With a site that aims to cover exemplary hotbloodedness wherever it may lurk in pop culture, you’d think I would have written about Westerns by now, but I haven’t. Not for a lack of interest, mind you. Not at all.
DC Comics recently unveiled their new megacomic promotional event meant to drive sales with a mildly sad obsession over continuity, The New 52. The idea is to have 52 DC Comics titles restart at issue #1. You know, because renumbering comics grabs peoples’ attention. 52 times, even.
One DC relaunch that stands apart from the superhero fair is All Star Western, a Western comic anthology that hasn’t hit the presses since 1972. Western comics, in 2011?! They’re not as popular in the United States as they once were. But there is a 70 issue run of Jonah Hex ending this year, which is being retooled into the All Star Western revival.
Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti’s 7 year run on Jonah Hex is excellent. Just flipping through the first few volumes I’m reminded of how badly I need to catch up. Jonah Hex is a “hard Western,” sticking to the traditional elements of the genre without resorting to extremely quirky characters or the ham-fisted spinning of archetypes on their head in such a way to appear uniform with all other modern things that ham-fistedly spin archetypes on their head. It’s a comic that didn’t pull incredible sales numbers or get inundated with critical acclaim, but it was silently respected, a little engine that could chugging along and consistently delivering the goods. Face Full of Violence contains the first six issues of Jonah Hex. It’s a trade paperback I highly recommend.
You may be wondering: is the new All Star Western promising? I don’t know, not really. It retains the same writers who’ve dutifully stuck with Jonah Hex since 2005, but a lot of what made that comic great is now gone. Instead of having self-contained issues which subtly build up a larger story, the format has shifted to more traditional long-form storytelling. In addition, Jonah Hex goes to the 19th-century equivalent of Gotham City, future home of Batman, where he awkwardly “teams up” with the doctor who will be the founder of Arkham Asylum. One of the best things about Jonah Hex is how off the beaten path it was from everything else DC Comics was putting out at the time, and now it seems the game plan is to parlay its success into something that both feeds off of and feeds into DC Comics’ superhero IP. So far, I can’t see beyond the crass marketing behind that creative decision.