Saturday, September 17, 2011

Jonah Hex: Tall Tales

Jonah Hex is not the kind of person you want to have anything to do with. That certainly includes anyone who is being hunted down by him, and sometimes it even affects the people who hire him. He’s just a dangerous sort of guy. Writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti have shown this time and time again, and each story is fun because there are so many people making big, bad mistakes when it comes to the man with the melted face. Issues 55 through 60 are collected in Tall Tales, which is kind of a milestone. When was the last time a western comic ran for more than five years?
As usual, a Hex trade has an assortment of stories and artists. Here are some of them:
“The Brief Life of Billy Dynamite” (art by Vicente Alcazar): A kid gets really mad when his father gets killed in his own bar. Little Billy takes over the family business, but trouble never really goes too far. Billy likes to get pretty aggressive with people who try to take advantage of him. Who would think that it would be easy to be a preteen bar owner though? Some jerks kill Billy in retaliation, but Jonah finally gets to the end of it all. All it takes is strapping a few men to trees upside down. Oh, and they also have dynamite connecting them all. The bounty hunter pushes the release and boom! No more trouble from these guys. Jonah doesn’t even care that there is nothing left of the guys to claim as a bounty. For a guy who’s always thinking of money, this means that he was pretty pissed at these outlaws.

“First True Love” (art by C.P. Smith): Jonah Hex had a pretty rough upbringing. His father left him behind with a hostile group of Apaches. He promised he’d come back but he never did. So Jonah was a slave to the Indians and always had to prove himself to the tribe. He had no trouble making enemies. Maybe the only good thing about the entire time he was trapped with them was the one girl who liked him and talked to him. She was Jonah’s first love, and he still visits her grave decades later.
“Tall Tales” (art by the one, the only Jordi Bernet): Two kids exchange stories about the legendary Jonah Hex.
“I heard he once killed ten men with the same bullet,” says one kid. 
“That’s horse manure!” 
The first kid is right...all it takes is some friendly ricochet off a couple of rock walls to kill nine men. Then a falling boulder takes care of the tenth. The next night the two kids are lucky enough to witness a battle between Hex and a bunch of gunmen. 
Walking home as the sun rises, the two boys know that they’re going to have a really hard time talking themselves out of this one. 
“Pa is gonna skin us alive.”
“He sure is. But after what we saw tonight, it’ll be worth every minute.”
Sounds like Jonah Hex has a couple of new fans.

“Every Bullet Tells A Story” (art by Giancarlo Caracuzzo): This story borrows a page from an old book of tricks in comics. I believe it was some Sgt. Rock story by Robert Kanigher that had an entire story narrated by one of the guy’s guns. Well, this story is narrated by a bullet. What is a bullet good for? Really only one thing usually. 
“I have one purpose. I have been cast for a singular destiny. To take life.”
Plenty of gunshots, blood, and death in this one.
“Blood Lies Bleeding” (art by Brian Stelfreeze): This was a good story, but really I’d like to share nothing more about it than the following exchange.
MAN WHO JUST WITNESSED THE MURDER OF A BUNCH OF PEOPLE: You and trouble are old friends. Ya just gunned down five lawmen.
JONAH HEX: Ah only killed three. This feller done the other two an’ he’s a wanted man, so that’ll be resolved betwixt him an’ the devil.
MAN: The devil? I think you are the devil.
HEX: Ah’m worse.
So that pretty much wraps up what’s going on in Tall Tales: the variety that everyone has come to know and love from the writing of Gray and Palmiotti and the top notch artwork from a whole bunch of different people. 

With DC’s New 52 underway, Jonah Hex has of course been cancelled. Its replacement is All-Star Western, keeping the same writers and featuring Jonah Hex in 1800s era Gotham City. After reading some solicitations I’m a little worried that it won’t be like the Jonah Hex series was. I bet that it will still be good, but I’m thinking that the series I’ve been hooked on for years is really coming to an end.

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