Review: Jonah Hex #69

Jonah tracks down his old man, just to watch him die.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Jonah Hex #69

Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti should write Jonah Hex forever.  Of course, that might mean they start forgetting some of their old stories.  Then again, Hex is a character what lends himself to tall tales and conflicting origins – but most importantly, single-arc stand-alone stories.  J&J have even contradicted themselves when giving the origin of Hex's facial scarring – either it was the result of the crooked Union Colonel Ackerman giving him a savage beating (issue #13) or the Apache being fooled into thinking him a dishonorable coward giving him the Mark of the Demon (issue #15). 

One thing has been constant throughout though:  Jonah Hex's father was a son of a bitch.

In Jonah Hex #69, we catch up with old Woodson Hex, but first, we've got some build-up with a crew of claim-jumpers aimin' to bushwhack an old coot whose devoted the last several years of his life trying to strike it rich once he's finally found that thar gold.  We're head-faked into thinking it'll be Jonah Hex gunning down criminal bastards to serve up some justice, but once Hex rolls up on the scene, he finds that the ne'er-do-wells have already been shot dead, and the old man is bleeding out from a gut wound – and that old man turns out to be the same man who used to torture and beat his son, shoved him into an outhouse shithole and forced him to spend hours trying to crawl out, and who last saw his son when he was 13 years old, when he sold him into Apache slavery in order to pass on to that elusive gold rush claim he was aimin' for. 

Jonah isn't here to save the old man at all.  In fact, he states quite plainly that he's just there to watch the old man die.  Woodson Hex was never an obliging man, though, and he does his damnedest to thwart Jonah's satisfaction, and in turn, the son deprives the old man of what he wants.  The subsequent battle of wills between the Hexes packs a wallop and is exactly the kind of story you want to read about when you pick up a Jonah Hex book.

Ostensibly, Jonah's making an effort to get the last word in and let his father know it, but Woodson's been fighting all his life and he's gonna go down swinging.  His son may be sitting there in the shade, staring him down with that Apache-mangled face and enjoying a nice bottle of whiskey while he's bleeding and baking in the sun, but he's got a few cards left to play to churn the boy's guts a little bit more. 

It's a damn good story, and it makes one wish more could be said about the art of Jeff Lemire which illustrates it.  Most of the time, his characters tend to have eyes like Mike Mignola-style frog monsters or faces like weird melting mutants.  It's just not pleasant to look at.  Thankfully, though, the words carry it all through, and maybe Woodson Hex isn't supposed to look all that human.

We know Jonah Hex will be continuing on after the reboot, visiting Old Tyme Gotham City and all, but this story feels like a chapter near the end of the book.  We'll have to wait and see what changes, if anything, in the story of this iconic and surly gunslinger.  Let's hope it ain't much.