Jonah Hex #69 - 'The Old Man' - Gray, Palmiotti and Lemire
Story - Jonah Hex is a series that has often disappointed me. I was very excited for it when it was first announced, there was that amazing Frank Quitely, and it was DC doing a book that wasn't superheroes, I had to support it. But then it came out, and I found it very dissatisfying. The art from Luke Ross was strong, but the decision to do only 1-issue storylines was, I felt, misguided, and each issue felt rushed, with bad endings. Out of the first 12 issues, pretty much every story could have done with being 2 issues. So I dropped it. It was a good idea to have a Western series, but this take wasn't for me.
The only issues I picked up later were ones illustrated by artists who I loved, two from Darwyn Cooke and one from JH Williams, and whilst I enjoyed these issues for their art, the same storytelling problems remained, they weren't satisfying single issue stories (the second Cooke issue, #50 benefited from being double-sized, but it wasn't enough) and left me with no desire to start buying the book regularly again. So when it was announced that Jeff Lemire would be drawing an issue, I expected it to be the same as before, an issue with great art, with a disappointing story.
And it was, until Jonah Hex's dad showed up.
This issue started off in a pretty standard way, we had a helpless old codger set up, and some bad guys, and then Hex in the middle, I felt that I could predict exactly what would go down. But then Gray and Palmiotti pull the rug out from under me, have the bad guys killed before Hex even gets there, and has the old codger revealed as Hex's dad.
What? Jonah Hex isn't supposed to have a dad! He's the kind of loner archetype bad-ass that doesn't have a father. Does Han Solo have a dad? Does Dirty Harry? Does any Clint Eastwood character? Of course all these characters have fathers, but you never see them interact, it doesn't fit the macho hero image. Which is why this issue was so good. You don't expect to see a legendary hard-ass like Hex to even have a father, let alone for him to have a heart to heart with him (sort of). The whole conversation with Papa Hex and Jonah was just gripping, giving us a lot of insight into who Hex is, and making the character much deeper than he was before. This issue was something you're supposed to think shouldn't happen, but really, it had to happen. With the done-in-one nature of this series, I hesitate to say that Gray and Palmiotti have changed Hex here, but I hope this issue will reverberate throughout future issues. This issue has done what other issues of Jonah Hex haven't done, I'm going to pick up All-Star Western.
Art - Jeff Lemire is one of my favourite artists in comics today, his style is just so unique, and lends his books such a weird aura and tone. At first I was a bit freaked out about him drawing a story he didn't write, but it still worked. His take on Hex is one of the best I've seen, just terrifying, the scar has never looked so good (or bad). It was good also that some of the more experimental layouts from Sweet Tooth crept into this issue too. Whilst I prefer Lemire to draw his own projects, if he ever wants to do a Hex story again, DC should let him, as he is perfect.
Best Line - 'No, there won't'