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Sunday, February 17, 2013 

Palmiotti/Gray didn't make Jonah Hex an "A-list" title

The Indiana Gazette ran a sugary column about the relaunch of Jonah Hex in a revived use of the All-Star Western title. The premise of the new plot is the typical cliche of today:
One of the best is DC's "All-Star Western," a book featuring the ongoing adventures of bounty hunter Jonah Hex, with backups starring other DC Western characters. The first collection, "All-Star Western Volume 1: Guns and Gotham" ($16.99), is out, and I'd recommend it to just about anyone.

Despite what you might have seen in the movies, Jonah Hex doesn't have any supernatural powers -- which is one reason he's such a fascinating character. Just using his wits and six-guns, Jonah is more than a match for anything the Wild West throws at him.

That's why he's so challenged in this collection, which puts him in 1880s Gotham City. Jonah comes to town -- a stand-in for 1880s New York City -- for his own reasons, but is soon hired to find a vicious serial killer preying on prostitutes, Jack the Ripper-style. Jonah soon finds that the overpopulated, crime-ridden, polyglot East is far more dangerous than anything he found out on the Plains.

Now some may be experiencing the reaction I had when I first about this storyline: "Oh, no! Does everything in DC Comics have to tie in with Batman somehow?" But don't worry, as nothing Batty happens in this story. Gotham City is just a great setting -- no, a great character -- in this grim tale of vile people. It forces Jonah to step out of his comfort zone, which just raises his performance to the next level.
Wrong. Something batty does happen - the gruesome depictions of violence against women. Even the older material was nowhere near as shock tactic as this. Or, do we really need to hear about the gazillionth plot where the hero takes on serial killers like Jack the Ripper? I think not. This is not the kind of western tale I'm begging to read, or would recommend to anyone, for that matter.

I guess the biggest problem I have here is why such downtrodden storylines are almost always the first ones to make headlines while anything with a more optimistic view are less likely. When darkness takes up much of the emphasis in storytelling and that's what draws the MSM's fancy, something is clearly wrong.
The story is by Hex veterans Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, who are responsible for Hex becoming an A-list character, so you're in good hands.
Even before the disastrous movie adaptation was released, they didn't succeed in making him an A-lister at all, if tepid sales say anything. Current sales are little more than 18,000 copies. However, it's worth noting that the movie did draw a bit from Palmiotti/Gray's own work (the Megan Fox character named Lilah was loosely based on a woman they wrote in named Tallulah Black), rather than any of the older, better stuff. Using the newer stories rather than anything older as a source of inspiration strikes me as awfully cheap.

And when I looked at the title for one of the first trade collections of Palmiotti and Gray's run, I noticed the name given was "Face Full of Violence", which is a pretty sensationalistic way to promote the book, and hardly helpful in emphasizing any character drama. Jonah Hex deserves much better.

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Yeah, leave it to Captain Comics to sugarcoat everything and obscure the better Weird Western tales from the past.

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