“My Name is Nobody”
Writer: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Russ Heath
Publisher: DC Comics
In previous reviews, I’ve expressed the concern that Hex might get repetitive, as almost every issue follows the same basic formula: Hex accepts an assignment, shows his nearly superhuman shooting skills while abiding by his odd, but strict, moral code, and kills his target in an unpredictable, and totally cool, fashion. In this issue the formula gets mixed up a little bit and I have to say it is a welcome change.
It’s not a wholesale re-writing of the established plot: Hex still busts out the ultra-violence against impossible odds, showing his strict moral code in the process. But there are enough variations along the way to make for a really good read.
Variation one: Hex actually shows affection for someone else. OK, we’ve seen it hinted before with some minor characters from Jonah’s past that he isn’t a complete bastard, but this wasn’t just anyone else…it was a horse.
OK, OK, spare me your lame cowboy-and-his-horse-in-love jokes. Just the little edition of Hex expressing concern and affection for a “dumb animal,” as clichéd as that might be, humanizes him somewhat.
Then there is the ultra-violence itself. Hex doesn’t accept an assignment but instead stumbles upon a chance to claim a bounty against a whole heap o’ bad guys. Sure, another minor variation, but the reason he isn’t out there bounty hunting is where the real change lies. He is out prospecting for gold because this is a tale of Geriatric Jonah, who has lost a step or two in the gunfighting department. So, again, the humanizing of Hex continues.
And then, finally, a major departure from the formula. After Hex dispenses with the baddies – oh, come on, that’s not a spoiler – he is confronted with a face from his past, and now our new, more human Hex… acts like a complete douchebag.
And at first it struck me as so… at odds… with what Gray and Palmiotti had established as the character’s disposition in his golden years just pages before, but upon further reflection it made perfect sense. If this is a kinder, gentler Jonah, and he could be a douchebag to this figure from his younger days, that implies the degree to which was wounded by something – and that something is only hinted at – way back when.
So there it is. In one brief story we see a more fully developed protagonist and get hints at a richer backstory to come. On top of that, Russ Heath turns in a kick ass performance, showing these younger artists how it’s done. Some excellent storytelling.
My only real complaint? Check out page eight, panel three: The word balloons are arranged so that one reads Hex’s first and the bandit’s second, when that should be the other way around. It would be such an easy mistake to spot – you just have to read the book! – and such an easy mistake to fix – there was plenty of room in the panel to move the bandit’s word balloon to the top and Hex’s to the bottom. So when a mistake like that gets made, it actually strikes me as an insult, as though the editing staff couldn’t be bothered to make a simple change to give me the best reading experience possible.
But you know what? Big deal. Still an excellent read and well worth the price of admission. If you haven’t been reading Hex, give this one a try. If you have been reading Hex and, like me, you’ve been bemoaning the declining quality, rejoice: This isn’t a return to form. It’s an improvement on the form.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!