Saturday, October 8, 2011

The New All Star Western #1- The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

DC Comics recently cancelled all of its long running comics then relaunched fifty two of them in a vast marketing effort called 52.  There is something mystical connection to 52 in the DC offices that I don’t get, but I’m sure someone out there understands.  The only DC comic that I have purchased on a regular basis for a number of years was Jonah Hex, so to me this just meant a relaunch of that series, but as I started to see what they were working on I got intrigued.  DC is essentially “Ultimizing” their line in the way that Marvel did ten years ago, and merging the DC Earth-1 Universe with the Wildstorm Universe, allowing Batman and Superman to play with Midnighter and Apollo.  Alright, enough comics nerdery, let’s get back to Jonah Hex’s new home in All Star Western.

The Good
The Writing- Palmiotti and Gray have consistently nailed the character of Jonah Hex.  My favorite interpretation of the character for years was the Tim Truman and Joe Lansdale version, but this version’s grim, decadent, violent manner has won me over.  There are lots of dark comics characters out there, but in this case Palmiotti and Grey weave details of his past that make Hex three dimensional.

The Art- One thing that I enjoyed about the last Jonah Hex series was the rotating artists.  Some I liked, some I loved (that’s you, Mr. Kubert!), and some just didn’t work, but it was always fresh.  I was disappointed to see that there would be one consistent artist, but if the first issue is any indication they made a good choice in the art team.  The coloring, in particular, is great.

The Bad
The Setting- All Star Western #1 takes place in Gotham City, which we are presumed to believe takes place along the Atlantic coast somewhere in the Northeast.  The story is a Jack the Ripper / From Hell type plot that is firmly embedded in the squalor of 19th century industrial cities.  No wild west here, and that is a damn shame.

The ghost of Jonah Hex once possessed a supermodel
The Plotting- To me the best part about the last Jonah Hex series was that it was for the most part one issue stories, with a few two or three part tales and in one instance (Six-Gun War) a six part story.  You could pick up one issue and not need to understand the complex backstory to understand it.  At several points they even referenced Jonah Hex’s Chinese wife, who to my recollection hasn’t made a comics appearance in three decades, yet even without that in depth knowledge of Hex’s tale it was still enjoyable.  Now we seem to have an ongoing series rather than a collection of one shots, which takes something away from the flow of the last series.  To make matters worse it is now definitely set in the DC Universe.  I recognized ancestors of Batman and the Penguin, as well as the founder of Arkham Asylum.  This wouldn’t be so bad if DC hadn’t fraked with Jonah Hex so often in their mainline comics- he has always stood best on his own.

The Ugly
It only comes out once a month!  Despite some reservations, All Star Western was still good.  Something only tangentially Western is still better than no Western at all.  I hope that it quickly goes back to being a Western and that some of my other favorite DC cowpokes (especially Bat Lash) find their way back in. Having just read the plot outline for the first four issues, though, it looks like the sagebrush and tumbleweed will have to wait until 2012 at least.

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