"All-Star Western" serves up its second issue this month, and just like the first issue, I fear it's going to be one of those great comics that few people ever read. It's a western, so it's got the deck stacked against it. But once again, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray are doing their best to try and add enough other elements to the comic to grab readers' attention.
The main feature, a continuation of the Jonah Hex story from last month, formally adds in the dreaded Crime Bible from DC Universe continuity as the core of the secret society that's behind all the badness in Gotham City. I'll admit, I don't like the idea of the Crime Bible -- I've never warmed to its slightly outlandish origin involving Cain and Abel -- but Palmiotti and Gray manage to make it work well enough here that I found myself not minding its presence. And more importantly, it's not the overriding focus of the comic. Instead we're getting Jonah Hex up against impossible numbers, or hulking beings, even as we get further glimpses into the past of familiar Gotham locations like Arkham and Blackgate. It's a fast-paced story, and before you know it we're already at the latest cliffhanger.
Moritat steals the show with his art, though, which just like last month comes across wonderfully crisp and almost engraved on the page; every time he drew a building, I found myself wanting to try and touch the art to see if I could somehow feel the ridges in the lines. Moritat also knocks out some great layouts when Jonah Hex goes up against the attacking hordes. Pressing so many panels into such a small area should be hard to follow, but there's no such problem here.
Starting with this issue we also get a back-up feature, and first up is an El Diablo serial by Palmiotti, Gray, and Jordi Bernet. Bernet's worked with Palmiotti and Gray before on "Jonah Hex," and their ease with one another shows here. With just eight pages for the opening chapter, the three tell a brisk opening tale of demonic zombies attacking a town, and El Diablo being the survivors' only hope. I've never read an El Diablo story before, but I was quickly pulled in, and I like how Palmiotti and Gray introduce the character and his nature. Bernet's art is also a real charmer, with a rough-hewn look, a real down and dirty nature that's always suited Bernet's comics. What's great is that Bernet isn't just good with the big flashy moments, but the smaller ones as well. When El Diablo looks into Two Crows' eyes, for instance, that single, silent panel holds such a great impact you can almost hear the proverbial pin drop.
"All-Star Western" is two for two issues, now. And if you're thinking that you don't like westerns, just stop and think about it for a minute; this is a comic with the Crime Bible from Greg Rucka's Question stories, and with demonic zombies. This isn't just cowboys and yeehaws, if that's what you're thinking all westerns are about. Palmiotti, Gray, Moritat, and Bernet are creating a western comic for the modern era here. Saddle up and get on board before it's too late.