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Tag Archive: Jonah Hex


Review by C.J. Bunce

In his new novel Firefly: The Magnificent Nine, author James Lovegrove embarks on his next journey with the crew of Serenity following his highly successful launch point for the first ever novel series for the franchise, last year’s Firefly: Big Damn Hero (reviewed here at borg).  It’s been thirteen years since we last saw a Firefly story like these two novels, which each contain the contents of about an entire movie.  Along the way creator Joss Whedon has authorized some shorter tales via the comic books (discussed here).  Firefly: Big Damn Hero was the Firefly event of last year, and this year we’ll have two novels competing for that honor, with Tim Lebbon′s contribution to the series of novels coming this fall in Firefly: Generations So how did Lovegrove’s Firefly: The Magnificent Nine compare to his Firefly: Big Damn Hero?

As with Firefly: Big Damn Hero, Lovegrove writes the voices of the entire crew perfectly.  This is another space Western, the core of the original series, and both books feel like natural progressions following the original 14 episodes (Firefly: The Magnificent Nine fits between the last episode and the 2005 film Serenity, allowing the inclusion of two fan-favorite characters–and they’re all fan-favorite characters–Hoban “Wash” Washburne and Shepherd Book).  In a significant way the challenge of writing new Firefly stories is that writers only have 15 “canon” stories to build from, along with any notes from Whedon’s story development.  The potential pitfall is mining the original episodes too much for throwback references.  At 336 pages that’s not anything to worry about for Lovegrove.  Yes, fans will appreciate the Easter Eggs throughout the tale: Jayne Cobb’s famous hat (“a giant piece of candy corn gone wrong”) does not get ignored here, and neither does his weapon of choice, Vera.  But the framework of the story allows for plenty of opportunities for Lovegrove to do more with the characters.  It’s hard to beat his ability to get inside the head of River in Firefly: Big Damn Hero–a difficult character who didn’t get enough time to get fleshed out in the series.  But this time River takes a backseat and Jayne gets the spotlight.  As a completely original story Firefly: Big Damn Hero wins, but not by a lot.

As the title should indicate, Firefly: The Magnificent Nine is an homage to the classic, epic Western The Magnificent Seven, its source Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, and countless adaptations since.  It’s notable and important that this isn’t another actual adaptation or full retelling of the story, as Lovegrove takes his own tangent from the story after setting up the novel’s first act.  But he peppers the story with familiar references, like using actors’ names and Kurosawa himself for new characters in his story.  He also has plenty of Louis L’Amour tropes and references.  One thing this novel makes clear is there are at least as many opportunities for new novels in the series as there are Kurosawa movies and L’Amour novels to pull good ideas from.  So this isn’t merely another take on The Magnificent Seven so much as establishing that the nine heroes of the Serenity are worthy of that title.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The second of the new TKO Studios titles we dived into this weekend is The 7 Deadly Sins.  Yesterday we reviewed Sara, which conjured scenes from Sands of Iwo Jima, and now The 7 Deadly Sins feels like a modern twist on the John Ford/John Wayne classics Stagecoach (celebrating its 80th anniversary this year) and The Searchers.  Despite the basic story building blocks from a John Ford movie, this isn’t a John Wayne film or Clint Eastwood spaghetti Western, or something like more recent Western comic book series like Dynamite’s The Lone Ranger.  This is a far less traditional Western–far from Classics Illustrated, this is a story that could wrap up the trilogy of Quentin Tarentino’s bloody violent modern Westerns The Hateful 8 and Django Unchained. 

1867.  A post-Civil War frontier “cowboys and Indians” era tale, the story introduces readers to a white man raised as Comanche whose signature is a unique style of scalping homesteaders and U.S. Cavalry soldiers.  A priest wants to broker an unholy peace with the Comanche, and a black ex-Union corporal named Jericho Marsh is trying to find his daughters.  Marsh finds himself in jail and breaks out with a pregnant ex-slave, a cannibalistic ex-Confederate soldier, a Chinese prisoner, a well-known crack shot, and a woman mistaken for a man, and they bring on an orphaned mountain boy and a Comanche child along the way.  The story pulls from Three Godfathers and The Magnificent Seven–not so much derivative, it pulls on the strings of plenty of Western tropes.  A handful of strangers, all outlaws, must join to fight off the Cavalry, a wealthy landowner, and Comanches, and it’s anyone’s guess who might make it out alive.

The 7 Deadly Sins comes from writer Tze Chun (Gotham, Once Upon a Time), artist Artyom Trakhanov (Undertow, Turncoat) and if the color work looks familiar to Western readers that may be because it’s created by Giulia Brusco (Scalped, Django Unchained).  Letters are by Southern Bastards’ Jared K. Fletcher.  Parts of Trakhanov’s panels are drawn similar to the very traditional, archaic layouts of Stan Sakai’s Japanese motif Westerns, landscape shots reminded me of the stark feel of Moritat’s work on the Jonah Hex book, All-Star Western, and choreographed action sequences carry the more stylized influence of Frank Miller’s interiors later in his career.

Take a look at these great preview pages:

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Dynamite is releasing a new Western series based on a classic Native American fictional hero.  Originally starring in Dell Four Color Comics and Gold Key classics from the 1950s, Turok is back.  Turok is the dinosaur hunter known to more recent generations via periodic visits in the pages of comics and in video games.  Since 2013 three series have featured the character, including comics by Greg Pak, Phil Hester, and Chuck Wendig.

The latest Turok story finds him trying to save his brother from the U.S. Cavalry in a frontier story sporting the John Ford landscape of She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Fort Apache, and Rio Grande.  That’s thanks to artist Roberto Castro.  His action sequences are a mix of Jock and Bill Sienkiewicz, but the grand vistas are all Monument Valley and Illustrated Classics.  Ron Marz‘s story has the gritty feel of Jimmy Palmiotti’s New 52 run on Jonah Hex–the story has plenty of potential coming out of its first issue.

  

Look for four covers for this release, by Castro and Salvatore Aiala, Bart Sears, Butch Guice and Dan Brown, and Jeffrey Veregge.

Here is a preview of Turok, Issue #1, courtesy of Dynamite:

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Where DC Entertainment has been limping along in its efforts to bring superheroes to the big screen in recent years, it has ruled the airwaves on network television thanks to the CW Network and the creative team of Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg.  What Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan have failed to capture–the same interesting, exciting, rich stories, character development, action, and fun of comic books–these guys have delivered, tapping into what fanboys and fangirls want most.

Are their shows perfect?  Definitely not.  The budget for television series doesn’t allow the freedom of big budget movies.  The stories adapted to the small screen have also changed many things from the comics and when the characters themselves have fans of multiple versions of each character… well, you can’t be all things to all people.  Yet, DC on TV has fared better than on film.  We’d all rather see the relationships build between superheroes, even if they are the B-team superheroes, than costly explosion-filled disaster movies posing as superhero stories.  Yes, we’re talking about you, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and The Dark Knight Rises.

The CW Network has cornered the market on the best of DC on TV.  And this Fall with the addition of Supergirl from ABC, we now will have a superhero series every night from DC and Warner Bros.  If DC really had its act together it would see that Fox’s Gotham switched from Monday nights to Fridays, for a full weekday schedule, but that doesn’t look like it will happen.

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This past week, to preview the new season and what characters we can look forward to, including–at last–Martian Manhunter (the last remaining key Justice League character to make it to the modern live-action DC Universe) the CW released a follow-up to last year’s Superhero Fight Club video.  Check it out:

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Jonah Hex Legends of Tomorrow

The best part of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is its potential to bring in nearly all of the DC Universe into a single TV series.  While the movies try to figure out how to make a good Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman on-screen, everyone else is fair game back home on the TV set.

You have two reasons to come back for more of the third current CW Network series to dabble in the DC realm.  First, in the latest trailer for the show (previewed below), Firefly’s Jewel Staite will make an appearance in one time stream or the other.  Second, viewers will get re-introduced to the popular anti-hero from DC’s Old West past, Jonah Hex, this season.  Johnathan Schaech will portray the legendary, disfigured tough guy on the series.

Jewel Staite Legends

And is that Felicity Smoak taking on the Oracle role in one of the team’s many trips to the past?  Check out this latest trailer, released at WonderCon this weekend:

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Toshiro cover

A steampunk robot samurai.  And Civil War era zombies.

It’s the Dark Horse June 2014 release of Jai Nitz (Dream Thief, Kato, Tron: Betrayal, El Diablo) and Janusz Pawlak’s new graphic novel, Toshiro.  We’ve discussed Nitz’s writing plenty of times here at borg.com.  Toshiro is Pawlak’s first published work in comics.

You will love Nitz’s creation story for this mecha-samurai who shares a name with the actor who played one of the most famous samurai on film (Toshirô Mifune’s Kikuchiyo in The Seven Samurai).  Toshiro is a creation of the Northern forces in the Civil War, a self-aware, living robot with a steam-valved heart.  He’s an American-built super-soldier, sold to Japan as the highest bidder.  “Raised” with Japanese traditions and old world values, he winds up in Manchester, England, 1867, with an equally deadly, and maybe wiser, partner.

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Toshiro knows he is machine, yet he reacts as if he is a true samurai.

This is a steampunk buddy cop story, with roots in a story out of a spaghetti Western.  Here a Zorro-esque, anti-hero has a tough-as-nails partner and they live in a world at war, but with incredible tools of battle well ahead of their time.

Polish artist Pawlak’s work is something out of a Quentin Tarentino novel, yet Tarentino’s blood and guts is kids’ stuff compared to Toshiro slicing heads with his katana.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

I had mentioned early in the New 52 reviews that All Star Western #1 was the coolest, most unexpected surprise of DC Comics’ first round of 52 issues.  But to the extent All Star Western #1 was a standout series opener, writer Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti and artist Moritat along with colorist Gabriel Bautista set the bar even higher with issues #2 and #3.  After six months of story development and world building, All Star Western remains both the most creative and my favorite of all the New 52 series.

Much like modern police departments attempt to keep quiet about tapping the resources of psychics in working kidnapping cases, the police of old Gotham City are adamant to not reveal they are using the resources of one Doctor Amadeus Arkham, a criminal psychologist before the term was coined and the field was in its infancy in the 18th century.  Gray and Palmiotti create a world in transition from the Old West to the Industrial Revolution.  The gun-toting days of cowboys and outlaws in frontier towns would seem to visibly contrast with the early days of street gangs and mob bosses, but Moritat and Bautista combine imagery of Gothic Noir and post-Civil War era culture, creeds, and weaponry to spin readers into an eminently believable and interesting time and place.

You can’t understate how unique Moritat’s panels and pages are compared to anyone else drawing comics  today.  For one thing Moritat does not use standard comic sized paper to render his pages.  He uses 8.5 X 11 inch art paper.  So his images are drawn much smaller compared to other artists’ panels.  This means what he draws need to be crisp and clean and get the point across.  And the result is beautiful imagery of dark and dusty places.  From page one of issue one his fabulously detailed cityscapes look like they must have taken weeks to draw.  His buildings are regal and elegant.  His characters range from creepy lecherous street drifters pawing at bar room dancers to the timid Dr. Arkham himself, who manages to stand out as an oddity in room equally with the shredded face of Jonah Hex.

Moritat also uses panels to their maximum effect as quantity is concerned.  Instead of spending an entire issue on a fight scene, much like you’ll find has occurred with other New 52 superhero titles, Moritat (and presumably an equal hand at from tight scripting by Gray and Palmiotti), gives you all out action–as much as you’d expect and as much as the story requires–but it will be packed into 24 panels in two pages.  When drawn on two 8.5X11 pages this just seems to require incredible precision and pacing.

I appreciate the fact that Moritat drew the first three covers and the interiors to all six issues so far.  It’s pretty rare today for any comic book publisher to have the interior artist draw his/her own covers.  The result is a cohesive whole from cover to cover in each issue.  Moritat’s covers are single works of art themselves.

Gray and Palmiotti’s dialogue is the best around.  By the end of issue one we had a full grasp of Dr. Arkham’s persnickety nature, and Jonah Hex’s dialogue is written like Mark Twain wrote the dialogue for Huck and Tom–“Ah” is how Jonah’s says “I,” for example.  Where Arkham is long-winded, Hex’s words are few and far between and he speaks his own language, literally.

Spoilers follow…

Recapping the first six months of All Star Western, issue one introduced how Arkham got hooked up with the violent Jonah Hex as they teamed up against skull-ringed members of Gotham’s society and a mission to find the one killer known as the Gotham Butcher.

In issue two Hex and Arkham hole up at Arkham’s house to defend themselves from an attack by those protecting this early brotherhood–a criminal religion of sorts.  We get to see why a son of the confederacy as scarred and damaged as Hex is was able to survive for so long, as he uses his rifle to level pretty much everyone in his path.  This leads Arkham and Hex to follow the carriage of the culprit who has kidnapped and tortured a local magistrate.  The murderous thugs are too much for Hex as Hex tells Arkham to run.  DC Comics couples the same writing team with artist Jordi Bernet on a two-part quick and dirty story featuring the masked hero El Diablo, concluding in issue three.

The reason Hex stumbled into Gotham City, the hunt to collect the bounty on three members of the Trapp gang, cause Hex to head out of town in issue three.  A successful conclusion to their first mission, and Arkham coming out of his shell a bit, results in Hex being asked to join the police force (he refuses).  Arkham is allowed to build a hospital to study the mind.  But that all comes apart before it begins.  Hex survives another attack, rescues, Arkham, and returns to his original pursuit.

Despite the unlikely team of Hex and Arkham splitting up in issue three, they are found back together again after Hex is offered $50,000 to locate a missing boy by the boys’ father.  Money talks, and that is all that is needed to get Jonah Hex’s attention.  After four issues the character of Hex is well established as a Han Solo, Dirty Harry of the Old West.  He’s smarter than we read of a lot of real Old West legendary characters, like Jesse James, and smarter than later outlaw types like John Dillinger.  He seems to follow the cowboy code to some extent, despite his chief tool of resolution being a quick draw.  Despite Hex chalking up a body count, we like this anti-hero, and apparently his tough ways are par for the course in old Gotham.  Following the main storyline, Phil Winslade joins the writing team for the beginning of a new monthly serial, this time a new three-part, mini-series called “The Barbury Ghost.”

In issue five the quest for the missing boy takes Arkham and Hex into the dark underbelly of Gotham, literally below Gotham in its caves that would one day house Bruce Wayne’s batcave.  Saving the children is not as easy as they had figured and they get stranded in an underground river where they must fend off the Miagani, a Native American village living in the caves.  And Hex continues ups his body count and must rescue Arkham yet again.

In the final chapter of the first major story arc, Hex and Arkham unravel who is behind the plot to use child labor to build the city’s sewer system, enlisting the help of the Wayne family, who live atop the batcaves.

All Star Western Vol. 1: Guns and Gotham is scheduled for release as a compilation in trade paperback in November, but individual issues are available in first and later printings.  All Star Western is exciting, smart, and visually and interesting read.  If you’re like this reader and have not thought to check out Western comics before now, this is a great place to begin and you won’t regret adding this series to your reading pile.

Review by C.J. Bunce

I like western movies.  I like the sounds of the Old West, the cattle, the clinking of spurs as the two guys slowly meet up in the center of the old western town.  I like epic western soundtracks and I like slow guitar soundtracks, and theme songs that sometimes tell a familiar story.   I also have read a little Louis L’Amour and love his writing and descriptions.  I’ve never thought of picking up a comic book about the Old West, mainly because they don’t make ’em anymore.

I almost didn’t pick up All-Star Western #1, one of DC Comics’s New 52 line.  Mostly because it had the crazy looking Jonah Hex on the cover.  All I knew of Hex was watching a bit of the Jonah Hex movie, which for whatever reason I didn’t finish on video.  But somehow (fate?) it ended up in my pull list.  I have read a super western-ish book recently called El Diablo: The Haunted Horseman, by Jai Nitz, Ande Parks, and Phil Hester, that was just awesome (to be reviewed here later on).  Intrigued by the idea of a current western comic in the midst of the Justice League superheroes, I read it first from the stack.

From a literary standpoint there is almost an unending supply of reasons to check this one out.

Unusual Setting

One would think a western comic took place in the Old West.  This takes place in Gotham city in the 1880s, which in my mind is more Old East.  The drawings have a nice old-time feel to them.  The colors offer more than just sepia tones.  There’s a little Mike Mignola and P. Craig Russell’s Gotham by Gaslight feel here for sure.  A good thing, as I wished that book had turned into its own series.

Narration

The narrator is none other than the founder of Gotham’s own Arkham Asylum, Doctor Arkham himself.  Arkham is our narrator, and he’s a bit odd.  His character, his mannerisms, and his creepiness might remind you of Clifton Webb as Waldo Lydecker in Otto Preminger’s Laura.  A further creepy scene may also make you think he’s a bit of Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

Familiar But Reliable Plot

To get us into this world quickly, the plot seems to be a mix of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven and a Jack the Ripper tale.  Pacing is reminscent of Alan Moore’s From Hell.  There’s also a bit of the outcast element of Danny Glover’s Mal in Silverado.  There’s a medical aspect of the 19th century as well, the sleuthing of an early Detective Comics of sorts, but again, familiar because of the similar treatment in From Hell.  The art here, however, is a lot more stylish and evocative.  The only downside will be if this continues to be just another Jack the Ripper story.  Too many stories end up there.

The Archetype Western Anti-Hero

Not only does the half-mangled faced Jonah Hex play the anti-hero, he talks a bit like Clint Eastwood mixed with Sam Elliott.  Hex’s confederate uniform really brings you back to Sam Elliot’s performance as Dal Traven in Louis L’Amour’s The Shadow Riders, but there is also a little of Elliott’s Ghost Rider’s Caretaker mixed with The Golden Compass’s Lee Scoresby.  To get me to conjure any incarnation of Sam Elliott in your character is a win in my book.  But then again there’s a spin on Eastwood’s Stranger from High Plains Drifter, as you can see the whole town of Gotham closing in on Dr. Arkham and Hex after only the 24th page.  Who would have thought Jonah Hex could be so cool?

If you want something truly different, pick up this book.