By: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti (writers), Moritat (artist), Gabriel Bautista (colorist), Phil Winslade (feature artist), Dominic Regan (feature colorist)
The Story: Don’t expect an informercial, but Hex wants you to save the children.
The Review: Not that Jonah Hex is a blisteringly popular character in the DC galaxy of stars, but he does have a certain, cultish appeal, one that’s a little difficult to pin down. He has that scar, of course, and he’s a sharp shot, but plenty of heroes have scars and great aim. If you can pin down one thing that separates him from the rest of the pack, it’s his grit. When a thing gets in his way, he just pounds it into submission—there’s no finesse, grace, or elegance about him.
More than that, he makes no apologies for being what he is, nor does he feel the need to change his ways so long as it works out for him—and it always does, since Hex will be a monkey’s uncle before he changes for anyone. So when a giant, underground bat-monster attacks, does he try to come up with some fancy, elaborate plan to take it down? Nope. He just runs into it head-on and kicks it in the face. Make no mistake—he’s a man’s man to the core.
And yet we see in this issue that he’s not exactly the same as when he first rode into Gotham. He’s gotten to the point where he not only tolerates Arkham’s presence, he actually banters with the doctor now, which is probably more consistent conversation with a body in his whole life. What’s interesting about their dynamic is that neither on his own has much of a funny bone, but when they rub shoulders, that’s when the humor comes out. Who knew Hex could be dry (“We just…battled a prehistoric bat…” “Ah didn’t see a whole lotta we back there.”), or Arkham sassy (“Do mind your manners, though.” “Don’t ah always?” “No, not always. In fact, please let me do all the talking.”)?
Gray-Palmiotti aren’t the deepest of writers, but they can work out some straightforward drama when they put their minds to it. They seem most capable of writing an emotional scene so long as the emotions aren’t too potent, when the characters feel them from a distance. That’s why the most affecting scene winds up being Hex’s straight talk to the Moody boy about his father’s crimes. It feels the most sincere precisely because both Hex and the young Moody keep the true depth of their feelings concealed, making it easier for Gray-Palmiotti to write without crossing into melodrama.
I’ve praised Moritat’s lavish attention to detail when it comes to drawing male faces; looking at those close-ups of Hex, you can tell Moritat lovingly drew in each whisker or stubble hair. Less successful has been his work on the women, who all tend to have same doe-eyed, smooth-cheeked, roundish faces. But in this issue, you can see just the faintest traces of personality in the ladies’ features; Catherine Wayne certainly looks different from Mrs. Moody, and she from Cinnamon, but only when you take the time to see it.
Though “The Barbary Ghost” started strong, the legend falls apart in its final chapter. After all the effort Yanmei goes through to create this malevolent persona and instill fear into Bo Long’s operations, she simply puts him down point blank with no struggle, little confrontation, and only a veneer of emotion. Only Winslade’s lovely art—particularly those soap-box close-ups—offers some measure of redemption for the feature, and not too much at that.
Conclusion: Some great art and a solid wrap to Hex’s second arc gets weighed down by a highly disappointing finale to the back-up. Can you say mixed feelings?
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Actually, I am looking forward to seeing how Nighthawk and Cinnamon relate to Hex. They seem a bit too flashy for his tastes, and yet he cares enough to telegram them first before showing up.
– I see those owls in the background, Moritat, you sly one, you.