September 30th 2009

Jonah Hex: Bullets Don't Lie

Review by Gavin O'Reilly

Rollicking in the Wild West

Gun slinging, tough talking, loose living sons of bitches. That is the cast of characters that would shoot you and trade you for gold from them there mountains, as soon as they would greet you. Jonah Hex: Bullets Don’t Lie, collects issues 31-39 of the DC monthly series by the acclaimed and notably prolific writing team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray. I am a fan of their work so was looking forward to reading this, and being introduced into an unfamiliar world by them. As usual subject matter for tales concerning the wild west, we meet dirty, double dealing scoundrels of men, making their way by being even more cut throat and ruthless than the next, and women of how they would describe as being of loose morale, holding up in houses of ill repute. These larger than life characters can’t help but grab the attention, but the only problem I have is that I don’t like the characters.

It is a personal preference in which I would like to admire the characters I am investing in, or at the least relate to them in some way.

This can be tricky when dealing with historical pieces, where the context can throw our moral rule book out the window, and this it does in the form of our facially disfigured Jonah Hex.

If you do not have the same problem with character relations, and prefer to use and fully realize the advantages of fiction being without the boundaries of our world, then there are some definite plus points to this small collection. Unlike a lot of collected graphic novels and collections, this is not one story collected, in fact there isn’t even a two parter present, these are six one issue-long short stories, with wildly differing art styles. This makes it an easy to pick-up sampler, and you really don’t need to have read anything previously involving Jonah Hex to enjoy this. It is a nice pick and mix kind of collection, and a good showcase for western comics.

In this assortment, we see our scoundrel take on bloodthirsty crime lords in Mexico, brave savage conditions up in Canada and deal with a more than troublesome mob rule when he tries to set up home. You nearly feel sorry for him, nearly. Although Jonah Hex does some arguably and questionable, and some outright damnable things, he does appear to have an ethical code of sorts. That and he don’t like people.

He really don’t like people. As if feeling reader discomfort in the world we have been submerged, the authors offer us an insight here and there as to the whys and wherefores of the legendary mercenary, that he has lost so much and so many.

In the last story, it is pointed out with some historical reasoning that Jonah Hex was most likely not a racist, he hated every one equally.

Jonah Hex is complex as a character, and certainly makes you wonder about him, maybe that is enough. He is a damn sight more interesting than some textbook rent-a-heroes out there.

The varied roster of artists (there is a different team for each story) show a nice difference in interpretation of the character, somehow some show Jonah as more handsome if not for his disfigurement, others have him looking very much like he is as bad, if not worse, than the bad guy in the tale. Honorable mention goes to Mark Sparacio for the lush, semi realistic work he provides in the tale “Outrunning Shadows”. The action of the stories is frantically fast paced, miss a panel and you miss an essential slice of the action pie, which a good test of sequential story telling. Apart from a couple of misjudged hiccups, they pass all well and good. I do also like the stylized and atmospheric work of Rafa Carres in the final tale of the collection, “Seven graves six feet deep”.

This collection is interesting enough as to be a diversion, and a good tonic to the gin of most mainstream comics and crossovers etc. This is concerned with stories, characters and craft, and does a good job. It may even make Jonah Hex smile. Maybe. 

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