Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Jonah Hex

Showcase Presents: Jonah Hex, Vol. 1 is a fantastic collection.

Of all the stories to be reprinted in black and white and maintain their integrity, this seems almost improved in some places. Certainly the work by Tony DeZuñiga in the early stories look like they were intended to be black and white. The first dozen or so stories in which John Albano did most of the writing and DeZuñiga did most of the art are clearly the best of the collection.

Jonah Hex is a wonderful character. A kind of Spaghetti Western character that never was. The best, in fact, are very much like Clint Eastwood or Franco Nero wandering confused through a John Ford or Howard Hawks west.

The first story, "Welcome to Paradise", makes an excellent riff on Shane that sets down the tone of the series perfectly.

When Michael Fleischer took over, the writing becomes becomes immediately and jarringly heavy-handed. The Albano stories handle issues such as relations with Native Americans with an incredibly deft touch. The issues are handled with wonderful shades of gray. None of the Native American characters are left as being merely brutal savages or patronizingly noble. They're wholly realized people.

Fleisher takes on a number of heavy-handed stories about the kinds of subjects we'd now call "politically correct". "The Meadow Spring Crusade" is a banal story about the women's movement of the time. It seeks, I suspect, to draw a parallel to the women's movement of the '70s, but finds no way to do it, so ends up mostly as long screed on Women's Suffrage without any particular drama or character to back it up and featuring painfully obvious lines like "Fust thing they'd do, m'am, is pass a Constitutional Amendment tuh outlaw drinkin'..."

Fleisher also takes little time filling in the back story. This is where he does start to catch his footing, I think. The back story is good, although I might have preferred the pace with which it was told to continue slower, as it had been in the Albano stories.

It is the story or two just following those stories that they start to move into a comfortable balance, leaving me waiting with some anticipation for volume 2.


Marty McKee said...

I just finished this collection the other night. I agree that it's fantastic, but I think the Fleisher stories are slightly better than Albano's, fuller and richer. That's no slight on Albano, who should have some great stories in the new HOUSE OF MYSTERY Showcase that I haven't started yet.

I don't know why DC added the Outlaw and Billy the Kid stories to the end of the JONAH HEX Showcase, but I guess I'm happy that they've been collected someplace. The Outlaw concept is pretty farfetched, and isn't saved by an out-of-their-butt twist in the last story. The Billy the Kid stories are much worse.

Neil said...

I think there's truth to both takes. I think Albano's stories are better short stories, but the Fleisher stories, at least after the first couple, are better as part of a larger whole. It was certainly needed to create a long-term successful series.

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