Welcome to part II of The Want List's very first theme week where we're taking a closer look at that surly, hard-drinkin', no-nonsense, gun-tootin', ugly polecat...
Know ye well, fellow travelers, that even though ol' Jonah was always a badass, he did still manage to show us his softer side every once in a while: A kindly word spoken here, a secret donation to the local whorehouse there, killing a doctor who wouldn't give the orphanage the necessary medicine... In fact, at one time he even had a sweet li'l doggie that traveled around with him. A cute, cuddly li'l thing that would playfully nip at your heels and roll over to get his tummy scwatchy-watched.
Just kidding. He had a Timber Wolf. Named "IronJaws."
Hex inherited Ironjaws from a dead Indian child who died in his arms. He tagged along for a few years (judging by his longtime appearance in the Showcase collection), and was a great companion / plot device. There were several real cute moments involving this canine killer with a heart of gold, and he came in quite handy at times, like when say... when Jonah falls asleep three feet away from a rattlesnake:
Ironjaws kills the rattler, but gets mortally bitten in the process. Jonah, horrified, calms and reassures his loving partner with the soothing words that only a kindly pet lover could relate:
Jonah saddles up and races Ironjaws to the nearest town and to the nearest doctor. Upon seeing the wolf and the rugged stranger who brought him in, the doctor refuses to treat the beast. Besides, he's already tending to a patient - a human patient, naturally, and certainly that takes precedence over some mangy wolf! Jonah retorts by appealing to the doctor's compassion with a stunning display of wit, logic and reason previously unseen before:
The other patient, clearly upset at having to give up his place in line for treatment, hobbles to the nearest saloon to rat out Jonah to a couple of guns simply named "Butcher and his brother." And with names like that, they're obviously soon-to-be outraged members of the American Medical Association. Or P.E.T.A.
Turns out Hex killed their other brother a while back and they see this as the perfect opportunity to get even and bushwhack him by hitting him so hard his head explodes:
They tie Hex up, lash him to their horses, and bring him for a scrape through the desert where they beat on him a bit. This just makes Jonah mad, because ... well, he's a badass! And, as Butcher's brother puts it, "That's because Jonah is tough! R-E-A-L tough!" No shit.
They get pissed, knock Jonah out again, and taking a page from the never-fail villain rulebook that says, "Do not simply kill your nemesis when you have him prone. Devise some death trap for him so that you can leave him unattended and free to pursue more villainy," they tie him spreadeagled in the desert to die from exposure.
And he probably would have, too, if it wasn't for that mangy dog:
If that doesn't hit your over-the-top heroic dog moment button, you have no soul. Me, I heard the music swell and I think I teared up a little. (*sniff*)
Sadly, because the plot demands it, Ironjaws dies (*sniff*) which prompts Jonah to almost say the first kind words he's ever said about the wolf (Ever. Seriously.) before he remembers who he is and what's his business:
With all recognition to Dave Campbell:
I'll let y'all in with a little foreshadowing here: Butcher and his brother will not last the next three pages.
Hex heads back to the Doc, who's scared spitless that Hex will take Ironjaws' escape out on him. But Hex just wants water and firearms because, "The general store is way over the other side of town An- Ah'm in a hurry!" Badass.
Meanwhile, B&B have robbed a bank, hired a stage, and rode it out for several days until they were sure no one could follow them. Repeating: They thought they killed Jonah "Badass" Hex with a walk-away death trap, but even if he did survive, he certainly couldn't follow them at this point. Stooopid formulaic soon-to-be ex-villains....
Hex blocks the stage with a large tree, and when the stagehands get out to clear it, he removes them from play. In the confusion, Butcher's brother, who is by this time known as "Dan," gets shot and Butcher himself escapes into the desert with Hex on his trail. But before Jonah can finish the job, B gets jumped by a mountain lion.
And because we can't let the telegraphed ending be denied, Butcher manages to shoot the lion, but not before he mangles his legs:
Hands up if you think ol' Jonah is gonna take this guy to a doctor.... Anyone? Anyone?
(Actually, the lion had rabies and doomed Butcher to several hours of an agonizing death. But, as it was pointed out by the good doctor over at Polite Dissent, that's not quite the way rabies works. I can only assume this bit was added to show that Jonah really only had two options: A) Mercy killing and 2) Let him suffer. Guess which one he chose. Badass.)
Finally, if you didn't see this neatly cyclical ending coming, then you weren't paying attention to the dialog when Jonah was in this same situation.
Neat. Nice and tidy. With the promise of steak.
I chose to writeup this particular story (Weird Western Tales #14, “Killers Die Alone”) for a few reasons: It's very well done, it jumps through multiple plot changes, I have a strange love-hate relationship with tragic doggie stories, and overall, it's a great Jonah Hex story. Grim, ugly, driven, an unstoppable badass - you get a good feel for what works with the character here - it's pretty representative, overall. But, most of all, this one builds to one fantastic, "Oh, Shit! Jonah's gonna fuckin' Destroy somebody!" moment right in the middle. His (though he never says it, you know it's true) beloved wolf is mortally injured, he gets bushwhacked when his guard is down, tortured, left to die, and survives only at the cost of said wolf... The Shit's Coming Down! And Hard! Really, my only complaint is that the buildup was so well done and the peak so high that I would have loved for the retribution in the 3rd act to stretch out a little longer. We all knew the outcome was forgone... let's delight in the journey for a bit. Still, one helluva fantastic Jonah Hex story.
Tomorrow: Hex: The movie? Plus! What's up with that scar? And ... more badass panels!