From DC Comics. Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, writers. Luke Ross and Tony Dezuniga, artists. Jason Keith and Rob Schwager, colorists. Rob Leigh, letterer.
Thanks to my friends over at the Longbox Heroes podcast, I realized that I’ve been missing out on Jonah Hex. This has always been a gap in my comic knowledge. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized the story potentials in the western genre and begun to enjoy some movies and pulps. But never made the easy crossover while I’m already in the comic store. This volume collecting issues 1-6 of the 2006 series came through work and paused at my desk for awhile. It might be the first Jonah Hex work I’ve read, but it’s definitely not the last.
Each issue tells a new story. While Jonah carries through every issue, that’s about it. Certain themes, certain ideas, maybe a casual mention. But any reader could pick up any issue and be right up to speed. Jonah has his own code and you’re either tolerated or against him depending on where your actions land on that code. Let everyone be unless they cross certain lines, and I think Jonah would say let me be as well.
Of course the writing and the art is great. This is amazing. Everyone involved has had their skills heralded for years.
But what is different about this? I’ve read thousands of comics in my life. Yet something hit different. It took me a bit of thinking but eventually it came to me. This is the first pure western I’ve read. Not a space western, or an anime, or a horror, or whatever extra word has to be placed in front. Straight up western.
Life is tough, so the people have to be too. Bad choices are made by good people and worse choices by bad people. Good people aren’t saints, they’re just more honest and trustworthy than others. Violence is as much a part of the day as breathing. Death isn’t an anomaly, it’s a neighbor. Jonah doesn’t live because of special powers, he lives because he refuses to die. One day someone is going to take him out, but that bastard is gonna have to earn it.
In theory, I should hate Jonah Hex. It’s a story about a former Confederate soldier and his guns. But it isn’t. It’s a story about a man who admits to his past and will spend the rest of his days trying to balance the scale. That’s bad ass. That’s a legend. That’s a man who deserves a better movie.
Now to find the rest of this series in trade or single issues and dive deeper into what unadulterated westerns, especially in the comic book form, can be.