Saturday, April 10, 2010

Welcome to paradise

"Welcome to Paradise" by John Albano and Tony DeZuñiga is one of my all-time favorite comic book stories. It's also, one of my all-time favorite short stories, although that's something even comic book fans rarely consider, so deeply ingrained in us that the short story is something built from prose.

The story is also the introduction of one Jonah Hex, who is one of the few, and most likely the last western icon in comics. The concept draws a lot tonally from the Spaghetti Westerns, certainly from Sergio Leone and I'd guess one or both creators also had some knowledge of the work of Sergio Corbucci as well, although certainly the so-called Man with No Name movies exert the most striking influences, most obviously in the striking resemblance between the character (at least the unscarred half of his face) and actor Clint Eastwood, who starred in the movie.

However, the American Western is felt just as strongly. The story itself is a play on Shane, although, if I dare to say it. I think I prefer this version of it. Here we're not bogged down with the character's ambivalence to violence. This is something close to what would happen if Manco from For a Few Dollars More happened into the plot of Shane.

Like Manco, Hex is a bounty hunter. He comes into the town of Paradise Corners to collect on his bounties, and is told that another group of outlaws is now in town that he is invited to hunt down as well.

The American Western creeps in again with the lead outlaw who looks exactly like Lee Marvin as Liberty Valance in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

The explosion of obvious references here are not idle and would not be a recurring theme as the character continue. Instead they serve to set Hex in his place in Western iconography.

You can read the full story at Famous First Fridays: Friday the Thirteenth Edition starring Jonah Hex over at Diversions of the Groovy Kind, or you can just go ahead and pick up a copy of Showcase Presents Jonah Hex, Vol. 1 or Welcome to Paradise, both of which contain it as well as many, many more Hex stories.

Hex would go on to a long life, including Hex by Michael Fleisher and Mark Texeira, in which he is thrust into a post-apocalyptic future.

But he'd never have a better moment than the final page of this story, in which he rides out, rejected by the people of Paradise Corners, after having protected them from danger.

I'll say now, I can stay dry-eyed at "Shane, come back!", but "Ah hate you, boy! Hate you like poison!" brings a tear to my face every time.

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