All-Star Western #1 (DC) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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All-Star Western #1


Written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti; Art by Moritat; Colors by Gabriel Bautista

Oct 03, 2011 DC New 52 Bookmark and Share

Of all the books in DC’s “New 52,” a line-wide soft reboot, All-Star Western #1 came out of the gate swinging hardest for the fences, and managed to connect on all levels. Home run.

The setting: Gotham City in the 1880s, a city undergoing “progress,” with the social, industrial, and environmental fallout that implies. Moritat’s artwork is stunning: dramatic, with period details, expressive and distinct character designs, and wide-screen action and atmospheric overview shots. The colors, by Gabriel Bautista, don’t excite like a “4-color” comic usually attempts to, but I think the bleached-out palette, accented mostly with browns and reds and grays, favors the setting and the mood. Oh, and Moritat’s cover…what a treat, and perfectly captures the promise and premise of the story within.

There are Easter eggs galore as we delve into Gotham’s history, with the ancestors of modern Gothamites playing roles: Waynes, of course, as well as Cobblepots, and most importantly, the POV character Doctor Amadeus Arkham, who is destined to found and establish Arkham Asylumthe home of most of Batman’s rogues in modern-day Gotham. Dr. Arkham, here, is a physician by training but a psychologist by practice, who is brought in by a detective to assist in solving a string of grisly murders. Bounty hunter and DC Comics’ iconic, facially maimed Western antihero, Jonah Hex, is also on the case. Despite Hex’s reluctance, Arkham and Hex team up to try and find the culprit.

Writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti have crafted a multilayered story: we learn about both Dr. Arkham and Jonah Hex as the former psychoanalyzes the latter’s every move and the two negotiate various levels of Gotham’s social scene. The way that Arkham constantly re-evaluates his previous statements about Hex are fascinating insights into both, and the ongoing mystery is captivating, taking us from back alleys to whore-laden saloons to meetings of secret societies. Not to mention that Hex’s penchant for trouble and violence allows plenty of action scenes, both fisticuffs and pistols.

By the end of this oversized issue (it’s a $3.99 cover price; most DC books are $2.99), Arkham’s come to the theory that the murders are perpetrated by almost a mirror version of the Arkham and Hex pairing: a learned man writing bloody warnings in all manner of languages, and a less-cerebral muscleman. Arkham and Hex also learn that they are for sure in far deeper danger than they first realized as the scale of corruption near smacks them in the face.

The issue benefits from the length; the story and art have room to breathe, yet there’s still plenty to chew on here. It’s an advantage that not all of the New 52 have had, but All-Star Western #1 sure uses it well.

A great mix of intrigue, action, and art: my personal favorite of DC’s new offerings. (

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10


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