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The Chronicles of Jonah Hex (part 3)

The Chronicles of Jonah Hex (part 3)

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Published by Abandoned Towers
Part 3 of Eric S. Brown's series on Jonah Hex.
Part 3 of Eric S. Brown's series on Jonah Hex.

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Published by: Abandoned Towers on Jan 31, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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10/19/2009

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The Chronicles of Jonah Hex (part 3)
By Eric S Brown
 By 2005, the comic industry had recovered from the collapse of the 1990s. Older fans were returning to titles they had once enjoyed and new fans were being created eachmonth. DC’s sales were better than they had been in years. The company was looking toexpand its catalog beyond standard super hero fare and offer a broader spectrum of reading choices to its consumers. Jonah Hex was relaunched as a monthly, ongoingseries to the joy of long time fans. Comic visionary Jimmy Palmiotti who’d helpedreshape Marvel Comics by introducing their cutting edge Marvel Knights line, along withJustin Gray, took over the duty of writing the book. They returned Jonah to the setting hewas created for, the American Old West. The series launched with strong sales andoverwhelming critical praise. The Philadelphia Weekly News even went so far as to callJonah Hex “A book that anybody who loves Westerns should be reading.” This new Jonah Hex series has remained extremely faithful to the original Jonahtales of the 70s and early 80s: keeping the character’s history intact and retaining both thefeel and diversity of stories offered by those first issues. Each issue of the current runonce again explores a seemingly random adventure from the gunfighter’s long,remarkable, and tragic life.For example: in one issue of the current series, Jonah finds himself in a southerntown in post civil war America. A bleeding and ravaged African American comesrunning down the street begging for help. None of the southerners move to help the manand most go on with their business completely ignoring him despite his obvious need for aid. He collapses dying at Jonah’s feet, gasping out a tale of a murderous family living inthe nearby swamp who still have his wife and child held captive as their play things. He begs Jonah to find them and save his family, handing Jonah a deed for land in the westernterritories as payment with his last breath. Jonah takes the deed and honors his promiseto the man, setting out to avenge him and rescue the man’s family by disguising himself as a simple traveler and walking through the swamp. The clan of inbred killers spotshim, sets up an ambush and takes him prisoner, then tosses him to the swamp’s alligatorsfor fun. Jonah escapes the water after a knife fight with a hungry gator, and proceedswith his rescue mission, only to discover the child is already dead. However the wife isalive and Jonah rescues her. He then extracts payment from the clan for all their victims by torturing them while she watches. As his final act of vengeance, Jonah burns thehouse to the ground, and then he gives the woman the deed her husband gave him andurges her to head west and start a new life for herself.In another equally dark issue that explains why Jonah is still wearing hisConfederate uniform long after the Civil War has ended, Jonah stumbles upon a differentAfrican American woman by a stream. She sees his Confederate garb and attempts toflee, but falls into the water and gets caught in the current. Jonah tries to save her bylassoing her, but accidentally snaps her neck as he is pulling her to safety. When her kincome hunting for her, they discover Jonah cradling the dead body in his arms. They beathim and take steps to hang him, but a pack of elitist “good ole southern boys” show up,
 
 mistake him for a racist as well, and rescue him then take him into town with them untilhe recovers from the attack. That night, Jonah joins them by the fireplace and takes partin a discussion with them on race and the state of the south. The men confess thingsthey’ve done and affirm their allegiance to the old ways of the south. Jonah, sickenedand furious, ultimately guns them down in their own home rather than allow them thechance to spread their beliefs and in that moment, decides never to rid himself of hisconfederate uniform, but rather to wear it always as a reminder of the poor woman who’sdeath, the evil that all men are capable of, and his own crime in fighting for the south inthe war. Palmiotti and Gray have also introduced Jonah to his son Jason. In this issue, anelderly Jonah is caught in a firefight with a group of bandits and is saved by a “man of the law” who turns out to be his son. Neither realizes it at the time or at least admits to it, but later Jason tracks Jonah to a bar in town and confronts him. Ostensibly, he wants tomake sure Jonah knows he exists and that he has chosen a more honorable path in thefighting the evil of the west, but then goes on to say he wants nothing to do with the bounty hunter and his dark legend. He leaves Jonah sitting alone, thinking of the pastwith only his drink as company.The current series deals with the social problems of today set against the backdropof the old west, and in perhaps one of the most memorable issues so far, Jonah is accosted by a young man seeking vengeance in the name of his “friend” who has been hangedunjustly. Jonah can tell the young man wants blood for blood, not simply justice, andturns down the job. The story then reveals that the “friend” who was hung, was actuallythe young man’s lover, hung not for crimes, but merely for his sexual preference. Thenext Sunday when the murderers, and all of the other folk of the town, are gathered inthe church the young man acts without Jonah, trapping them inside and sets the churchablaze where they all perish in flames. Mission accomplished, he returns to Jonah to brag. Jonah is taken aback by the ghastly deed and forces him to face the horror of whathe’s done before sending him to hell via a bullet in the name of the children who died inthe church as punishment for a crime they did not commit.While many of the titles created in the 2005 boom, as well as older titles that wererelaunched, have met with cancellation, the new Jonah Hex series continues strong today.Its adult themes and fast-paced tales have made it one of DC’s strongest and most popular non-superhero titles, as well developing a strong following for the character. So much sothat DC has begun releasing the back issues of the 2005 series in collectable trade paperbacks that each contain six stories for the extremely low price of $12.99. The highrenewed interest in the character has also led DC comics to include Jonah in its
Showcase Presents
line. The
Showcase Presents
line collects classic issues of DC’s most popular titles into massive, five hundred page tomes for $16.99 each, a great value with the onlydraw back being that they are black and white to offset the cost of so many pages at solow a price. The first
Showcase Presents: Jonah Hex
volume collected together almost all of Jonah’s early appearances. The second volume picks up with the start of the1977 series. If Jonah’s popularity holds, it is likely his entire history will be reprinted inthis new format.

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