Eye-popping art, and heart-wrenching story prove that “East of West,” is a force to be reckoned with.
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Illustrated by Nick Dragotta
Death’s reign of terror over THOSE WHO RULE continues, as the forces of the END TIMES continue to work to bring about the Apocalypse. It’s the END OF THE WORLD: Someone dies, someone lives, and someone falls in love.
In “East of West” #3 Hickman and Dragotta examine a new part of the America they have created. New Shanghai, a settlement occupied by Chinese immigrants led by Moa V, provides a stunning new backdrop for the complex epic. Dragotta’s work takes on an organic grace in the gardens of the city. Rendering delicate subjects amid chaos and artillery, he condenses his range of skills into singularly beautiful panels. In issue #3 Dragotta continues to shine. The characters’ expression communicate deep story and realistic, recognizable emotions. Action sequences read so well that they create a physical sensation of discomfort and anxiety. Even tasked with creating child-villains, Dragotta finds a way to make them genuinely eerie, and prevents the characters from appearing silly. These kids are the kind of creepy that crawls under your skin and stays with you.
Frank Martin’s color work is on par with the best in the industry. His work makes scenes and characters seem to possess their own luminosity, glowing from within. His sense of contrast, evident in the pairing of blacks and whites as well as his consistent use of complimentary colors within panels, makes the palette of this book play like music. Martin does the best ‘orange’ in comic books; the particular hue he uses throughout the book is almost a character itself.
As for Hickman’s writing, we are offered a chance to see a new side of the apocalyptic scrivener in “East of West,” #3. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how Hickman does romance. Integrating death and mayhem does nothing to hinder Hickman’s description of what it means to be in love. Instead the contrast of destruction and hopelessness create an opportunity for a mid-issue speech on the subject of romantic love to highlight the transcendence of the experience of being in love, and the power and resonance that experience retains in the face of anything, even the end of the world. The beautiful speech is one part country and western love song, and one part philosophical rhetoric. These words alone are worth your three dollars and fifty cents.
The creative team powering, “East of West,” brings together something old, something new, something borrowed and something mind-blowing into a perfect marriage of innovative storytelling. We should unpack this metaphor, let’s start at the beginning, with something old. The American West comes to life in this rich imagining of a world that went wrong sometime around the time of the civil war. Entrenched in the conventions of a world we only know through stories and black and white photographs, the Old West feeling of the book grounds “East of West,” in the world of legends.
The chaos and lawlessness of this period of history spring forward to the future, offering content that is decidedly something new. Seamlessly integrating futuristic technology with a cowboys and indians brand of anarchy, “East of West,” is like nothing we have read before. While the past is integral to the tone of the book, the sense of nostalgia is completely absent. The world constructed by Hickman and Dragotta is presented as real, here, and now. We are not looking back, but gazing instead through a window marked, ‘what if,’ making the events of the series feel more urgent and relevant.
Hickman and Dragotta seem to be inspired by both history and religious texts. The world of this book revolves around something borrowed. Borrowing elements from American history, and rewriting that history to reflect a more flawed human path enables the team to show us the darkness we all harbor. In their alternate America, the team showcases their knowledge of the cultures that came together to form what we know as the American melting pot of today. In this book those cultures are separated and kept in isolation, as they are dissected and explored through the narrative. The diversity of the isolated cultures creates a beautiful palette of ever-changing peoples and settings that will give the series a chance to grow as it continues. The allusions to Christian texts give the “East of West,” a sense of familiarity. From the fertile grounds of the Christian end times prophecy springs a bold new imagining of the apocalypse. The creative team is able to find and articulate the horror of this prophecy, while steering their story into uncharted territory.Continued below
As for something mind-blowing? The skill required to pilot a machine like “East of West,” is considerable. There are so many moving parts, so many possible routes to choose from, so many stops that could be made. So far, the team has been making all the right decisions, and keeping all the pieces of the story in working order. The fact that this story works at all is hard to comprehend, the fact that it works so well is … well, mind-blowing. Juggling rich themes and various plot threads this issue of “East of West,” continues in the bold direction that makes it stand out from the crowd.
Final Verdict: 9.0, Set your bearings to “East of West,” and don’t look back.