Today, Patrick and Peter are discussing the All-Star Western 12, originally released August 22nd, 2012.
Patrick: One of the problems with dealing with 1890s Gotham City is that you know what that poor town has in store for it in the next 100+ years. It’s actually the same problem that plagues narratives about modern Gotham – nothing is every going to solve that city’s problems. Not Batman, not the GCPD, not Jonah Hex… oh wait a minute. Issue 12 actually closes a full year worth of stories, comprised of several multi-issue arcs. And the most surprising thing is that our heroes are successful. It’s almost unprecedented in this town, but the Religion is Crime is dealt a serious blow. Also unprecedented, Hex has developed an affinity for Gotham City and Amadeus Arkham.
At the beginning of the issue, Hex and Arkham are in – you guessed it – mortal peril. Which means the onus for the rescue calls on Tellulah Black. She proves herself more than capable, systematically taking out the crime-biblers one by one. She’s got things pretty well in hand, but is more than willing to accept the help of Alan Wayne and authorities when when show up on the scene. And that’s enough to take in the bad guys. At the hanging (!) of the crime bible thumpers, a foppish stranger asks for the help of the turn of the century dynamic duo, who cheerfully oblige. Looks like Arkham and Hex are in it for the long haul.
I basically never expect to see absolute resolution to the stories we’re reading. They’re comics – I get it: they live and die by the their potential for serialization. So rooting out the source of corruption in the power structure of the city? UNEXPECTED. But perhaps more unexpected is how well all of the preceding story arcs tied into this conclusion. And what a conclusion! The hanging scene is a classic cake of having one’s cake and eating it too as both Hex’s pro-violence views and Arkham’s treatment-based solutions are represented.
There are a few fun details that pop up through out this issue – all in the “funny because you already know the history” way. We get to see Amadeus’ inspiration for starting his eponymous asylum. We also see a generation of Wayne that decides to better the city through non-violent methods. This is all fun, if sort of inconsequential stuff. The real meat this issue is in the difference in the character work done on Hex and Black.
Many issues back, Hex made some off-hand remark about hating Gotham City, believing it to be a dark and uncaring place that changed people. At the time, he couldn’t wait to get out of town. He was just too valuable to leave though – he single handedly defended Arkahm and himself from a veritable army of Crime Bible guys. It looks like a few months of fighting for the soul of Gotham has actually changed the man. Not only does he choose Gotham over returning to the frontier, he chooses Arkham over a life-time of rambunctious sex and adventure with Tellulah. He’s not only less ultra-tough than he used to be, but it certainly does seem like he’s passed the unstoppable-killing-machine mantle to his lady.
And let’s talk about that rampage. Tellulah Black out for blood is awesome. There’s a part in here where she’s picking off guys one-by-one that has such a breathless momentum to it that it’s weird when we pop into a flashback for a few pages. Luckily, popping back into real-time gives us the most brutal of all her kills – that of death by thumbs jammed into the eye sockets. Notice the increasing redness of these panels. Hey, sometimes subtly is overrated.
You can take the ‘West’ out of the comics, but you can’t take out the ‘Wild.’ I wouldn’t say that Jonah is a totally civilized man now, just because he’s taken up slightly-less-temporary roots, but it is nice too see someone else take on the heavy lifting.
Can’t say that I know what to make of the Dr. Jekyll reference dropped at the end of the issue. I know DC likes to dip into various rites, traditions, religions and public domain stories for their own mythology, but I’m unclear on whether the Jekyll/Hyde pairing makes the cut. Though, I also wouldn’t have guessed Frankenstein is in that line-up, but it seems like he’s always been. Peter, you have any insight there?
The Dr. Thirteen back-up was approximately as Scooby-Doo-y as I was expecting. But it’s nice to see the many similarities to the main story – the setting in Gotham, the Slaughter Swamp, ending with a hanging… The morality that plays out in the conclusion of Thriteen’s story is sorta strange, but I’ll leave you to analyze that, Peter.
Peter: I’m not really surprised that there is going to be some Jekyll in the next arc. This is probably DC using the stories of Earth-ABC. Earth-ABC is the home of the old imprint America’s Best Comics, which includes characters like Science Hero, Tom Strong and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Members of the LoEG includes Dr. Henry Jekyll/Mr. Edward Hyde, as well as other very interesting and dynamic characters. Over the years, the LoEG has included many characters from classic literature. In addition to Jekyll, Captain Nemo, Lemuel Gulliver, Allan Quartermain, Natty Bumppo, and Sir Percy Blakeney, among others. With the merging of the DC Universes, ABC probably got folded back into the DCnU proper. WHICH IS SWEET! The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fits really well into the All-Star Western setting, so I am officially stoked. If that is the case. The solicits don’t necessarily point in that direction, just that the Black Diamond is somehow involved, but no one should really believe the solicits.
Like you, Patrick, I really enjoyed seeing the seeds of a future Gotham being sown. Between Arkham wanting to build the Asylum, Wayne wanting to close the casino and essentially start Wayne Enterprises/The Wayne Foundation, I am all excited. Also, is this the end of Tellulah’s role in this book? If Arkham and Hex stick together, I can’t see her following Jonah around like a lost puppy. She’d probably punch me in the jaw for saying that too. I’d be interesting to see her take a break from the book, but return to spice things up every now and then. Without Black, we can really experience more the awesome that is the Hex/Arkham dynamic that we saw in earlier issues. Arkham has been sinking more into the background of this book for a while, and it will be good if he comes back to the front. He is a very interesting character that is relatively well known in the comic book community for eventually going batshit crazy. Is it weird that I want to see that?
I don’t really have much to say on the back-up story. Very Scooby-Doo, but still pretty solid. I didn’t know much about Dr. Thirteen before this so it was a nice add. I think that the Dr. Thirteen mantle is a legacy thing as well, so there is a bit of history tied in. I’ll say it again, while the back ups are nice for world building, they don’t do a lot if the characters are never used or seen again.
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?