I've always held a minor fascination with bounty hunter Jonah Hex. His name would come up at certain times when I would read old Superman and Batman comics as a child. It wasn't until the release of the "Jonah Hex" movie that my interest was piqued to the point that I did some research on the character.
When I saw that DC was relaunching Hex's All Star Western title as part of the New 52 initiative with the gunslinger working in Gotham City, I figured it was time to jump onboard. I have what many would call an unhealthy addiction to anything related to Batman or his extended family. The cover of All Star Western #1 where Hex is seen riding past a Gotham City sign post was all it took to reel me in.
"All Star Western Volume 1: Guns and Gotham" couldn't describe this collection of the first six issues of the monthly series better. First, there's a whole lot of bloodshed courtesy of Jonah Hex's side arms. Secondly, his questionable "work" as a bounty hunter does indeed bring him to the most dangerous and vile city in the DC Universe.
Gotham City might not be as wicked and crooked as it is now, but even in its early days crime plagued the back alleys and streets. Jonah Hex rides into town and teams up with pioneering criminal psychologist Amadeus Arkham to capture a brutal serial killer. Can two such polar opposites work together amidst danger to solve the mysterious murders?
Writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti are the perfect duo to bring Jonah Hex's adventures to the world of the New 52. Having worked with the character in some form or fashion for the past eight years, there's no one better suited to re-tool the character for a new generation of readers. Putting Hex together with Amadeus Arkham and tying him to the history of early Gotham City was a perfect way to get more readers involved in the outlaw's adventures.
Artist Moritat has a style that is all his own. It's loose and not as precise as many comic book illustrators these days, giving him the opportunity to stand out from the crowd. My only real problem with his work is his females all look similar. If put side-by-side, you'd think they were all sisters. However, his unique approach to Palmiotti's and Gray's story accents the book quite well.
Two backup stories are included in this collection. The first one features El Diablo and is penned by Palmiotti and Gray and drawn by Jordi Bernet. Palmiotti and Gray's Barbary Ghost is the second one. The duo wrote the story while co-creator Phil Winslade handles the penciling duties. They both provide more action, vengeance, and even some supernatural zombie action.
To top it all off, ten pages of Moritat's sketches for All Star Western are included. We get to see preliminary drawings of characters, guns, costumes, and creatures. It's fun to see the artist's early work leading up to what we get as a finished product.
"All Star Western Volume 1: Guns and Gotham" is a perfect place for the uninitiated to give bounty hunter Jonah Hex a chance. Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti provide an intriguing story weaving the character into the history of old Gotham City. Moritat's art captures their words in pictures and offers a different sort of experience than you get reading the pages of Justice League, Detective Comics, and Action Comics.