“The Gunfight at Murphysburg!”
|Script: Michael Fleisher
Pencils: José Luis García-López
Inks: José Luis García-López
Colors: Bob LeRose
Letters: Todd Klein
|Cover price: 40¢
Cover art: Luis Dominguez (pencils/inks)
Synopsis: The year is 1874, and Hex is riding into the town of Murphysburg, on the Arizona/New Mexico border. Eight years ago, a younger Hex got a harsh lesson in bounty hunting from Arbee Stoneham, “the most infamous man-killer of them all.” Hex heard he was living in this town and plans to “pay ‘im back” for “whupping” Hex all those years ago. But Hex’s arrival has caught the attention of the Crowley gang, who plan to get Hex before he claims the bounty on their heads. After a gunfight at the stockyards, Hex learns that Stoneham is not the man he used to be, and he wheels the old man over to the saloon for a drink.
Prime Cut Panels: José Luis García-López pencils and inks? Talk about an embarrassment of riches.
Really, any of the panels in this story qualify as “prime cut,” but I want to single out this page of flashbacks for its effective use of layouts and color. We start in the upper left corner with Hex in the story’s present riding and lost in his thoughts, and then the rest of the page introduces us to Stoneham’s exploits before we zero in one specific memory of Stoneham that Hex is revisiting.
Notice how Stoneham’s full length stretches from the top of the page to the top of the bottom panel, overlapping that panel with his boots — doubly emphasizing his larger-than-life status within Hex’s memory. And notice how each individual act of Stoneham’s bounty hunting in the middle of the page gets its own color scheme as the scenes overlap each other — an economical use of page space that also draws attention to the ephemerality of memory (and offers a handy bit of foreshadowing of the story’s end).
This, gang, is what happens when a master plies his trade.
Great Moments in Advertising: She’s a super-villain named Medusa whose “stare turns people into stone” and nary a snake-tress in sight. NEXT!
And what does this lady have against a good parade, anyway? You know what’s worse than a parade full of marching bands and baton twirlers and Shriners in their little cars? Immobile statues of all those people clogging up major downtown arteries and making it impossible for any traffic to get through — including delivery trucks full of delicious Hostess fruit pies. Didn’t really think this plan through, did you, Medusa?
Random Thoughts: So if you haven’t figured it out yet, I love this story. Michael Fleisher and José Luis García-López teaming up to deliver unto us a Jonah Hex story? Yes, please!
I’m not a Western fan generally, but if someone were to turn Jonah Hex into a TV series I could see myself watching it — especially if it featured scripts adapted from stories like this one. Not just for the gunplay and inventive ways Hex uses to take down some varmints, but for the ending in which Hex catches a glimpse of what his own future might look like, and decides to show an old man — someone he was coming to knock down a peg — some kindness.
You know, we’re not even halfway through the month and I have to got to say I’m impressed by the variety of books we’ve seen so far. Aside from the flagship superhero titles, we’ve seen war, horror/mystery and Western titles, with sword-and-sorcery fantasy (Warlord) coming down the line. Compare this to DC’s lineup cover-dated January 2020; of the roughly 20 or so books put out with that cover date, only one doesn’t feature any of DC’s flagship heroes (and even then the book, Basketful of Heads, hedges its bets with supernatural elements). I’m not saying the lack of genre diversity in the industry today is the only reason why people aren’t buying comics like they used to… but it does help explain a few things.
One thing it doesn’t explain? Why I’m not watching The Adventures of Jonah Hex right now. I mean, Timothy Olyphant would kill in that role. Er, so to speak.