Top critical review
not really the best of the trade paperback compilations
Reviewed in the United States on June 3, 2010
`Jonah Hex: Origins' is a compilation of issues 13 - 18 of the comic book published by DC / Vertigo in 2007.
The first three issues / chapters comprise the `Retribution' story arc, which consists mainly of flashbacks dealing with Jonah Hex's younger days, which were marked by plentiful abuse at the hands of various personages, including brutal Union Army officers, a drunk and disorderly father, and vengeful Apaches. We learn how Jonah suffered the injury to his left eye, and later, who was responsible for the disfiguring scar that mars the left half of his face.
`Retribution' is reasonably well written, although for some long-time fans of the Jonah Hex character, the disclosure of how he received his famous scars - after so many years of remaining a series mystery - may seem like the breaking of a covenant.
If the modern incarnation of the Hex series could be said to have a dedicated artist, it's Jordi Bernet, who illustrates the `Retribution' storyline. In my opinion Bernet's art style, with its sketchy, rather hasty quality, is not the book's strong point. But it's probably unrealistic to hope that Moebius will ever step in to draw some Jonah Hex comics in that `Blueberry' style.
The next two issues / chapters deal with the history of Tallulah Black, a young woman from Tennessee who is Hex's sometime bounty-hunting partner, and sometime girlfriend. `The Ballad of Tallulah Black' reveals the gruesome treatment Tallulah underwent at the hands of renegade Union soldiers. Luckily for our heroine, Jonah Hex is in the right place at the right time to lend some assistance, and under his tutelage Tallulah learns how to draw and shoot well enough to seek her revenge. While these two chapters are an entertaining read, employing the mordant humor common to the Hex titles, Phil Noto's artwork is too stylized and too pretty to really give the storyline the necessary gritty visual character. For example, a climactic shootout is rendered via the use of too-small panels and too-spare sound effects, turning into something of a weak imitation of the shootout between Sharon Stone and Gene Hackman in the movie `The Quick and the Dead'.
The last chapter in the book, `I Walk Alone', is the best in the compilation. Featuring some good artwork by Val Semeiks, with moody grays, blues, and blacks for a color scheme, the plot finds Jonah confronted at his wilderness encampment by a runaway bride. A posse of armed men arrive, seeking to retrieve her; against his will, Jonah finds himself drawn into the conflict. `I Walk Alone' keeps the reader guessing all the way to the last few panels, and ends on a note of profound cynicism and moral ambiguity.
These downbeat, existential conclusions are what (in my mind, at least) makes the `Jonah Hex' title such refreshing alternative to the contrived angst that characterizes the writing for so many of the better-selling superhero titles on the comic shop shelves.
In total, `Jonah Hex: Origins' probably isn't the most impressive of the trade paperback compilations of the contemporary Hex comics, but fans will want to have it in their collection, as its stories continue to inform ongoing scripts of the series.