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All-Star Western #13 – Review

By: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti (story), Moritat (art), Mike Atiyeh (colors)

The Story: Can we all just agree that it’s all clowns that creep you out, not just the one?

The Review: Pre-relaunch, Gray-Palmiotti wrote Jonah Hex solo for a long—surprisingly long—time, and they seemed to find plenty of success that way.  For Hex in the Wild West, cooperation wouldn’t seem natural or necessary anyway.  But in his urban environment, Hex could use the help.  Without Arkham’s intercession, he’d probably just get arrested and executed in a few months; without Tallulah’s randiness, he’d probably go crazy from the city life.

All this is to say I’m glad Arkham and Tallulah are officially part of Hex’s trio for the foreseeable future.  Although none of them would probably call it as such, they’ve developed a very functional teamwork.  Probably no one can cover Hex in a scrap as well as Talulah, and when it comes to tending to the innocent harmed, or offering some intellectual insight into the happenings, or fending off law enforcement (“I’ll explain to the authorities as best I can,” he sighs resignedly over a bloody mess at a circus), Arkham’s the man.

And with the mission before them, there’s no way Hex can really handle it alone.  The potential for things spiraling even out of his control is too high, as it always is in Gotham.  The sale of the Jekyll formula probably explains the origins of the city’s genetic madness.  Even if Hex & Co. manage to take down the business, we have no cure in sight and this doesn’t seem like the kind of thing anyone can permanently escape from at any rate.

You can have no better evidence that much of Gotham’s modern problems started with the Jekyll formula than in the figure of one Jingles, Haly Circus’ resident clown.  Though reputed to have never shown anger or any violent emotion in his life, the use of the formula turns him into a proto-Joker (“Ha!  Hah!  Hah!  Ha!  Hah!  Stabby!  Stabby!  Stabbiieeee!”), which seems a cute way for Gray-Palmiotti to join in the “Death in the Family” fun about a hundred years early.

So far they’ve done a pretty good job of making All-Star a unified title with a firm place in DC history, despite its total remoteness from every other series for the company.  Not only have they found ways to bring in DC mainstays like Haly’s Circus or the Black Diamond, or classic concepts like Dr. Jekyll’s formula, they’ve also inserted their own creations into the mix.  While it’s nice to see the Barbary Ghost again, being the only back-up character that was worth reading, you have no idea how her search for her mother will intersect with the craziness of the A-plot.

I’ve tracked Moritat’s improvement on this title for a while, but he hasn’t completely escaped some of his old weaknesses.  He still can’t quite draw totally distinguishable faces for our ladies.  Yanmei really doesn’t look all that different from Tallulah except for their complexions and outfits.  It’s not like you’ll suddenly get them confused, but it’s something you’ll notice.  And in terms of action, Moritat still has a ways to go to make a really fleet and dynamic sequence.

Even though this issue’s main feature uses one of the most successful characters from the title’s back-ups, that still hasn’t made the case that the back-ups are really worth all that much.  Tomahawk follows in the same vein as his predecessors, the Barbary Ghost, Nighthawk, and Cinnamon.  All four have had tragic family deaths that spur them to revenge, operating within a historical context.  It’s a pattern grown old already, and you don’t really need to see more of it, even though Phil Winslade returns to try to deliver that Barbary Ghost magic—such as it was.

Conclusion: Gray-Palmiotti show the very best of their appeal by taking the unexpected and mixing and molding them in unexpected ways.  Please get rid of the back-ups, now.

Grade: B

- Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: - The Black Diamond sure does seem to be getting a lot of attention lately.  It’ll be interesting to see its role in the line-wide Event I’m sure DC has planned.

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