“The Final Curtain” falls on the adventures of Jonah Hex in the pages of “All-Star Western” #34. Co-written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, this issue addresses the end of Hex’s run in the Old West with some standard-issue, Jonah Hex roughhousing and rabble-rousing. In short, this is exactly what Gray and Palmiotti have done for the one-hundred-plus Jonah Hex stories they’ve written together, this time joined by artist Darwyn Cooke for the final issue of a fantastic run. “All-Star Western” #34 is an open book, equally welcoming to established readers and new readers that may only know the vaguest notions of Hex, glimpsed from a commercial for a movie, an appearance on a cartoon or a house ad in an old comic.
Despite the character’s forty-two-year existence in comics, the past nine years have truly defined the character. Gray and Palmiotti have shown readers what Hex is capable of when he puts his mind to it, or his heart behind a cause, or his guns to his hands. “All-Star Western” #34 is a beautiful encapsulation of the unpredictable, determined character of Hex as the writers pit him against a scheming imposter with an army behind him. Ornery and upset, Hex is full of confidence and bitterness, aimed at the imposter. With his gal Tallulah Black at his side, Hex sets about to right a wrong against his person and his reputation. Hex is as hard-edged as ever, determined to do what’s right by his own moral code, and Gray and Palmiotti present it as the proper thing to do and make plenty of room for readers to join them on Hex’s bandwagon.
Additionally, Gray and Palmiotti take slivers across the various iterations of Hex’s publishing history and tie them all neatly together in this magnificent story that could just as easily be a one-shot introduction to the Old West of the DC Universe. It’s a rare occurrence that the final issue of a long run can be as approachable as a one-shot or a first issue, but Gray and Palmiotti do just that, crafting a story that flawlessly collects Jonah Hex’s history and justifies it all as possible. The writers bring in the legend of George Barrow, maintaining the legacy he shares with Jonah Hex while putting their own stamp on it. The duo even threads in Hex’s trip to the present-day DC Universe, giving long-term readers a healthy dose of closure and newer readers a sense of a longer yarn spun through ages.
Darwyn Cooke’s art, with coloring provided by Dave Stewart, is nothing short of enchanting. Yes, this is a rough and tumble world covered in dust and littered with bullets and corpses, but it’s a great world to look at and to visually savor. Cooke tells as much about the characters and their emotions with the lines he chooses not to use as he does with the lines committed to the pages of “All-Star Western” #34. Cooke draws the most elegant, yet animated and classically styled characters. He is a natural fit for Hex’s world and proves as much with every single panel in this comic book. Stewart’s colors don’t stray from the spirit of the story, committing dust and dirt to the pages that are filled with streaming sunlight, raging fires and spraying blood exiting gunshot wounds. Rob Leigh’s lettering and sound effects connect right alongside the rest of the visuals and nicely complete this comic book’s refreshing art. The wooden, serif font used as Hex unloads his six-shooters captures the sound perfectly and couches it in nostalgia for a time gone by when the law was meted out with fists and guns. The sound effects may be as much Cooke’s work as Leigh’s, but the duo blend together divinely, as evidenced on the opening page, with the dude ranch, stained glass arch that identifies the setting of Wyoming for “All-Star Western” #34. Stewart adds gorgeous colors to the quiet lakeside morning that Hex shares with Tallulah Black, as Cooke’s art depicts just how peaceful life can be for the greatest gunslinger of the Old West. Cooke has always been a welcome addition to the adventures of Hex as told by Gray and Palmiotti, but this instance is exceptionally fitting.
Jonah Hex has been given plenty of opportunity to reach readers through various series from DC, both in the New DC and the pre-2011 DC Universe. For the most part, those tales were written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti and featured a slew of awesome artists. It isn’t every comic of a series that can position each and every issue as being approachable for new readers and enjoyable for old readers, but Gray and Palmiotti did just that in over one hundred issues. “All-Star Western” #34 serves as a nice reminder of what they accomplished, gives them one last chance to do it all again, with Darwyn Cooke, Dave Stewart and Rob Leigh joining them, and allows the whole gang to wave Jonah Hex off into a gorgeous, well-earned Old West sunset of a different kind. Jonah Hex may be taking a break from the new comics’ rack, but I’ve got a whole mess of Palmiotti and Gray goodness I can go back to whenever I want. Thank you, gentlemen, and thank you, Jonah Hex. It’s been a remarkable ride.