One of the biggest surprises in the New 52 was that my podcast compatriot Iann Robinson didn't enjoy All-Star Western #1, because I thought it was really compelling, interesting and cool. Longtime Jonah Hex writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti taking the crusty ex-Confederate bounty hunter out of the western plains and dropping him into late-1800s Gotham City seemed like a great bastard-fish out of water story I hadn't seen before. Yes, I'm assuming 'bastard-fish' is a real kind of fish, and if it isn't, that's your opinion. Hell, he's still dealin' with murdered whores – it's still Hex in his element, even when he's out of it.
Of course, the stakes are raised quite a bit in All-Star Western #2, as Hex has found himself reluctantly partnered up with Dr. Amadeus Arkham on the trail of the Gotham Butcher, only to find out it's part of a huge conspiracy of skull-ringed ne'er-do-wells who are a secret cult-like society of Crime Bible followers trying to turn Gotham City into their Vatican – which would explain a hell of a lot about why Gotham is what it is today. Hopefully, this fits in well with Scott Snyder's painstaking construction of the true history of the city over in Batman and in Batman: Gates of Gotham. Anyway, this 'dark faith' of criminals is trying to kill the pair of them for trying to expose their skullduggery, but as everyone knows – even the city folk this far east – Jonah Hex is a hard man to kill.
It's a great contrast, putting Hex's frontier justice in the context of civilized urban society, and Arkham's constant aghastness at Hex's methods is amusing and perfect. And good gravy, does Hex kick a lot of ass in this issue. Apparently, back east, these lily-livered lynch mobs cain't shoot worth a damn. Artist Moritat manages to pack in a lot of wild gunplay into a dense few pages of BLAM panels as he holds off a horde of henchmen out for his head, and with colorist Gabriel Bautista easing off of the previous issue's washing of everything in monochrome and sepia tones, it really helps open up the whole story to more appreciative eyes.
There's also part one of a back-up story, also from Gray & Palmiotti featuring art from Jordi Bernet, about the demonic vigilante El Diablo, justifying the fact that this book is called All-Star Western and not Jonah Hex. The ghostly Lazarus Lane happens upon an old western town besieged by zombies, and it's up to him and his dark power to save the day. J&J own the DC west, and it'll be great to see them reintroduce all the good ol' boys in good ol' ways. Here's hoping they'll bring Tallulah Black back, too, and we'll know the New 52 thing was barely a hiccup for these guys – just like it was for Batman and Green Lantern.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 8.6/10