"Jonah Hex" has moved on.
It's no longer the done-in-one series with little-to-no continuity between issues. The recently-concluded "Six Gun War" arc changed that, and turned this series into one that builds upon what has happened previously. Characters reappear. Things that happened in the past matter now.
It's not merely a showcase for whatever artist happens to draw the issue. It's not a single exploration of a single plot point.
Or maybe it is, and "Six Gun War" was a brief aberration.
But issue #50 -- an oversized extravaganza drawn by Darwyn Cooke -- draws upon previous storylines and yet tells a story that begins and ends in this one issue. And what an ending it is.
Tallulah Black, otherwise known as the most important recurring character from this volume of "Jonah Hex," features prominently here. As a partner to Hex. A lover. And something more.
Gray and Palmiotti give us a powerful story inside these pages. Hex takes on the bounties for 50 men. Tallulah Black becomes domesticated -- or as close as she can -- but not with Jonah Hex. Time passes. Tragedy strikes. The cover image tells you how things end, but it's the how that's important.
Perhaps the most striking thing about this issue, though, is Darwyn Cooke's style. It's different here. Significantly different, at least when it comes to ink on the page. While has Timm-meets-Kirby style still shines through in the layouts, he barely uses any solid blacks here. No brush work to speak of. It's as if John Severin snuck into Cooke's studio each night, taking pen to paper, giving each page the crosshatching it deserves.
I don't think the style looks as bold as Cooke's normal style, and it's certainly less visually interesting than what he used in his recent "Parker" graphic novel, but it works for this story. This gritty story about love and loss, pain and death. It needs the noodling little details. It needs the grit. It needs the sharpness of the pen lines, because this is a vicious little tale. It hurts.
This isn't the final issue of "Jonah Hex." Dick Giordano comes in next issue, followed by the return of Jordi Bernet in issue #52. But issue #50 feels like a finale. And if it were, it would be a fitting one for this fine series.