The title ‘All-Star Western’ has for a long time been synonymous with western fiction in America, in fact the comic has been running on-and-off since the early 1950’s with the menacing scar faced antihero Jonah Hex, a mainstay amongst other popular western heroes of the time and numerous ‘Cowboys and Indians’ and frontier tales. This is the latest incarnation brought back into the fold under DC Comics much talked about ‘New 52 initiative’ which has so far been full of sweeping changes and many pleasant surprises with just a couple of false starts. This is definitely one of the very pleasant surprises and a quite underrated title in my opinion.
It has so far involved the infamous antihero Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham (a clinical psychologist and namesake of the infamous asylum) and their misadventures in the old western equivalent of the notorious Gotham City. They have been on the trail of Gotham’s first serial killer only reaching dead ends and multiple dangerous thug-types with only murder on their minds in their investigations. The previous issue detailed their run-in with a bunch of kidnappers in the sewers underneath Gotham who roughed them up before they were swept away in the filth to a pitch-black cave filled with many bats and no signs of escape. This issue picks up with the pair bickering back and forth like usual trying to find their way out and unfortunately stumbling across a tribe of cave people wearing skull masks and armed with spears looking only to fight off the intruders. There is seemingly no end to the duo’s bad luck and it makes for one hell of a good read!
Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti are both long time Hex writers, in fact the failed 2010 big screen adaptation was created purely on the success of the duo’s long run on the character. Their knowledge shines through in Hex’s many deadpan insults and putdowns of his beleaguered partner and Arkham’s concerned voice of reason. They have crafted the plot almost like a buddy cop film where the duo have been fighting their way to the ends of the earth in search of the villain/s. Their lives are almost always at risk in their search but black comedy gold always finds its way through to the surface.
Veteran comic artist Moritat provides the art which unfortunately does take some getting used to. Compared to some of the other comics in the DCU, All-Star can look pretty rough and at times downright ugly. I found after a few pages though that it wasn’t overly distracting and often complimented the story especially in this issue consisting of mostly dark, underground cave scenes.
In addition to the main story (if you hadn’t already got your money’s worth!), there is an ongoing back up feature in the back of every issue. The current series is titled “The Barbary Ghost” which is also a tale of action and adventure in the old west but this time it’s the story of a female chinese vigilante fighting off local ganglords. In terms of bang for your comics dollar, it ticks all the right boxes despite the questionable art. I couldn’t recommend All-Star Western highly enough not only obviously for fans of the Western genre but comic/graphic storytelling fans in general.