not going to review a comic that's necessarily my favorite, but one that I was going to review for the site, but fell to the wayside. Jonah Hex #61
Jonah Hex #61
What does Jonah Hex + Beautiful Feisty Woman X The Power Girl writers give you? A Comic that might’ve proved to be last year’s big surprise!
No matter what we do, there are just some stories and characters that are not for us as individuals. No matter how good they are, or how much we try to enjoy them, our preconceived preferences and biases do not allow us to appreciate what others will enjoy with various levels of enthusiasm. In some ways, it’s a tragic universal flaw inherit in all of us, in others it’s just a part of life. Not everyone will enjoy everything the same way, and to expect otherwise would not just rob one of the potential foundations of creativity, but one of the things that makes us beautifully flawed creatures. As for the reviewer in question, there are a few things that fall into this category, including the star of the book I am about to review in Jonah Hex.
When it comes to the titular character in question I have never hated, disliked, or had outright disinterest for the character. For me, Jonah Hex’s stories and character have never appealed to me in any fashion, whether they are objectively good or bad. Whenever I’ve read his stories, it seems like they all follow the same formula of Bounty Hunter chasing bad guys, bad guys screw up and meet their end by any matter of means, scenario is resolved, The End. This in itself doesn’t mean that there haven’t been good Jonah Hex stories, just that I haven’t found one I’ve cared about. As far as his character goes, I have never found him to be completely devoid of traits, but I have never found his character truly compelling in any of the stories I’ve read, and that’s probably because the stories I’ve seen him weren’t made to be character driven. It also probably didn’t help that the character wore a Confederate Uniform, which helped immensely to close my mind to his potential appeal. Something I’m not bragging about, but something that I feel I need to be honest about.
If you’re still reading this review, I bet you’re asking me the question I would be asking if I wasn’t in my shoes: “If Jonah Hex doesn’t appeal to you why are you even reviewing this book?” To which I answer, would you believe that I was drawn to it by the pretty Chinese lady on the cover? Yes, I am not ashamed to admit that I have weakness for beautiful women, and it helps that this one lays a Poster Worthy kick on a wannabe Cowboy Gangster. Proving once and for all, that an excellent cover can draw people to a comic they weren’t going to read. What happened when I opened the book and read it for myself? Lets just say that the result was not the expected one, I fact it was quite the opposite.
The story itself begins at a time in Jonah’s life that is not specified chronologically (future research puts this time during the year 1875), but at a point in his life where he’s married, something that’s spoiled right on the cover. From the minute that we see Jonah Hex and Mei Ling on the second page, two things are very obvious. The first thing is the racial makeup of the marriage and the second is the story potential that this pairing has. At its core, we have here is a story that could easily fall into the trap of becoming a ham-fisted commentary about race and sexism in the 1800’s, despite the intentions and effort not to do so. This isn’t to say that those issues aren’t confronted (because they are), but it is done in such a way that the issues being presented are enhanced due to the unwavering dignity of the character those prejudices are being thrown towards. A perfect example of how characterization can make a pedestrian (or outright silly in some other cases) storyline come to life, and become quite the compelling tale. Make no mistake, Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti understand on a masters level how characterization can carry a Comic Book, something that made their year of Power Girl stand out amongst the myriad of comics released on a weekly basis. That same magic is bought to Jonah Hex, as Mei Ling shows us another side to this Bounty Hunter, a side where his own preconceived notions about himself are challenged, and bought to a point where he has to work to change those notions to keep the best thing that has happened in his life. By the end of the story we learn that he truly does want to make the effort to keep Mei Ling as shown by how uses his skills to solve the conflict. A shining example of how good writers can make a story that doesn’t have much there become something special.
As far as the art goes, I am of two minds. In places, the art shines really well despite the lack of wow factor that we’re used to seeing with a Gray/Palmiotti with the supremely talented Amanda Conner who is able to make Art that not only looks good with a poster, but helps to tell the story that is written. It is unfortunate that Jordi Bernet is not able to compare to Conner, and because of that, some people might not be able to appreciate the artwork presented here. However, when one sits down the work in question, they’ll begin to see the positives that this work holds. Each character has a distinct personality, and the art helps us to define those characteristics. Mei Ling looks especially beautiful in the action sequences, or when she’s communicating to Jonah about how the world influences him in a bad way. While some may find it unfortunate that a more visually engaging artist was on this book, there are still plenty of things to like about Bernet’s job on this book.
When everything is said and done, Johan Hex #61 is destined to become an unsung classic that’s going to be lost to almost everyone but hardcore fans of the character, the medium itself. It’s unfortunate that such an issue that embodies what this reviewer feels makes for excellent comics doesn’t reach a greater audience. It has a great story, great characterization, excellent dialogue, central conflict and resolution where the main character becomes a wiser better person than when he or she went into it. These are the type of comics that kept me a fan of the medium while I was in college, and these are types of comics that keep me going to the LCS, every week. Jonah Hex #61 provides an excellent lesson to this reviewer in not dismissing comics’ sight unseen. There’s no telling what you can experience when you keep an open mind.
Final Judgment: 9