In one of DC’s most unique series, All-Star Western, we follow Jonah Hex, Amadeus Arkham, and Tallulah Black as they hunt criminals, outlaws, an’ unsavory types whut run afoul of the law. The third volume of this ongoing New 52 comic takes place once again in the Gotham of the late 1800’s where we see Hex come face to face with none other than Mr. Hyde, the sinister alter ego of Dr. Jekyll.
All-Star Western, Vol. 3: The Black Diamond Probability features issues #0, #13-16 of the New 52 series by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justing Gray, and Moritat.
The first chapter of this book really kicked things off with a helluva bang and it actually made the book feel more like an authentic western than ever before. If you’ve been reading this series from the beginning then you know that Jonah Hex is in Gotham City and he’s been stuck there for the entirety of his New 52 saga. As much as I love all things Gotham City, it’s not really a Western setting. However, it has been fun to see Jonah Hex approached as a fish-out-of-water and the atypical locale of the big city has afforded the writers the chance to produce unique stories that stand out from traditional cowboys & Indians fare. But in issue #0, which begins our graphic novel, we devote almost the entirety of the issue to Jonah Hex’s origin. Not just one small glimpse at his past as many of the Zero Month comics did, this is a grand scope that begins from the moment of Jonah’s birth all the way to the point his face was mutilated into that trademark grimace. It’s one of the very best #0 issues I’ve read and must-read for anyone who has ever been curious about the character.
Following the look back at Jonah’s past we dive into the real story arc that will play out over the course of the next four issues in this collection. In issue #13 I certainly had my doubts about what we were getting ourselves into. All-Star Western is about as fringe of a bat-title as you can get with the only ties being the fact that it takes place in Gotham and Amadeus Arkham is a key supporting character, but other than that it doesn’t even take place in the same century as the Dark Knight. That said, the creators still always try to find a way to tie-into any big Bat-events. Night of the Owls was easy because the Court has operated for generations in and around Gotham, but what about Death of the Family? Issue #13 is an loosely affiliates itself to the Joker’s return by showing us a maniac circus clown with green hair who slaughters a pair of priests and a crowd of innocent bystanders. This Joker-esque villain named “Jingles” was a very desperate attempt to parallel what was occurring in the other bat-titles, but it was ultimately worked into the plot well enough and short-lived enough that it wasn’t too distracting.
Jonah, Tallulah, and Arkham have been hired to find out what has become of Dr. Jekyll’s stolen formula and Jingle’s rampage is the first bit of evidence they have that sets them on the trail of those responsible. It’s an odd literary reference, bringing in Dr. Jekyll, but it worked. I found the concept to be a fun one and it made for a really entertaining adventure. However, a few bumps in the road arose when a subplot involving The Barbary Ghost (a character from Volume 2’s back-ups) started interrupting the fun to bring us fight scenes which focused more on her sex appeal than anything resembling a story. And then, much worse, was when my favorite character from the previous volume, Tallulah Black, abandoned the comic on a whim and was never mentioned again. But nothing harmed my enjoyment of this book quite as much as the ending.
I loved the book’s sense of humor and its even greater sense of adventure. I sat down and read through each issue in a single afternoon having a wonderful time. Despite Tallulah’s departure, Mr. Hyde made for a frightening and formidable foe and the reveal of Amadeus’ crazed mother was something I had looked forward to for some time. Jonah was at the top of his game and Moritat’s artwork was as gritty and atmospheric as ever (but sometimes succumbing to the same sketchiness I complained about in the previous volumes). But that ending… what the hell? The book was cruising toward an 8.5 or at least an 8/10 in my opinion, but then it ended in such abrupt and overly convenient fashion that I tossed it aside in disgust and didn’t even care to flip through the back-up stories revolving around the character Tomahawk for quite some time later.
You can always count on All-Star Western having decent supplemental material. This volume comes with a cover sketch by Ariel Olivetti and several pages of character designs by Moritat and Phil Winslade. And while the backup stories featuring Tomahawk were originally included in the initial release of these issues, they definitely feel like bonus material.
Value: Sale Price
It was an immensely fun read right up until the end. The conclusion left such a bad taste in my mouth that I knocked the value down just like I did the overall score. I would recommend this if you can find it for around $9 bucks or so at Amazon or the like. The re-read value is weak due to the unsatisfying conclusion.
I was loving this volume of All-Star Western more than any other, but I found the quick and convenient conclusion to be infuriating. I almost feel like I’m being too generous with a 6/10, but I really was enjoying everything up until the final chapter and read the entire book in a single sitting. Issue #0 is one of the best comics to come out of DC’s Zero Month back in September of 2012, but I wish the story that followed had ended in a far more satisfying manner.