All Star Western has been one of those series which critics often times snidely comment on, usually they can’t see the continuity explaining value in the book. Heading into its 21st issue, this series has been one of the few in the New 52 that hasn’t seen multiple creative team changes. Which puts it up there in the same exclusive club as Batman, Wonder Woman, and The Flash. Now, issue twenty-one looks to be a start in solidifying Jonah Hex’s importance in the modern DCU.
Once again we see the DC’s most love-to-hate time hopper Booster Gold. The two take an unwanted trip through the time stream that drops Jonah Hex in present day Gotham. Picture that scene towards the end of the Captain America movie but with more redneck vigilante hate. His misunderstanding of the way things work in our time sets up a brutal confrontation with the new Batwing. By the end of the issue Jonah Hex winds up in a predicament that will make readers want to stay on board for the arc just to see how he’ll get out of one of Gotham’s most notorious places.
Gray and Palmiotti continue to show how versatile their storytelling can be. The dialogue between Gold and Hex feels like something out of a buddy cop movie, where one always berates and belittles the other. Even through his time jump, Hex never loses his spaghetti western essence and it helps to make him play the man out of time role more naturally. The only chink in the story telling armor is the pacing, which can feel a bit rushed. Instead of the Stormwatch back up story in the book, more pages should have been devoted to the main story in order to let some scenes breath more. After landing in Gotham he practically turns his head and finds crime happening without really emphasizing how out of touch he is in modern Gotham. In addition, the appearance of Batwing is welcomed, but a bit too out of nowhere. Though as I said before, the cliffhanger makes the book worth coming back for next month.
Moritat’s art continues to be strong suited for old westerns. It has just the right amount of realism and grit to make readers feel like their looking at old polaroids. Moritat’s strength has always been in character and it shows on the page. Where the art looses its footing is in the transition to modern Gotham. Once Hex arrives the art starts to feel as though it’s stuck in the transition between old and new, which causes our protagonist not to stick out like the sore thumb he should. Also, the little details in present Gotham feel like they’re overcompensating. Most buildings have an overabundance of knick-knacks that clutter the page unnecessarily.
Overall, All Star Western is a fun read with the good outweighing the bad. If not for the additional Stormwatch back up story, which goes back a couple issues, twenty-one could have been a great jumping on point for the series. Anyone looking for books to cut from their pull may want to drop one of their eight Wolverine books instead. This looks to be a great ride for Jonah Hex in unfamiliar territory.
7.5 out of 10 Good!
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