Warning: This review contains spoilers.
Nine years. 105 issues. One original graphic novel. These are impressive statistics for a single creative team in the current comics landscape. These also impress for characters that do not possess a “Bat” or “Spider” naming prefix. Perhaps most impressive of all is that these are the stats for a western character at one of the Big Two and a writing tandem that sits on a rung of recognition below the likes of Geoff Johns, Scott Snyder, and Brian Michael Bendis. After nearly a decade, writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have delivered their final issue penning the adventures of the bounty hunter Jonah Hex.
All Star Western #34 is not only a culmination of the series’ plot threads, but also a return to the pre-Flashpoint format of Palmiotti and Gray’s Jonah Hex series. That title was known for its short arcs – many of which were one-off single issues – and its revolving door of celebrated artists including Phil Noto, Tony DeZuniga, and Darwyn Cooke. It is fitting that Cooke is reunited with Palmiotti and Gray to give Hex a final, gorgeous adventure. In possessing these elements, All Star Western #34 might be the most accessible single issue DC has published in its New 52 line without a “#1” affixed to the cover.
Darwyn Cooke’s art has always possessed a classic and at times playful aesthetic. Playing to these strengths, Palmoitti and Gray have script contains moments of humor, tender emotion, and gunslinging action. The issue loosely picks up from where issue #33 left off, with Hex and his companion Tallulah Black enjoying life on the American Frontier – specifically Wyoming. It should be noted that Palmiotti and Gray’s efforts on the opening page is a prime example against using recap pages. The writing tandem provides readers with all the pertinent information that is needed to understand and enjoy the story as it unfolds, rather than using the traditional recap pages as seen in other titles.
Turning past the first page unveils a beautiful, double-page spread of western paradise. For Jonah and Tallulah, it certainly is. There is a warmth and adoration between the two which longtime readers may have suspected to be latent, but never expected to see materialize. Despite their joy, Jonah remains tortured by the knowledge that someone is running around using his identity. This is the catalyst for the issue’s core plot, which sees one final display of gunslinging badassery from Hex and Black.
The dialogue of has always been a strength of All Star Western, and this issue is no different. The established relationship between Jonah and Tallulah in the opening sequence plays out to the final page. Their flirtations are filtered through a lens of grimy, dark humor befitting the notorious couple. Beyond their exchanges, Palmiotti and Gray do not waste a single word throughout the issue’s 32 pages. Be it a sneer, an insulting jab, or an apprehensive inquiry, the writers prove time and again their immersion into and understanding of the world they have crafted.
All Star Western #34 is a testament to the strength of both its creative team and its characters. Though the series has now concluded, readers can dive into back issues and collections to revisit the adventures of DC’s famous bounty hunter. Knowing that this final issue is the endgame, reading through nine years worth of Jonah Hex material is a task that anyone will happily take on.