All-Star Western #20 – 8 GPPs
Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray (Author) Moritat Mike, Atiyeh Staz Johnson, Rob Schwager (Art)
Moritat's art is some of the best in a DC comic. Hex is one of the best characters DC has. Palmiotti and Gray continue to impress.
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Hex and his new-found partner Booster Gold set out to track down the Hootkins Gang, only for things to not go exactly according plan.
Introducing amnesiac and de-powered time traveller Booster Gold in issue #19 was a pretty left field move on the part of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray- it could’ve alienated a lot of readers, since Hex has pretty much existed in his own sandpit even after being relaunched as part of the DC New 52. It’s a clever move, though, exchanging Amadeus Arkham -who has been left behind in Olde Gotham as Hex ventured out on his own- for Booster Gold.
Hex is also a more engrossing character when he has company, especially when that company is someone who contrasts with him. That being said, with a lesser writer this could have been a cringe-inducing nightmare of camp comedy. All-Star Western is not without humour, but it’s a subtle humour, and forgetting this would be a disservice to both Jonah Hex and the character’s fanbase.
Hex makes things clear to Gold.
While it utilises the odd couple device and does it very well, it’s always implied that Hex doesn’t really want Gold there. They’re not pals and, as any fan of the character knows, Hex doesn’t really do ‘friends‘. The contrast between the two is well done though, and Gold’s obvious distaste for what is just part of everyday life for Hex leads to some of the best character moments. Finding the bodies of several outlaws, Hex promptly sets about claiming their heads (“Can’t carry all these bodies without a cart”) much to the horror of Gold.
It also serves as a reminder that Hex, whilst essentially one of the good guys, still does some pretty grim things.
Elsewhere, it becomes clearly obvious that the Hootkins Gang are the least of their problems, as Romeo and Damita arrive on the scene. Whilst the start of this issue establishes Romeo as an intimidating figure, events later on show Damita is just as unhinged and deadly, in true femme fatale style.
Although Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray may be making writing Hex look easy, it has to be said that after 20 issues no other artist could follow up Moritat.
All-Star Western has looked nothing less than amazing every month consistently since issue #1.
Hex and Gold scope out Romeo and Damita’s hideout.
Stunningly detailed double spreads like this issue’s title page really make a lot of what DC is producing look slack and lazy by comparison, and the characters themselves all have distinguishing characteristics, whether it’s the scarred face of Romeo or the unhinged look in femme fatale Damita’s eyes.
One panel depicting Hex and Gold making their way through a canyon has them featuring as miniscule figures with towering canyon walls on either side. No other title since Hellblazer has had such a feeling of geography and location.
Even back-up story Stormwatch is entertaining in its own way, and Staz Johnson’s gritty art approach fits the clear pulp inspiration of the story nicely.
Whilst DC seem set on playing musical chairs with writers and artists and seeing if anyone notices when the music stops, the team here is striking gold with every issue.
All Star Western proves every month that DC doesn’t have to churn out endless superhero titles.
If ain’t broke don’t fix it.