The cover to last month’s All-Star Western #3 promised guns, gore, and Gotham. It delivered on all three, as Jonah Hex and Doctor Arkham’s discovery of a criminal conspiracy among the leaders of 1800’s Gotham lead to bloodshed in the streets. Issue #3 ended with Hex facing down four men while trying to get out of town alive. It was this issue and this cliffhanger that made me realize I was hooked.
All-Star Western is one of the bigger surprises of DC’s New 52 relaunch. I rarely read the book’s predecessor, Jonah Hex. I’d check in occasionally if an issue featured a guest artist I liked, such as the issues penciled by Darwyn Cooke and JH Williams III. Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti’s stories competently hit the expected genre beats but fell short of transcending them. It was a solid Western, but not one I felt the need to read on a monthly basis.
I’d like to think it’s not just the explicit connection to Batman that makes All-Star Western work for me. I only checked out the first issue because of Moritat’s art, whose rough-hewn lines and blocky figures almost look like wood carvings, and whose most intricate splashes make me think of Geof Darrow. But the story has drawn me in, particularly how it ties in thematically to the work Scott Snyder and Grant Morrison have done on Batman over the last few years, while also referencing Greg Rucka’s Crime Bible. It has all the grungy “man’s man” violence of a post-Peckinpah Western while slightly connecting to a larger story that has run throughout DC’s more successful books for a few years now.
All-Star Western #4 comes out next Wednesday, and over the next four pages we have an exclusive preview.