‘All-Star Western’ #1 started off this series with a bang. It reintroduced the gristled bounty hunter Jonah Hex to a new audience. In the new post-relaunch DC Universe, Jonah Hex has travelled to Gotham City in the late 1800s to investigate a series of murders that have been plaguing the city. Hex is teamed up with Amadeus Arkham (the guy who will eventually found the infamous Arkham Asylum of Batman fame). Hex’s tale is mostly shown and narrated from the Arkham’s point of view. This approach makes for a great read as the psychiatrist tries to analyze the anger and spite of Hex.
This issue picks up at Arkham’s home as the unlikely duo prepares to face the mysterious group who were revealed at the end of the last issue. Arkham explains that he believes that this group follows the religious teachings of “The Crime Bible”, a book that is allegedly handed down from the biblical Cain. After a shootout that shows why Hex is one of the biggest badasses in the DC roster, he and Arkham go after the religion of crime’s leaders. As they bust in to take on the villains, things take a turn for the worse.
The story of Hex and Arkham is shortened this issue as the second half of the slightly oversized book features a tale featuring El Diablo. El Diablo is… or rather was… a man named Lazarus Lane. Lane was a criminal who died and was resurrected through Indian magic and possessed by a demon. This tale takes the “weird west” vibe of ‘All-Star Western” into more weird territory as it introduces zombies, Indian magic, and of course the demonic El Diablo. It tells the tale of a town besieged by the resurrected dead. Lazarus Lane rides into town and is attacked. The townspeople save Lazarus and reveal their safehouse to the undead in the process. Now it’s up to El Diablo to use his unearthly powers for good to save the people from the walking dead!
The art on the Hex/Arkham tale is by Moritat, who also did the cover. Moritat is, and has been for a while, the best possible choice for a Jonah Hex comic. His lines just ooze “western”. The El Diablo story is illustrated by Jordi Bernet who has a style that reminds the reader of those late 70s war, western, and horror comics.
Just as the first issue featured recognizable names of some of Gotham’s elite, this issue ties into modern Gotham as well. In the Hex tale, pre-relaunch readers will recognize the Crime Bible as it has popped up in modern Gotham before. It’ll be interesting to see how DC weaves the religion of crime from these early Gotham days into modern tales in other Batman titles.
‘All-Star Western’ #1 was one of my picks on the ScienceFiction.com final tally of the best and worst of DC Comics’ New 52. Sadly, I expect it’ll be one of those comics that, because of its theme (and a much hated movie featuring the title’s main character), will be overlooked by most fans. But I will continue reading it for as long as DC continues to put out amazing stories like these first few. I’m just glad to see a weird west comic like this getting the gold-star treatment that it deserves.
Final verdict: Buy
ALL-STAR WESTERN #2
Written by JUSTIN GRAY and JIMMY PALMIOTTI
Art by MORITAT and JORDI BERNET
Cover by MORITAT