REVIEW: Jonah Hex: No Way Back

Jonah Hex: No Way Back

Written by Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
Pencils by Tony DeZuniga
Inked by Tony DeZuniga and John Stanisci
Colors by Rob Schwager
Letters by Rob Leigh

$19.99 / 136 Pages / Color / Hardcover

DC Comics

In his recent big screen debut, Jonah Hex communicates with the dead by simply taking hold of their lapels. For many fans it seemed like a nonsensical addition to a character who's already pretty compelling. But then there's that surname. Why shouldn't a man called Hex hold sway over the damned? In No Way Back, the character's first original graphic novel, writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti have a subtler solution.

Jonah Hex isn't cursed. He's the affliction.

It stands to reason that a bounty hunter might generate his fair share of collateral damage. But Hex might have more enemies than most. By simply passing through town to rest his horse and share some firewater with any prostitutes who'll have him, the gunslinger tends to poison the well. No sooner does he hightail it out to the next dusty hamlet than a gang of desperadoes rides up to pick at the bones. Hex knows this, but his philosophy doesn't really warrant looking over his shoulder. It's always the horizon. What's done is done, and there's no sense in losing pace over what's already dead and gone.

Unsentimental as he is, Hex is still a man. And that means when he overhears the name of his mama amidst some impolite chatter, he's bound to do some soul searching. You've no doubt seen the preview in the back matter of several DC titles, so it's no surprise that this is the story of Jonah's search for Ginny Dazzleby, the mother who left him with the cruel Woodson Hex. But that's not even half the story, because this journey also leads him to the doorstep of a brother he never knew he had. No Way Back functions as a great introduction to the world of Jonah Hex for newcomers, packed with everything you ought to know about the man's origins. It's also a must for diehards and casual readers, because it offers heaps of new information, broadening the ensemble and filling in a few blanks.

There are really two conflicts here; the human story of Hex and his expanded lineage, and a shoot 'em up plot with one of the best villains in his rogues gallery, the bandit king El Papagayo. It really doesn't get much better than a vengeful Mexican gangster with a scarlet macaw on his shoulder. This is where that bit about Hex poisoning the well comes in. Early in the story, our anti-hero piles up some bodies to protect a young girl and her saloon keeper father. Unfortunately, the rescue doesn't come without a high penalty as El Papagayo cuts a swath through the south west in pursuit of Jonah Hex. The bandit has more than one reason to slash the bounty hunter's throat, and we learn why in yet another flashback.

Everything comes to a head in the unlikely western sanctuary of Heaven's Gate, Colorado, where Hex is asked to surrender his pistols.

"Yer preacher's the sheriff. There's no guns, no whores, an' no whiskey," growls Hex. "Ya ought ta change th' name a' this place to 'Hell.'"

If there are any faults to this terrific story it's that the phonetic dialogue can be a little heavy sometimes. A little distracting. But then again Hex does have that isthmus of flesh bisecting his gob, so anybody'd have trouble making sense of his yapping some of the time. There are also a few moments of action that feel a bit rushed in the final battle, but the storytelling is terrific in the quieter moments, where everything really counts.

Veteran artist Tony DeZuniga provides the art on this one, lending something really quite special to the proceedings. DeZuniga was actually the first artist to ever draw a Jonah Hex story in the pages of All-Star Western #10 back in early 1972. It's only fitting that he get to deliver the visuals for the characters first OGN, nearly 40 years later. Looking at my copy of the Jonah Hex Showcase, it's true that the line work isn't quite as crisp, but the art in No Way Back is much more expressive. The fights are messy in the best of ways. Gunshots are more explosive. A book about the old west ought to be filthy and visceral and even a little mean. Some readers might find it a bit crude, but that's the whole point I think. I love artists with clean line work like Cliff Chiang and Jamie McKelvie, but that's 180 degrees from the aesthetic you'd want for Hex. With DeZuniga, you get some down and dirty rendering with sophisticated progression. 

If you've ever been interested in riding with Hex, this is a pretty good place to start. Bloody and unsentimental, but pulsing with a tell-tale heart just beneath the dusty floorboards. Pick it up.

Jonah Hex: No Way Back is available right the hell now. Grab yours on Amazon.


Story: 4.5          Art: 4          Overall: 4.5


Paul Montgomery is being extra careful as he shaves this week . Find him on Twitter or contact him at 


  1. Well done review sir.  "Jonah Hex isn’t cursed.  He’s the affliction" is gold.  That should have been part of the marketing pitch for film.  I’ll be picking this up based on your review.  Cheers.

  2. Out of all the titles that I don’t read, I probably have the least slightest clue to why I don’t read Jonah Hex on a regular basis. My friend has the first one or two trades of Palmiotti & Gray’s run, and not only did I read and enjoy the story, but was also extremely delighted on the many Western movie references in it. My favorite references was the hidden cross of gold, which they took from one of the bizarre Django sequels.


    But yeah, reading your description, it seems that this book not only encompasses everything I love about Westerns, but also Western "heroes". I don’t know if I’d call them anti-heroes, because when I think of that term, I think of someone like Snake Plissken, who does heroic deeds for unheroic reasons. Characters like The Man With No Name, Django and Silence definitely have heroic intentions, but do things for the cause that people consider unheroic, like killing people. I could go into the whole debate on the killing/heroism issue, but that’s kind of besides the point here.


    From reading this review, Jonah Hex seems like the poster boy for Western heroes, and is probably the biggest reason why I need to get this book. Everything about Western heroes is complex, from their motivation to their methods to the reasoning behind their methods. It seems like Palmiotti and Gray really get the intricacies of what makes a great Western tick, so I’ll be really looking forward to this book and their run. 

  3. I love Jonah because the book has a certain level of complexity that I think most books have no hopes of emulating. I think I like Jonah because even though he hunts bounty’s and they are generally bad people he often does horrible things to catch them. It makes you question how we think of heroes and if they really even exist. I like how Chris put it,  "heroic deeds for unheroic reasons". This certainly typifies Hex because he is a bounty hunter who is constantly whoring and drinking. Yes he does catch bad men but is he better than them. I think Hex whores and drinks because he knows that there is no difference between most men. I could go on but would rather not. I bought the book and it was a great read. The only thing I didn’t like was the art but the story was so good that I was able to overlook it. If only Darwyn Cooke could draw every issue.  

  4. Great review Paul, can’t wait to read it.

    I just read Palimotti/Gray’s first two trades of Jonah Hex and I absolutely loved it. Josh and Conor are so right about that series. Just comic book western gold. 

  5. Very excited to check this out, got hooked on JH after hearing Josh and Conor rave about it a while back