Monday, April 20, 2009

Hex appeal

You know that it´s been too long since your last solicitation rundown when you have already read the issues you wanted to comment on. Such is the case in an upcoming look at the new BOOSTER GOLD book on this very blog ( I hope ) and the same is true for JONAH HEX.

To begin I have to say I never knew much about Jonah Hex. I knew he was one of DC´s western characters and he was in DC´s CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS but that was it. I had some issues of a comic called HEX - mainly because of the art by Mark Texeira - but that was in an apocalyptic future with stange flying machines instead of horses and such.

I had tought about buying the DC SHOWCASE of Jonah Hex but with my current budget that was just not possible.

I guess I never would have bought a single issue of the new series by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray if not for one man : Jordi Bernet.

This gun for hire

Now for european comic readers and especially spanish comic readers Jordi Bernet is no stranger. Born in Barcelona in 1944 he has done dozens of series and comics like KRAKEN, CUSTER, SARVANE or the erotic titles CLARA DE NOCHE ( BETTY BY THE HOUR ) and CICCA DUM DUM ( of which 5 issues have been published till now - not 3 like wikipedia says ). But he´s mostly known for the hardboiled comic TORPEDO about the adventures of mobster hitman Lucca Torelli called " Torpedo ".

At least that what I think. When I was in Spain last year there was a tv station where you could watch american movies with the original sound ( normally they are dubbed ) and there was an old black and white crime movie where one of the characters referred to two hitmen as " torpedoes ". So maybe that was slang for hitmen back in the days.

Anyway, TORPEDO is released in Germany by CrossCult, the folks who do these fine hardcover collections of HELLBOY that are copied all over the world, and they are also releasing his sci fi pulp series ANDRAX that was very popular in Germany. I still have a comic from the 70s that has an ANDRAX story in it.

I have several TORPEDO albums and issues ( the series was released in the floppy format in Spain some ten years ago ) but so far I never had the complete run. At last years SALON DEL COMIC DE BARCELONA one of the spanish editors was doing a complete edition but it was in the big format and as hardcovers so it was too expensive for me.

One of my brothers bought me the second volume of the CrossCult edition and a few weeks ago when I was in Ludwigsburg to buy a birthday present for my other brother I bought the fifth volume ( which is the last one ).

I found the third and fourth volume at half price on one of the german message forums but because I forgot to send my address I still haven´t gotten the comics. Last week I was checking the mail every day to see if they had finally arrived till I remembered on Saturday ( in a dream I had ) that it may be possible I never sent my address.

So I will wait with writing a post about TORPEDO till I have had the chance to read all the volumes in one sitting. But back to Jonah Hex.

The first issues of the new series I bought was a three part origin story by Jordi Bernet. I don´t remember that much of it only that it was not a complete origin since much of Jonah´s past was still left a blank. Which may have been intentional to leave something for future issues. Aside from this three parter the rest of the book were " done in one " single issues but even though Jordi did some other issues I never really followed up on the whole Jonah Hex thing.

When I was in Spain last year I ordered two issues, one which I thought was done by Richard Corben - who only did the cover - and another with art by Darwyn Cooke. The issue with the Corben cover was listed as having interior art by Richard Corben so I didn´t order any other issues since I couldn´t rely on the issue info. Well, a few weeks ago I had to order the BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL issues of Jose Luis Garcia Lopez from another internet comic shop since my regular comic shop didn´t have them anymore.

Since I was thinking about returning to the BOOSTER GOLD series I ordered all the issues of the last storyline. They also had a lot of Jonah Hex issues so I ordered all I could find that were done by Jordi Bernet - of course after checking out some preview pages and reviews online to make sure they were really by Bernet - which are the basis of this post. Now that I finally can include some amazon links I prefer to write about certain runs and storylines ( which I already did before - let´s face it ) but since the issues in question are not in consecutive order this will be a pimp free post. I could include some link to a random collection but I only put up links for comics I can absolutely recommend and which I have read myself.

Anyway, this post is about issues 23, 27, 30, 32, 37 and 38 of Jonah Hex. Wow, 38 issues. That´s longer than three years which is not bad for a non - superhero comic in Today´s comic market.

He was a hero to some, a villain to others...and wherever he rode people spoke his name in whispers. He had no friends, this Jonah Hex, but he did have two companions: one was death itself...the other, the acrid smell of gunsmoke...

The comic book landscape, long populated by capes and cowls, has had a sudden outcropping of cowboy hats. This recent resurgence of Western comics - including titles like Loveless, Streets of Glory, and Ghost Rider: Trail of Tears - is characterized by a bleak outlook and a Texas-sized dose of graphic violence. Even the ostensibly kid - friendly Lone Ranger stars in a new comic splattered with enough blood to fill a ten - gallon hat. But while newcomers like Streets and Ranger compete to see who can show the grisliest gutting on the page ( the stomach - churning Streets is winning ), DC’s Jonah Hex re - launch has been quietly delivering disturbing tales of the Wild West for almost thirty issues with little fanfare.

Based on the hideously scarred ( think Clint Eastwood as The Man With No Name - if someone melted half his face ) bounty hunter created in 1972 by writer John Albano and artist Tony DeZuniga, this new, hard - as - nails Hex series has become the best Western that no one is reading. Dark and dogged, the comic delivers gripping tales of the bad old days, month after month, thanks to writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray and a series of dynamic artists including Luke Ross, Phil Noto, Paul Gulacy and a returning DeZuniga.

At times closer in tone to an EC Comics horror anthology than a traditional Western ( a recent, ghastly story focused on two psychopathic sisters who butcher men for sustenance and kicks ), Hex brutally disabuses readers of any halcyon portraits of the Wild West, and serves up brooding, stand-alone stories in the process.

But when DC Comics re-launched Hex in 2005, even the writers of the new series, Palmiotti and Gray ( Heroes for Hire, 21 Down ), were worried that a genre book would be D.O.A. in a market driven by spandex and superheroes. Now, more than two years later, Jonah Hex clings to life as tenaciously as its titular hero, riding from adventure to grim adventure, never knowing what lies around the next corner.

excerpt from HEX AND VIOLENCE Jimmy Palmiotti´s and Justin Gray´s interview on GEEK MONTHLY written by Blair Butler

Reading the single issues of Jonah Hex I had the impression of experiencing a Moritat which is the german version of a moral play. During the turn of the century ( around 1900 ) traveling folk would sing these recounts of the life and death of criminals that always had a moral at the end and had themes like death, vengeance and retribution as central themes. One of the most famous you might know is " Mack the knife " from Berthold Brecht´s and Kurt Weill´s Threepenny Opera ( Die Dreigroschenoper ). Anyway, in most of the stories Jonah plays the archetype that Clint Eastwood made popular in dozens of spaghetti westerns : the silent bad guy who has his own moral code and let´s his lightningfast guns do the talking. And even if he´s a bad guy by definition - or at least not really a good guy being a bounty hunter - he´s not as bad as the guys he goes up against. Although that´s questionable in some instances.

Jonah Hex encounters his fair share of white hats who believe themselves to be righteous but even if some of them start with the best of intentions most of them have to go up against Jonah Hex when they go too far. Which is never a good thing. Because like Clint Eastwood in the movies Jonah is the toughest, meanest and most unkillable MF under the sun. It´s not like he doesn´t get his fair share of bruises, shots and deadly wounds. But somehow he survives it all.

So no matter if it´s some vigilante on a vendetta for his murdered family, a sheriff who strays from the path of law or a posse who has the bad luck to end in the same ratnest of town for their train robbery as where Jonah sleeps of his stupor - they all curse the day they ever met Jonah Hex.

What I liked about the issues is that since it are all single stories you can pick and choose which issues you buy without loosing part of a longer running story which was perfect for me since I was only interested in the Jordi Bernet issues. I was always a fan of Jordi Bernet and even had the luck to get some signed comics and even some original sketches at the Salon del Comic de Barcelona. So when he told me during one of his signing sessions that he would be doing more issues of Jonah Hex I was delighted.

One of the most popular and revered European comics creators working today, Jordi Bernet remains relatively unknown to all but the most-studious comics fans in America which is a real shame. But it´s not too surprising since his work falls more under the category of morally ambiguous characters and non superhero. Rather, it's quite full of anti heroes and genre characters who come from a very day-to-day reality. Which made him a perfect match for this. Even if he never was at a real bullfight ( like the one in issue 32 ) he knows enough about the spanish and mexican culture to depict it in a realistic way.

Reading american comics can be quite interesting sometimes especially if they take place in foreign countries. One of the aspects that made Justice League so interesting in the 80s was the way in which other countries were shown because for readers from Germany like me that was a way to see how americans percieve those other countries. Especially Germany which in most american comics is the same as Bavaria - Volksfest, Bratwurst and lots of Lederhosen.

Go ahead. Make my day.

Jonah Hex is Clint Eastwood. I mean the young Clint Eastwood. Which is one of the reasons that Josh Brolin will be playing the part in the upcoming movie with Megan Fox ( is she in a competition with Jessica Alba about who does the most comic related movies ? ). If they had done the movie twenty or even ten years ago Clint Eastwood would have played the part no questions asked. Now we only have the comics by Jordi Bernet and his Jonah Hex is the spitting image of Clint Eastwood invoking the feel of such classics like THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY.

And speaking about Jordi Bernet´s art you just can´t avoid mentioning classic western movies because - like he himself says in one of the interviews you can read at the bottom of this post he always tries to lend his images some "movie" rhythm. No matter if it takes place in some small town which we have seen in a dozen movies or the open sands of the desert he always brings his unique sense of grandeur and dead on storytelling.

I know I have said this about a few artists in the past but you can really learn a lot only by studying his page layouts.

Of course it also helps that he can draw some of the sexiest women in comics with just a few lines. As well as everything else. So if you like Jonah Hex, western comics or just want to read comics done by one of the best european artists you should check out these issues. With a title that is already beyond issue 40 and has such a high quality level as Jonah Hex it should not be necessary to pimp it. But judging by the sales charts it doesn´t have the ranking it deserves since it´s a comic well worth your money.

preview pages from issue 32 :


preview pages from issue 38 :

for more about Jonah Hex and Jordi Bernet :

the number one jonah hex fansite / review of jonah hex 27

jonah hex corral another great jonah hex page / hex and violence

publisher´s weekly interview with jordi bernet about issues 13 to 15

interview with jordi bernet about issue 32

justin gray and jimmy palmiotti on comicgeekspeak

co writer justin gray interview at the geek beat

downloadable preview of issue 42 by jordi bernet ( pdf format )

jordi bernet wiki / jordi bernet kaukapedia ( german ) / andrax article

So that was my big JONAH HEX post that I tried to do since last week. I just hope it doesn´t take me as long to do my post on BOOSTER GOLD but since there are other things I want to write about like Jose Luis Garcia Lopez´issues for BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL or the waaay overdue TEEN TITANS megapost I´m not sure what´s next.

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest


Dwayne "the canoe guy" said...

great insight and evaluation of the bounty hunter. You need to pick up the old Jonah Hex Spectacular where Hex finally meets his maker.

& thanks for the compliment

Percy Bysshe said...

Great post - Bernet is great...

SUBZERO said...

Yes, it´s sad he´s not better known in America. One of these days I have to do a post about TORPEDO but I want to wait till I have the first book of the german complete edition.

So far I had only some scattered issues and books from the various editions and I really want to read them in one sitting. I had hoped to find the first book somewhere at half price like books three and four but it seems I have to pay the regular price if I want to read the others.

I almost read them once but because of my shoulder injury I could only use one hand and you need two to really read a book without damaging it.

In any case I´m hoping to cover Jordi Bernet or at least his work on TORPEDO in one of my upcoming posts.