Tripwire continues its 100 Graphic Novels You Should Read While Stuck Inside with its eighty-fifth choice, Jonah Hex: Counting Corpses, by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti and various artists and reviewed by Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows…
Jonah Hex: Counting Corpses
Writers: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti
Artists: Paul Gulacy, Darwyn Cooke, Dick Giordano, Jordi Bernet and Billy Tucci
Letters: Rob Leigh
Colours: Rob Schwager, Paul Mounts and Dave Stewart
Back in the 2000s, Jimmy Palmiotti and his writing partner Justin Grey brought DC’s iconic former Confederate soldier turned bounty hunter back to the DC line first in his own book, Jonah Hex, which ran from 2005 to 2011 and then was replaced with All-Star Western, which ran for another three years. This collection reprints six tales taken from the Jonah Hex title, illustrated by some very impressive artists indeed.
The first tale, The Hyde House Massacre, is drawn by DC and Marvel legend Paul Gulacy. What is most extraordinary is that 14 out of the story’s 22 pages are silent, devoid of any dialogue. Gulacy has always been a very atmospheric and haunting artist and this Hex one off shows that he has lost none of his impact. Hex has been hired to rescue a woman and her father and manages to strike a lucrative bargain with the woman by the tale’s end.
The second story, The Great Silence, sees Palmiotti and Grey team up with one of their finest collaborators, the late great Darwyn Cooke. Here we see Hex team up with Tallulah Black, his fellow bounty hunter and occasional lover and we get to see a slightly more human side to Hex. Cooke was spectacular at capturing action as well as emotion and this story is some of the finest modern Western comic work. Cooke was all about simplicity and conveying so much in just a few lines.
The third story, Divining Rod, is by Neal Adams’ former inker and DC’s executive editor Dick Giordano. He was better known as an inker rather than a full artist but he was a more than serviceable penciller and so it’s rather cool to have him included here as this was one of his last professional jobs in comics. He was a very fine storyteller so it’s great to see him strut his stuff.
The fourth story, Too Mean To Die, by Spanish comics great Jordi Bernet, sees Hex hiding out in a swamp from men bent on killing him and a little like Cooke, Bernet is the master of the line, eliciting so much with just a few simple strokes. His European approach is refreshing here and he reteams with Palmiotti and Grey in the final tale here, Shooting Stars.
Between these two stories is You’ll Never Dance Again, a story of betrayal and vengeance that sees Hex enlist dance hall girl Lana, whose motives are less than pure here, to help him acquire the bounty on a pair of robbers. Artist Billy Tucci captures the action well although he sometimes lacks the subtlety and nuance of the other illustrators in this volume.
Bernet’s final tale, Shooting Stars, is a classic Hex tale of bizarre alliances and wrongfooting your opponent.
Palmiotti and Grey brought something fresh and new to Jonah Hex, lending it a Leoneesque spaghetti western feel and these are six wonderful self-contained stories of DC’s most interesting and iconic Western creation. It is a shame that the company doesn’t have space for a Hex book as part of its line currently but you can’t keep a good bounty hunter down for long.
Here’s links to the other graphic novels reviewed so far