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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Read This, Too!

Read This, Too!

Several of us comic book bloggers put our heads together in an attempt to find ways to promote comics outside of our typical specialties. The goal was to present books that don't sell especially well but are still well worth reading. I set out to find some comics that were selling worse than Booster Gold that I enjoyed, so I could join the fun. There were plenty of great books to choose from, but being a longtime DC man, I couldn't let the opportunity pass to promote another time-traveling DC hero: Jonah Hex.

Hex has received a lot attention recently for his box office bomb. This is a terrible slight to a terrific character who is appearing regularly in a fantastic series. Hex's current comic, Jonah Hex, Volume 2, is, like Hex himself, a throwback to an earlier era. His comic books are frequently self-contained stories instead of the modern ongoing soap-opera of diamond chronology. Usually, you can pick up just one issue and be entertained by all the shooting and questionable morality of a prime-time television show.

Booster Gold, Vol. 2, #3, Copyright DC Comics

If you are unfamiliar with Hex, you may be surprised that the comic book character is pretty much the prototypical Western anti-hero. (Hex is a man abused by life who has turned his cynical, sociopathic world-view into a unique way of life as a bounty hunter. No magic involved!) That might sound boring and cliched, but there's something quintessential American about the concept: just ask Clint Eastwood or John Wayne. Hex often does the right things for the right reasons, but he also does a lot of wrong things for money or sheer orneriness. This sort of questionable morality, key to the Western genre, is also the core to Hex's character.

As much as I enjoy John Ford and Sergio Leone movies, I've never really been a fan of comic book Westerns. Unlike DC's war comics, the typical DC Western always seemed too clean, their morality too well-defined. That has never been the case for Hex, who has been slugging through a moral morass as gray as his Confederate uniform since his earliest appearances. Jonah Hex is a monster, and he can not and will not hide who he is. His stories are dark and bloody. And there are never any winners, including Hex himself.

Jonah Hex Spectacular, Vol. 1, #1, Copyright DC Comics

Thanks in no small part to its timeless themes, the many adventures of Jonah Hex easily rank among the greatest Western genre stories ever published by DC Comics (rivaling perhaps only Preacher). From his earliest origins as a ruthless bounty hunter in All-Star Western and Weird Western Tales to his reluctant flight into the future of the DCU in Hex (where he came face-to-face with his own stuffed corpse), the character has been consistently entertaining. His writers have made an effort to frequently subvert the mythology of Hex in favor of telling the timeless stories of greed, vengeance, murder, and justice synonymous with the legends of the Old West.

Jonah Hex, Volume 2, as written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, continues this tradition of using Hex as a centerpiece to frame hard-nosed stories of an American psyche as scarred as the protagonist's face. Pick up a copy and you'll be probing the depths of humanity's dark soul (as drawn DC's finest artists -- a trip through Hell never looked so good). Unlike anyone who crosses Hex, you're sure to have a damned good time.

Jonah Hex, Vol. 2, #35, Copyright DC Comics

Interested in reading more? Good!
Check out the lesser-known titles reviewed in these other blogs and "Read Them, Too!":

Adam Strange at It's A Dan's World
American Vampire at Doom Patrol
Astro City at Speed Force
Booster Gold [!] and Zatanna at Red Tornado's Path
Essential Man-Thing at Firestorm Fan
Forgetless at Girls Gone Geek
Franklin Richards digests at Once Upon a Geek
Glamourpuss at Being Carter Hall
Peter David's Hulk at Fortress of Baileytude
Scott Pilgrim at Toyriffic
Son of Tomahawk and Thor the Mighty Avenger at Aquaman Shrine
Spelljammer at HeroPress
Spire Christian Comics at Mail It To Team-Up
Strange Science Fantasy at Siskoid's Blog of Geekery
R.E.B.E.L.S. at Indigo Tribe
The Unwritten at K-Squared Ramblings
Welcome to Tranquility at Girls Gone Geek

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