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Such was the case here, and I had found myself musing on the theme of “Vengeance” long before I closed the book midway through, seeking a brief breath before moving on. Noticing
the title for the first time since picking up the volume, it seemed perfect – Guns of Vengeance. A fitting title for this collection, the second contemporary Jonah Hex trade paperback.
Continuing the ongoing written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, the book features work by an impressive stable of artists: (in order of appearance) Luke Ross, Dylan Teague, Val Semeiks, Dan Green (on Val’s inks), Hex Co-creator Tony DeZuniga, Phil Noto (with his own colors), David Michael Beck, and Paul Gulacy. Except for Phil’s story, the colors are handled by Rob Schwager.
All the artists have a little bit different take on our mutilated mudruckin’ Hex, but no one is phoning it in here – it’s a sterling set of work.
Pretty ladies and beautiful sunsets, wide eye’d innocents and Hex’s ugly cuss, plus of course a wide variety of graphic and artfully implied violence – it’s all here and rendered wonderfully, if not quite tastefully. That might depend on your personal disposition.
As mentioned before, this is the second graphic novel release, collecting issues 7-12 of the Hex ongoing. This series often is lauded for it’s friendliness to readers hoping to jump right in, and while it’s easier than most to pick up, I’d still recommend checking out the previous trade, Face Full of Violence, first (and the classic Showcase Presents: Jonah Hex to secure maximum enjoyment.)
Back to the theme of vengeance. This is a motif close to the heart of the western and just as classic for comics. Brian made a comparison between Hex and Batman in his review of the first book, and it’s fair: Batman also burns with revenge.
But Hex isn’t as controlled or pure as the cowled crimefighter. His vengeance is a darker fire and if we were to draw parallels to superheroes we might have to look to Marvel for the closest comparisons in Wolverine, the Punisher, and perhaps Ghost Rider (who actually share at least two books.)
Hex is a bounty hunter, a job defined by the seeking of justice for some injured party. In his old days, during the Bronze Age series, he was a bit more of a forgiving fellow, leaving the killing up to the law when possible (unless really pushed over the edge, which happened a few enough times.)
Since then he’s hardened further, and the lifting of the comics code has allowed him to indulge in (mostly off camera) torture when necessary. In this collection’s first story, he responds to the offer of a fresh bounty – “Since when is alive an option?”
Understandable and mostly satisfying, quite entertaining. We as a culture are usually happy to see bad things happening to bad bad men. If there is any downside, though, it might be that the stories can be a little predictable. People get what they deserve and the details generally have to do with “how” and “why” more than “when” and “if.”
These tales of manly revenge take place across an assortment of classic stages, from boom towns gone bad to dusty deserts, snow-capped mountains and even the dank and verdant recesses of a nasty hick (and gator) filled swamp.
This last one plays to the strengths of Noto’s coloring.
The storytelling is very good, with a time hopping pacing punctuated with the odd movie style title panel – “Hellfire Rains on Texas” or “The Jaws of Death” – lending a lighter pulpy mood to the grim events.
Similar to the first book, the stories seem to be self contained, but there’s actually a fair amount of continuity here. One particular story (actually my favorite of the bunch) features El Diablo, who discusses Hex’s meeting with Bat Lash in the past volume. This story is a continuation of plot threads left off in that same book.
I quite enjoy the treatment of the other western characters in this series, where it seems as if they are old acquaintances with long histories – a nice nod to the publications they shared for many years even if their stories rarely crossed over in the Bronze Age.
Other feelings of continuity are more subtle. A building of the character, some stories that feel like they play off classic tales (including one, Gettin’ Unhaunted that I think is a riff on a Bat Lash issue, though perhaps primarily in theme rather than direct connection.) While the stories here are good, I find myself hoping for more longer arcs and reoccurring characters.
He really lets loose here. though one of the more tasteful when it comes to actual violence, his Hex is quite possibly the most grotesque of the bunch, yet also the most relatable.
There’s a sadness, a softness in those eyes, which coupled with the strange events of this story makes for a moving and, because this is a Jonah Hex book, slightly disturbing tale.
A problem with vengeance is that it may be short term satisfaction – the death of your enemy, the death of a killer may seem just, but it probably won’t fill the voids left by their actions. Hex isn’t sure whether he does God’s work or the Devil’s – or perhaps some wrathful combination.
It’s such that tortures Jonah Hex, but lack of fulfillment for the hunter still makes for a cruelly satisfying collection of stories.
4 of 5. Good wholesome violent fun, with a hint of morality play and top notch art. The stories can be a tad predictible, and might benefit from some more characters that aren’t dead or left behind by the end.
Overall, highly recommended to any fan of westerns, bloody vengeance, and fitting ends for bad men.
Reading this book is reccomended before moving on towards the next Jonah Hex book.
No real impact on the DC Universe as a whole, as far as I can see at this time, but some amusing references to other titles of the past (including the time traveling Hex series, which will be interesting to find a spot for on our reading order if they ever collect it.)
The 2001 El Diablo Vertigo series is great, but doesn’t tie in directly – feel free to read it at any time.
It’s the next stop for me as well, as I continue reviewing my way through the collected DC Universe – so stick around to check out that review in the next couple days.