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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Jonah Hex #57 [1982] (Random Comics Theatre)

Random Comics Theatre

This was briefly a regular feature of this weblog, where I let my computer pick one of the too-many comics I own and, if I'm in the mood to read it and not too embarrassed to admit I own it, I post a few things about it.  Now that it seems I'm posting regularly again I'll try to revive it.

Jonah Hex #57 [1982]

I didn't read too much JONAH HEX when it was coming out. I think just a few stories that were reprinted in DC's annual "Year's Best" digest volumes. I also knew the character from a few guest appearances in other titles. It was years later that I picked up a handful of issues, mostly from around this era, which is about the mid-point of Michael Fleisher's long run as primary writer of the character, having replaced co-creator John Albano back in 1974 and continuing through the rest of the series and the follow-up HEX series until 1987.  Tony DeZuniga, the other Hex co-creator, had recently returned to the feature, sometimes doing full art, usually just inking at this point. The pencils he worked on were most frequently from Dick Ayers, but for this issue the pencils were by Ross Andru. This was the only Hex story Andru penciled, as he was primarily an editor at this point, including most of the run of JONAH HEX, and also a frequent cover artist at DC, including many on this series.

"The Debt" is the 17-page lead story in this issue, and features what I gather is the only appearance of Hex's mother, who he greets pretty matter-of-factly for someone seeing their mother for the first time in 27 years. Quite a bit of the story is an extended flashback to the circumstances leading to her departure back in 1848. I think his understated demeanour is supposed to be intentional, but I also think it comes across as funnier than intended. I got to the end of the story and didn't even realize it was over until I flipped the page.

I've found Fleisher to be at best and uneven writer, and this is about in the middle of his range. A lot of stories I've read are much worse, occasionally he's very good this is just solid. I thought the Andru/DeZuniga combination on the art was very good, although Hex's facial injuries are much more understated than usual.

The back-up this issue was an 8-page El Diablo story, "Desert Hell", with DeZuniga doing full art on a Gary Cohn story with the Kanigher/Morrow created character of Lazarus Lane. I'm not too familiar with the character, I don't think any of his early 1970s stories have been reprinted. It has something to Lane being comatose following an accident, but emerging as the masked El Diablo when called on in the pursuit of justice, in this case a group of murdering bank robbers who flee into the desert, pursued straight to the gates of Hell.  Or something. A pretty decent story, I'm sorry none of the other issues of HEX I have has more from the feature.

Rounding out the issue are two single-page historical bits on the old west by Laurie and Rob Rozakis and Adrian Gonzales, looking at food on the frontier and the short-lived Pony Express.

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