New 52 Review: All-Star Western #1

Jonah Hex heads east to Gotham City, tracking down a serial killer alongside Dr. Amadeus Arkham.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

All-Star Western #1

I give full credit for writers’ Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s out-of-the-box attempt to reboot western icon Jonah Hex. In a certain light he needed it, especially after the abysmal attempt by Hollywood to bring Hex to life. The reboot idea is interesting and completely removes Hex from his comfort zone. It also expands on the typical single-issue story arc, allowing for the outside characters to be involved on a deeper level than we’ve seen before. All of these ideas are good ones and somehow, in All Star Western #1, they just don’t come together. Nothing gels here and the entire issue reeks of a desperate attempt to try and put Jonah Hex into a new light.

To start, Palmiotti and Gray stick Hex in Gotham City. The concept of taking the ultimate gunslinger out of the old west and place him in an urban setting is a good one, but making it Gotham is a little too on the nose. Hex has been summoned to Gotham to help the police try and find the Gotham Butcher, a serial killer currently killing prostitutes. Really? Jack The Ripper? The best two writers working on one book could do is Jonah Hex out to catch Jack The Ripper? How many times are writers going to fall back on that whole idea and why would you use something so cliché to reboot an entire series. The cute story details get worse. Apparently, Hex was summoned by……wait for it……Amadeus Arkham! Yep, the catalyst of Hex’s involvement is the man who gives birth to Arkham Asylum. It’s so clever and so on the nose that it feels more like a plot trick than anything else.

Dialog is another major issue with All Star Western #1. The 1880s Gotham City dialect bleeds into a British dialect from the same era. It also comes across as if Palmiotti and Gray struggled to make every line sound overly sophisticated, which in turn makes Hex sound less like a Wild West gunslinger and more like an idiot. Hex also talks too much in this story. His cold silence is sorely missed. The most insulting thing about All Star Western #1 comes with the big cliffhanger ending. One of the prostitutes in Gotham, one that Hex just happens to know, tells him that the guy who may have killed her fellow hooker had a skull ring. That night, when Hex and Arkham attend a soirée of Gotham’s rich and powerful they discover that all of them have skull rings as they are part of a secret society. So the Jack The Ripper character may be part of a society made up of the rich and powerful? Last time I checked that was the plot of From Hell by Alan Moore.

As far as the art goes, I hate it. I hate every last pencil slapped across the page by Moritat. His lines are too thick, and his use of background is so off that it seems as though he drew the foreground characters, cut them out and stuck them on a pre-drawn backdrop. Imagine a comic done in Colorforms and you start to get the idea. I despise how Hex is drawn and everybody else looks unfinished or rushed. All Star Western #1 is a poor artistic start to a classic character’s reboot.