All Star Western
All Star Western is an oddity: a fairly straight-up western from a major publisher.
Sure, it does feature Jonah Hex and Dr. Arkham (founder of Arkham Asylum) and the latest story line has taken them in the Bat Cave (long before Bruce every discovered it) but there’s not much in the way of supheroics or steampunk or “weird west.” There’s the odd giant bat and deformed man, but it stays about as grounded as a western movie. It’s essentially a buddy cop western playing the surly grounded Hex off the mannered high-thinking Arkham in investigative stories that aren’t above a good brawl now and then.
That’s the real heart of what makes All Star Western something you should read. Arkham and Hex make an excellent team and the mysteries they investigate, though nothing too odd (murders and kidnapping, so far), have enough twists and just the right cutting view of the rich city-slickers. It’s entirely enjoyable in each issue.
Then there’s the other oddity: the backup stories. Each issue has a backup, still in the western genre, but featuring different characters. The first backup was entertaining, while the second fell a bit flat, but having a back up makes each issue feel worth the money and keeps both stories (the main and the backup) quick and punchy.
He’s got a way with proportions and expressions that gives the story just the right tone. It can move from humor to a bloody fight at a moments notice. I can’t think of anything else quite like it.
As for the series’ place in continuity, there’s not much to worry about. You don’t need to catch any of the references to how Gotham grew into Batman’s city to enjoy the comic, but there are nice little nods to other ages of Gotham.1 1. If you’re also reading Batman you’ll notice that the Court of Owls has in fact been around for a while. They’ve served as major villains for the first two arcs.
There are many reasons to read this, but part of my fervor for it is rooted in just the sheer joy of seeing a really good non-superhero comic coming out of one of the big two publishers that’s not based on a movie or book. DC’s taken a shot at bringing back one of the genres from when comics where relevant in a broader scope which is worth applauding, it also happens to be a great comic. Read it.