I've said in the past that Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti should write DC's old west comics forever, and I'm still cool with that. However, that doesn't mean I don't believe them capable of some missteps. All-Star Western #5 is the first of those in this series, but it's not really that bad. There are just some iffy things about the final product here that don't quite make for the entertainment I was hoping for out of Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham visiting the Bat-cave circa the late-1800s.
It's not even so much a misstep as just the first issue that doesn't come together at all. Hex and Arkham are on the trail of child-slavers, who catch them, overpower them and wind up tossing them into a whirlpool to drown, only they get whisked into the cave instead, forced to face off against the Lost Tribe of the Miagani, and then a giant bat. Should be cool. The dynamic between the gruff and surly Hex and the pompous intellectual Arkham has been entertaining so far, but here, the bulk of the issue is Arkham's pathetic mewling and whining, and although it's understandable given the danger they're in, it just gets grating.
The bigger problem is that the art from Moritat and his colorist Gabriel Bautista just does not serve the story at all. Moritat's art has always been The Thing You Have To Get Over to really enjoy this book, and while his hazy, sepia-bathed style is one you can understand, here it completely works against what J&J are trying to get across. When Hex and Arkham are trapped in the cave, it's supposed to be pitch dark, and the two of them are supposed to be completely unable to see each other a few feet away. However, there's nothing in the art that really speaks to that – the only reason I know that's true is because the dialog keeps telling me that. This is when an artist should go hog wild with cool shading and silhouettes, but intstead, it looks exactly the same as the rest of the book, save for the occasional mist of black dots in the background. It's frustrating, and it marks Moritat as more of a problem than a style needing some time to grow accustomed to.
The back-up story of the Barbary Ghost fares better with Phil Winslade on the art duties. It's still not the best, but it's definitely a trade-up from what Moritat's doing, looking more classic and dusty western. The story's a simple revenge tale about a woman named Yan Mei who is exacting a protracted revenge from Bo Long, the crimelord who killed her whole family. She's a cool character so far. Let's hope Hex can get his cool back, too.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 4/10