What does a hard-drinking, hard-living old west bounty hunter do when he meets a brightly-colored superhero from the far flung future? The same thing he always does, apparently.
Jonah Hex, considering all he's seen, been through, and done, isn't really a guy who gets fazed so easily. Life happens, and he takes it as it comes and just deals with it. It's the way he's always been, and that trend continues in All-Star Western #19, in which Hex comes across time-traveling superhero Booster Gold, once thought blinked out of existence due to a kiss shared by Wonder Woman and Superman in the present day DC Universe. The issue starts off in media res, with Booster, who is apparently a sheriff, stumbles across Jonah Hex panning for gold right next to a couple of murdered bodies. Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have a lot of fun in dropping the reader into a high-concept of a situation, and fill in the gaps along the way. The cleverly-executed nonlinear structure fills in the gaps along the way, and in doing so, give some hint to a vast frontier of events that Jonah is just waiting to deal with. All-Star Western is a comic that's as much about American expansion as it is about the adventures of one lone bounty hunter, and Palmiotti and Gray have consistently balanced those elements successfully. Here, we learn that Hex is on the trail of a particularly vicious band of marauders, the type of gang of weirdos that would slaughter a whole town just to rob a bank (and does). It's a world of wanton bloodshed, a place where violence is pretty often the first and only answer. This frontier savagery is an element of the time period that Booster just can't deal with, and Hex can almost smell that on him (the way Booster is dressed doesn't help at all).
Moritat's art on All-Star Western #19 jibes precisely with what it's looked like throughout this entire series so far. His drawing is effortlessly smooth, and makes for an easy reading experience. He and letterer Rob Leigh seem to be a little out of synch, though, in some spots. Moritat's layouts don't always lend themselves to easy word balloon placements, leading to some cluttered panels and even one balloon that seems to be floating out on its own, unconnected to the conversation going on around it. It's a minor problem, one that doesn't completely detract from the look of the book overall. Colorist Andre Szymanowicz makes an interesting choice by forgoing the expected muted, earthy palette for a rendered, more vibrant look. It's a pleasant curveball that gives the book a slick appearance, while still maintaining the integrity of the period setting.
So we know that Booster Gold still has stuff to do somewhere and somewhen in the DC universe. Here, he decides to hitch his ride to Jonah Hex' wagon in trying to track down the murderous Clem Hootkins Gang. What's so smart about the way the plot of this issue, and by extension the rest of the impending storyarc, is set up is that this strictly remains Jonah Hex' story. Booster Gold is the type of presence in this setting that could conceivably take over a book, but under the pens of Palmiotti and Gray, he's basically just another weirdo that Jonah has to deal with as a grim lone wanderer. It just goes to show you that no matter what you throw at Jonah Hex, he'll just go forth and deal with it. Still, the question hangs in the air: what the hell is Booster Gold doing there? It'll be fun to find out. It sets up a great character dynamic between Hex and Booster; character-work being something Palmiotti and Gray are really strong at.
Also contained in All-Star Western #19 is a backup story featuring The Master Gunfighter, from the early days of Stormwatch. The story is a short-but-sweet action tale that pits the Gunfighter against vampires and werewolves. It's a busy story, which establishes the Gunfighter's identity, history, and modus operandi before getting to the werewolf-willing. The artwork, by Staz Johnson and Rob Schwager, is gritty, but also kinetic, featuring a lot of wild panel layouts and werewolf blood. It's a great shot of adrenaline before you close the issue, so you'll want to go about your day energized and ready to fight the supernatural by firelight.