Friday, April 27, 2012

New 52 in Review - All Star Western

I’d heard good things about the Jonah Hex comic before the new 52, but had never really found the need to pick it up.  I enjoyed the Hex short before the Red Hood animated film.  Since the writers were the same as were working on the character before the New 52 and it was set in Gotham with Amadeus Arkham I thought this one could be interesting.  And I like supporting books that star lesser known characters.  Spoilers below, reader beware.

The story starts out in Gotham, and later moves to New Orleans.  Neither of these cities is really the West as we tend to think of it, but whatever.  The writers pick up several threads from the Gates of Gotham miniseries, referencing old families of Gotham.  It’s nice to see these familiar names and really gives you a sense of the city’s history while reminding you that these stories are set firmly within the same universe as all the other books, even though it’s in the past.  But then we also had the giant bat creatures and the Miagani tribe from the Return of Bruce Wayne and I’m reminded how that story really didn’t make much sense.  And wait, Hex was in the Return of Bruce Wayne and shot Bruce and was working for evil Thomas Wayne, but in this story the current head of the Wayne family is named Alan and apparently not a devil worshipper.  So I guess the shared universe thing is a bit of a win some lose some situation, and I’m still not sure what still counts in continuity…

Hex and Arkham have a sort of Sherlock Holmes and Watson thing going on.  Things are told from Arkham’s point of view, as though he is writing these tales down.  His are the only internal dialogue boxes I think we’ve had.  He observes Hex and comments on his skills.  Like Watson he is also a doctor.  Hex isn’t too Holmes like, although Arkham does remark on his deductive reasoning skills (which I’m not quite sure we’ve seen too clearly in the comic itself). 

I’m kinda with Hex though in that I don’t really understand what Arkham’s role is.  I thought Arkham would be words and Hex would be actions.  But Hex often seems like he’d do just fine on his own.  In Gotham at least Arkham was Hex’s link to the city.  Arkham was familiar with the city and its people and had the manners to talk them into certain places.  Now that they are out of Gotham I’m not really sure what purpose Arkham is really going to serve.  He did save Hex’s life, but I can’t see that kind of situation popping up on a regular basis, especially since Arkham doesn’t seem to want to hurt/kill anyone.  I would also be thrilled to learn that some of his assumptions about Hex’s past are completely wrong.  Or at least have him psychoanalyzing someone other than Hex a bit more.  But it seems from the solicitations that we’ll be heading back to Gotham after this, and we’ll connect more with the history of Gotham, so perhaps that will be Arkham’s time to shine.

The back up stories are pretty good, although I would happily lose them so we could go down to $2.99.  I’m not sure they are worth and extra dollar every month.  It’s a way for them to introduce some new characters who may or may not show up in the story down the line.  And with the story set in the past I suppose it needs these supporting stories to help set up the world that these stories are taking place in.  The stories were okay, but not really remarkable.  I liked the Barbary Ghost if only because she was the first woman we had in the comic who wasn’t a prostitute or a nun. 

Also interesting is that this comic doesn’t seem to have the same no kill rule as most superhero comics.  Hex kills people.  A lot of people.  And so do the heroes in the back up stories.  And so did Arkham.  It sets the tone a bit differently when your hero is torturing people.  And honestly makes for a bit more interesting characters.  It stays away from the black and white idea of good and evil. 

I’m not a huge fan of the art.  The colors are sometimes very muddy and there is something loose with the figure work, especially in the faces, at times that I don’t really like.  It also feels a touch inconsistent (which doesn’t seem like the right word but I honestly don’t know enough about art to tell you the right one) with some pages that almost seem as though they were done by a different artist entirely.  I appreciate the art.  It’s not bad, it’s simply not to my taste. 

And thus we are left with yet another bubble title.  It’s not bad, it’s just not great.  It never wowed me and I’m not especially looking forward to reading the next one.  I’ll probably stick it out at least until we get back to Gotham and see how the pacing of the series settles down.

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