It’s a book I never thought would catch my attention, much less become one of my favourites.
It’s a western. It’s a gritty western. It’s a gritty western living in the DC Universe.
And all those factors help make All Star Western a great comic, an anthology showcasing the amazing talents of creators Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, and a corner of the DCU that is edgier then most.
All Star Western, this current version, was born out of DC Comics The New 52 last year, straight from the ashes of their previous series Jonah Hex. That comic never thrilled me, the few issues I read, and was plagued by low sales. This redo again features Jonah Hex, and a plethora of back-ups, some of which crosses over into Jonah’s life.
But first the main attraction, Mr. Jonah Hex himself. The Zero Issue, released in September 2012, tells all the major beats, both emotionally and physically, of Hex’s life so far. And living a hard fought existence makes Jonah a crude, rude and brutal old west bounty hunter. All Star picks up the narrative in the 1880’s with Hex striding into Gotham, future home of a certain Batman, and immediately becoming involved in cases with Dr Amadeus Arkham. At this point, the chaos and gunplay begins.
The main focus of this series is Jonah. While he fights savagely, and without the slightest bit of mercy, he lives by a very specific code of honour. Arkham spends a considerable amount of thought and energy trying to psychoanalyze all aspects of Hex and his worldview. And that is half the fun of this series.
The back-up stories have starred all sorts of new, old, and some reimagined, characters that populate the pre 20th century DCU. While not all work for my taste, suck as Bat Lash and El Diablo, most have been good and gritty. Nighthawk and Cinnamon, Dr Terrence Thirteen, and Tomahawk are older classics rebuilt for this day and age. The newest addition to this esteemed pantheon is The Barbery Ghost, a heroine with a truly different origin and modus operandi. Her impact is so noticeable, that she made a surprise guest appearance in issue thirteen with a small team-up with Hex. Cue my giddy squeal of happiness during this nasty skirmish of unparalleled violence.
Guns. Gore. Gotham. The cover tagline from issue three of All Star Western says it all with this comic. Jonah Hex delivers all that and more every month. And now I like the old west.
P.S. All images are copyright 2012 to DC Entertainment.
P.P.S. For an excellent real life examination of Hex and his life, try the Jonah Hex podcast from Two True Freaks.