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 #13
The opening pages of “East of West” #13 are an almost panel-for-panel replay of the sequence wherein the Texas Ranger blew Cheveyo’s head clean off at the end of issue #10. After a brief change of focus through issues #11-12, wherein the members of “The Chosen” were deciding on the possibility of a war among nations, this issue is the immediate fall out of the events in issue #10.
So much of this issue is dedicated to the mechanics of Cheveyo’s mysticism as a witch and the principle characters’ understanding thereof. Although Wolf pretty much explains it, beat-by-beat, I’m going to attempt to tie this issue together what we saw in issue #10 and Cheveyo’s ghostly appearances in issues #11-12. Remember that this is why Cheveyo was cast out by his people, who moved forward with technology and rejected “magic.”
Remember that Death, Wolf, and Crow met Cheveyo in issue #10 at the “Sea of Bones” – a place where we now understand the land of the dead overlaps with the land of the living. He begins the meeting in human form, but when threatened taps into the land of the dead to change into what Wolf calls his “true self” – a monster tethered between the two worlds. As a believer in “The Message”, Cheveyo was protecting the Great Beast (Death’s son) in service to the prophecy.
Ultimately, he was murdered by the Ranger, which is where issue #13 begins.
It is said that when someone dies in the “Sea of Bones”, they mark the pathway between worlds. Where once this path was controlled by a witch – the death of that witch seems to become an open pathway between worlds. Wolf and Crow see that this is going to allow forces from the other side to cross over freely, whereas they once needed to switch with a being in the waking world. Wolf, having learned some magic from his father, proves that he’s able to control these forces as they come across and manifest in his headless father’s body.
Wolf forces the spirits to abide by the “old laws” of the transfer between worlds. In exchange, he allows the spirit to inhabit Cheveyo’s lifeless body and offers his own soul upon his future passing away.
But did you catch the meaning of what the spirit said as he trudged away in Chevyo’s body? The machinations of it all are unclear to me, as is often the case with fictional “rules” in supernatural storytelling, but it appears that Cheveyo is defying the “laws” of passing in the “Sea of Bones” somehow. According to those “laws”: Those who die in the “Sea of Bones” become a conduit for the passing from the land of the dead to the waking world. As we can clearly see, the dead were still allowed to do that through Cheveyo’s body, though they were met with resistance from Wolf.
Yet, even in death, Cheveyo left some of his “soul” in the waking world somehow. This is him working against what I have been informally referring to as the “laws” of the “Sea of Bones.” I believe that “soul” is what we’ve seen running around in issue #11-12, tormenting and manipulating Bel Solomon against Cheveyo’s former people of the Endless Nation. After having his head blown off in the “Sea of Bones”, Cheveyo should not be able to haunt the waking world, if this spirit from the land of the dead is to be believed. But we’re told that Cheveyo understands the dead better than anyone, and has found a way around this somehow. Remember that in issue #10, he was referred to as a “decamorph” – perhaps the form that he was killed in (his most “human” form) had a hand in saving himself from complete submission to the “Sea of Bones”? Perhaps all of his time spent there, between worlds, gave him a superior grasp over the “laws” of the supernatural? After having been alienated from the Endless Nation for sticking to the old ways, Cheveyo is hanging on to get his revenge through that very same magic.Continued below
A partnership of convenience
The rest of the issue, taking place in the same setting, concerns a Death vs. The Ranger in a one-on-one slobberknocker. First off, let me say how much I appreciated the comic irony of these two panels, separated by a page break. Terrific visual planning, that was.
I love that the Ranger comments on how he’s only ever seen a couple of other shots as good as him – and then he gets shot in the shoulder by Death from sniper range with a pistol. You may be a great shot, Ranger, but this is Death we’re talking about. And Death will get you no matter how far away.
By the end of the brawl, the two come to something resembling an understanding, as they find out they have similar goals. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call them “bros” just yet, it looks like we’re going to get an intriguing team-up of two keen killers. It occurred to me that “East of West” was kind of doing its own take on the very common comic book trope of two heroes running into one another and having an issue-long fight until they eventually come to an understanding by the end. See: any time a Superman-meets-Batman story is retold.
Endless Nation in the endless skies
Here we saw another example of the sheer technological power of the Endless Nation, as their Borg cubes hovered ominously over the skies of the “Sea of Bones.” Remember that in issue #12, the Endless Nation told Xiaolian that she was going to get the war she asked for – and here they are. This was in response to Bel Solomon’s murder of one of the Endless Nation representatives, which was actually caused by Cheveyo’s control over him. Over the course of the last few issues, Cheveyo has proven to perhaps be the most influential character in “East of West.”