The Western genre is a lot like the High Fantasy genre. I keep wondering how anyone can find anything new for these well established modes of storytelling. Honestly, how many subpar Westerns and Lord of the Rings knockoffs have you seen? Of course, any genre can fall prey to unimaginative creators, but Westerns can find hope in Jonah Hex.
Case in point, name the last time you have seen or read a Western with an octopus as a hazard for the main hero? Seriously, an octopus! Hex and a band of misfits are hired to transport a mysterious animal to a circus and Hex takes no interest in the creature. He’s been on enough shady jobs to know that one shouldn’t ask too many questions, but he learns about the octopus the hard way when the crew turns on him.
I really enjoyed this issue. The art team obviously went above and beyond to create something beautiful. Eduardo Risso shows off his artistic skills throughout the issue, but his drawings of Hex especially stand out. No matter where the character is standing or how he’s positioned, Risso never lets you forget Hex’s disfigurement. The character’s right eye, nearly as exposed as Two-Face’s eye, is always visible. Even when the right side of his face is in shadow, his eye peers out from the darkness. Hex’s unusual appearance factors into this story in a meaningful way.
One of the circus performer’s visual design relies strongly on colorist Bob Schwager’s efforts. I don’t want to spoil the surprise reveal, but Schwager’s work provides clues throughout the story. Letterer Rob Leigh also creates the mood with a fantastic title page and evocative word balloons when the blood begins to fly.
All of the wacky trappings of a story involving a circus troupe could go to waste if not for the deft storytelling of Palmiotti and Gray. Jonah Hex shares a social label with the circus performers from the rest of society because of their physical deformities, but Hex shows how he is different from the others in a powerful way at the end of the story.
This is a great issue with a self-contained story. If you want to see what all a Western can be, don’t miss Jonah Hex.