"Jonah Hex" #51 reminds me of an episode of a western TV show that you used to see on Saturday afternoons in syndication. It's not great, but it's also not bad; it's pleasant is what it is. It's a pleasant little story with some cynical wit thrown in and is a satisfying read that won't linger too long in your mind, but will leave you with a nice feeling. It's the sort of comic that you will remember fondly and will only get better as time passes since you read it. In short, the impression it makes is better than its actual quality.
Jonah Hex is hired by a town to track down the gang of men that killed the town's founder. The founder was killed for his divining rod, which he had used to discover water and other valuable minerals. Hex immediately suspects the young widow of involvement and does so in an abrasive, harsh manner, earning the ire of the widow and the town minister. At the same time, the murderers can't seem to get the divining rod to work properly and return to town to convince the widow to share her husband's secret with them.
The story is fairly straight forward and the denouement of everyone's actions and motivations is done well. The cynical edge to the story, particularly regarding the town's founder, plays into the last couple of decades' concept of exposing the truth behind the Old West, dispelling the various myths built up over time. But, beyond the serviceable story, the characters are flat and transparent and the resolution is less than satisfying. Jonah Hex is put in that standard 'can do no wrong' position that the tough guy hero often is and it takes some of the drama away, making his involvement somewhat mechanical.
Veteran artist Dick Giordano provides the art for this issue to mixed results. On some pages, his compositions are flat and his characters posed awkwardly, but, on others, he delivers beautiful landscapes and his characters burst off the page with emotion. The two-page sequence between Hex and the murderers at the end of the issue is a masterful execution of action and movement in a fluid layout lacking clear boundaries.
"Jonah Hex" #51 is a pleasant read that won't be making any 'best of the year' lists, but also won't make you wish you'd spent your three bucks on something else.