Peter: As we delve farther into the story of Jonah Hex and the 1880s, it has become apparent that this book is on a mission. What it is exactly, I’m not sure. However, it is clear as day that writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti have a clear vision for All-Star Western, and how to make this book play a greater role in the greater DCnU.
We pick up where issue 3 left off, with Hex back on the trail of the Trapps brothers, the original bounty that brought him to Gotham. Hex is then approached by a wealthy Gothamite who wants to hire Jonah to track down his lost child. Originally scoffing at the idea, Jonah accepts after being offered $50,000 (adjusted for inflation, this comes close to $1.1 million). His search takes him to an orphanage, where he is reunited with Arkham. After examining a boy who had been lost for 3 years, Arkham and Hex learn that lots of children from the nearby area have been kidnapped over the years by a man who could be an 1880s Red Hood. Given that boy’s appearance, Hex determines that they are somewhere underground. Arkham and Jonah venture into the Gotham sewer system to investigate. They happen upon a mine, Temple of Doom-style and proceed to attempt to take out the guards and free the children. The apparent leader of the goons grabs Arkham and threatens to shoot him.
As Hex goes to save him, the goons get the drop on him, and dump Hex and Arkham into a part of the sewer that lead to a system of caves. After struggling through the caves with very little light, and with emotions running high, they happen upon the Lost Tribe of the Miagani, a Native American tribe that inhabited the Gotham territory, before it was Gotham. They also encounter a giant bat. Not Batman, but an actual giant bat.
Jonah fights the bat and cuts off its head and give it to the Miagani, who show Arkham and Hex the way out of the cave. They find themselves on the property of Alan and Catherine Wayne, ancestors of Bruce Wayne. After enlisting their help, Hex and Arkham round up a posse and the police, go back to the mine and start to liberate the children. Arkham and Jonah still haven’t found the original child they were searching for, but deduce that the parents of boy from the orphanage kidnaped Moody’s son to get revenge on him, because it was in fact Moody that was running the mine. Arkham and Hex take the police and head to the Moody manor. Upon arriving they discovered that he had fled town to New Orleans. Issue 6 end with Hex sending a telegram to Nighthawk and Cinnamon, two of this fellow wild west crime fighters/bounty hunters/bad asses.
The second story of All-Star Western is a doozy. It does a lot in several area that make the book even better. It continues character growth, constantly ties in this 1880s story to the current timeline, and as always, makes for an amazing read with breathtaking art.
I love the continuing duality of the Arkham/Hex relationship. As they team up for the second time, Palmiotti an Gray continue to develop their relationship. This, coupled with amazing art, specifically the lighting effects, make the team of Hex and Arkham even more dynamic perhaps than the other Dynamic Duo.
We see the evolution of Arkham’s character in issue 5, as they are traversing the sewer in the dark. In this issue, Arkham goes from calm and collected, to hysterically yelling out for Hex in the dark. I love this portrayal of Amadeus’ character, and we can begin to see his raw emotional spectrum, not just his calm and collected doctor mentality. This adds some foreshadowing to his eventual decent into insanity.
Hex is no different in these issues. Even though he originally takes this job for the fifty thousand, it appears that he actually develops a strong desire to do what is right. At the end of issue 6, he is willing to pursue Moody to New Orleans, mainly to get the money that he is owed, but I also think that he wants to do what is right by the children. Hex has a troubled childhood of his own, with his father selling him to Native Americans, and this may hit close to home for him.
I think that my favorite this in this story arc so far is the HUGE amount of tie-in that is going on. We see constant reminders of the present DC timeline, and with other characters in the universe, in addition to previously introduced characters, Cobblepott, etc. Probably the most important of which is the introduction of Alan and Catherine Wayne, Bruce’s great grandparents. We know a lot about Alan from Scott Snyder’s Batman story, as well as Grant Morrison’s Return of Bruce Wayne. I am super excited for the upcoming tie-in with the Night of Owls, and I am beginning to see the patterns emerge. Alan Wayne was targeted by the Court of Owls, and did you see all those owls in Moody’s house?!
I would bet that he is a member of the 1800s Court. The amazing creative team of Palimiotti, Gray, Moritat and the rest of the All-Star Western creative team continue to knock it out of the park with this book. It is easily in my top 5 books of the New 52 so far, and I cannot wait for the next issue, and the upcoming tie in with the Night of Owls.
Also, fun fact: the characters at the end of issue 6, Nighthawk and Cinnamon, are previous incarnations of Hawkman and Hawkgirl.
Drew: It didn’t occur to me at the time, but you’re right, this arc is particularly Temple of Doom-like. While the army of children enslaved underground and the maybe-a-little-culturally-insensitive depiction of a lost tribe of natives mimic specific plot elements, it’s the overall sense of returning to the same character well with diminishing returns (plus a little silliness) that reminded me the most of Temple. Like Raiders, the first arc was an exhilarating amalgamation of genre tropes that introduced a classic hero that still felt fresh. Issues 4-6 trade some of that excitement in for familiarity, which is at once disappointing and comforting.
I suppose I can’t hold it against a comic book for relying too much on familiarity — that’s kind of all they are, really — but after the clever innovations Grey and Palimotti came up with in the first three issues, I can’t help but feel disappointed that they rested a bit on their laurels. Honestly, how could they not realize they were rewriting Temple of Doom? They have ENSLAVED KIDS filling MINE CARS with rocks, for Kali’s sake.
In all fairness, the twist about the missing Moody kid was fun, though I think you’re reading it wrong, Peter; the O’Grady’s didn’t kidnap Moody’s son out of revenge — I don’t think they ever suspected Moody had anything to do with the disappearance of the children in Gotham — but out of desperation to draw attention to the disappearances. Nobody cared when the poor kids were going missing, but Moody could bankroll a search party (or at least pay a hefty fee to a bounty hunter). The fact that he turned out to be the reason all of the other kids were missing was just a coincidence. I found Hex’s moralizing to be a little heavy-handed in that scene (he told the kid the hard truth about his dad! He won over the judgmental nun!), but I like the idea of him having a rigid moral code.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to the change in scenery, even if I have loved spending time in 1880’s Gotham. Some new heroes might just be the shot in the arm this title needs to find that magic I was so enjoying in the first arc. We only get one panel with Nighthawk and Cinnamon, but they already seem more about saloon fights than freeing masses of lost children from the Thugee, which I think is a good sign.
I actually think the thing I was most digging about these last three issues was the backup story, The Barbary Ghost, also penned by Gray and Palmiotti. It’s a simple revenge story, with a few over-the-top twists that find our heroine avenging the death of all seven members of her immediate family (mind you, they were not killed in one fell swoop, but seven separate incidences). The crime-lord she’s fighting is equally over-the-top, but the novelty of the setting and the clever choice of the grandfather as the narrator elevate the story above the standard gangster fare its clearly indebted to. Plus, check out how badass the heroine is:
I think I’d normally find that amount of cleavage to be gratuitous, but artist Phil Winslade draws her with so much anger that she never feels even remotely sexualized. She’s way too terrifying to be sexy. The story is somewhat closed at the end of issue 6, but left open enough that we may return to it down the line, which I’d be more than happy to see.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?