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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Showcase Presents: Jonah Hex Volume 1. DC Comics (2005)

A collection of very entertaining Western stories with an engaging lead character, great art and a dry as dust black humour. Jonah Hex with his mutilated face and worn Confederate officer's uniform is a bounty hunter in the post Civil War West. A fast draw and a merciless hunter of outlaws he is described like this,"He was a hero to some, a villain to others;and wherever he rode, people spoke his name in whispers. He had no friends, this Jonah Hex, but he did have two companions: one was death itself...the other...the acrid smell of gun smoke." Happily the stories in the collection live up to the promise of that description.
The West that Jonah Hex rides through is a brutal and savage place, the most significant difference between Hex and those who hire and despise him is that he is honest about his actions, the others hide their murderous greed behind a thin veneer of polite society. In "Bigfoot's War" written by Michael Fleisher with art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Hex is hired by a rancher to recover his daughter who has been kidnapped by Indians. It becomes clear that the rancher has a nasty secret and his daughter is a very unpleasant, utterly spoilt woman. The story is fast and bitter, the action is very well staged and Hex emerges as the most honest character.
What all the writers of the stories in the collection get exactly right is that Hex is never pleasant or likable, his bitter humour and bleak honesty about his own self interest would make him unbearable in any other context.
In "Showdown with the Dangling Man" written by Michael Fleisher, art by Noly Panaligan, one of the outstanding stories in the collection, Hex's indifference to others is given full rein. The beautiful art captures the vivid details of the locations and the cast, the very grim conclusion is everything it should be. This is unheroic Western storytelling at its compelling best.This collection is packed with great art, excellent writing and hard-bitten spirit of the mythical American West, a pleasure.

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