The Weekly Pull (3/27/13) – ALL STAR WESTERN #18

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Winter in Gotham City is cold. Cold like the reception Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham got when they ventured deep in the cholera quarantine zone. In ALL STAR WESTERN #18, will these two be able to save Catherine Wayne from the clutches of Vandal Savage? More importantly, can they escape the diseased quarter of this fledgling city alive? Meanwhile, will the compulsive skeptic and backup story alumni Terrance Thirteen join the supernatural ranks of Stormwatch?

For those just joining us, Gotham City’s poorest, most foreign corner got hit by a severe case of plague, which Gotham officials decided to wall off and forget about. In a point I actually sort of predicted, the disease afflicting the citizens was not cholera, but some unnamed malady brought in by DC’s favorite immortal supervillain, Vandal Savage. Made perfect sense to me, given that at least one person from the previous issue was coughing up blood, which is not a symptom of cholera.

I honestly can’t say the actual symptoms of cholera are less horrifying. Or disgusting.

Catherine Wayne, wife of Alan Wayne, got captured by desperate people trapped behind the walls, before being recaptured by Vandal Savage. Alan Wayne hired Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham (among other, now dead, mercenaries) to go into the pit and save her. Vandal Savage is just being Vandal Savage.

I’m going to cut to the chase and say they get out alive. It’s hardly a spoiler. I’m saying this because I want to address what happens immediately after the whole thing is resolved: Jonah Hex leaves Gotham City. Yes, after a year and a half in publication terms, Hex finally decides he’s had all he can stand of the city, and gets out on the earliest train. And frankly, I’m surprised it took this long for his to leave.

It couldn’t last forever. Hex has, from the very start of this series, bitched and moaned about how awful Gotham city is, and how he intended to leave. Yet he stayed for what probably amounted to at least a year in-story. There’s only so long you can keep an unwilling man in a certain place, especially since nothing was barring his exit before. And really, I think we’ve exhausted the story potential from “Jonah Hex in Gotham”.

Plus, this book is called ALL STAR WESTERN. It’s about time we got back to the WESTERN part of the title. Will we still see Arkham in later issues? Maybe he’ll get subplots, I don’t know. They split up – owing to Hex despising Arkham’s weak-blooded wimpery as much as he hates the city itself – so no more buddy cop stories.

Our backup story once again ties into Stormwatch, but also reunites us with an old…friend? It’s Terrance Thirteen. For those who don’t remember, issues eleven and twelve featured Thirteen as a doctor in the 1880s who works to expose crimes that use superstition to mask their real nature. So basically he’s the entire Scooby Doo crew, but with actual forensic skills. Unfortunately for Thirteen, he differs from the Scooby Doo gang in one major respect: he lives in a world where not only do supernatural forces exist, but are verifiably extant and active.

Although that’s being a little unfair. Occasionally Scooby Doo and his friends did actually find supernatural stuff. Mostly in the movies and when crossing over with Vincent Price.

As you can imagine, despite how Thirteen does well his job of exposing the frauds, his vehement denouncement of all things mystical becomes kind of a joke when one realizes there are no shortage of supernatural stuff to disprove his world view. In fact, ALL STAR WESTERN #18 works at least once step towards forcing him to meet the supernatural. After he catches a murderer in a village of spirit mediums – while also revealing he studied under an Asian martial arts master (because why wouldn’t he?) – he’s met at his home by that Stormwatch guy from last issue. His name is Adam One, and apparently he’s a magician.

But seriously, why does every character in these backup stories need to have obligatory multi-ethnic ties? It gets to seem like you’re trying too hard, ALL STAR WESTERN.

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