By: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray (story), Moritat (art), Mike Atiyeh (colors)
The Story: Not even Asian exceptionalism stands a chance in Gotham.
The Review: One of the more unfortunate side-effects of growing up is having all your favorite historical myths stripped away. I would’ve been happy to spend the rest of my life believing that the proto-Americans and Indians spent at least the early parts of their relationship in some kind of harmony. The truth, of course, involved a great deal more violence and a whole lot less comfort food.
Although the Indians proved to be hospitable at the beginning, one of them made the covetous mistake of stealing a small silver cup from Richard Grenville’s first group of British settlers. Grenville, perhaps feeling he ought to set boundaries straight from the beginning, responded by sacking and burning the whole Indian village. And as any history book will tell you, life between the red and white people plunged sharply downhill from there.
Such is the bit of historical fiction Palmiotti-Gray give us in “Tomahawk.” Your enjoyment of the feature will probably increase proportionate to your ignorance of history, which provides the biggest spoilers of all in this case. Whether Tomahawk succeeds in rescuing Tecumseh or not, we know that Tecumseh ultimately failed to unite the Indian tribes into a nation that could stand toe-to-toe with the Yankees. He was frustrated by one Pushmataha of the Chocktaw of the Americans, who predictably rewarded his loyalty by giving him a very splashy burial in the capital with full brigadier general’s regalia, then haranguing Pushmataha’s people into ceding away some 11,000,000 acres (or so) of their Southern territory. But at least this time around, we have Phil Winslade to competently draw it all.
So let’s step away from the grim, unalterable facts and into the more comforting realm of comic book ridiculousness. Even though you might roll your eyes at Palmiotti-Gray’s attempts to play around with literary urban legend, they still manage to produce an unusual story, always a rarity in comics. The intersection of Mr. Hyde, the Black Diamond, Gotham, and Jonah Hex is bound to lead somewhere interesting. If nothing else, it’s introduced a fairly gruesome new villain to the city that Arkham and Hex will find difficult to deal with. This Hyde, unlike the hulking brute of the Marvel U, does not play around, as he shows in that last scene. Yikes.
For all that, I have no idea what the point of dragging Yan-Tsen and her mommy-search into this story is, since it had little to do with the plot at hand. Apparently, the only purpose was to take Tallulah Black out of the picture, which is a real disappointment, since she adds a fun flavor to the series. At least she manages to mellow out Hex a little. I’ll be curious to know how Gray-Palmiotti will balance this new storyline of Tallulah and Yan-Tsen going on their 1800s-style Thelma and Louise misadventure.
However way you want to interpret this, Moritat clearly has a greater affinity for the male face than for the ladies. Maybe Moritat will do better if he can convey the variety of facial bone structure that exists in women as well as he does with the guys. The differences among Hex, Reggie, Jekyll, Hyde, and every other man are many and detailed; the differences between Yan-Tsen and Tallulah, two women with completely different backgrounds, are slight. Another nagging problem is Moritat’s stiff, buffoonish style of action artwork. A lot of Yan-Tsen’s martial arts sequence makes her look clumsy and amateurish than anything else. Atiyeh services Moritat’s art well, giving it the rich, earthy palette we’ve grown used to. I especially like the darker tones he gives to Hyde, making him look like a Heathcliff next to the shivering, lily-white Edward he becomes when he transforms back to Jekyll.
Conclusion: The back-up mucks around with history in a futile sort of way, and while main feature has all the right toys in the sandbox, they haven’t resulted in much worthwhile play.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – If anyone watches How I Met Your Mother, Hex’s disdain at Arkham’s sleeping outfit reminded me of the way Barney reacted to Marshall’s own nightgown—right up until Barney tries one himself and is instantly converted. I don’t suppose Hex will come to the other side, but it would delight me to no end if he does.