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Remember When Jonah Hex Time Traveled?

Remember when Jonah Hex went to the future? Well, I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t. It’s one of those forgotten series that has never had a proper collection. In any case, however, it’s definitely a point in Jonah Hex’s storied history that doesn’t really get the due deference it deserves. Sure, it sounds silly – but only in the best of ways. That was how Hex rolled.

 

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People who have never read the series usually mistake its obscurity as a sign of it being purposely covered up. They may be right, because how could anyone know that such a series existed and not demand more? For the safety of publisher’s everywhere it had to be set aside. Let’s face it, a wild western mixed with a post-apocalyptic setting? Cut short and in its prime? The outcry for it in the modern day would be enormous.

 

Hyperbole aside, it is a very interesting series. Less knowledgeable readers might say that it is surprisingly enjoyable, but it becomes less mystifying when you realize that it wasn’t exactly a new series. It was just a relaunch – a saving throw by the already existing Jonah Hex creative team of Fleisher and Texeira. Their series is one of Hex’s definitive runs and something that set a lot of his basis and legend. Their continued presence was a big boon.

 

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That the writing aspect stayed consistent is what made the transition that much smoother. Rather than it being this jarring gimmick, it became just another chapter in the life of Jonah Hex. He wasn’t changed – just the world around him. Without this series the rule of thumb that surrounds Hex, that he can fit into any setting, would not have ever come about. The sheer ridiculousness of this series proved the longevity of the gunslinger.

 

And it really does get insanely ridiculous. Time travel aside, you have doomsday scenarios, androids, robotic serial killers, mutated monsters, and alien invaders from beyond the stars. All filtered through the perspective of everyone’s favorite codgy bounty hunter. He never really settles into the environment. Each story is rich with the unnerving and disjointed undercurrent of his relations inside this setting. He never sits right – and neither does the reader.

 

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The series has a big myth-arc, that being Hex in the future trying to make it back home – and it is deep with pathos. Yet, on an issue by issue basis the quality does fluctuate. Some scripts were simply better than others. Especially at the front end of the series, it took a while to find its footing. Could that have been a contributor to the series early demise? Going from letters pages the series was always a tough sell, and needed to gain fan trust early.

 

The art was divided. Texeira was great. His art was key in keeping that gritty Jonah Hex feel, but something that newer fans might not be so aware of is the contribution that Keith Giffen had on the series. Giffen pencilled the last handful of issues, and he was not warmly received. In fact, his artwork was downright hated. It’s not hard to see why, it was Giffen, and that is inherently not very cohesive to the classic Jonah Hex mood.

 

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Yet, Giffen was just as perfect on the title as Texeira, bringing out more of the weird sci-fi connotations of the plots and the characters. He may have downplayed the grit, but the panelling and character forms more than made up for it. It’s much easier to get used to the shift because of the series’ relative obscurity. It actually aids in selling the silliness of the concept, even while staying true to the roots of the seriousness inside the core.

 

There are, in fact, a lot of places where this is an actually serious series. It doesn’t take itself too tongue in cheek and the final issue is the best example of that. It is a deeply rich examination of Hex’s mindset and his feelings on being stranded in time without any way back home. It’s a gripping, emotional, dissection of the series so far and it has the best final pages in Jonah Hex history. Those last pages are something every Hex fan should know about.

 

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So, what exactly is its legacy? Well, even for those who never read it – it is readily noticeable in every copy of Crisis On Infinite Earths. It’s a part of the epilogue. Fleisher himself has gone down as one of the all-time great Hex writers, and this was his big farewell. Does this series need a reappraisal? Sure, but it will probably not get one soon. But like Hex himself at the series’ end, it will always be waiting to be sought out once more.

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