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Jonah Hex Vol. 4: Only The Good Die Young by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Phil Nero and Jordi Bernet

01/09/2008. Contributed by Jill Roberts

Buy Jonah Hex in the USA - or Buy Jonah Hex in the UK

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pub: Titan/DC comics. 144 page graphic novel. Price: 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84576-786-1.

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Compilation of the 'Jonah Hex' comic # 19-24, printed in 2007,from a relatively recent revamp of the comic. That's not very old. My reading of the 'Jonah Hex' comic goes much further back than that, to a time when the artwork and the storylines were more consistent and more detailed. 'Jonah Hex' is a bounty hunter with an attitude and a battle-scared face. A loner that likes money, gambling, women and whiskey.

In 'Texas Money', Hex is hired by a rich man called Park to track down his two nephews and the man that kidnapped them. We assume the nephews are innocent boys but first Hex goes after a saloon madam who is killing lonely men and stealing their gold.

This story could have been expanded and improved by doing so. Yet more time was spent on the secondary plot of a saloon madam killing and fleecing some of her customers. First impression is of style over content. A mixture of talking heads and silent long shots, trying to be cinematic with the use of hazy shots - through cigarette smoke or heat haze, a mixture of long lingering frames intermixed with sudden jump-cuts that cause gaps in the story. Foreground frames aren't that detailed. Background detail is sparse to non-existent. As for those black and white captions, showing off or just padding out the frames? I don't see the point, apart from saving on production time, these captions feel like the dialogue cards in an old silent movie.

'Unfinished Business' follows on the story from the previous issue. We find out that Parks' nephews are young men with a bounty on their heads that Hex has collected before returning their bodies to him. Hence the delay, I suppose. This enrages Park who sends a group of men out to kill Hex. They find Hex one night, asleep by his campfire, blind drunk and passed out. Huh? A bounty hunter that's all alone in the desert and he's drunk that much ? They don't kill him. They beat him up, tell him not to return to Sulphur Springs and take his horse and gun. Bad move.

Weeks later, Hex returns. We still haven't been told or shown what the nephews did, that put a price on their heads. Hex pulls/pushes the lever and sends a charge down the wire. I'm assuming this as we don't actually see it happening. The bundle of dynamite explodes, the house erupts into flames. End of story.

I found 'Devils Paw' to be the most inconsistent. The main part of the story takes place on sacred Indian Ground, in the shadow of a rock formation that resembles a giant clawed hand. It involves a band of outlaws being tracked by Hex and a crazy Indian that scalps the outlaws.

We aren't told what makes the ground sacred or to which Indians. There are a group of people in a saloon in Red Mesa who look just like the group of outlaws we see in Plumpton which we are told is three days ride away. They are tracked by Hex and decide to hole up at the Devils Paw. Bad move. The artwork here was more like the Jonah Hex comic of old.

The title' Current War' is a pun as it is about the electrical current used to power robots. The story is about a stolen robot and who really owns the patent. Audrey Booth, the man who hires Hex to go after his rival or Thomas Edison, the man who supposedly stole the patents. Except when Hex finds Edison, he learns that Booth had been working for Edison. The story ends with a raid on Edison's complex. The lead villain looks just like one of the men scalped in the last story. Why?

Also, this seems to be set in the late 1890s, yet most of the stories seemed to be set around 1850-1860 and Jonah is the same age throughout. Apart from the time inconsistency this, to me, was a more interestingly written story, perhaps because of the Science Fiction element and it had a feel of 'The Wild, Wild West' TV series. Though I don't actually see the point of writing such a story for the Hex comic.

'Who Lives And Who Dies'. This involves a one-armed school teacher re-telling the events of a past encounter with Hex and how he lost his arm. He was assigned to photograph Indians and their way of life before it is all destroyed by the white man. An interesting idea, but we don't see much of this in the story as it is mostly about hostiles attacking the Indian encampment where they are staying and Hex going after them in revenge. The hostiles are a mixed bunch as one of them is a Mohican and another looks like an Apache?

Also, Frederic Remington was already doing this with pen and paper, something the early redskins wasn't so hostile to, as they believed that the photograph stole his soul. The artwork here was crisp and clear, but we don't actually see much of the photographer.

Another story for the weird western series is 'All Hallows Eve', with the story mixing western and horror elements. It involves Hex, Bat Lash, El Diablo, a witch and is set in a town called Coffin Creek. Here, the artwork changes from the previous story's crisp, sharp lines and obvious comicbook look to a more polished, cinematic appearance.

If you follow the writings of Justin Gray and/or Jimmy Pallmiotti, you will probably buy this for your collection. Likewise, if you follow the artwork of Phil Noto, Jordi Bernet or David Michael Beck, but three different artists over a span of just six issues As you can see from the above, I found a few inconsistencies in the story and artwork.

Jill Roberts

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