Wednesday, September 28, 2011

All Star Western #1 Review:

 Today I picked up the other two titles from the new DC reboot that I’m interested in; Justice League Dark and All Star Western. I was considerably looking forward more to League than Western. Well surprise of surprises, the title I expected to enjoy more; Justice League Dark, is one of those “let’s spend 12 issues gathering the team so we can crap out a TPB in a year or so” titles. It’s also heavily bogged down in continuity and little references that make no sense to people who aren’t familiar with these characters. (Forgive me if this title is interconnected with some other ones that I missed). So much for attracting new readers. The good news is that it at least has some fairly witty dialogue and nice art. I also like the characterization of June Moon (the Enchantress) here. One of the first comics I ever read was an issue of her Strange Adventures run (I think it was her first appearance), so I’ve always had a fondness for the character even though she’s pretty much been used solely as a villainess since then. I’ll continue buying until the first arc ends to see how things improve, but if there are no signs of improvement I think I’ll skip. I do hope The Spectre or Dr. Fate will show up. Hey, come to think of it, why didn’t Spectre & Dr. Fate get their own rebooted titles?  2.5/5.
Wotan & Zor: Pro Trolls.

 All Star Western was one I was wary about because, well, I’ll admit I just don’t like the premise: Jonah Hex in Gotham. I know, I know, Jonah has always been part of the DC Universe, but what made his series so unique was how that it was also a separate entity from the endless crossovers and mystical events that make up superhero comics. Yeah it’s fun to occasionally show him in a cameo when super heroes are travelling through time or things like his appearance in Batman: The Animated Series where he fought Ras Al Ghul, but connecting Jonah to all of that robs him of his own uniqueness, doing it more implicitly by having him pop up in Ye Olde Gotham is even worse. It makes him more of a superhero than he needs to be (which shouldn’t be at all in my opinion, other than things like derring do and having a rogues gallery, which are things even Scrooge McDuck has), and as time and box office has shown, taking Hex out of his usual setting or trying to make him a superhero to appeal to a broader audience has failed miserably.
 But you know what? This comic is my favorite of the reboot so far.
 Yes, it’s filled with little Batman-in jokes like there being a “Mayor Cobblepot” and random citizens who resembles members of Batman’s rogues gallery (Like a hooker whose clothing and hair match Poison Ivy’s color scheme), but it doesn’t distract at all. At first I was worried when Hex strode into Gotham, while an unseen narrator delivered a monologue about change and societal decay, and I thought they were trying to make Hex into some rambling, Rorschach-style pseudo-philosopher. Instead this narration turns out to be Amadeus Arkham, one of the founders of Arkham Asylum, who has hired Hex for help solving a case. Rest assured, in no time at all Hex opened his mouth and reassured me he was still the ornery, dark-humored cuss with a limited vocabulary that we all know and love. The setting has changed, but at least Hex’s character has remained the same.
Ahh, Penis jokes. Great for first issues.

 The main plot has Hex and Arkham searching for a Jack the Ripper-type serial killer and getting caught up in a sort of Hellfire club, any of whose members could be behind the murders, or perhaps all of them. Still, what makes the comic so interesting is the interplay between Arkham and Hex, well not so much from Hex as from Arkham. Arkham doesn’t know what to make of him; he’s smart enough to understand Hex’s twisted sense of humor, but otherwise he’s lost. He first pegs Jonah as a sociopath, then not, but all in all he’s both fascinated and repulsed by his protégé. It would be easy to call Arkham a Doctor Watson analogue, but instead, it’s more like if Sherlock Holmes was forced to play second fiddle to say, Mike Hammer or some Robert Leslie Bellam character.
 Arkham himself is a fascinating character in his own right, trying to pick people apart because he’s afraid of them picking him apart. He also has a Psycho-like infatuation with his mother, whom we never see. Since in regular continuity, Amadeus Arkham eventually went insane and “cursed” the asylum in some way or another, I wonder how this will play out. It will be a sad day when that happens, because he’s such a great foil for Hex.
 The art, by someone named Moritat, takes a while getting used to, but it captures the filthy, industrial-era feel of the story perfectly. I also have to give it props for certainly being the most distinctive looking artwork the reboot has offered so far.
 Sadly, thanks to the awful movie, I have a feeling that a lot of potentially interested new readers will be put off of this book, which is a shame. Another shame is that, because of this scene where a prostitute whom Hex is on familiar terms with gets murdered in order to make things personal, will probably lead to a bunch of dumb feminists online blowing it out of proportion and screaming “DURR! FRIDGING!!1!1!”. It’s amazing how close-minded supposedly liberal people can be.
 Anyway, this is a book I will definitely be following. Also hope Solomon Grundy, or at least Cyrus Gold, shows up.
Everything's better with Grundy.

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