You are warned, here be spoilers.
Well, well, well. Looks like Jonah Hex has been brought down to a mortal, if still peak, level of marksmanship. In this issue we actually get an extended gun-battle – Jonah with half a dozen allies holing up in some rocks against a small band of attacking riders. The old ’70s comics didn’t tend to have scenes of gunfights so much as panels that indicated a gunfight took place. That was sort of the point – Hex was that fast. In the old days, there would have been a single panel that showed Hex taking down all dozen or so bandits at once.
This issue has some nice, fun bickering between hex and his companions. Gray and Palmiotti do a good job of giving each character a distinctive voice, yet they all fit together well. If they were actors on screen, we’d talk about the chemistry between them.
The issue has two acts, really – the gun battle, and the setup for an ambush in a nearby town soon after. Hex and his companions (I have to keep restraining myself from typing “friends”) find themselves in a saloon, and we get some nice interaction, and Hex is warned of the trap that’s to be sprung once he’s good and drunk. Hex isn’t worried – evidently he has Comanche companions waiting outside, whom he trusts to give him the heads-up. The issue ends with him stepping outside to meet the ambush, to find those Comanche all dead.
Granted, I skipped thirty years of storytelling, going from the old ’70s material to the current run, but I’m still struck by the differences. It’s not news that comic book storytelling is more decompressed than it used to be, but I’m still amazed when I try recount all the events of this issue, and realise that they are few. In an old issue of Weird Western Tales, this whole six-issue arc would have been told in a single issue – a page for the chase, a page for the gun-battle and a few moments’ aftermath, maybe half a page of Turnbull assembling the trap, a page to a page and a half of the stuff in the saloon… and so on. Not that I’m complaining; this pace works here. The scenes themselves are rich with character and atmosphere, so I don’t mind that the overall plot is unfolded but gradually.
The art is spot-on as always. The cover shows a good image from the gun-battle, with Hex and his allies half-hiding behind rocks and all brandishing their weapons. Cristiano Cucina’s art and paneling has a wonderfully cinematic feel, with heavy use of narrow, page-wide panels and heavy shadows in his details. He also does a great job emphasizing the scarring and deformity on Hex’s face – in some of the old ’70s issues, the deformity was often almost an afterthought, an extra scribble or two on the side of his face.
All in all, a great issue, and I can’t wait to find out what Hex meets outside.