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Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti have put Jonah Hex and co. through a lot in the past year, be it running into the Court of Owls or getting entangled with the Religion of Crime, it sure has been quite a ride.
With All-Star Western #13 they begin their next storyline, one that should be noted also has close ties to both Demon Knights and Team 7 and involves the use of the Black Diamond. Fortunately this does not mean that there is some needless and intrusive crossover that disrupts the flow of the comic, quite the opposite actually. It’s more of an emphasis of how a shared universe works – a small connection here and there does no harm but instead acts like something extra for fans to notice. Given the propensity for how overblown and unsubtly such connections can be made out to be it’s nice to witness something that goes in the other direction. It’s almost like a breath of fresh air.
To, finally, get onto the story and characters themselves, it was a thoroughly entertaining output by Gray and Palmiotti. A gruesome take on the old Robert Louis Stevenson tale, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, it features our heroes investigating a series of outbreaks of madness, all connected to the aforementioned insidious Black Diamond. What really is there to say? Gray and Palmiotti have shown their skill with these characters time and again. Each get their time to shine, especially Amadeus Arkham who has grown into his own since the beginning of the series from timid doctor to someone who can hold his own (barely) with the likes of Jonah Hex and Tallulah Black. They’re more of a solidified team now, which is something that is greatly appreciated. Going along with the ride is a previous back-up character whose appearance might come as shock and is surely the prelude to some surprises down the road.
The story was an interesting starting point for the storyline, and not just due to the previously mentioned inclusion of the back-up character. It sets up mystery and a sense of danger. There were quite a few horrific set pieces scattered about the issue that were a perfect fit for the holiday season. A bit too gruesome? Perhaps in another title, but it All-Star Western it is a solid match up. Something that detractors of the series might take note of is that the story includes Haly’s Circus, back in it’s early days, and a murderous clown. Not to deride the series on it’s ever-present ties to Batman lore, but others might.
The back-up for this issue none other than Tomahawk, an all-new version of which is introduced to readers within in these pages. It’s a short, but sweet, introduction and like the main feature is packed with action. There might not be much to note on, except for the well-done art of Phil Winslade, but it was a nice little story that I would hope gets continued after its initial run.
On the subject of art Moritat again provides the same level of excellence. Things are given a more visceral tint with this issue, but Moritat follows suit with his linework, accompanied as usual by interesting panel layouts and expression. Overall this was an enjoyable issue and up the standards set by itself over the past year and one hopes that it raises those standards as it heads into its next.