Welcome back to This American Death, Multiversity’s monthly annotations column on Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta’s “East of West” from Image Comics. I’ll be taking you through each issue of and explaining references, tossing out theories, and keeping track of some of the major events while giving them context. Since I won’t catch nearly everything the book has to offer and have been wrong plenty of times in my life, I’d love to see your thoughts and theories pop up in the comments section below.
Special thanks to the incomparable Tim Daniel for the great banner we’ve been using!
Keep in mind that we’ll be spoiling every issue, because I’m going to assume you’ve already read the issues. Why else would you be reading an annotations column on “East of West”?
We’re back with Death this month – hers on the warpath looking for his offspring and generally getting more and more pissed off. And you don’t want to piss off Death – you really don’t.
East of West #10
“You ask me, the light’s winning”
In the wake of the True Detective finale, I found this little piece in “East of West” serendipitous. Really, this moment is completely unrelated, but it did catch my eye, conceptually. (Also worth-noting is the fact that a similar sentiment was made in Alan Moore’s “Top Ten” series, something Bleeding Cool pointed out earlier this week)
Actually, in “East of West”, the hypothesis is almost the opposite of the one in True Detective. Spoliers for a ponderous philosophical quote, but not any plot stuff, from True Detective: Matthew McConaughey’s character offers that once there was only darkness in the world, but that the stars that dot the sky is the light coming through. Though the darkness is more overwhelming, he sees that light as a winning effort, having come from nothing. Obviously the speech he makes makes that idea sound way cooler and deeper than I just did spelling it out.
Here, the Beast makes the case for black as his favorite “color” because black endures where all other colors depend on wavelength. Black is not a color, but the absence of light, so at the end of everything – black will still be there. It’s a glass-half-full situation: is the light winning because it breaks through the darkness? Or will darkness always end up winning because it is inherently eternal? What does it say about the Beast that he sees the world in this way? The Beast is not being raised to be “evil” or to think negatively, in my opinion. Nor do I think this viewpoint is inherently negative. Fatalistic, maybe. I think Hickman is making the case that it is purely nature.
I thought it was cool that two such diametrically opposed ideals would show up in the same week, in such high-minded works of popular fiction.
Gaze into the bullet of “Dredd”
“East of West’s” Judge Dredd takes it to the first of “the chosen” in a rather dramatic killshot at the end of the issue. He’s doing it in the name of God, too, which tells us something about his character. Hickman has been playing with the idea of “man-playing-god” for as long as he’s been writing comic books. It’s there in his “Avengers” books, it’s definitely there in “Manhattan Projects”, but it’s probably most overt in “East of West”, where he uses narration like this to drive his point home.
The Chosen play god as they control the fate of the 7 Nations, while this assassin sees his own path of judgement and justice as a godly thing. The Four Horsemen could quite literally be considered “gods” of a certain kind, forcing their will on all they come upon.
I have no idea what this word means. Using context clues, I assume it’s the name of the creature the father character embodies, but I’m not sure. I don’t recognize it – nor any of its root words – and could not find anything to help me figure it out. I think Hickman might have made it up?Continued below
I’m a bad columnist. Sorry.
Following the traveling eyeball
Major kudos to Jamie Yost, who commented on my last column and caught the fact that the bartender from the first few issues had a detached eye. I had forgotten this fact, but it’s super relevant, because I am certain that it is an eye from the Oracle.
The bartender wears a heavy-duty metal patch over his right eye out of necessity. If he did not, the eye would get away, as we already see it has a mind of its own. It’s so sentient it can even talk, which is an extremely upsetting idea. In fact, that metal patch doesn’t even do a great job holding that little guy back, as we saw it burst from the bartender’s eye cavity in shock when the Three Horsemen visited in issue #3.
Remember that this bartender was also a “pathfinder” – someone who has the resources to pinpoint and locate things due to a substantial worldwide network of constant data collection. He was also an agent in the group that found the Four Horsemen (when Death was still among them) and destroyed them the first time around – and he had the eye then. Perhaps the eye is a key item in his work as a “pathfinder”, but whether it is or not there’s some interesting history here. History between the bartender and the oracle the lines of which have not yet been explicitly drawn. I really think Jamie unlocked this one for us.
Below is an image of the eye separate from the bartender’s head from Issue #3.