By Jeff Robertson
Hex is a strange comic. Launched during DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths event, September 1985’s Hex #1 by Michael Fleisher and Mark Texiera didn’t seem to resonate with fans due to its out-of-left-field nature. Despite Fleisher’s enthusiasm for the idea, sales were relatively low, with a strong response in Europe and Japan responsible for the series’ eventual 18 issue run.
In an objectively great first issue with explosive storytelling, tight pacing, and excellent art, Hex opens with Jonah Hex waking up in a bar. While he tries to piece together how he got there, one of his enemies bursts through the door with guns blazing. Quick to the draw Jonah Hex blows him in half – but the smoking remains reveal robotic parts, and Jonah realizes he isn’t where he used to be. The rest of the issue sees Jonah escape from the compound into a wasteland, fall in with a wandering gang who turns out to be the villains, and then everything ends with a showdown between Jonah and the gang’s leader in the middle of acid rain. It doesn’t stop.
While not Jonah Hex’s creator, Michael Fleisher may as well be, having written 126 comic issues featuring the infamous bounty hunter, including his origin and death. Fleisher’s chronicle of Jonah Hex’s adventures is one of the longest comic runs by a writer who didn’t create the primary character. Whether they knew it or not, fans of Jonah Hex are fans of Michael Fleisher… yet when Fleisher asked readers to take a leap with him into the future, many fans felt it was too much to ask of them.
As a series itself, Hex had a strong run with co-creator Mark Texiera, until he left the series to draw Marvel’s New Universe book Psi-Force. When the art duties were taken over by Keith Giffen, who was entering an experimental phase. While a great artist, the whiplash-inducing shift in tone and art style didn’t seem to sit well with Hex’s low remaining readership, and Hex would be canceled three issues later with issue 18.
Hex is Fleisher’s love letter to grindhouse films, and while not reportedly a science fiction fan, Fleisher’s work in Hex feels like a passion project. By putting a character who’d lived in a heavily researched American West into a post-apocalyptic setting, Fleisher could tell the types of stories he’d been telling in Jonah Hex – but with more imagination, more brutality, and possibly more fun. Fans initially bristled against the concept of DC’s gruesome bounty hunter being propelled into the future, but in hindsight, Hex remains one of DC’s most interesting failed experiments and is probably worth buying next time you see it in the dollar bins.
Hex #1 “Once Upon a Time… In the West?!?”
Written by Michael Fleisher
Pencilled by Mark Texeira
Inked by Klaus Janson
Coloured by Bob LeRose
Lettered by Peter Iro
Jeff is an independent cartoonist, comic book historian and digital restoration artist. When he isn’t found reading or writing about comics, he can be found making them. You can find more of Jeff’s work here!
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