It’s hard to believe that “Jonah Hex” is already well past 50 issues; in many ways, it’s the little series that could. Anecdotally, the collections of this western series sell well enough to keep the book around. True or not, it must be doing something strongly enough to survive this current market.
This issue of “Jonah Hex” seems to be geared towards newer readers, perhaps people who see the upcoming movie and want more hard-assed western anti-heroes in their lives. It’s not a bad issue to do that, with two short stories about different points in Hex’s life. The first one has him meet an aged Sacagawea, defending her against three men who are determined one way or another to get her land in Wyoming Territory. It’s in many ways a quintessential Jonah Hex story, with the rough-around-the-edges protagonist getting drawn into a conflict and finally doling out justice in his own way. The plot itself is predictable, but Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray make it fun with the dialogue. So much of this story is the approach that the two of them take, and it’s worth a chuckle or two. Phil Winslade draws this issue, and while it’s been ages since I’ve seen his art, it’s good to know that Winslade draws everything as I’ve always remembered. His faces tell the story, and there are quite a share of strong portraits here. The coloring is a little overly glossy in places (and who knew revolvers shot like laser guns?) but it’s a nice overall look.
The second story is primarily a flashback to a young Jonah Hex and his time among the Apache. It’s not quite as interesting as the first, focusing on an Apache woman that Hex had fallen for, and how it affected Hex’s time with the male Apache who were less than pleased about Hex in general. Part of the problem is that C.P. Smith’s art is slightly stiff in places; with this being the story in the issue that includes fist fights, that’s a less than appealing combination. On the other hand, Smith’s color palette for this issue is great, with reds and grays that evoke a sense of location in a strong way.
The issue concludes with a conversation between Gray, Palmiotti, and feature film director Jimmy Hayward; personally I’d have been happier with additional pages of story. The interview is little more than a fluff piece, unfortunately, although I suppose people interested in influences the comic had on the movie might find it more interesting. At the end of the day, I’m glad that DC thought to link this to the movie-going public (there’s even a “Now a major motion picture” slug at the top of the cover) and it’s perfectly fine, but it is too bad that it wasn’t a real zinger of an issue. Still, at least there’s a tie-in and it’s not bad. That’s a victory in comics these days, unfortunately. Half a loaf is definitely better than none.