Monday, December 5, 2011

DC NEW 52 trials: ALL-STAR WESTERN is five-star

 

Continuing my exploration of the DC NEW 52 titles.  You can read my earlier review of ALL STAR WESTERN #1 in the BC Refugee Archives for September 29, 2011 . . . . .

ALL STAR WESTERN #1 – 3  (DC, September – November 2011 release)  JONAH HEX by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, writers.  Moritat, artist and covers #1-2. Rafa Garres, cover #3.  Gabriel Bautista, colorist.  Rob Leigh, letterer.  EL DIABLO back up feature in Issues #2-3 by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, writers.  Jordi Bernet, artist.  Rob Schwager, colorist.  Rob Leigh, letterer. 

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ALL STAR WESTERN was not among my initial DC choices and became a pleasant surprise when I picked up the first issue on a whim.  It’s very similar to the former JONAH HEX series by the same writing team.  However,  JONAH HEX seemed to feature mostly stand-alone stories while ALL STAR WESTERN begins with a story arc that hasn’t quite concluded yet.  I’m enjoying this title very much and plan to stick around beyond the first storyline.

So, what’s happening in this book?  (Spoiler alert): 

Jonah Hex arrives in 1880’s Gotham City to capture/eliminate the Gotham Butcher, a serial type slayer of whores.  He partners with psychologist Dr. Amadeus Arkham and their investigation uncovers a deeper threat to Gotham from a group of sinister businessmen who proclaim allegiance to the Crime Bible / Book of Cain  (as in Abel’s nasty brother from the Bible stories).   Things get heated when the cult of Cain gets wind of Hex and Arkham, and dispatches their army to kill them.

What do I like about it?

1) Action!  There is plenty of it here. As illustrated by Moritat, it looks just great.  There is a  battle scene that begins with a two page spread  (awesome moody skyline in the background) in  Issue #2 and continues on for six glorious multi-paneled pages of mostly fight scenes and very little captions to get in the way.    Issue #3 has an equally exciting but shorter battle featuring an early version of the Gatling gun (and looking very steampunk) .

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2) The story!  It’s very well developed by Palmiotti and Gray and sinks deep roots into the building mythology of Gotham City.  Secondary characters such as Dr. Arkham and even villain Montrose and his band of wealthy conspirators are fleshed out and continue to be interesting as the story moves forward.  Even as Jonah helps solve the original mystery and tries to extricate himself from Gotham despite pleading from Arkham, another trail  he has been following  (the evil Trapp brothers) heats up and leads to Gotham. It seems the town just won’t let him leave.

What didn’t I like about it?

1)  While the EL DIABLO back up feature is decent, it’s not wowing me.  I would rather pay $2.99 for a single story featuring JONAH HEX than spend $3.99 to get a back-up feature I don’t really care about. ( EL DIABLO has concluded and the next feature will be BARBARY GHOST.  I’m indifferent.) 

Just how indifferent to EL DIABLO are you?

Not that much.  There are things about this storyline that I like.  Sometimes it’s harder to maintain interest in stories that unfold at just 6-8 pages per month.  However, that doesn’t keep me away from books like DARK HORSE PRESENTS - - I just need something like amazing story or amazing art to hook me more than EL DIABLO does.  Still, a former bank teller who has to become comatose in order for the ghostly demon EL DIABLO to manifest isn’t too ordinary.  He also gets trapped with a group of unlikely partners-in-desperation as the rest of a small town seems infested with “zombies”.  Could this be the work of another demon/ghost, a disgruntled native American spirit at odds with Ed Diablo?

Do I love, like, stay neutral, dislike or hate this book?

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I’ve always liked the JONAH HEX character but never felt compelled to read his adventures on a monthly basis.  However,  placing the events in a new setting featuring a mysterious early version of Gotham City and adding some even darker elements to a continuing storyline has me LOVING this book so far. 

 

AND LASTLY, ANOTHER DC NEW 52 BOOK THAT I’VE DECIDED NOT TO CONTINUE WITH . . . . .

BLACKHAWKS #1  (DC, September 2011 release date):  Mike Costa, writer.  Graham Nolan, layouts.  Ken Lashley, finisher and cover.  Guy Major, colorist. Rob Leigh, letterer.

I’ve got to admit that I was already disturbed before I got too far into Issue #1, sometime right after I concluded that this was not a revival of the former Quality Comics/later DC Blackhawk team that originated during World War II.  It might have been more interesting had this been a re-boot with a brand new international Blackhawks team composed of children of the original line-up with new uniforms and upgraded tech, etc.  No, this just seems like a copy of G.I. JOE.  The action and the art are interesting and keep the opening storyline moving.  Too bad the storyline contradicts itself on Page One!  Some unidentified government agency learns of a serious hostage situation at an airport in “Kazakhstan”.  They dispatch the Blackhawks team to the scene, with a note to keep the operation “covert”.

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Yeah, that’s covert all right - - these folks wear the Blackhawk logo on their hats and uniforms and display it all over their planes and gear.  Duh!  Plus, they make enough noise, blow up stuff, and cause enough destruction and mayhem to make the deaf and blind take notice.   So, somebody takes a picture of the logo on their cell phone.  This leads to a government investigator to show up at Blackhawks HQ because that picture getting public is now a “problem”.  I’m not sticking around for anymore of this.  That’s kind of too bad because the art is good and a subplot about nanotechnology and a nanocene virus that may have infected one of the team members could turn out interesting.  The other thing that bothered me was giving international code names that are the opposite of the character’s heritage.  “The Irishman” is from the Ukraine.   And “Canada” is you guessed it - - not Canadian. If that’s meant to be cute and clever - - I remain unimpressed.  Please tell the smug leader of this band - - “Lincoln”  - - to take his shades off when indoors  (which he always is).   One and done.

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