Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing All-Star Western 26, originally released December 31st, 2013.
Drew: I’ve always been suspicious of happy endings. Not that I’m a grump or a pessimist (or, not just because I’m a grump and a pessimist), just that I think the tendency to wrap stories up with a nice bow tends to make them same-y. Knowing everything will work out in the end robs stories of most of their drama, and more importantly, they tend to ring false. Still, there’s something undeniably alluring about a happy ending — a gentle reassurance that the characters will be okay specifically, and that things tend to work out generally. It’s incredibly tricky to acknowledge both aspects of the happy ending, but Alan Moore’s classic “For the Man Who Has Everything” does it beautifully by presenting (and ultimately rejecting) a classic “what if” scenario. Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti aim to tap that same magic in All-Star Western 26, but as is the case with most comparisons to Moore, they come up just a little short. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing All-Star Western 24, originally released October 23rd, 2013.
Drew: The lone wolf has always been an alluring figure. Every continent has their tales of solitary, wandering soldiers — most often period stories (knights, ronin, cowboys) — but comics have always featured that notion pulled into the modern day. All-Star Western has always been about playing with that line, often in reverse, pushing our expectations of superheroes back to the old west, but the current arc makes that relationship explicit, pulling Hex into the modern day DC Universe. Surprisingly, he fits in quite well. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing All-Star Western 20, originally released May 22nd, 2013.
Patrick: If you go back and watch old Flintstones cartoons, you realize that there’s not much to them beyond their prehistoric trappings. The setting is to unique and weird that it totally trumps character or story or even the jokes. The same can be said of the Jetsons — neither of these shows had characters or relationships that would hold any water if they were to be set in a modern day context. So the 1987 animated feature The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones was little more than the characters pointing out how strange the lives of their counterparts were… that and a convoluted time travel plot. The raw charisma of Jonah Hex and Booster Gold save All-Star Western 20 from a similar fate, but not by much. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing All-Star Western 18, originally released March 27th, 2013.
Patrick: You could make the argument that All-Star Western is anti-intellectual. All of the more affluent and educated residents of 1890s Gotham City are ineffectual or massively corrupt. The possible sole exception to this rule is Amadeus Arkham, but he is routinely upstaged by his savage brute of a partner. Even when you think “oh, now it’s time for Arkham to use science or some detective work,” it’s Hex’ anecdotal crime solvery that saves the day. And if we apply a little bit of outside information, we know that Arkham will eventually turn his focus back to his true passion — the real focus of his lifetime of study — and found a hospital for the criminally insane. Arkham Asylum is a failure, a permanent stain on his family name. This is the turn of the century we’re talking about here, so why is every progressive thinker made out to be evil, a dandy, or both? Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing All-Star Western 17, originally released February 27th, 2013.
Drew: For all of the subtle differences fans can talk about in DC’s current publishing lineup, the fact is: they publish A LOT of superhero comics. A simple lack of capes and tights is enough to make a title like All-Star Western stand out, but writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti aren’t content to rest on those laurels. Indeed, recent issues have cribbed stylistic elements form the likes of parlor dramas and Victorian novellas, in addition to the old Westerns that inspired the characters in the first place, all while seamlessly folding in elements of DC’s own fictional universe. It’s a tonal chameleon, taking on whatever style best fits the material at hand. Continue reading →
Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing All Star Western 16, originally released January 30th, 2013.
Taylor: There is a certain beauty to be had in simplicity. In a culture that tends to think more is better, simplicity has become something of a rarity that is all too infrequently encountered in our everyday life. However, even though American culture tends to favor the louder and busier aesthetic, there are signs that the simple and austere are gaining favor. Japanese aesthetics, known for their Spartan feel, and Scandinavian aesthetics alike are ever gaining popularity in America. The signs of this change in the wind are more pervasive than we might at first believe. Nearly every person who has a single ounce of nerd running in their veins is familiar with the minimalist renderings of famous movie posters. Further, and on an even broader scale, the design of most Apple products is nothing short of a minimalistic and simple genius. But what about comic books, are they too moving toward a simpler feel? Do they believe that sometimes less truly is more? If All Star Western 16 is any indication, then the comic book world truly has embraced this motif. But that then raises the question, when put into practice is simplicity a good thing for comic books?
Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing All Star Western 15, originally released January 2nd, 2013.
Taylor: What evil lurks in the heart of men? The Shadow, among many others, has asked this question and it is a query which each of us must face every day. Not only do we ourselves struggle to do the right thing constantly but we are more than aware of those who commit acts which most would label evil. Whenever someone does something terrible to someone else, the question always arises of where the impulse to commit that act comes from. While some might believe in the inherent evilness of man it seems much more likely that these impulses come from sort of rationalization process. This process is something we are all capable of and leads us to question how pure our own motives are. If so called “evil” acts can be rationalized doesn’t that mean we are all equally capable of committing terrible acts ourselves only to explain them away in some way? So then, if we are all capable of being “evil,” who would we be or what would we do if we followed our immoral urges? And what would happen if a potion is created that can make a seemingly good man do bad things? The fifteenth issue of All Star Western delves into these questions while at the same time indulging in some serious action.
Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing All-Star Western 14, originally released November 28th, 2012.
Taylor: The Strange Tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, originally written in 1886, has interested readers and writers alike continuously since it’s initial publication over 100 years ago. What perhaps gives the tale its enduring legacy is its exploration into the contradictory nature of mankind itself, both in action as a whole and on an individual level. While humans have done great things, like sending man to the Moon and ending the Cold War, they have also committed countless atrocities against each other. On an individual level a person may be kind to you one day and a jerk the next. All of this is part of the human experience and while it’s sometimes paradoxical and counterproductive to behave in such ways, it would seem that we just can’t help ourselves and they are here to stay. And while this aspect of humanity certainly makes for the stuff of great stories and philosophical inspection, it’s not something I appreciate in my comics. All-Star Western 14 is an exercise in this duality, being at times fun and at others trying, but ultimately giving us something to look forward to.
Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing the All-Star Western 13, originally released October 24th, 2012.
Taylor: I enjoy professional basketball. It’s fast paced, fun, full of dunks, trick shots, and some of the most gifted athletes on the face of the planet. With that being said, you would think that every game of basketball would be an amazing show worth watching every second it’s on. However, we can’t disregard the fact that these are professional basketball players who, whether we like to acknowledge it or not, don’t enjoy every game they play. It’s their job and sometimes they take the floor with their sole purpose being to win a basketball game and cash a check, regardless of how entertaining it is for the fans. Commentators often call this a “workman-like approach,” a phrase which also aptly describes All-Star Western 13. Continue reading →