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!
Don’t forget that this article is full of spoilers, so tread lightly and read your copy of the issue before reading.
East of West #12
“East of West” #11 was an issue almost entirely devoted to internal conflicts simmering within much of the principle cast. Issue #12, by contrast, was like a powder keg exploding as a result of all that conflict. Hickman and Dragotta make this a “bottle issue”, of sorts, taking place almost entirely within the table discussion between the various leaders of the 7 Nations. The “talking head” nature of the issue amplified the climax, where a formal roundtable is rendered a bloody battleground in a short span of time.
In direct opposition:
The council may be taking place at a perfectly round table, but Dragotta’s use of perspective here reveals who the most key players are here. It’s Xiaolian vs. Antonia LeVay. Forgive me for crawling up my own butt a little bit and reading too much into this, but Doma Lux is placed sitting calmly in the forefront of LeVay in this scene. As we saw in the opening stinger sequence, Doma Lux is the one behind the spark that sets off the proverbial “powder keg” in this issue in the first place.
Back to that opening stinger:
We’ve seen Doma Lux doing LeVay’s dirty work in the past. She’s LeVay’s “Chief of Staff” and basically keeps her abreast of the status of the Union and even acts as a sounding board for advice, of sorts. By dirty work, I mean she has Doma Lux murder the families of adolescent dissidents when they make demonstrations against her government. That kind of dirty. We saw them bring a loyal guest along last issue: a one mister Peter Graves. No, not the guy from Airplane, but we do get to see a grown man naked. I’m guessing that Graves ended up on the wrong side of what he thought was a sexual transaction, at least in some way. He’s naked, after all, and certainly doesn’t mind licking her deceptively dainty little boot. Lux pushes his loyalty to the limits as she basically turns him into a bomb in advance of the big 7 Nations conference. They’ll be using this as a bargaining chip to try to gain some favor against Xiaolian.
The Not Chosen One:
Remember that Xiaolian is one of the leaders of a Nation who is not also one of the “Chosen”, while most others at this table are. Xiaolian called the meeting to order to declare war on the chosen, chiefly, the Union. She called LeVay a “liar and a schemer” in issue #11, and seeks to end her reign.
I want to call attention to the very unique reaction of the leaders of the other nations:
Freeman, of the Kingdom, chooses to wait before making any decisions on alliances or participation. It is said that this is the way things operate under the King’s current rule.
Bel Solomon is being possessed by some ethereal form of Cheveyo – the magical member of The Nation, who was cast out in an earlier issue. Remember that a tentacled “piece” or “version” of him attacked Bel Solomon several issues ago and has been driving him mad ever since. So this is what he’s been up to all this time. Cheveyo is warning Solomon that none of these people at the table are his allies.
The Nation is the most pragmatic and scientifically-minded of the bunch. They cast out the magical Cheveyo in favor of technological advancement, something which he did not stand for. I find this to be one of the most fascinating aspects of “East of West” yet. It is said by the current leader of The Nation himself that they are the most advanced nation, because they keep their bloodlines pure, stay unified, and wisely maximize their resources. That certainly seems to be true, at least in part, though they also present themselves as particularly boastful.Continued below
Based on the odds presented by The Nation, the other leaders begin to stack up against the PRA’s threat of war. The President of the Confederacy is not one of the Chosen, and has no idea what Xiaolian is talking about. They want to maintain peace above all else, even while Xiaolian sees a treacherous leader in LeVay. And as if everything wasn’t stacking up against Xiaolian in the first place – the bomb goes off.
Three murders, three murderers:
We know who the one murderer is: Doma Lux, via a bomb in poor Graves’ stomach.
The second murderer employed a blade to stab The President of the Confederacy to death. Obviously, this was done in the chaos of the explosive event, and both are blamed on Xiaolian, though she committed neither. My money is on Chamberlain. He’s sitting next to the president, after all, and admits that he “understands treachery in politics quite well.” What does Archibald stand to gain from doing this? Well, power in the Confederacy. And isn’t that enough? Just a page earlier, we saw the president and Chamberlain in a minor dispute over how to handle Xiaolian’s declaration of war. It’s also true that the president was not aware of the secret group that formed to conspire to bring about The Message, while Chamberlain is very much a part of that group.
But while The Nation nerds compute the odds of all of this stuff happening because of Xiaolian, Cheveyo takes hold of Solomon and shoots out one of the members of The Nation. Of course, they don’t know Cheveyo is there. They only see facts and data, and Cheveyo hides behind magic.
After the smoke clears:
So what are we left with?
Well, for one, we’re left with a really cool single page spread at the end that contrasts nicely with the beginning of the issue.
But in an effort to sort out all the players, with my interpretation of things:
– The Nation computes that the murders are based in lies and deceit, meaning they likely could not have come from Xiaolian. They are, however, pretty pissed at Solomon for a murder that they don’t know was actually caused by Cheveyo – the member they’ve cast out. They’re out for blood now.
– LeVay, Lux, and the Union have a murder to blame against Xiaolian in the death of their own Peter Graves, which we know was actually deception on Doma Lux’s part. They’ll happily go to war against the PRA, as long as they’ve garnered allies.
– I believe Chamberlain killed the president in the midst of the chaos to gain power within the Confederacy, but I could easily be wrong. I don’t see another key player that it could have been, unless Lux snuck over there too, real quick, and stabbed him. But Chamberlain has certainly been shown to be a deceiver himself, and even puts a lampshade on it by mention his own familiarity with treachery.
– The Kingdom, as they tend to do, stands at bay and doesn’t act on anything.
– It’s hard to say if Bel Solomon is done for just yet, though he seems pretty spent. Cheveyo just put him at odds with The Nation.
– Xiaolian gets the war she came for, but I don’t think she expected it would be this much of a chaotic mess.
What else is going on in all of this chaos? Anything I failed to touch on? Nothing on any of the Horsemen in this issue – not even Death.