The scars and rings of All-Star Western #1

All-Star Western is one of DC’s New 52. The idea is for each arc to tell a different story in the old-west past of the DC universe, mostly featuring the famous Western antihero, Jonah Hex.

Many of the tales will likely serve to create some additional background and deepen the mythology of parts of the general DC universe, unlike the last two iterations of DC’s All-Star Western magazine, which were mostly just stereotypical Cowboy/Indian stories.

This first arc is a murder mystery. In old-west Gotham, a Jack-the Ripper style killer is stalking the streets, and slashing up the professional ladies. The head detective calls in Doctor Arkham – the man who eventually founds the Asylum for the criminally insane in Gotham – and Arkham calls in Hex, a bounty hunter with a strict moral code.

Both characters are thankfully treated as if this is the first we’ve ever seen of them, despite Hex’s long history with DC. The characters make an interesting dynamic, with Arkham providing the main voice of the narrative in this book, and Jonah sort of becoming his subject of study. It’s clear to see the rudiments of the type of study that will eventually lead Arkham to establish his famous asylum, and his internal dialog about Hex, which runs through the issue as narration, is a great introduction to the classic character.

Each of the main characters has just enough secret past to be intriguing on their own.

Hex has terrible facial scars, which the doctor want to try to learn more about along with the rest of Hex’s past, and Arkham has a so-far-unseen mother which feels a bit Bates’ Motel.

The books reminds me quite a bit of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, both in terms of art and writing.

It has an angular gritty sort of texture to the illustrations, and the plot and dialog match up well with that style. 

If you’re looking for a DC book to pull which isn’t directly tired in with the greater DC narrative, or even with ‘superheroes’ at all, at least for now, All-Star Western is one to look at. Preference for Cowboy stories not required. 

All-Star Western #1 can be picked up wherever you buy comics, including the comiXology store.