etragedy's Jonah Hex #15 - Sawdust and Slow Death review

Calling Mr. Wrightson...

The comic doesn't deliver on the promise of the cover

'Sawdust and Slow Death' could've been a lot better. I mean, think of the potential, Jonah Hex in a circus, surrounded by circus freaks...

Instead it went a little something like this: Jonah Hex is on the run so he joins a circus. Giving only the name 'Jonah' he performs with his face covered by a red bandana in a sharpshooter act under the name 'The Crimson Pistolero'. Unbeknownst to Hex, however, the ringmaster is sending a number of the freaks out to rob the towns the circus passes through. When he's nearly caught, the ringmaster commits murder and frames Hex. The freaks turn on Hex until the real culprit is discovered, leaving Hex and the freaks to wreak revenge.

So I have a number of problems with this issue. First, for the first time Jonah is concerned about concealing his identity. This I can kind of accept given that things have been heating up for him in recent issues. But then, joining the circus doesn't exactly seem very low profile. There's also the fact that the freaks accept him as one of their own, which seems highly unlikely given his insistence on hiding his face, while the rest of them openly flaunt their deformities. And the fact that Hex wears his trademark Confederate uniform in his performances pretty much negates any attempt to conceal his identity (especially when coupled with his sharpshooting), given that it would stick out like a sore thumb in 1875.

The traveling circus as cover for robbers is pretty much a well-worn, if possibly historically accurate, plot, but there really isn't much else to the story. Even so, it could've been redeemed in mood, evoking the heydey 'Weird Western Tales', thanks to the freakshow aspect - but it never really capitalizes on that either, except a few panels here or there. Oh, what Bernie Wrightson could've done with this one!

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