Report Card | ‘All-Star Western’ and more
All Star Western #23
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art by Moritat
Colors by Mike Atiyeh, Richard Horie, and Tanya Horie
Letters by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
The “Jonah Hex in modern Gotham” plot is a few issues old, even if you don’t count the “Jonah Hex teams up with time-lost Booster Gold in the Old West” plot which led into it. Much of it seems like natural consequences of the premise: Jonah runs afoul of the law, including the new Batwing; Jonah’s committed to Arkham Asylum; Jonah escapes with the help of an Arkham family member. Throughout the arc, as with the series generally, Jonah doesn’t stray much from his regular behavior. He says what he thinks, it gets him in various degrees of trouble, and he proves competent enough to get out of said trouble. Palmiotti, Gray, and Moritat have worked this cycle well enough to keep ASW consistently entertaining for the past two years.
And even with all that, I was not expecting this issue to take the turns it did. First, Jonah and Dr. Arkham hook up with a pair of, shall we say, open-minded young women, and Jonah turns out to be a lot better at pillow talk than I would have expected. (Also, if you ever wanted to know how Jonah Hex feels about social issues in the 21st Century, this is the issue for you.) The next pleasant surprise was the choice of vehicle in which Jonah ends up fleeing. Finally, the issue ends with Jonah averting a mass shooting. It too is pretty much what you’re expecting, plus a little “good guy with a gun” sentiment.
Again, though, what sets these developments apart are the combined approaches of Palmiotti, Gray, and Moritat, plus the usual washed-out color palette from Atiyeh and the Hories. They succeed in making the present seem both mundane and part of Jonah’s subtly-stylized adventures. About halfway through the issue, Jonah muses that the 21st Century isn’t substantively different from the 19th, and likewise, the creative team doesn’t try to make it so. Nevertheless, the real pleasures of this issue come from exploring when Jonah needs to adapt, and when he doesn’t — and those times aren’t always predictable. The issue’s two key sequences, between Jonah and Gina and at the near-massacre, both slow down in unexpected ways. The shooting’s aftermath is handled in a montage of small, square, equally-sized panels which convey the emotions of the moment very effectively.
Oh, and Batman’s in it too, which is nice. –Tom Bondurant
Bandthology Vol. 1
by Dan Dougherty, Matt Collander, John Cardinal, Wendi Freeman, Mat Nixon, Jon Westhoff, Bobgar Ornelas, Lauren Burke, Greg Sorkin, Tony Maldanado and Andrew Vanderbilt
Publisher: King Bone Press
I wonder if anthologies, over time, will find that they benefit more from the digital platform. Thanks to the Comixology Submit line of comics (http://www.comixology.com/New-Releases/comics-collection/996) that are released every week, I admit that I now run across comics and creators that catch more of my attention than when I look at the upcoming list of traditional print comics new releases.
As a fan of music, the 36-page anthology Bandthology piqued my interest. A great deal of different storytelling and art styles are represented in this collection of stories. Not all of them held my attention or impressed me to any great degree. But Dan Dougherty’s “The Beast In Me” hooked me from the first page. The premise is a musician who craves to perform live, no matter if it’s in dive bars, and to keep playing in bands, all in an effort to have “made it” (become a recognized and popular band). The pursuit of this goal is personified in the “beast”. You may know Doughterty from his daily strip, Beardo (http://assets.gocomics.com/beardo/2013/08/29), but his art for this story is more fleshed out (and grittier in some ways due to the black and white format), particularly in the jarring way that he draws the physical manifestation of the beast.
The only other story (there are six in total–the anthology claims a seventh in the “set list” but that seventh is actually a two-page preview) that interested me to any great extent was Closet Musicians by Matt Collander (http://mattcollander.com/). The appeal for me was purely visual, as Collander’s art is reminiscent of Matt Silady’s The Homeless Channel.
Any project that makes me aware of two storytellers I had never noticed before is worth my time, though. –Tim O’Shea
American Vampire Anthology
Featuring stories by:
–Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque, David McCaig and Steve Wands
–Jason Aaron, Declan Sahlvey, Jordie Bellaire and Jared K. Fletcher
–Rafael Albuquerque, Ivo Milazzo and Taylor Esposito
–Jeff Lemire, Ray Fawkes and Travis Lanham
–Becky Cloonan, Jordie Bellaire and Travis Lanham
–Francesco Francavilla and Dezi Sienty
–Gail Simone, Tula Lotay and Jared K. Fletcher
–Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, David McCaig and Steve Wands
–Greg Rucka, JP Leon, Dave McCaig and Steve Wands
It isn’t often that you can point at an anthology and say that every story hit the mark, but considering the talents of the creators involved, I guess it isn’t too surprising that the American Vampire Anthology did just that. Framed up with a story about Skinner Sweet by creators Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque, the stories in the anthology go into the history of the characters we’ve seen in the regular series, as well as the history of vampires in the book’s mythology. It’s a credit not only to the creators involved, but also to Snyder and Albuquerque for creating a world where folks like Becky Cloonan, Jason Aaron and Gail Simone, among others, can shine. -–JK Parkin