Doom DeLuise and Jim Doom mentioned in their podcast a few weeks ago that they had not read All-Star Western from the New 52. Well I have read every issue to date, so I feel I have an obligation to tell you folks how it is. So here goes nothin’.
I’ll start off by explaining the basic premise and format. All-Star Western is, as the name would suggest, a comic set in the Old West. Each issue has a “main” story arc and a much smaller “mini-comic” whose arc usually spans 2 issues. The main story arc follows Jonah Hex. Some of you may be familiar with him (I wasn’t) as he used to have his own series.
The premise for Jonah Hex is a bit different this time around. This time, Jonah teams up (albeit very unwillingly) with Dr. Arkham– whose name is engraved on Arkham asylum in present day Gotham. As you may have guessed by this point then, the comic also takes place in Gotham City…..back in the Old West!! Bruce Wayne’s ancestor with some order of magnitudes of ‘great’ in front of it is there, as are several names you’d welcome from the powerful in Gotham today (e.g. Cobblepot!).
The first year has a very long arc that starts with Jonah Hex (aka world’s greatest badass) teaming up with Dr. Arkham (aka C3PO) trying to solve a few minor crimes. As they start digging further in, however, they accidentally expose huge conspiracies, including the Talons (yes, it has a ‘Night of the Owls’ tie-in!) and followers of the ‘Crime Bible’ (which sounds like a second grader made it up). Eventually, Hex meets up with other old friends, and they work together to try and bring these criminals to some Texas Justice.
Sometimes I’m not sure what to think of this thing. For starters, I read a bit about the writer of this series– Jimmy Palmiotti. I would recommend not doing that, because he’s…well you know…he’s a dude. And it kind of ruins the illusion. Just go to his website if you really want to know what I mean. That said, he’s put together a pretty great story here. I’ve obviously found it interesting enough to read it for an entire year of my life (what have I done??).
If you read it, though, you won’t have to remind yourself that it takes place in the past. They take no chances that you’ll forget this is a Western. Hex’s twang is sometimes overdone to the point that you want to scream, and Arkham can be so damn annoying/neurotic you’d wish Jar Jar Binks would show up. It gets really heavy-handed at points, which I just kept assuming was because it was a new series, but around issue 11 you start to wonder how long it’s going to go on.
In seriousness, though, I love Westerns, and let’s be honest– other than movies filmed prior to my birth and Louis L’amour, there ain’t many options. Pardner. So, I gave this a chance, and despite my above complaints, I’m glad I did. It was an interesting, and probably risky, choice to try to tie this with Gotham City, but I think they make it work. I’m not an old school fan, so I don’t have any continuity concerns, but I still think if this was done in poor taste I would sense it and I just don’t get any of that. There’s also just a ton of action (read: people gettin’ shot!), as one would expect from a good Western. To top it off, the mini-comics that accompany it are pretty damn awesome as well. There was one about cowboys who get attacked by zombies. It’s as awesome as you’d hope.
I’ll wrap it up for you:
On occasion, Jimmy and Co. over-do the whole “we’re making a Western!” thing. But by and large, it stays true to what you’d expect from that formula while boldly trying to add a few new things (e.g. unexpected story lines, ties to Batman arcs). There are some great moments in this first year, and some great mini-comics as an added bonus. It’s a great read, and I’d recommend it to just about anybody. Rawhide.