I have had a couple of days off work on a short break and have been reducing the old Regina pile that has built up a little. So I thought that I would pick one at random and review it.
Not a Marvel book for a change.
Jonah Hex 58. 'Every Bullet Tells A Story.'
Writers - Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti.
Artist - Giancarlo Caracuzzo.
Colours - Rob Schwager.
Editor - Will Moss.
Publisher DC Comics.
Much has been written and talked about with the most recent series of Jonah Hex about it's 'one and done' series style. Personally I find it quite a refreshing change every so often and continue to enjoy this series occasionally in a monthly format. I recently picked up a pile of issues that I had missed at my local comic shop's sale. (Chaos City Comics). I genuinely had forgotten how good it gets.
I have never been a big Western fan. I think this is probably more due to my age than anything else. My father for example loved them and he would often watch old Black and White Western's on a Sunday afternoon. In many ways Westerns were to him what the Star Wars space operas were to my generation. Sure I enjoyed the classics but it as a genre never really took off for me.
So urged on by a number of podcasts and recommendations I decided to give Jonah Hex a go. My only real experience to the character was the (and I think I am being fair when I say this) quite strange Hex series in the 1980s. Written by Michael L Fleisher and drawn by Mark Texeira it ran some 20 or so issues and set Hex in the future. I also have to admit to owning the recent movie but not to making it past the first ten minutes (one day maybe).
So I will on and off buy the floppys of this comic. I always enjoy them but never treat the comic as a priority. I think that maybe I should do based on the quality of issue 58.
This issue plays heavily on a circular storyline of events causing dominos to fall. It throws the reader straight in to the action and sets it's table out with the bullet motif that continues in one form or another throughout the story. Page one is bookended with silver tipped bullets and a narration by Hex. He speaks as to his purpose. He speaks in short sentences setting out his raison d'etre but as is common with this book nothing is how it seems.
We deal in many ways in false images. The villainous character on page one (who has a passing resemblence to that clawed mutant) becomes the victim later in the book and the white haired business man is for a moment the villain (until he meets a typically bloody end). Interestingly Hex is portrayed for the first two pages as a face only. We see only his eyes and melted face. You know that as soon as he only wings the other male that there is more to come.
Look. This is a western so symbolism is high on the agenda. We see the bullet motif continously throughout the issue. We see it as a gleaming bullet and as a dirty rained on empty shell casing. It is the trajectory of these bullets that have always driven the Western. Who fires them and why. We see later that there is a choice to this. We see Hex giving a single bullet to the female villain and she is given a choice what to do with it. Kill herself or another. She chooses the latter only to have Hex turn the tables on her. This book is about those choices. Life is seen continously as cheap in this series. We know that there will be bloody death rightly or wrongly.
Hex remains the cypher. The morally ambiguous character that we read a situation through. He is in many ways storytelling flotsam. He floats through his own title allowing the characters and storyline to develop and explode around him. His moral compass is never easily discernable. We never know fully how we are to take his actions. I am not sure, is he an anti hero? He is clearly more than a storytelling technique. He has had romances and short lived allies. What I am sure about is that we never have to be concerned with the moral architecture, because there is none. In many contemporary comics we know where people are coming from. We know what Scott Summers is or should be thinking. We have a good handle on what the Joker might do or want to do in any given circumstances. With Hex this safety net is taken away from us. He is as likely to kill and shoot someone as he is to put a blanket around them.
Am I reading too much into this? Hex would probably say that I was. He would probably tell me to shut up (or just shoot me in the leg).
The dialogue in the book is always sharp. It walks the line of a classic Western style and a blackly humorous more up to date style. In keeping with the genre very few people speak at length, their motives become clear through the action and dialogue and not from just what they say. 'Show not tell' is never more evident than in this book.
The art in this issue was superb. It has a slightly looser style than a book like 100 Bullets (Eduardo Risso) but maintains a Noir feel to it. The images never shy away from the bloody violence. I wasn't aware of Giancarlo Caracuzzo before reading this but will happily pay for more books he is involved with in the future. I can see that an imprint like Vertigo could make geat use of his style.
I can thoroughly recommend this book. A great read.
PS. If you are going to KAPOW this upcoming weekend say hi and let me know what you think of this blog? I will probably be over by the Dead Universe Back Issue stall (with an emptied wallet).