DC NEW 52: ALL STAR mebbee gittin’ a mite tarnished
As I continue to explore the DC NEW 52 universe, I’ll follow up on some series that I reviewed earlier - - to see if they still remain worthwhile and/or exciting reading.
ALL STAR WESTERN #4 – 6 (DC Comics) Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, Writers. Moritat, Artist. Gabriel Bautista, Colorist. Rob Leigh, Letterer.
These issues contain the second story arc (“Gotham Underground”) of the New 52 version of Jonah Hex, Civil War veteran and bounty hunter with a heart. It’s a good storyline, but one that may seem familiar (abducted children forced into grueling labor in a dangerous and unhealthy environment). I was much more interested in the secret society of wealthy businessmen trying to run Gotham that was introduced in the first story arc. ( I have a feeling they will return in a future adventure). For that and other reasons, I was left wanting a little more from this book after finishing these issues. However, some good writing and good art (most of the time) are enough to keep me moving forward with the next few issues.
The art by Moritat can be so interesting, as seen in the opening pages of Issue #4 where writers Gray & Palmiotti let the panels tell the story of how Jonah Hex tracked down the three Trapp brothers during a rain shower. There is some nice creative touches, such as the bloody surprise occurring off-panel and just the blood spurting into the next panel - - and the full page with Hex ambushing the last brother. The expressions and wrinkles on the face of Jasper Trapp indicate fear, regrets, anger and submission all at the same time. As great as that illustration is, the art on other pages is downright sloppy and lazy. Moritat has an interesting and creative way of depicting Gotham cityscapes and sewers. Yet, when he gets a two-page spread with an open panorama as Hex and Dr. Arkham (the able narrator) discover the slaves laboring in the underground mine - - Moritat gets lazy and resorts to drawing what essentially amounts to stick figures. It’s this inconsistency in the art throughout this story arc that makes me contemplate dropping this book of my monthly list.
During their efforts to free the abducted children and find the sole wealthy child whose father has offered a generous reward for recovery, Hex and Arkham discover the underground catacombs that would in later years become the Bat Cave. There is a sub-plot involving a tribe of savage cavern dwellers (and another full page discovery panel that could have been so much better had Moritat not been so sloppy in drawing it) that seems a little bit like unnecessary filler to me. (Half an issue of it). It does lead to the discovery of a famous estate. Moritat redeems himself in detailing the battle that concludes Issue #6. There is a surprise twist at the end of this storyline (that I saw coming, and I suspect others may as well). I did like the nice tribute to Scott Snyder – as there are three observant owls watching the events inside Wayne manor. The story then segues into the opening of the next story arc that will take Hex out of Gotham and into New Orleans where he will join up with the team of Nighthawk and Cinnamon (who he apparently is familiar with). This story line will determine whether or not I hang around any longer.
Back-up story features The Barbary Ghost by Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti with art by Phil Winslade. It’s a short and sweet tale of western revenge with good art. I was bored by it because it seemed so formulaic despite the main character being a young Asian woman. Western literature is just full of tales of revenge like this. I guess I’m just jaded because I’ve read so much before. I haven’t liked either of the back-up features in ALL STAR WESTERN so far, unlike the great work being done in the short stories in ACTION COMICS. I would rather read an extended Jonah Hex story for the extra dollar - - or just reduce the size and price of this book to $2.99.
Considering all the super-hero books from DC that I’m currently juggling with my monthly reading - - I thought that ALL STAR WESTERN would be a welcome breath of fresh air. I’m not feeling it lately. Maybe it’s too stuffy in here, and Palmiotti and Gray just need to crack open the window a little more. I’ll be watching.