Comic Book Review: "All-Star Western #9"
The first major DC Comics crossover, “Night of the Owls”, travels back to the Wild West days of yore for a tie-in story in All-Star Western #9. “Night Of The Owls: Vengeance In The Big Easy”, written by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, with art by Moritat, Patrick Scherberger, and Dan Green provides the late 19th century adventures of Jonah Hex, Dr. Amadeus Arkham, Nighthawk (Hannibal Hawkes), and Cinnamon (Katherine Manser) as they battle the terrorist group known as the August 7; Jonah and the good doctor have a fleeting encounter with an owl-cloaked woman in their search for Thurston Moody. This issue also shares the views of the elite, upper-class members of Gotham City society (Mr. Bennett, Mr. Wayne and Mr. Martin) at the time. The backup story showcases the early adventures Nighthawk and Cinnamon.
“Vengeance In The Big Easy”, begins with a man rowing the tied-up Jonah Hex and Dr. Amadeus Arkham out into the New Orleans harbor along with some explosives. Jonah is wearing a magical necklace that belongs to Nighthawk; it gives him super strength. He breaks his ropes and easily kills his captor.
This was a part of Hex’s plan: to get the August 7, who have infiltrated the New Orleans Police Department, he had Arkham leak fake information to get them out in the open (all in one place) and let Cinnamon and Nighthawk take them down. Getting captured, tied up, and rowed out to the immigrant ship, Sea Queen (the intended terrorist target), was his way of foiling the plot.
Nighthawk and Cinnamon do their part and take down the August 7 terrorists. They attack them in the street and with a little assistance by Hex, capture all of them. One of the 7 claims that he has a dozen lawyers to defend them all in court; Katherine respond by kicking his teeth out. Hex returns the magical necklace to Hawkes and asks about Thurston Moody.
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Hours later, on the other side of town, Thurston Moody is running scared through the streets. A female Talon (an assassin for The Court of Owls) attacks him. He pleads for his life: he’s kept his mouth shut. He even left Gotham City to maintain his silence and please the Court—Jonah Hex and Dr. Arkham are to blame. She tells him that he is still guilty because he hired Hex and set him “on the path”.
As he screams for help, Hex and Arkham arrive on the scene. The Talon quickly kills Moody and flees; jumping out of the way of Jonah Hex’s gunfire. Hex says she’s an acrobat; she reminds him of his Chinese wife with all the jumping around. He finds one of the Talon’s owl daggers. Arkham wants more dirty details about his wife; Hex punches him in the face.
Three weeks later, in Gotham City, at Wayne Casino, Mr. Bennett asks the other men at the card table, “What has man been fighting each other for since time began?” Alan Wayne replies that it is land. Bennett agrees and says that if you own the land you own control of has it is used. Wayne says that it’s why he wants a Botanical Garden: to preserve the North Reservoir. Bennett says that owning land allows you to own who lives on it. Mr. Martin agrees that having too many people in one place is bad for Gotham City.
Tallulah Black enters the card room. She wants revenge against Bennett for killing her family and claiming the family land as his own. Alan Wayne informs she’ll have to leave; the room is for men only. She doesn’t see any men: just a bunch of “daisies and miscreants in fancy suits”.
She pulls her gun; a red-caped and masked man crashes through the window (Bennett’s personal body guard), disarms her and throws her out of the window. He tells her to leave town while she can. Outside, Jonah Hex asks Tallulah what trouble she’s gotten herself into now.
“The King Of Carnival” tells the backup story of the lovebirds Nighthawk and Cinnamon. In the St. Louis cemetery the two lovers fight the Robertson gang. They anticipate each other’s moves and this keeps their love alive. They capture one of the gang and hang him over a pool of gators. He says he’ll do whatever they want. During Mardi Gras, Robertson is being carried through the streets like a king resplendent in robes and crown; the captured gang member runs up and warns him about Nighthawk and Cinnamon’s plot to kill him. From a distance, Hannibal and Katherine see that their message has been delivered and they wait for the fun to start. The Robertson gang gathers outside his mansion, ready for a fight. Suddenly, the house explodes. The gang runs away, leaving Robertson alone. He yells out to Cinnamon and Nighthawk as the two come out of the woods. She tells him that he killed her father, the sheriff, and destroyed her life. Robertson claims that doing so made her what she is: a hero. She tells him that he doesn’t get to take credit for her life. She would love to kill him, but she won’t. Hannibal and Katherine agreed not to kill him. Nighthawk tells Robertson that they’ve been collecting evident against him for years: for murder and every other crime he’s done or has ordered. He’s going to jail for the rest of his life. As Cinnamon walks away, Robertson grabs Hawkes’ gun and is about to shot her. Katherine quickly throws her father’s sheriffs badge at him, slitting his throat and killing him. Hannibal protests her actions; he could have dealt with him and she knew it. She says it was in self-defense and she’s not sorry. Hawkes asks what she wants to do now that she’s finished off Robertson. She says they can settle down in New Orleans and continue to fight crime as they ride off into the night.
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The two stories in this issue (“Vengeance” and “Carnival”) are classic western adventures reminiscent of the 1950’s and 60’s. One story is a tale of the corruption of lawmen, and gambling, wealthy landowners bent on taking anything they want, while treating anyone of lesser social stature as vermin to be exterminated. The second story is a western love tale with all that Wild West excitement (Katherine and Hannibal a’ la Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok). It’s a shame that the “Night Of The Owls” part of this issue is very small; it makes one wonder if it was shoehorned in at the last minute. The other issues that are part of the “Owls” story-arc give a detailed backstory for their Talon and their pre-“retirement” adventures for the Court of Owls, However; this issue has even less and it takes place at the time. This one is a “Blink and You’ll Miss It” appearance. Given that the cover art suggests a larger part for the Talon and the title boasts it to be part of the “Night of the Owls” story, it’s a letdown. It would have been great if the Court of Owls and the Talon had a stronger appearance given the possibilities for the past connections of the Court and the history of Gotham City. Now, having levied the grievances of the missed opportunity, this is an entreating issue for anyone who loves tales of the Wild West. It is a well written slice of Americana filled to the brim with all that chaotic lawlessness of the late 19th century.