You know what’s got me excited? DC’s All-Star Western, one of their new series debuting in September as part of the Flashpoint-inspired relaunch. It’s the de facto continuation of Jonah Hex, a book I’ve heard nothing but good things about, though the title character alone never interested me enough to guarantee a purchase. Mixing Hex in with the early days of Gotham City, though? For me, that sounds like a surefire recipe for success; my massive love for Return of Bruce Wayne and Gates of Gotham has given me a thirst that hopefully All-Star Western can quench.
Perhaps as something of a preview for what I could expect from series writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, I picked up this week’s issue of Hex, one of the last under its current numbering. Another major incentive for me: this issue features the artwork of Jeff Lemire, one of my favorite creators who’s done fantastic work on books like The Essex County Trilogy and DC/Vertigo’s ongoing Sweet Tooth. I couldn’t pass up the chance to see Lemire’s take on this ugly, badass western hero.
I truly didn’t expect that Jonah Hex #69 would resonate with me emotionally, but here we are. Gray, Palmiotti and Lemire here craft a one-shot story centered around a nameless old gold prospector who ends up getting jumped in the desert for his treasure. As it happens, this man is Jonah Hex’s abusive, absent father, and on the man’s deathbed Jonah’s come to get something like closure.
Script-wise, I’d go so far as to say Gray and Palmiotti’s work is perfect. I’m mostly unfamiliar with this writing duo outside of 2007′s disastrous Countdown maxiseries, and that’s a shame. The two do a great job of laying out the story’s background, setting, tone and action in the first couple of pages, allowing the bulk of the issue to focus solely on the conversation between Hex and his dad. It’s moving precisely because it’s cold and sterile, which perfectly befits Hex as a character. Stories like this always teeter on the edge of unfettered emotional outburst, which would’ve ruined this book. Fortunately, Hex keeps a straight face throughout, showing us a character that’s a little chilling and very sad, but also (and this is coming from someone who doesn’t really get along with his father either) kind of comforting.
As far as the art, Jeff Lemire never lets me down. I’m curious to see how regular readers of Hex respond to Lemire’s unique style; as for me, this book gave me exactly what I wanted. It elicits a weird bit of shock to jump from this week’s Superboy (which Lemire wrote) to this comic, two books vastly different in content and tone. Absolutely no disrespect meant to Superboy (which I’ve enjoyed), but I always feel like Lemire’s more at home with these rustic, off-kilter character portraits. That kind of storytelling is what makes Essex County so great, and Lemire brings all his class and skill to the Old West for this tale that it seems he might himself have written. His figures are suitably ugly and beaten, and his panel layouts find numerous ways to be inventive; I especially love his use of circling buzzards to indicate impending death.
Every once in awhile, a single comic comes out with enough emotional punch to make me continue to revisit it years down the line. Obviously that’s a very personal choice, and not one I expect others to make, but I feel like Jonah Hex #69 is going to be a mainstay in my comic reading pile for a long time, despite it being the only issue of the series I own. If I was excited about All-Star Western before, I’m now thoroughly convinced it’s going to be great. I don’t expect every story to hit me like this one, but Gray and Palmiotti (along with incoming artist Moritat) can clearly tell amazing stories with this character, and I don’t expect them to stop any time soon.
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more