ALL STAR WESTERN #1 (DC, September 28, 2011 release) Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, Writers. Moritat, Artist and Cover. Gabriel Bautista, Colorist. Rob Leigh, Letterer.
The writers of one of the longest running western comics in modern history (Jonah Hex) bring the same character over to the NEW 52 DC and never miss a step. I haven’t been a regular reader of JONAH HEX but this appears to be more of the same great content and style as Palmiotti and Gray keep the momentum going without pause. If you’ve been a reader of JONAH HEX (pre-NEW 52), you’ll want to continue with this new series. If you aren’t familiar with the character, this is the best time to jump on as the storyline provides numerous examples of what makes up the character/personality of Jonah Hex.
ALL STAR WESTERN #1 is one of the best written NEW 52 debuts that I have enjoyed so far. Imagine you are a comics writer and consider the scope of the task in front of you: Start over again with an established character, make it simple enough for a brand new reader to grasp the concept and follow along, don’t bore or lose any of your existing readership either, establish a problem/conflict, include some kind of action (blood and/or sex may substitute if needed, reminding me of a comment overheard by a comics shop employee about “the new DC - - bloody-er and slutty-er”), and keep ‘em hanging at the end so they come back next month. Palmiotti and Gray make it all happen in ALL STAR WESTERN #1, and they do it in style.
Ok, it’s spoiler time - - so skip ahead to the last paragraph if you don’t want any of the story elements revealed before you can get to this book.
So, what happens in Issue #1?
Jonah Hex rides into the 1880’s version of Gotham City and meets a number of citizens whose last names will seem familiar to many of you. (They are ancestors of current DC characters who reside in Gotham). He’s come to see about collecting the bounty for uncovering the identity of the Gotham Butcher = who, like Jack the Ripper, murders prostitutes. Jonah reluctantly teams up with Doctor Amadeus Arkham, medical consultant (with a preference for psychological analysis) to the local police. As their investigation makes progress they uncover another threat that may be even more serious. It seems there is a secret organization of prominent citizens identified by their skull rings who claim to be advocates for developing the potential of Gotham City. However, their ideals also involve the “betterment of society” and their methods may not have the best interests of all citizens at heart.
What did I like about it?
1) We learn almost everything we need to know about Jonah Hex through narrative captions that relate the story as seen through the eyes of Dr. Arkham. At the same time, we learn about the character of Arkham as he frequently comments, editorializes, and tries to analyze Hex. The end result is that the story moves along at a great pace without long interruption while the reader is getting the needed background details through the captions in almost every panel. Arkham is a great new character in his own right.
2) The art team does a commendable job of visualizing Gotham as an 1800’s western-looking town growing larger through the introduction of more and more industry and all the increased traffic and pollution it brings. Shades of gray, black, brown, beige and rust red help to both establish the image of a dusty western setting as well as enhance the lightly dark mood/style of the book.
What didn’t I like about it?
While I’m happy to pay $3.99 for a quality book - - I feel that whenever DC deviates from their earlier “holding the line at $2.99” promise they throw in enough extras to make it worthwhile. The big difference here? - - - You get 27 pages of story instead of the usual 21-22 pages. Is that enough to justify the extra $1.00 per issue? (Note: In future issues, Hex will share book space with El Diablo and later a new DC character - -the Barbary Ghost).
Do I love, like, stay neutral, dislike or hate this book?
It’s a very, very strong like at this point. However, I’ve already decided to continue with this through Issue #3, along with the rest of my 11 selections . . . . uh, make that “Mike’s DC 12!”