I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan of the Western genre, but I’ve held a soft-spot for cowboy tales as long as I can remember. When DC premiered All-Star Western last September I didn’t touch the title, but thanks to some positive word of mouth (and a cover featuring Z.C. Branke…) I started reading with Issue #7 and have followed ever since. So far, I feel the series fluctuates between downright amazing and startlingly mediocre. I decided this issue is my make-or-break for me continuing to read the series. Did this title amaze me enough to keep me onboard?
Jonah Hex is the star of All-Star Western and this issue focuses on his backstory. The story starts on the night of Hex’s birth as we watch his father, Woodson, take out a group of Mormon-hunting vigilantes; like this son, Woodson is a HUGE badass and takes out a group of gun armed men using only his wits and an ax. A few years later, however, Woodson turns from a man who’d risk his life to defend his family into a raging alcoholic, causing Jonah’s mother to leave the family. Shortly thereafter, Woodson sells Jonah as a slave to the Apache tribe where he slowly gains recognition…until a betrayal causes the young man to be left for dead. Sometime later, Hex joins the Confederate Army. During a raid on Fort Donelson, Hex is captured by Yankee forces, tortured, and sent down the river on a raft where he is crucified in the shape of the Confederate Flag. Of course, Jonah’s suffering was far from over…
Clearly, Jonah Hex had a wild and violent life. Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti did a fantastic job explaining Jonah’s backstory. This tale had constant time jumps, but they worked fine and the story never felt rushed or disjointed. I feel their portrayal of the background characters, though brief, was great. I also like that this comic set up story threads for the future: what happened to White Fawn, Jonah’s Apache admirer? What about Captain Fulsome and Colonel Akerman, Hex’s military torturers? There’s some great future story potential here, and I’ll be interested to see if and when these ideas come to the fore. The dialogue here was great as usual. The end of this comic also has some nice set up for the next arc, which is going to involve Dr. Jekyll and could prove awesome!
The series artist, Moritat, continues his work in this issue. His art style is unique, and some may dislike it as simplistic or “dirty.” I, however, really like how Moritat portrays these Wild West images, and commend his ability to draw everything from period clothes to weaponry to dwellings with skill. His battle scenes are exciting and its never difficult to understand what is going on. Colorist Mike Atiyeh picked a great pallet for this comic, using overarching tones in certain scenes to explore the mood (such as the red tint during the scene where Jonah receives his trademark scarification). The art, though not mind-blowing, is good, though to some it may be a turn-off.
All-Star Western #0 is a superbly enjoyable comic. The writing is exciting and acts as a great character-study. I like the art, though I feel some people may dislike it. Regardless, I think this comic is worth picking up, and as it transitions nicely into the next arc new readers can jump on too. If you like Western stories, you’ll definitely miss out if you don’t read this title. Given how great this issue was I’m going to keep reading this title for the next arc at least.
Brett Simon is a twenty-two year old comic enthusiast. He thinks Jonah Hex needs a flashback arc for his entire Civil War experience.