Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Comic Book Review

All-Star Western 1-3.  Written by Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, art and covers by Moritat.

One of the nice things about DC's "New 52" initiative was that they included a number of non-superhero titles in the mix, including a relaunch of their All-Star Western title, featuring bounty hunter Jonah Hex. This iteration of Hex finds the man back East, working in 1880s Gotham City.

The story arc that takes place in the first 3 issues is narrated by Dr. Amadeus Arkham. The psychologist teams with the bounty hunter to solve a string of murders of prostitutes. "The Gotham Butcher" case becomes personal to Hex when the crime scene of the sixth victim includes a personal message for Hex. This attempt to scare off the bounty hunter fails (of course), and adventure ensues.

It turns out that the civic leaders of Gotham are behind the crimes, as part of their twisted Crime Bible religion, as followers of Cain, the first biblical murderer. Included in this list of villains is Mayor Cobblepot, one of the many name-checks in this first set of issues. Setting this first batch of issues in Gotham was a controversial choice, but I think it works, putting Hex in a "fish out of water" situation for his first "new 52" adventure.
I am not an artist or an art critic, so I hesitate to describe Moritat's work, beside saying that it is very strong. The washed-out style is unique, giving these books a distinctive feel. His work sets an appropriate atmosphere for these stories.

Issues 2 & 3 include a backup story featuring El Diablo, a vigilante with a vaguely supernatural origin. This story, also written by Gray & Palmiotti and drawn by Jodi Bernet, is a more traditional western, taking place in the untamed territories. The character has within him a spirit of vengeance that is activated when he is asleep (or knocked unconscious). This sixteen-page tale was fun, setting the scene for potential future El Diablo stories.

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