Sunday, June 7, 2009

Jonah Hex: 'Six Gun War' Part One (Issue 44)

I remember seeing DC’s comic book ‘Weird Western Tales’, starring Jonah Hex, on the shelves in the early 70s, but I never picked up a copy, thinking that a combination of Code-era ghost stories and western gunplay sounded lame. I did buy the Jonah Hex series issued by Vertigo in 1993 and 1995 (‘Two Gun Mojo’ and ‘Riders of the Worm and Such’). These were well-done, and made me receptive to DC’s monthly Jonah Hex series, which commenced in 2005.

Unlike ‘Weird Western’, Jonah Hex incorporates few supernatural themes into its storylines, instead focusing on Spaghetti Western –style tales of revenge and retribution. There is an emphasis on gritty, flyblown settings and explicit violence that would never be allowed in a Code-approved book. The towns and settlements of the southwest territories that Hex rides through are filled with corrupt townspeople, brutal outlaws, and a healthy leavening of psychotic killers. All offer plenty of opportunity for Jonah, as a bounty hunter, to earn his money. The artwork displayed in the series can sometimes be pedestrian, but at other times very good, reminiscent of Moebius’s seminal ‘Lieutenant Blueberry’ work.

By and large series writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti tend to provide single-issue narratives, which necessarily tends to constrain the plotting but attracts readers who may be fed up with the multi-part, crossover-drenched storylines of the DC superhero line.

But with Jonah Hex No. 44, ‘Six Gun War’ commences as a six-part story, and this promises to be a good one. Jonah and friends tangle with a group of homicidal Comancheros led by Quentin Turnbull and El Papagayo, villains from the 70s issues of Weird Western and Jonah Hex.

Artist Cristiano Cucina gives the book a Euro-Western look inspired by the Spaghetti genre, as the two pages I’ve scanned indicate. The panels are creepy and unsettling as a depleted Jonah staggers into a town that’s been worked over by the outlaws. A sandstorm wind swirls over the bullet-riddled corpses lying in the street and sets a lone bell to clanging. Jonah wanders into the sheriff’s office and finds the surviving lawman locked up in his own cell by El Papagayo. There’s little doubt that Jonah will be setting off on a mission of vengeance in the forthcoming issues…..

Fans of Spaghetti westerns and Clint Eastwood films like ‘Unforgiven’ will definitely want to give the new Jonah Hex series a look, and ‘Six Gun War’ is a great place to start.

No comments: