All-Star Western 9

Today, Patrick and Peter are discussing All-Star Western 9 originally released May 23rd, 2012. This issue is part of the Night of the Owls crossover event. Click here for complete NotO coverage. Not caught up on All-Star Western? No problem! Get up to speed with our video Cram Session.

Patrick: Because it persistently employs back-up stories, All Star Western frequently feels like an anthology of stories from Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s vast 1880s wild west universe. Never mind that most of these stories have taken place in either Gotham City or New Orleans (which can’t even generously be referred to as ‘western’) or that the pair of Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham center every issues, All-Western is not bound to a single location or a single character. Issue number 9 (waving the Night of the Owls banner) takes this mission to heart and delivers four loosely (or not-so-loosely) connected tales.

The action kicks off with Hex and Arkham in mortal danger, as a flunky for the August Seven rows them out to a ship he intends to blow up. But flunkies never learn (that’s why we call them flunkies), and Hex is able to escape his bonds and murder their captor. On the docks, the August Seven are ambushed by Nighthawk and Cinnamon. This was all part of Hex’s overwrought plan: Arkham’s arrest, the apparent A7 double cross, everything. But it all works out in his favor, as our heroes make short work of the villains, because: duh.

Then a few hours later, on the other end of New Orleans, Thurston Moody is pursued by a lady-Talon. Moody is the whole reason Hex and Arkham are in N’awlins in the first place, so they come to his rescue. Sort of. Hex manages to scare off the Talon, but not before she’s killed her mark. Arkham and Hex investigate the clues (carries owl stuff, moves like an acrobat) and Hex let slip that he used to have a Chinese wife that moved like that. When Arkham presses him for more information, he gets a nose-full of fist.

Three weeks later, we’re back in Gotham City, at Wayne Casinos. Alan Wayne plays cards with some seedy businessmen, one of whom is identified at “Mr. Bennet.” Bennet tries to get Wayne to re-purpose his lands for less-charitable reasons. Before an all-out philosophical/economical argument can break out, Tellulah Black saunters in threatens to shoot Mr. Bennet. But Bennet’s got some tricks up his sleeve and his bodyguard (who I’m going to describe as a cross between Zorro and Napoleon) jumps to his defense and tosses Tellulah out the window. She survives the fall, dusts herself off, and Hex – who is just standing out front of the casino – says hello.

And then there’s the back-up story that shows Cinnamon getting her revenge. Nighthawk helps her along, encourages her not to kill, but she does anyway. I’m being dismissive not because its bad, but because I’ve already summarized three stories and I want to talk about some content.

BUT WHERE TO BEGIN? I suppose I’ll start with the complaint: that’s the end of the August Seven? I know you and Drew had some problems with the pacing of last month’s issue, but at least then we were saying that it was probably putting the pieces in place for something really cool. But that “something cool” just ended up being an ambush. It does address the moral issue we were having with Hex agreeing to blow up the boat, but the whole issue (and this whole crime organization) goes down with very little pomp and circumstance. There’s not anything in the way of fun back-and-forth between Hex and Arkham, and in its place are a lot of cheesy action one-liners.

Then there’s the misadventure with the Talon. We get no kind of back story – or even a name – of this Talon, which is atypical for the crossover. Talon history has been a cornerstone of the Night of the Owls, and its weird that this entry came and went without any indication of who was behind that mask. It’s clear that the Court is punishing Moody for involving Jonah Hex in the whole missing-children thing, but other than that, we’ve got no insight into the Court’s intent here. It’s doubly confusing because we don’t even really have the usual context of “this is the night the owls are going to try to kill everyone.” It’s just a regular night.

But we do learn some juicy bits about Hex. Dude had a wife — a Chinese-acrobat wife — back in the day. Naturally, he doesn’t want to talk about it. There’s such a nice chemistry between the two leads, it’s a shame it was only on display in this one scene. Also, what are we supposed to make of his wife? Did his wife die? Is it possible that the Talon was his wife? Or is it possible that the Talon and Tellulah Black are the same person? Are they perhaps all three the same? Or are none of them the same? But why have so many mysterious women in play unless there’s going to be some kind of dramatic reveal? We don’t get anything like that here. But with All-Star’s half-asses commitment to the Owls crossover, I don’t really expect rewarding payoff here.

I don’t know man, I’m kind of at a loss as to how to talk about this issue.  Six pages of story here, six pages of story there. Naturally, they’re all kinda slight, and no singular theme unites them… it’s a lot of disparate parts, but I don’t hate their sum whole. Possibly, because there is no “whole” to speak of.

And say what you will about stories fragments that don’t totally line up: these pages are still packed with interesting characters that look incredible. Moritat’s art is always special, but just check out the way he spins Hex’ failure into a heroic image.

What do you get from this, Peter? Some kind of solid, singular statement about heroism or a handful of semi-connected stories that are fun to read?

Peter: I am solidly in the ‘handful of semi-connected stories that are fun to read’ school. I was a little disappointed that this build up to the August 7 kind of came crashing to a halt real fast. I like the way it ended, the explanation that Palmiotti and Gray give, but it just seems like it happens way to fast. They probably could have made that an entire issue. But I will say, that I didn’t really see ANY of it coming. So it made for a very nice surprise. I just think that the August 7 were built up pretty high, but then folded in less than half an issue.

The Talon story doesn’t really fit into this issue very well. I’m am pretty interested into what Moody was doing all this time. Is he all of a sudden running away from a Talon in the streets of New Orleans? I do however like that way in which the Talon showed up, did her business, and was gone.

It makes a lot of sense since that is what she is made to do, but it plays out well with the pacing here. I also like how it is tied in that acrobats are being recruited even this far back in the Court’s history.

I have a theory that this Mr. Bennet guy is a member of the Court. He reminds me of the guy that we have seen appearing in several issues – like in Batgirl, for example. But, that being said, have members of the Court also been using Freeze’s rejuvenation potion? That makes a lot of sense if Bennet has been appearing across time. Plus he just has this creepy-guy vibe.

Are we also witnessing the beginning of the Wayne’s feud with the Owls? Could Alan’s refusal to side with the Owls on how to use his land be the straw that breaks the camel’s back? I would also be interested to hear how the Religion of Crime factors into all of this, since they seem to be a pretty prominent presence among Gotham socialites in the 1800s. The world may never know.

Moritat’s art continues to be stellar. I am especially glad that the scene has changed to Gotham again since the art team has a really great handle on the colors and the landscape of Gotham. The sepia hue, combined with the smog, and the seemingly endless skyline really portray a perfect 1800s industrial Gotham.

Next month promises both a new story arc, probably centered around Tellulah, and a new backstory. I would interested to read a back story on NapoleonZorro. Maybe? Please?

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?

6 comments on “All-Star Western 9

  1. I tried to look up Tellulah Black on Wednesday so I could have a little context for the character. The character is kind of light in backstory, so I decided to not read anything as to not spoil whatever this New 52 version of her is going to be like. Which made me wonder if any of you guys are doing the same thing. I like to do research, but sometimes too much pre-Flashpoint knowledge just grinds against what’s being presented in the New 52. Have any of you found yourself making the decision to stay willfully ignorant of some old continuity? (NOT A REHASH OF OUR BATMAN INCORPORATED CONVERSATION.)

    • I definitely tried to refrain from doing research when I started picking up first issues — not to avoid cognitive dissonance, but to assess whether or not those issues function as an introduction to the characters (which I will freely admit, Batman Incorporated fails to do). For the most part, the first arcs of the New 52 were very good at doing this. I’m still largely ignorant of Flash’s history, for example, but it hasn’t prevented me from keeping up, or enjoying the hell out of the title. The same is true for A LOT of other titles we’re reading (everything besides Batman, really). I’ll occasionally flip to the DC wiki for an introduction to a villain or to help me understand if something is totally different than it was before, but I think that’s mostly for writing on the site. I don’t think I’d really need to be doing much, if any, research if I wasn’t writing them up every month.

      • Same. If a character is totally new to me, and I really like him (Swamp Thing), I’ll look it up after a handful of issues for some background info, but I definitely prefer to get the feel for the character in the books first.

        • I still haven’t dug into Swampy’s history (or Animal Man for that matter). There’s something very carpe diem about just accepting what I’m told by their current writers. My point is: stop livin’ in the man, man.

  2. I like the idea that the Talon might be Hex’s wife and/or Tellulah Black. I’m not sure it’ll pan out, but it’s an interesting idea. I really like that this issue sets the stage for a fiercely competent, Chinese acrobat Talon from the 1880s showing up again in modern times. We haven’t seen her yet (at least, no attention was drawn to her if we did), but I’m almost certain there are more Talons in store for Bruce as he pursues the Court. We may yet get some of her backstory.

    • I don’t know why, but the thought never occurred to me that we could see either Mrs. Hex as a Talon in modern Gotham (or whoever this Talon was AGAIN in present Gotham.) I’m already dusting off my hands and saying “well, that’s the owls – ALL DONE WITH OWLS.” But Batman will be playing the Owl Song until the end of the summer.

      Peter’s thought about Bennet being the same guy who threatens Gordon in Batgirl 9 is interesting. So far, the Court is missing a central villainous figure. And, especially as the Talons are repeatedly humanized/killed, there needs to be some kind of super-imposing Big Bad at the heart of this. If that’s Bennet, I like the idea that parts of this issue were playing the cross-over game WITHOUT MY EVEN KNOWING IT.

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