DC really didn’t try to hard to maintain the “surprise” aspect of the “WTF” cover on “All-Star Western” #19, as the Booster Gold cat got out of the bag really early on. Lucky for DC, it doesn’t matter what gets spoiled or hinted at in “All-Star Western” because writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray can make a great story out of it.
The issue opens with Hex standing near three slain gold panners, which draws the attention of the local sheriff. That sheriff, as Hex puts it, is dressed more like a rodeo clown than a sheriff, describing the time-tossed Booster Gold’s outfit to a tee. I’m not sure why Booster wouldn’t sling on a pair of jeans or overalls over his uniform, but it provides a layer of comedy to “All-Star Western” #19 that might not appear if Booster were more smartly attired. Gray and Palmiotti’s Hex continues to serve as the preeminent bounty hunter cowboy hardass and his deadpan attitude brings the best out of Booster Gold. The story itself shows that tech and knowledge of the future can’t prepare Booster for what happens in Red River Junction, nor can it help him hold his alcohol any better against a seasoned drinker like Hex. This leads to what is certain to be a memorable team-up between these two characters.
Artist Moritat continues to deliver stunning work that oozes with western wear and tear. His horses need a little more finesse, which Moritat could find in the work of Bruno Premiani, but the remainder of the story is sharp and memorable. Moritat truly leaves a mark on Jonah Hex, defining the way this gunslinger should be depicted going forward. There are several occasions where Moritat leans towards Kevin Maguire’s interpretation of Booster Gold, but Moritat pulls back and remains true to the style he’s been using throughout this series.
The second story in “All-Star Western” #19 is a significant departure from the odd couple pairing of Jonah Hex and Booster Gold. Cody Barrow, Master Gunfighter, is the “self-appointed marshal on the border of Hell” and battles against the supernatural. In this case, that means creepy werewolves drawn by Staz Johnson. This is a solid, briskly paced story from Palmiotti and Gray that is clearly just a sliver of the longer “Stormwatch” narrative that focuses on the continued collection of characters under the Stormwatch brand.
Between the two sections of “All-Star Western,” this book has been picking and choosing from the legacies and heritage of the DC Universe, but this issue reaches into the future to mix up characters that are truly entertaining together despite themselves. Jonah Hex is an underappreciated character that meets like in the form of Booster Gold. Thankfully, Palmiotti and Gray continue to prove that their ability to write great stories isn’t hinged solely on the character’s level of popularity. “All-Star Western” #19 is a fun cross-section of the bizarre excitement and interaction that the DC Universe offers creators and readers. It’s also the first installment of something bigger. What that is remains to be seen, but in Palmiotti and Gray I trust.