All-Star Western #1 has Jonah Hex trading in the dusty trails of the Old West for the bustling streets of Old Gotham. Can a country boy bounty hunter make it in the big city?

ALL-STAR WESTERN #1
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Artist and Cover: Moritat
Colorist: Gabriel Bautista
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Assistant Editor: Kate Stewart
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99

Previously, in All-Star Western:  Jonah Hex is a Civil War veteran (from the losing side), an unerring tracker and bears an uncanny resemblance to Two-Face. What’s changed for him in the DC relaunch? Seemingly not much, but that could be a good thing.

AN UNCIVILIZED MAN IN A CIVILIZED WORLD?

All Star Western #1 reintroduces Jonah Hex to the new DC universe, bringing the relentless bounty hunter to Gotham City, circa 1880. Some have complained that Gotham City is by no means the Old West, but Palmiotti and Gray ably present a premise which ensures the move to Gotham makes sense. A Jack the Ripper analogue bearing the unimaginative moniker of the Gotham Butcher is murdering prostitutes, while the police inspectors are unable to track down the serial killer. And if you can’t find someone, who do you hire but that great bounty hunter, Jonah Hex?

Our point-of-view character for these grisly shenanigans is Dr. Amadeus Arkham, a proto-Freudian psychiatrist fascinated by the disfigured bounty hunter. Arkham’s narration is favorably reminiscent of the Conan stories by Robert E. Howard. The central theme is that Jonah Hex is a man of the Wild West, with a brutal demeanor unsuited to an urbane center of progress and civilization. Of course, Gotham was no more civil in the 1880s than it is in Batman’s day. Palmiotti and Gray do a wonderful job of writing florid narration which puts the reader in the mindset of another time while giving Arkham a distinct voice. He makes a good contrast to Hex, and the two make an entertainingly unconventional buddy-cop pairing. I want to read more about these two.

WHAT’S WITH ALL THE MONONYM ARTISTS?

Moritat’s artwork is suited to the material. He draws a great Hex, capturing the steely grimness in the character’s face, and his Gotham of yesteryear is appropriately bustling yet ramshackle. The opening page has a nice flourish where the city is laid out in all its dank, crowded glory, while the smoke from the smokestacks merges into a shadowy skull. Bautista’s coloring presence is strongly felt as he tints the pages in reds and grays, underscoring the various moods throughout. My only reservation is that Moritat is too thick on his outlining, which makes the characters pop off the page in a distracting way. They don’t inhabit the space like they should, coming off somewhat flat.

THIS HORSE HAS LEGS

All Star Western #1 is reminiscent of many things: Conan the Barbarian, Gangs of New York, The Alienist, From Hell – but all the elements are blended together well. While it’s not strictly set in the Old West, the story still has enough Western DNA to deserve its title. For an extra dollar, you get 8 more pages of story, and those pages are put to good use, giving the issue a roomy, expansive feel. Palmiotti and Gray have been writing Jonah Hex for years now, and this issue is less a relaunch and more the perfect jumping-on point. Four and a half out of five stars.

Rating: ★★★★½

The Author

George Chimples

George Chimples

George Chimples comes from the far future, where comics are outlawed and only outlaws read comics. In an effort to prevent that horrible dystopia from ever coming into being, he has bravely traveled to the past in an attempt to change the future by ensuring that comics are good. Please do not talk to him about grandfather paradoxes. He likes his comics to be witty, trashy fun with slightly less pulp than a freshly squeezed glass of OJ. George’s favorite comic writers are Warren Ellis and Grant Morrison, while his preferred artists are Guy Davis and Chris Bachalo, He loves superheroes, but also enjoys horror, science fiction, and war comics. You can follow him @TheChimples on Twitter for his ramblings regarding comics, Cleveland sports, and nonsense.

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9 Comments

  1. Kent Nelson
    October 3, 2011 at 2:07 pm — Reply

    This book was the one I was least excited about before reading, and I was its biggest fan once I was finished with it.

  2. Kent Nelson
    October 3, 2011 at 2:10 pm — Reply

    I also got a distinct feeling of Holmes and Watson vs Moriarty when reading this. Very well done!

  3. Belmont
    October 3, 2011 at 6:19 pm — Reply

    For me Issue 70 from the prior series was my jumping off point. When a stand-alone character like Jonah Hex has to be tied into the Bat History with him riding into Gotham and dealing with Arkham the fellow that comes up with the Asylum. I know it was something from on high from the editor saying, to the writer. “Well you have to do this to drum up sales”. The reasons I picked up Jonah Hex, one; is most of the bad guys end up in the ground, die in their own traps or get set free by Jonah in one issue , two; the reintroduction of the Western Heroes of DC while adding new character like Telula Black, three; there is no tie in with any of the Justice League{52 Justus League},(no Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, Flash, Martian Man-hunter), that to me was the deciding factor of why I stayed in for 70 issues. The short story of having El Diablo taking on zombies, I know El Diablo is supernatural but the zombie plot has been overused. I read the DC Comic blurps on this new All Star Western just from that I would give it a 1/2 star out of 5 stars.

    • Damascus
      October 8, 2011 at 12:33 pm — Reply

      So you’re rating a comic book off of a sentence or two blurb? You aren’t even going to actually read the material before passing judgement?

      This was actually an excellent story. So a person who is a hired bounty hunter should always and forever stay in the far West and perform $25.00 bounties and never under any circumstance accept a job offer from any city with a need and the money to pay for his services because Jonah Hex should be out West, end of story? They set up a great story here, with enough written into it to show that obviously Jonah Hex is not suited for city life, that being in a city after all the time he’s spent living in the harsh plains and wide-open expanses is the same as being in a prison.

      This is a well thought out and genuinely good story and if you read it, or were willing to read it with an open mind and then still didn’t enjoy it, then that’s perfectly fine. Everyone’s entitled to your own opinion, but at least read it before passing judgement. The blurb can definitely help you determine if a story seems like it’s up your alley or not, but until you read it, it’s not really a very fair assessment of the quality of the work itself.

      Great review George, I was wondering how you were going to treat the material what with the grumbles I was hearing in places online about people complaining that Jonah Hex shouldn’t get tied into the Bat-Universe (even though there are two big cities in DC- Gotham and Metropolis, and Gotham definitely feels like it would be the older of the two and the more appropriate setting for the mood intended). But, just as you came in with some reservations, I did as well, but mostly because I usually find Jonah Hex insanely boring just kicking around little dilapidated western towns with no more than 15 buildings per town to hunt down some other random band of outlaws. I was pleasantly surprised here.

    • Belmont
      October 8, 2011 at 11:07 pm — Reply

      @Damascus, Why should I drop $3.99 for something that I can summarize from the DC Comics Online and here is the summary from there for the 1st issue {“Even when Gotham City was just a one-horse town, crime was rampant – and things only get worse when bounty hunter Jonah Hex comes to town. Can Amadeus Arkham, a pioneer in criminal psychology, enlist Hex’s special brand of justice to help the Gotham Police Department track down a vicious serial killer? Find out in this new series from HEX writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, with lush artwork by Moritat”} Off of this info and the 3 other issues coming up give me enough reason or have you forgotten the Major Spoilers point of “Your Mileage may vary.” The Jonah Hex I like was the same from the first run in All Star Western, Then Weird Western Tails, and finally Jonah Hex’s own title which I had collected. Even with the new 70 issues Jonah Hex kept him as he should be if you haven’t figured it out. I’m not going to tell you what that something is either…. I pass my own judgement because I have read enough of the character’s travels to know and form my own opinion and rating. I stated that I was getting out of this series before the train wreck coming up. Maybe you should caught that first sentence on the October 3 post before you tried broadsiding me…………

      • Damascus
        October 8, 2011 at 11:55 pm — Reply

        I was more commenting about how it sounded like you were judging the content of the issue based on a synopsis instead of the actual content. It’d be like me passing judgement on Pulp Fiction as being too convoluted with too much going on to make any sense if all I read was the 2-3 sentence long synopsis on IMDB.

        The third paragraph of my above post did say most of what I intended with a blurb possibly being enough to determine whether it sounds interesting to you, but to pass a rating judgement on something you haven’t actually read doesn’t seem all that fair to the material. I even said that if you’d have actually read the book and hated it to the core, even though I highly enjoyed it, then you’d have judged it on it’s own actual merits and found it lacking.

        I knew that I wasn’t going to like Hawk and Dove when I saw the solicits. It’s drawn by Rob Liefeld, that was enough right there, but I did read the book and yeah in this instance I was justified, the art was horrible and the writing wasn’t much better, but I did at least give it a shot. Now I’m not going to be picking up #2, because the first was so underwhelming, but I won’t rightfully say that the book is terrible because I won’t be reading it, I do know that the book isn’t likely for me though. So that’s as far as I can go in regards to #2, doesn’t look too good to me. But again I can’t make that as a definitive statement either.

        Either way, I am sorry for coming across so antagonistic, that wasn’t really my intent but it is obvious in my execution. In so many places have I recently seen very negative comments about the books in the new relaunch from people who obviously haven’t actually read the book they’re bashing. So, when I commented on your post, my irritations flowed out all onto you and that’s not fair either. I do apologize for that.

        • Belmont
          October 9, 2011 at 9:53 am — Reply

          @ Damascus: My apology on acting the high and mighty in the second post in a defensive measure. On Major Spoilers, I try to be careful not to shoot down someone’s comment that’s their opinion. I failed in that in the second response. That’s why the some of the reviewers on Major Spoilers use the “Your Mileage may vary” I should have remembered to include that in my first comment I understand your position on this comic cause that’s what DC is trying to do to draw in new readers into the market, cause I won’t be commenting on issue 2 and onward anyway since I have dropped the title. With movies you have trailers, the comic book is different unless you’re fortunate enough that the company buys more Diamond Preview Pages for a 3 page preview of the first three pages of the comic usually reserved if it’s DC it’s the founding Justice League Members. With the economy going that way it is I have to watch where the entertainment dollars go into maybe it’s the same for others in the comic collecting universe. It’s not like the days I remember with .30, .45, .50 .75 cents, now comics cost 3.99 and more with independent comics. I have to stretch those dollars as far as I can. I tend to ere on the pessimistic side sometimes when a character goes under major changes either in form or how the character lived in that fictional world. I wasn’t a big fan or HEX of the Future back in the 80’s. The other thing I didn’t add and should have in the first post is I talk to others in a comic book group on Saturdays in my area. There’s several that are like me that have had ordered Jonah Hex in the past and some of them have ordered All Star Western , it wasn’t their favorite either. In the group there were others who ordered for the first time and just didn’t hook them in either. I am sorry that I acted like the Comic Book owner guy from the Simpsons. Thanks and take care…

          • Damascus
            October 9, 2011 at 11:09 am — Reply

            Look at that, I feel like a real grown up, handling disputes reasonably. Who’d have thunk? lol.

            I can definitely understand wanting the most bang for your buck and trying to spread it out more. I’ve been saving aside most of my comic budget for months waiting for the upcoming Mid-Ohio Comic Con (or Wizard World Ohio or whatever they’re calling it now), hopefully there I can buy 30 times the amount for the same price. Last year I bought nearly $1100.00 worth of graphic novels and TPB’s off of Tony Isabella for only $140.00. That’s the kind of savings that I love. I even bought books I had no interest in because they were so cheap and being TPB’s I knew I was getting the whole story arc too.

  4. Dan S.
    October 4, 2011 at 4:34 pm — Reply

    Surprisingly, this one turned out to be my favorite of all the New 52.

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