Why Jonah Hex is a Champion of a Forgotten World

Decoding DC – Part 13

Jonah_Hex_Shadows_West_3Extremites, I have finished Shadows West.

As soon as I began it, I finished it.

I am pretty disappointed.

After being fascinated by the other Jonah Hex arcs, this one left me cold. This coldness doesn’t come from a difference of direction or a lack of development. I think Joe R. Lansdale and Tim Truman do an ok job of creating an adequate story. My emotional frigidity comes from how simple this story is.

Shadows West ended up being nothing more than a chase story peppered with a few supernatural elements.

Both Riders of the Worm and Such and Two Gun Mojo concern a forgotten force exacting revenge on the people who forgot it. Jonah Hex acts as an auger between these two worlds. Hex has one foot in death and one foot in life.

Remember that Squaw and her half-bear son? Well, it appears that she too was half bear spirit and her mate is not only a half-bear spirit but also a native hunting god. Jonah Hex, like the biblical Joseph Carpenter, whisks this chosen child back to mythical forests while being beset by countless, jaded, carny folk. The mythological allegory of the story is not lost on me because Lansdale seems to hit me over the head with it in every panel. It is this bluntness that hurts the story.

Lansdale and Truman’s bluntness is the result of events that were affecting all comics in the late 90s. Since editorial schisms at the big two companies, in the early 90s, had alienated a wide group of up and coming writers  independent comics companies like Darkhorse and Image cut into the sales of DC. Writers at DC and Marvel changed their focus from creating literate tomes to simple stories that were action packed and could draw in casual readers.  To maintain sales, Vertigo had to abandon the dense and complex yarns that had made them a prestige line for a simpler pulpier style.

I submit, and this is entirely conjecture, that Shadows West is an allegory of this problem.

Jonah Hex is trying to restore the weird western to its rightful place. Lansdale and Truman, through Hex, are trying to bring the prostituted campy plots back to their Modern DC renaissance roots. They are trying to bring the nutty plot back into vogue.

Ragtag campy characters, like Long Tom, represent the new derivative titles. Long Tom is inept but through his ineptness he, and his compadres, nearly kill Jonah. Jonah does defeat them and so will the older guard of the DC Modern Age. Comics will be good again.

I may be extrapolating far too much.

This comic may just be a chase story, but you know me Extremites, I like to find parallels with what is going on in the world at the time the stories are written.

As a crash course in the weird western renaissance of Vertigo, I gotta say, this has been a startling couple of articles for me. I am not able to put my finger on what makes these stories tick. They mostly hit and miss.

I am left confused having read these three arcs. I just don’t get what Joe and Tim were doing with Jonah Hex. You can tell by how confused and unclear these articles have been.

Is Jonah Hex a champion of a forgotten world or an allegory?

Joe R. Lansdale, am I being pretentious again?


Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds.

Story I Read:Part Three: Final Shadows” (Jonah Hex: Shadows West #3 Apr. 1999)

Rating: 2 out of 5

Pros: Satisfying if mind boggling ending, the violence is beautiful, the horse falling over the cliff is a frightening image.

Cons: The ending is too simple. The whole thing seems rushed. I am annoyed by the spoon-feeding.

Previous Review:  Part Two: Gathering Shadows” (Jonah Hex: Shadows West #2 Mar. 1999)

Upcoming Review: Part 1” (El Diablo #1, Mar. 2001)

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About Julian Munds

I possess a degree in Theatre and Drama from the University of Toronto. I own my own theatre company called Snobbish Theatre. We focus our work on new versions of classics.

Posted on May 3, 2014, in DC, Jonah Hex and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

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