(2006) Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Luke Ross, Titan Books, £8.99, trdpbk, 144pp, ISBN 1-84576-408-0
OK, a brief message to old and new readers alike: We are, as you know, primarily a science and science fiction site, but we also frequently stray into the related genres of horror and fantasy, not to mention super-heroics. Less often, but once in a while, just because we love you and wouldn't want you to miss out on a good thing, we might stray a little further afield - an example would be the crime novels of Patricia Cornwell which have no overt fantastic content, but can be reached by a hop, skip and jump (in this case science-forensics-crime). What I'm about to review are two trade paperbacks that are Westerns with no fantastic elements (shock, horror), and the hop, skip and jump in this case is the character of Jonah Hex. A long-time DC character, his title has come and gone as fashion (and sales) dictate and has had many incarnations - which probably makes him a multi-dimensional character if you want to stretch a point, but that's a bit weak. However, less of a stretch would be to point out that he has met characters from the mainstream DC Universe before (in time travel and 'reality clash' tales) and that in the incarnation where he was written by Joe Lansdale he met monsters and aliens. So there you have it. The only real justification I care about as I present these reviews is that the titles are well-written and well-drawn, and I like to recommend things that you might like. So sue me...
The resurgence of the Western can probably be laid at the door of successful movies such as Unforgiven and the very successful HBO tv series Deadwood but, whatever the cause, it's nice to see Jonah back. This volume collects issues 1-6 of the title and are all pure Western (no sf, no horror) and are written in the manner of EC Comics' Two-Fisted Tales. Jonah's backstory is that he is a former Confederate soldier raised by Apaches, now a bounty hunter. In these stories he is variously hired to recover the kidnapped son of a crippled hunter (the son is forced into gladiatorial fights with vicious dogs); find and return a golden cross to the village from which it was stolen; take on a corrupt sheriff (meeting another DC Western hero, Bat Lash, along the way); defend an innocent man from the charges of a rapist father; revenge himself upon a bad-guy that got away one Christmas; and take on a town of religious zealots. In all the tales Jonah metes out justice the old-fashioned way, with bullets from his six-guns! The Luke Ross artwork in issues 1-4 and 6 is fabulous and wonderful, and issue 5 is drawn by Hex co-creator Tony DeZuniga and is also lovely. A measure of the affection with which Jonah is held by comics' professionals is reflected in the line up of cover artists: Frank Quitely, Leonardo Manco, Phil Noto, Howard Chaykin, Tim Bradstreet and Brian Bolland; all are excellent. This title is highly recommended.
Even before re-launching Jonah Hex, DC have brought out a new title (firmly in the Deadwood vein), Loveless - this volume sub-titled "A Kin of Homecoming" - (2006) by Brian (100 Bullets) Azzarello and Marcelo (Hellblazer) Frusin (Titan Books, £6.99, tpb, 128pp, ISBN 1-84576-337-8); the trade paperback collects the first five issues of the title. It is the story of Wes Cutter and his wife Ruth, close to being a Western 'Bonnie and Clyde' in their ruthlessness. Cutter (another Confederate) has survived the American Civil War and a stint in a brutal Union prison camp, only to return home and find his property taken by Yankees as part of their post-war "Reconstruction" programme. Cue the mayhem. Azzarello's writing is excellent as always and Frusin's art is, I feel, better suited to this than it is to Hellblazer. So far, at least, it appears to be well-researched and 'serious'; we can only hope it continues the same way. Also recommended.
So there you are. I promise not to bother you with Westerns again, but I just thought you should know about these engaging titles. Hope you enjoy them...
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