You are warned, here be spoilers.
I can imagine that writing Jonah Hex is a bit like writing Superman, of all characters. Oh, sure, he’s not indestructible, and he can’t fly. But, if the issues I’ve read so far are to be believed, he is so fast and so accurate with his guns that if there is some level of gun skill that would get him out of a jam, he gets out of the jam. I think there’s an epsilon-delta proof reference to be made somewhere in there.
It doesn’t seem to be writer laziness either – “How do I get him out of the jam? Um. Um. He’ll. Um. Shoot his way out!” No, it seems to be a tenet of the character. It’s like there’s a line in the writers’ bible that says “No matter the situation, he is that fast.” At least taking his guns away with some regularity is a bit more believable than having every two-bit hood Superman runs into have access to kryptonite.
So you have to be careful to structure the story so that, at least at first, shooting his way out simply doesn’t apply. You tend to make the story less about “How will he survive this predicament?” and more about “What terrible secret will be revealed this week?” I mean, The X-Files didn’t usually put Mulder and Scully in too much personal danger.
Jonah Hex #46 is part three of a six-issue plot, and seems to be a bit of a “downtime” issue. Hex and a few companions lay the groundwork for an assault on an enemy’s home base. There’s also an extended flashback to Hex’s Civil War days (no, not that Civil War), which retreads some of Hex’s backstory.
There’s no recap to bring the reader up to speed, which is disappointing, but I never felt lost reading the issue. Palmiotti and Gray structured it quite deftly, so that even if I didn’t know exactly what came before, I had a clear sense of where we were in the issue itself, regardless of how we got there. It also uses the device of introducing the principal characters by showing their portraits along one edge of the title page, with a handful of words about each. This throwback to a more cheerfully lurid point in comics’ history is a perfect fit for such a deliberately lurid mythos as that which surrounds Jonah Hex. Awesome.
The art as a whole is a perfect fit, for that matter. Cucina’s character work is a lovingly-rendered homage to Tony Dezuñiga’s work on Hex in his early appearances, but the panel layouts are a little more subtle – they aren’t quite as crowded and breathless as the old-school work. It’s absolutely right for the story and the character.
This issue is a great read, but like the series’ older incarnations, it still tastes a bit like candy – I may start to crave something else, something with meat and potatoes, after enough issues go by.