‘Counting Corpses’ collects Jonah Hex issues 43, 50, 51, 52, 53 and 54, written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti and illustrated by Paul Gulacy, Darwyn Cooke, Dick Giordano, Billy Tucci and Jordi Bernet. Jonah Hex is one of several series – most of them published by DC or one of its subsidiary companies – that I quite enjoy reading but am usually content to get out of my local library, rather than buying them. The only volume in this particular series that I own is the first one – which is the only volume I haven’t read yet – and every other volume, including this one, I got out of the library. However, I do kind of wish that I had been buying them. It’s not necessarily a brilliant series. It’s not even a particularly memorable series. But these fairly standard Western tales are always very readable, each individual issue usually contains a done-in-one story, and they often employ the talents of some great veteran artists. DC also don’t fanny around releasing these books as ‘deluxe’ hardcovers – they just come straight out as no-nonsense, relatively affordable softcovers – which can only be a good thing. In fact – sod it – I think I will start buying this series with the next volume, as this sort of book needs to be encouraged, and I’m tempted to pick up a copy of this volume, too, as it contains one issue that is so good it would be worth the price of the book on its own.
That issue is the double-sized Jonah Hex #50, illustrated by Darwyn Cooke. In that issue, Hex agrees to take the bounty on fifty men, which leads to some great visual gags and a bloody final shootout / massacre in the town where Hex’s occasional lover, the scar-faced female bounty hunter Tallulah Black, has decided to settle down. It’s a surprisingly powerful, touching story, and Cooke’s art here is really, really good. He makes Tallulah Black look both mean and beautiful, he manages to switch from humour to horror to heartbreak, all in the space of a single issue, and there’s a great double-page spread of Hex engaged in a shootout while jumping a ravine on his horse. He also inks this issue using a fine pen, rather than employing his usual bold brushwork, and it suits the book perfectly. There’s some other good stuff in this volume – especially the issue drawn by Paul Gulacy and the two issues drawn by Spanish artist Jordi Bernet, who is a regular on the series – but the combination of a powerful, self-contained story and Darwyn Cooke’s brilliant artwork made Jonah Hex #50 one of the best single issues of any comic I have read in quite some time, and certainly the best Jonah Hex comic I have ever read.
The Titan Books edition of this book has a cover price of £10.99, but the Book Depository have it for £6.92 at the moment – nearly a quid less than the Amazon price. I wish I’d bought a copy, and I still might.