The horse-drawn chaingun of All Star Western #3

Posted by CB Droege

Three issues in, and Jonah Hex is helping me understand why some people like Westerns so much.

All Star Western, part of DC’s New 52, chases tales around the adventurous old-West of the DC Universe. Yes, before the rise of superhumans in the world, there were still phenomenal heroes, and some of their tales are here.

Many of the arcs 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 started as a murder mystery. Jonah Hex and Doctor Arkham (the historical founder of Arkham’s asylum for the criminally insane, featured in the modern Batman stories) work together to bring the killer to justice, and along the way uncover a vast conspiracy. 

The Owls, an ancient criminal organization who worship the Christian biblical figure Cain, have chosen Gotham to be the world’s center for crime and the worship of criminal motives, setting up the future need for Batman in the dark city, and even tying into the newest Batman comics story arc, in which it seems the Owls are making a return.

The most interesting parts of the story are the moments that clearly tie into the future of Gotham. For example in one scene Arkham describes his desire to open his asylum in an old mansion. Soon after Hex descides that Gotham is going to need a "differnt' kinda lawman" to keep it under control, an obvious allusion to Batman, but who keeps the city running between this story and the emergence of Batman years later?

Gotham itself becomes an interesting third character in what is essentially a cop-buddy story, and plays an interesting role in the play-out, in nothing else, serving as the biggest spur to the readers. We finish the issue not thinking 'What’s going to happen to Hex and Doctor Arkham?', but 'What’s going to happen to Gotham?'

Both primary 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 for an interesting dynamic, with Arkham providing the main voice of the narrative in the book, and Jonah sort of becoming his subject of study.

The rudiments of the type of study that will eventually lead Arkham to establish his famous asylum are clear, and his internal dialogue about Hex, which runs through the issue as narration, is a great introduction to the classic character.

Unfortunately, this third book seems to be the weakest in the part of discovery and narrative momentum, but it’s serving us as a bridge or seque between chapters of a sort. The initial case is solved, and something needs to keep Hex in the city to continue to assist Arkham.

The dynamic of the characters is making me hope that the All Star Western series continues to focus on stories of these two working together.

If you’re looking for a DC book to pull which isn’t directly tied in with the greater DC narrative, or even with ‘superheroes’ at all, at least for now, All-Star Western is one to look at, especially if you find yourself intersted in the history and origins of the DC super hero universe.

All Star Western #3 can be picked up wherever you buy comics, including the comiXology store.