February 28, 2011

Getting Graphic: "Jonah Hex: Guns of Vengeance" by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray

Jonah Hex: Guns of Vengeance
written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
illustrated by Luke Ross, Tony Dezuniga, Phil Noto, David Michael Beck, & Paul Gulacy
DC Comics (2007)
ISBN 13: 9781401212490

If there's one theme that a western carries often, and with ease, it's vengeance. Guns of Vengeance is a compilation of Jonah Hex, issues 7 through 12, and while each story is separate from the next, the undercurrent of revenge is all over each and every page.

"One Wedding and Fifty Funerals" has Jonah Hex attending a wedding, which comes off as socially awkward at best considering his reputation and demeanor. The pleasantries end quickly though, as a posse led by the bride's jilted lover sets fire to the tent and starts gunning down the wedding party. Jonah pursues them, but it winds up some even shadier criminals get in his way.

"Never Turn a Blind Eye" offers up another furious band of gunslingers, but this time they're German and on the hunt for a wounded man who seeks the protection of Jonah Hex. But when Hex sizes up the situation, he realizes that not everything is as it seems, and the Germans might not be the villains.

"Gettin' Un-Haunted" is tragic and shows the demented version of sympathy from Hex. A young girl who helps nurse him back to health after a run-in with Indians winds up dead beacuse of an altercation he has with her mother and townsfolk. Time passes and he crosses paths with the mother again, only to wind up in bed with her and at the business end of a gun when a posse comes for him.

"Gator Bait" is all about the swamp folk. A black man's dying wish is for Jonah Hex to avenge his death and save the man's wife and baby who are still in the clutches of an inbred band of criminals who live in the middle of a gator swamp. The despicable acts they commit show they deserve everything Hex has in store for them too.

"The Hangin' Tree" is a kind of sequel to a story that was featured in the first Jonah Hex graphic novel I read and reviewed. Hex is saved from a hanging at the hands of a band of carnival freaks by a supernatural avenger known as El Diablo. The carnival folk are simply out for revenge, however, as Hex is responsible for killing their boss--a guy who just happened to kidnap and indenture children.

"The Bloodstained Snow" caps off the graphic novel with a story of Mormons trying to stake their claim in the snowy hills only to be shunned and hunted down by the neighboring town. When Hex comes onto the scene, he finds himself caught in the middle between two forces out to destroy the other.

Unlike so many other graphic novels I read, these stand-alone stories are a treat to read. And growing up watching the old John Wayne, Lee Marvin, and Clint Eastwood classic westerns, there's a part of me that will never tire of tales about gunslingers and the Old West. Hex isn't exactly the most likable character, but he's not meant to be, and the callousness of the times rings true more often than not.

Still haven't seen the film adaptation starring Josh Brolin and Megan Fox yet, and I'm not in a hurry to either, because I wouldn't want to sully the enjoyment I have when reading these comic books.

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