The New 52, DC Comics‘ re-imaging and relaunching of their superhero based continuity, was to update their characters and bring them into the 21st century in an effort to keep everything cool about their characters while jettisoning all the confusing and contradictory history to create easily accessible versions for new readers.
Luckily for us, DC let bounty hunter and all around surly cowpoke Jonah Hex come through fairly unchanged, and in the 19th century! This says alot considering that Jonah Hex, the star of DC’s new series, All-Star Western has had quite the long and confusing history, which includes time in the post apocalyptic 21st Century (don’t ask).
Jonah Hex had been starring in his own eponymous series before the relaunch, written by the team of Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti(Power Girl). Gray and Palmiotti return to continue to spin Hex’s tales, now joined by artist Moritat (The Spirit).
Surprisingly, this first story of All-Star Western takes the scarred face gunman east to Gotham City circa 1880. Hex has been called in by a Gotham police detective to help catch a Jack-the-Ripper-esque serial killer, the Gotham Butcher, who has been slaughtering prostitutes. Upon arriving on the scene of the latest murder, we meet Dr. Amadeus Arkham.
Arkham and Hex make an unlikely pairing. Hex, not one for academics or partners, can’t deny that having someone familiar with the city would be most advantageous. Arkham, a medical doctor, and a pioneer in psychological musings, is fascinated by Hex. They make an interesting pairing and effective, as the two of them criss cross the infant city of Gotham, getting further on the case in one afternoon, than Gotham’s police have in weeks of being on the case. Of course Hex has methods and connections that average constable might not, including a working girl, and a former acquaintance not afraid to tell Hex what she’s heard.
Things do not all go smoothly, though as the Butcher sends a rather gruesome message to Hex, and anyone else who may be thinking of trying to apprehend the killer. But in making it personal, it only manages motivate Hex all the more. In their passion to find they killer, Arkham and Hex may have stumbled onto something much bigger.
Gray and Palmiotti continue the great storytelling they were doing on the previous Jonah Hex series, making Hex the man of action, like in the old Eastwood in those old Spaghetti Westerns like The Good, The Bad and the Ugly and Fist Full of Dollars. The story is also peppered with references to remind you that this is indeed a DCnU book. Their words are paired very nicely with the art of Moritat. Moritat creates a very different Gotham than you are used to, nascent at the beginning of the Industrial Age. Using a very limited palette mostly made up of reds, browns and greys. Moritat and colorist Gabriel Bautista create a very cinematic feel.
This book, like Men of War, is a bold chance that DC is taking in trying to expand their superhero universe with books in other genres like War, Horror and Science Fiction. It is a 40 page book, and future issues will have a backup story featuring some of DC’s other Western characters from their “Weird Western Tales” days, like El Diablo, Bat Lash, and the Barbary Ghost.
(w) Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti (a) Moritat