Jimmy Palmiotti has tweeted out a few times recently that “All-Star Western” #28 is his one hundredth Jonah Hex story co-written with Justin Gray. In this issue they’re joined by Staz Johnson and Fabrizio Fiorentino on the art chores with Mike Atiyeh handling colors and Rob Leigh providing the letters. In celebration of all things Hex, Palmiotti and company throw everything at the reader including Hex in the hospital, Hex’s galpal, Gina, an appearance by Booster Gold, a fight in the hospital cafeteria and some Apaches thinking Hex is pulling their collective leg. Readers get Hex in present day and in the Wild West.
Following last issue’s conflict between Hex and the tag-team of whiskey and motorcycles, this issue opens with a full-page worm’s eye view of Hex on an ambulance gurney with two attending paramedics. Staz Johnson’s art is grittier and less expressionistic than that of regular series artist Moritat, but it more than suitably fits the first half of “All-Star Western” #28. Employing Ben-Day dots, cross-hatching and shading — many of the lost arts of comic book illustration — Johnson puts grit and toughness in this story, adding texture to the bandages on Hex’s face and depth to the vast, open hospital waiting room. Fabrizio Fiorentino’s art adds more fluidity to the latter half of this issue, opening things up and giving more room for colorist Mike Atiyeh to ply his wares. Atiyeh truly cements the artistic halves of this book together, which work anyway given the shift in story corresponds nicely to the change in artists. Both artists have a nice handle on Jonah Hex and I hope we’ll see more from them before Palmiotti and Gray reach their two-hundredth issue.
The cover betrays the story inside, but doesn’t spoil it completely, as Palmiotti and Gray continue to twist the legend of Jonah Hex away from predictability with every issue. While this is their hundredth issue scripting the adventures of the DC Universe’s most famous gunslinger, it feels every bit as fresh as the first. As they’ve done all along, Palmiotti and Gray give readers a full-fledged, complete story that can be enjoyed on its own merits. True, this issue does have subplots and developments drawn directly from previous issues, but most of those are explained through the twenty-two pages of “All-Star Western” #28. Hex doesn’t have much to say in this issue, but he is still the central character, proving as much through his actions as through his dialog.
Palmiotti and Gray continue to make Jonah Hex a compelling character after all this time and show no signs of stopping. Following his adventure to his future/our present, Hex finds himself back on the new frontier, surrounded by a threat and more than a bit out of sorts from the trip. As Hex himself says, “Smells like home.” With yet another great read in a collection numbering five score, “All-Star Western” #28 continues to be one of the very best comics DC has to offer. If you’ve missed out on Hex’s first hundred tales spun by Palmiotti and Gray, now’s the time to saddle up for the next hundred.