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
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.