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”?
With that said, let’s look at issue #3. This was the most straightforward entry so far. It also may be the most pleasing read yet, as there is nothing intentionally obtuse about it. There’s little in the way of references or vagueness. Instead, Hickman gives us some converging plot points, fills out the science fiction & fantasy aspects of the world a considerable amount, ruminates on love for a bit (we’ll get to that later), and continues to display a keen way of words and a knack for writing a western drawl.
East of West #3
Page 3, Panel 4:
We find that Hu, the representative of the PRA seen in the secret meetings of “The Chosen” Seven Nation leaders, is the sister of the woman identified as Death’s wife at the end of the last issue. At one time, she had come to exact “The Message” on her sister, with brutal force. Here, Hu comes to retrieve her.
This puts a kink in my theory about Death’s wife being pregnant, at least for the moment. It seems that Death finding two things he’s looking for when he thinks it will only be one will be his wife and her sister, who he’d be looking to kill.
Page 13, Panel 2:
Famine shows off an ability to detect the history in the Pathfinder’s tavern. She conjures the images of Death and his two witch companions as proof that the ones they seek were at the bar earlier and that Pathfinder has some explaining to do.
Page 14, Panel 5:
The Pathfinder inadvertently reveals the sentient weirdo eye he’s hidden behind the patch. Because this wandering eye apparently rats-out at the drop of a hat, Pathfinder gives the horsemen (and the readers) a greater insight into what his role in the world is. He is a lead figure in a worldwide network of “trackers”, who can find and track virtually anything. It’s no wonder his bar seems to see so much trouble.
Page 18, Panel 3:
I opened the article by saying that issue #3 didn’t contain much to dissect or explain, so I thought it would be a nice time to focus on a couple of themes that Hickman looks to be exploring in “East of West.” He’s called this series, at least in part, a love story. Death’s witches have a very literal discussion about love right in the middle of the issue. Hickman highlights the way that love changes a person, makes them better, and drives them to the ends of the Earth. He’s absolutely right about those things, but it will be interesting to learn more about what kind of “man” Death really is. And just in case anyone’s really not paying attention, the Wolf speaks of love to the Crow using a metaphor about a wolf loving a crow despite the incompatible ecologies. Awww.
Page 20, Panel 4:
We’ve already talked about the idea of “divisions” and/or “antitheses” and how Hickman and Dragotta have pointed toward these ideas with simple visual cues. Here, the two sisters of the Mao clan represent two different extremes in a world on the precipice of apocalypse. Hu is “all-in” on enacting “The Message” and making it rain unholy hell on the Earth. She’s a member of “The Chosen” secret society of hell-bringers, yet she is also shown as blind to certain truths in the world, as well a loss of compassion with her intense focus set on “The Message.” Xiaolian, on the other hand, is treated as the delicate flower. Whether she’ll prove to be one or not remains to be seen (I’m betting not entirely, if she’s courted Death), but for now she’s been tucked away from the world. As Hu disrupts the natural order through a prophecy, Xiaolian is also said to have defied it with her heart. Her relationship with Death has no doubt complicated things for many different parties. Two daughters, two different ends of the spectrum – confounding their poor father and his kingdom.
But this is also a indication of a kind of “love” that exists in the world. The kind of love that gets a man to make deals with the devil to keep a daughter safe from what’s coming for everybody else, whether it’s an apocalyptic end, or that damned radical, longhaired boyfriend with the dual pistols.