Jonah Hex. He really has had a troubled life. To put it mildly.
And the graphic novel Jonah Hex No Way Back clearly shows this.
This tale, created by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti and Tony DeZuniga takes the decades old DC Comics old west character and not only refine and redefine him, but adds new vibes to the who and what of Hex.
Jonah Hex, and please ignore that movie claiming the same title, has always been a bounty hunter who lived by his own code and has absolutely no compunction about killing. This plus a seriously disfigured face, a nasty anti-social attitude, and a massive almost destructive taste for alcohol and woman, make Jonah someone you love reading about but never want to meet. DC mucked Hex up in the 1980’s by pushing him into a Mad Max future, and in the 1990’s by having him face over the top supernatural menaces.
But Palmiotti and Gray were given the keys to Hex some years back and did wonderfully great things over the course of two series, including the recently cancelled All Star Western.
No Way Back shows us a Jonah Hex who is just going about what he always does, collecting bounties and spending the money on vices, when he finds out about a reward offered for his mother. This sets Hex out on a quest to find her, eventhrough he has not seen her since he was a child.
Hex finds his mother, makes no peace with her, but finds out he has a half brother. Hex seeks the man out, and in a lot of ways this becomes a road not traveled type of story. To compound this feeling, flashbacks are liberally scattered in the tale showing Hex’s childhood with his caring mother and violently abusive and sadistic father. The brutal punishment Jonah tolerates and survives is an obvious factor of who he is, but not something Hex himself would never ruminate on.
To complicate his journey, a mysterious and vicious villain is carrying out a vendetta against all things Hex. El Papagayo and his gang causes endless death and misery on his mad quest to take on and destroy Jonah.
Which reminds me, Jonah Hex is fairly violent even before Palmiotti and Gray took over, but these creators take this up a notch to HBO levels. This graphic novel pushes that even more with the violence and subject matter and deeper questions asked.
Jonah Hex No Way Back slams headlong into the nature nurture question, just as so many alternative worlds stories DC has done featuring Kal-El. Jonah himself is not one for introspection, an act he would consider a colossal waste of time, but this tale is structured to make Hex face so many of his childhood traumas. But really it is the reader as bystander who sees and feels and lives what Hex goes through and the processing of it all. As I said earlier, Jonah is not one for dwelling in the past, and what little learned morality Hex does express in this story still says volumes about who and what he is.
The Hex presented here, tweaked and even more grounded in reality than ever before, is a character who can generate countless grad school essays of a psychological and sociological basis. The final few pages alone provide endless fodder for speculation of how Jonah came to be Hex.
I have a strong feeling No Way Back was the impetus for adding Arkham to the Hex mythos when All Star Western was launched as part of The New 52. Which makes this another reason why I love this book so much.
…is currently reading Black Beauty by Anna Sewell