[21 September 2012]
PopMatters Comics Editor
I remember not wanting to like it but I did, those first few issues of Hex. First off, it was sacrilege, Jonah Hex was meant to be a cowboy, not Mad Max. Anytime you wanted, you could always get Beyond the Thunderdome on VHS. It was the mid- to late ‘80s and post-apocalyptic scifi was everywhere.
Given the radical nature of the genre jump-cut Jonah Hex had undergone during Crisis on Infinite Earths (the megaevent that made of DC a cohesive, single universe), it was hard to get behind Hex no longer being a cowboy. But that’s because sometimes you get caught in a thrall and don’t appreciate what you have. The true magic of Hex, of Jonah walking out of the Red Rain Saloon (was the town called Red Rain?) to fight El Papagayo for perhaps the final time, and then to discover it was nearly 150 years on, lay in how Jonah would always be Jonah.
Against Road Reapers and the cruelly analytical nature of Borsten, against every threat of a post-nuclear age brought to bear against him, Hex would retain that same cowboy DNA. And what the Crisis really presented creators and fans alike with, was an opportunity for grand experimentation. Not at all unlike the kind found in the incredibly rich visions of Mike Mignola’s creator-owned work. A kind of infinite recurrence of the idea of Jonah Hex was on the cards way back in the mid- to late ‘80s—a Jonah Hex that would always be Jonah Hex, wherever, whenever he happens to find himself.
When Palmiotti and Gray took their positions as series regular writers back in the winter of 2005, a different tale was being told. This wasn’t about the recursiveness of Jonah Hex in a wild, and fantastical scifi setting. This was about the dedicated, focused effort of locating Hex back in his historical context. And more than that perhaps, it was about reviving the idea of the Western as a genre, in the comics medium. A genre that had once been so vibrant and vital a part of the comics industry.
The six-year run of Jonah Hex was all about Jonah Hex being back in the saddle, and the idea of the Western returning to the comics medium again. After movies like Unforgiven and Tombstone, after shows like Deadwood, could the Western succeed, once more? But, given the lead character’s historical location, Jonah Hex necessarily became a segregated playspace for both the creators and the readers.
Last year’s continuity-wide reboot at DC, the New 52, would see Hex “return to civilization” (to the East Coast, to Gotham), but also return to the broader continuity of the DC Universe. As Batman struggled against the Court of Owls, Hex (some 150 years ago) would stare down the first generation of Owls in Gotham. The New 52 has been good to the character, Jonah Hex has finally come home to the DCU.
But this zero issue changes the entire dynamic. The thing that I’ve fallen into asking myself, time and again, is how is it that Hex decades later, looks uncannily (eerily perhaps even) like the man Hex’s own father killed at the moment of his son’s birth? What strange magic is erupting here? What’s really underway? And does it link back to that very heady series finale (issue #70) of the 2006-2011 run of Jonah Hex? The one where Hex was clearly linked with the supernatural?
Please enjoy your exclusive preview of Jonah Hex #0: