Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing All-Star Western 19, originally released April 24th, 2013.
Drew: Time travel does weird things to stories. Leaving aside whatever chronology wankery that usually goes along with it, time travel stories actually require pretty specific things of their characters. If they are going to the past, for example, they must not know history that well (or events have to play out in a way different from what they learned). Sure, having a character aware of the hands of fate sounds good, but knowing everything before it happens sure sounds boring. Making the time traveler relatively unaware allows for all kinds of neat dramatic irony — we know how things play out even if the characters don’t. This is especially true of historical events we might recognize, but it’s also true of smaller period details. We laugh when Bill and Ted high-five Napoleon, or when Marty McFly plays Johnny B. Goode because we understand that that’s not how someone from that time period would behave. It’s this smaller-scale dramatic irony that permeates All-Star Western 19, as Jonah Hex runs into a time-displaced Booster Gold.
The issue starts with Booster holding Hex at gunpoint, accusing him of having killed three nearby corpses. Hex calls his bluff, displaying a sense of knowledge and confidence Booster could really use right about now. See, Booster is a bit over his head: he accidentally inherited the role of sheriff when he arrived in Red River Junction, and a marauding gang of murderous bank robbers have just passed through town. It just so happens, these robbers are the same gang Hex has been tracking, so it looks like a team-up is in order!
The issue ends rather abruptly there, making the for somewhat of an awkward shift to the backup. It may do a better job of setting up next month’s issue than it does standing alone, but writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti demonstrate that the pieces are in place for a great arc. Booster is always a little inept, and while he may feel like swapping in one ineffectual partner (with a strong relationship to the DC Universe) for another, Gray and Palmiotti give the relationship a distinctly different flavor. Plus, it’s just fun to see Booster acting so anachronistically.
“Whut’s he wearin'” indeed. It’s totally absurd that Booster would think to put on a hat and coat, but continue to wear his superhero outfit, but it also feels exactly like something he would do. Seriously, there’s no reason to stick with the spandex (that shit’s gotta get smelly in the desert, right?) but of course Booster can’t change — even if it might break history.
Taylor, I know this may be a deeper cut for you, but I’m wondering if you have any hypotheses as to how and why Booster ends up here. The last time anyone saw him was the Justice League International Annual, where he just kind of faded away. When he shows up, he’s totally disoriented, which could mean this is where he went immediately after he disappeared in JLI, but you never really know with time travelers. Hell, this could happen years in his life before he ever shows up in the “present day” of the DCnU.
The backup continues the “gathering the team” StormWatch story line, which I think I’m getting a little tired of. The Century Baby and Terrance 13 installments effectively pumped me up for this premise, but this chapter felt entirely generic. It’s werewolves in the wild west, which would feel fresher if Palmiotti and Grey hadn’t just pulled off a similar trick — to much greater effect — with zombies. Hell, even the hero’s name is just “master gunfighter,” which is a hard skill to hang your hat on when you consider that every western hero in the history of western heroes is good with guns. Here’s hoping Adam’s recruiting trip ends soon and the team can get down to…whatever it is that StormWatch does.
There’s still a lot to like here, but this issue is a bit of a letdown after the previous few issues, which were each quite satisfying. I think there’s a lot of potential for a Hex/Booster Gold team-up, but this issue only starts to hint at it. I have every bit of confidence that this is just a matter of putting some pieces in place, but it’s still weird to be left wanting from an issue that features bounty hunters, bank robbers, time travelers, and werewolves. Taylor, am I crazy for wanting more?
Taylor: You bring up a good point, Drew. There is a lot of crazy shit in this issue but I never felt like anything was really that far out there. Instead everything just seemed par for the course. Maybe Jonah’s nonchalance regarding adventure and violence is rubbing off on me or maybe this is just kind of a placeholder issue for the series. I mean, yeah, it sets some things up, but it doesn’t really do so with any impetus or earnestness. While those have never been hallmarks of this series before there was at least something that really got me interested in the issue. Could it be that just so much crazy stuff has happened in this series that we are nonplussed by horrific and/or weird events? Shouldn’t I feel a little more weirded out that Booster Gold is being teamed up with Jonah Hex? I’m not sure.
Well, I suppose I have an answer to that last question at least. Mr. Gold’s appearance in this series is one that, in some ways, I anticipated happening. In last month’s discussion on issue 18 of this series I predicted that Amadeus Arkham would make his way out West to team up with Jonah. My reasoning for this was that Jonah, so far, has worked best as a character when he has a foil. Knowing this, Palmiotti and Gray provided him with one. Up to this point in the series Arkham has filled this role for Jonah since they are completely different ends of the character spectrum. Jonah is a man of action and a rude dude with an attitude. Arkham is a thinking man incapable of much action aside from being surprised. Their relationship was funny and odd and a delight to read and one of selling points of All-Star. Without Arkahm, I reasoned, how could the series survive? Thus enter Booster Gold. Not exactly what I expected but close enough, right?
Booster is similar to Arkham in a lot of ways. He’s a little inept. He’s not super great at being hero. He’s surprised by Jonah’s morals, or lack thereof. And best of all, for whatever reason he seems drawn to and fascinated by Hex. Now, as to the question of why he is here, I really can’t offer much conjecture. Aside from the fact that he is a convenient fill in for Arkham I have basically no idea how or why he is in the wild, wild west. It’s an interesting crossover since the ASW is kind of one, big proto-crossover event with all of the DC Universe anyway. So why does it need another?
Also, this issue had werewolves in the Master Gunman section. For whatever reason I was really excited by this little bit of underworld intrigue.
We’ve already had cowboys fighting aliens in the movies and cowboys fighting zombies in this series, so why not werewolves? It’s goofy, sure, but that’s kind of why I even enjoy All-Star Western in the first place. I wouldn’t say this side story got me any more excited for Stormwatch, however. At this point all of these old-west/steampunk inspired characters are beginning to feel all the same to me. I guess it’s just hard to feel any interest for characters I hardly know who have only been given a small amount of pages to live on. It’s my hope that once they are a team things will pick up, since by it’s very nature and setting I’m interested in the event. But I suppose time will only tell. That and perhaps a time traveling Booster Gold.
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