Friday, January 20, 2012

Jonah Hex: No Way Back

Next on the library books adventures is Jonah Hex: No Way Back. Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti handle the writing and Tony DeZuniga does the art.

What can I say? It's Jonah Hex to the hilt. Anyone who appears to have any kind of connection to Hex ends up in a bad way as Hex continues his bounty hunting. Lots of dying ensues, both from Hex killing bounties, people protecting the bounties, and from people targeting Hex's acquaintances.

No one even has to be close to Hex to get a violent end in this one. A simple bar in a simple town finds its employees tortured and murdered by a Mexican named El Papagayo who's laid a trap for Hex.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Hex learns his mother, who ran out on him and his father when he was a boy, is wanted for murder. He tracks her down, killing lots of deserving people along the way. Just before she dies of tuberculosis, Hex learns he has a half brother who's a minister in Colorado. Hex takes her body, and a mangy dog named Dag who's become his companion, to Colorado so his half brother can bury her as he sees fit. Hex has no allegiance to the woman, who ran off with a salesman, and has been a drunken prostitute for many years before her death.

All this leads to El Papagayo tracking Hex to his half brother's town, torturing the bar denizens where Hex's mother died to find out where he's gone. El Papagayo's motive for revenge on Hex? Hex's no good father killed all of his family in Mexico when he was a kid. Jonah never did anything to El Papagayo. Well, ok. He did leave El Papagayo tied to a pole once and has stolen a lot of guns from him at different times, but none of that is why El Papagayo wants to kill Hex.

Hex's half brother, Joshua Dazzleby, is both minister and sheriff in the town of Heaven's Gate. No guns are allowed in the town. All seems nice and peaceful. However, at Hex's first dinner with his half brother's family we learn that Joshua's wife is 21, having been only 13 when she married Joshua. Jonah makes a crack about her age, and the fact that she has sons who are 7 and 3. Jonah ends up sleeping in the family's barn, drunk. Joshua comes in to fight him, fists only. Joshua appears to have a large crucific tattoo on his chest. Ah, family drama. And here I thought you had to grow up with your brother to have arguments and fist fights.

Jonah leaves town after he and Joshua bury their mother but he soon spots El Papagayo and about 50 of his men riding toward the town. Knowing how El Papagayo has destroyed other towns, and that he was the one who framed their mother for murder in order to get to him, Hex advises the gunless town residents to flee. The town decides to stand and fight, which they do with the weapons they have at hand, such as pitch forks. They use a hot spring that is used for bathing to lure the bandits out of town, as well as some naked women.

Quite possibly the most unbelievable thing in the story, other than the general portrayal of the West as something akin to anarchy, is that these women are all hot. I've seen a lot of pictures of women in the West in that era. Hot they were not. Not only that, these religiously conservative women are quite ready to disrobe in front of both the mauraders of El Papagayo's gang but the other men of the town, which would seem like more of a long term problem. The brunette with her head thrown back also engages in heavy duty, come hither, sexy inuendo to lure the bandits into the water where the men of the town are submerged and waithing with their axes and pitch forks. Wonder where she's supposed to have picked up that skill? It's not like women are born knowing how to do that.

Anyway, a large number of the men in Heaven's Gate are killed, and Jonah is severely injured. Joshua ends up shot in the shoulder. But in the end, El Papagayo doesn't have to worry about revenge or being left tied up to a pole, or anything else.

Jonah spends months in the town healing, but won't speak to anyone in the town because once the bodies started piling up in the fight, they tried to turn him over to El Papagayo to end the fight. Before he rides out of town, still recuperating, he stops at his mother's grave. I love that Dag has a grave right next to his mother.

I enjoyed the back story on Hex. Jumping back to moments when his mother saved him from his father's abuse as well as to when she left him with that same father, the story fleshes out Hex's motivations more than any I can recall. The addition of a half brother to Jonah's family tree was largely a deus ex machina for the story at hand. That story was a bit Magnificent Seven (or Seven Samurai, if you want to go to original source material).

DeZuniga's art had its moments of trouble. Sometimes the bodies and heads were a bit disproportionate. Other times he seemed to be having trouble with hands. And what's with the out of era underwear? I noticed in Spider-Man Noir: Eyes Without a Face that Felicia Hardy was wearing a thong in one scene, which seemed out of place for 1933. In this book prostitutes Jonah is utilizing are wearing thongs, too. Now, I know these are women who traffic in sex, but were thongs really available in Nevada in the second half of the 19th Century? 'Course, we have the surplussage of hot women issue here, too.

Aside from the fleshing out of Jonah Hex as a person, this was a standard Hex story. Hex kills bad people. Other bad people kill people to try to get to Hex. Hex kills those bad people. A lot of innocent people die in the crossfire. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's a good read for what it is. But it's not something I'm going to take the next step with and buy.

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