It’s fair to say that DC Comics ruffled some feathers with its New 52 initiative. Despite an influx of new readers, longtime followers of the DC Universe were perplexed by certain developments. Fan-favorite characters went missing (Wally West, Stephanie Brown, Cassandra Cain), histories and origins changed, and the decision-making became heavily scrutinized by the fans and press alike. Then there’s the whole issue of the universe being considered too grim, too serious, and too homogenized. With much of the emphasis on titles carrying the banner of “Batman,” “Superman,” or “Justice League,” there is little attention being paid to certain titles that are among the best being published. One such title that everyone should be adding to their pull list is All Star Western by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray.
Palmiotti and Gray have contributed their fair share of notable works at DC, including Power Girl, Monolith and The Resistance – latter of which under the WildStorm imprint. But since 2006, the tandem has penned the stories of DC’s scarred bounty hunter, Jonah Hex, to critical and commercial success. Yet when All Star Western was announced among the New 52 launch titles, fanboys scoffed at its inclusion and questioned the viability of a western title in today’s marketplace – even though there was currently one on stands. Yet two-plus years later All Star Western is standing while many other New 52 titles have fallen. Sure, the friendship between Palmiotti and DC co-publisher Dan Didio helps, but the strength of the character and the quality storytelling have given DC a belief in the book.
Like the Jonah Hex series that preceded it, All Star Western has been blessed to have some of the best art in comics, courtesy of series regular Moritat. The combination of the 1800s setting and the talented art team has given the title one of the most unique looks in the industry. Even when Jonah was transported to the present during issues #21-28, the quality of the title never dipped. The new landscape actually allowed Moritat to flex his creative muscles and show what he could do as Jonah interacted with various characters from the present DCU.
Many complain that the company’s current lineup is stale and homogeneous, but not many people are reading this book. All Star Western’s tone has been one of the title’s most appealing traits. For much of the series, Palmiotti and Gray have provided readers with gritty western tropes (akin to The Outlaw Josey Wales) and mixed in elements of the buddy-cop genre, with a sprinkling of gallows humor for good measure. This combination of elements turns readers expectations on their heads for what a western title can be. And that’s why you should be reading All Star Western.