Wednesday, 11 April 2012

All Star Western #7 - The Arena

 He was a hero to some. A villain to others. He had no friends, but he did have two companions. One was death itself, the other was the acrid smell of gunsmoke. Wherever he rode people spoke his name in whispers Jonah Hex.
When a comic starts with a monologue like that you know your in for a roller coaster of a ride, and this book doesn’t disappoint.

Hex and Amadeus Arkham have arrive in New Orleans trying to track down Thurston Moody, the ring leader from Child Labor story line that ran in the previous issues.
In the first 3 pages we get to see a Paper Mill blown up, Hex ride in to the burning building and send 3 people out on his horse. Then just for good measure he manages to stagger out carrying a a young girl in his arms whilst on fire, if he thought New Orleans was going to be quite compared to Gotham then he has to think again.

Hex is close to death after going into the burning mill but his life is saved by Hannibal Hawkes and Kate Manser, they use some kind of mystic medallion which they place around his neck to save his life (that explains the 1970’s then).
Hawkes & Kate who seem to have a past connection with Hex persuade him to help them find the group responsible for the mill explosion, now I wasn’t aware who Hawkes & Kate were but they do have a DC history (see below for an explanation)

After begrudgingly agreeing to help, Hex sets out to the docks where the rich watch immigrants fight it out in a kind of gladiatorial arena. Its during one of the fights that we meet arena champion Z.C. Branke,a young woman who looks as if she has been dressed by a 15 year old boy whose testosterone has got the better of him. Or she could just dress that way to put off her male opponents, either way it works as she proves to be quite the handful (no pun intended).

Whilst Hex is at the Arena Hawkes & Kate change to their alter egos Nighthawk & Cinnamon, think a supped up Lone Ranger and female Tonto and you wont be too far out.
When there motivations are questioned by Arkham, Cinnamon replies  ''You telling me Gotham City doesn't have any masked vigilantes'', ''certainly not, and I don't believe we will have the need for one'' replies Arkham. The geek in me punched the air.
Back at the Arena and Hex has been talked (didn’t take a lot) into fighting in the arena, where he faces the biggest man mountain you will ever meet. The outcome is predictable but still enjoyable, and the final panel sets up the story nicely for next issue.
The cover art by Ladronn is superb as is in the interior art by Moritat (artists must not have first names), 7 issues in and this is still a solid book and well worth picking up. As a certain podcaster says a top of the stack book, and you cant get higher than that.
The back up story starts with Nighthawk & Cinnamon in a tight situation in a mining town, but then flashes back several years to tell the origin of Hawkes which looks interesting although a bit contrived. However, I am looking forward to reading the rest of his story, and I'm hopeful that Cinnamon's origin will play into it also.

I did a bit of checking (Goggle) into Nighthawk & Cinnamon history, and it seems that they were early incarnations of Hawkman & Hawkwoman in the old DCU.
I don’t know if this origin is still intact in the new 52, only time will tell.

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