I buy way too many comics. Between my pull list at Royal Collectibles (did you know having a pull list at a local comic shop like Royal usually means a discount?) and the stuff that we get from publishers for review (don’t freak, it’s usually water-marked pdf’s) I wind up with quite a backlog. Once in a while I shut off the phone, tell the children to give me a break and “dive into the to-read pile!” (see what I did there?) This time it was a five issue run of …
All Star Western Featuring: JONAH HEX!
Written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, with stellar art by Moritat, All Star Western follows the adventures of Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham in the post Civil War era Gotham. It’s a great action packed comic Jimmy and Justin know how to entertain a crowd. But except for Jonah’s back-story the plot’s don’t get that heavy. This run was different.
Issue #20 continues the “Booster Gold – At His Side” storyline which was equal parts cool and cringe-worthy. A wise cracking time traveler (like Booster) can add some fun to the a story but the joke gets old pretty quick, and Booster’s fish-out-of-water schtick wore on me pretty quickly. But the scene was set and by the 5th page of issue #21…
(Is this where I say it? SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!)
Jonah and Booster fall through space and time. They lose each other along the way and Jonah finds himself alone in an alley, in Gotham, some time in the future. After run ins with the local color (mutant crazies mugging a young couple) and the inevitable misunderstanding with the Gotham City Police (cuz you know running around in a Confederate Uniform with six-guns isn’t too awkward) and “Batwing” he winds up in Arkham Asylum.
So two issues into the arc and I’m enjoying it, but it does feel a little (for lack of a better word) normal? I’ve read this title for 20 issues I really didn’t expect such a straight forward plot. The art is fabulous though, the transition between past’s sun drenched desert scrub and future’s dark rainy streets and alleys of Gotham was perfect. And the dialogue is just as pithy and cutting as always but this (storyline) is standard sci-fi fare.
The hero winds up in the future, misunderstandings abound, he gets incarcerated. Kind of time-travel 101.
Into issue #22, Hex is being held in Arkham and guess what? No one believes him?! The man out of time vibe is strong in this issue with Hex beating the crap out of pretty much anyone who lays a hand on him. Commentary on smoking and gun control are everywhere and not in the finger-wagging way you’re probably assuming. Doctor Arkham (Great-Great Grandson to Amadeus) is handling his case and to say he doesn’t believe Hex would be an understatement.
While interviewing Jonah the doctor asks for proof. Isn’t there something he knows that would be convincing? Hex does have one thing and it involves another native Gotham family, in a big way. Dubious but curious Doctor Arkham decides to check Hex’s information. But even after he gets confirmation, from a very credible source, he still can’t get his mind around the prospect of time travel.
By now you’re probably wondering (just like I was) where’s the two-fisted gunfighter type violence! Where’s the action! Jonah Hex isn’t some drawing-room mystery, when the hell is he gonna get back to being Hex!
Well this is where the story shifts into high gear, fed up with waiting Hex enacts an escape! And coincidentally takes the good doctor with him! So here we have it, Jonah Hex back in the saddle (of sorts) with Doctor Arkham (ok a Doctor Arkham) by his side. You’d think he’d just ride off into the sunset. Nope. Hex just can’t stay out of trouble. Issue #22 closes with Jonah in another scuffle, taking out the bad guys.
Right here is where we hit the true reason for this article. Whether or not Messrs Palmiotti and Gray did it on purpose or not the whole run pays off in issue #23. After the end of the last issue Jonah was in the thick of it and now he seems to be the Jonah Hex we know and love, drinking, fornicating, and getting into trouble.
But the thing that makes this issue amazing is the climax. While trying to stop a senseless killing Hex witnesses carnage I can only describe a war worthy. And in the midst of it all Jonah Hex becomes a fully-realized human being. Even in back-story Hex has always been unreachable, almost too gruff and detached. I think this story may change that. Don’t get me wrong he hasn’t gone all touchy-feely or anything but things have definitely changed.
I went into issue 24, the epilogue, wondering where they would take it. Would Jonah go to jail? Ride off into the sunset? Well kind of, but the peace doesn’t last and the last pages of issue #24 give us the next chapter in the life of Jonah Hex and it’s decidedly supernatural. And along with help from a certain occult detective I’m sure he’ll do just fine.
But beyond all that what really struck me was, well to be honest, how much that one scene in #23 struck me. As I’ve said I read a lot of comics, most have at least the same level of violence as this one but for some reason this one left me a little stunned. It tied up the whole arc, gave it purpose.
I haven’t had a lot of great things to say about The New 52, most of the titles were reboots of series I had loved, and been collecting. This was a new series (new to me anyway) that I picked up. I’ve read it ever since and after issue 23 I’ll keep reading.
Go to your local shop and dig through the back issue bin or buy this arc digitally. It’s totally worth the read.
All Star Western issues 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24 – This arc gets a 5 out of 5.