Have you heard “The Message”? Because “The Message” is that, somehow, Jonathan Hickman has at least five books on the market from at least two different publishers and he’s still blowing other writers out of the water. With “East Of West”, he and Nick Dragotta look to blow the doors off of all other sci-fi comics with some well placed emotional conflict.
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Illustrated by Nick Dragotta
“THE LOST WORDS”
Hear the good word, hear the MESSAGE. In this issue of East of West we find out the contents of the apocrypha that predicts the end of the world. Or does it? The most exciting new book of the year, EAST OF WEST continues in: “THE LOST WORDS.”
Did you ever watch through the Matrix trilogy and when you come out the other side you know you enjoyed the broad strokes of the story, but you also know you have nowhere near the religious or philosophical knowledge to breakdown what the smaller moments actually mean? That’s the relationship I’ve been having with Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta’s “East Of West”. The story, in broad strokes, is engaging and thought-provoking, especially for comics, and is based on a great concept, but I am very aware that the research Hickman and Dragotta put into the book means the exact meaning of the nuances escapes me. However, that, by no means, makes “East Of West” a bad book. In fact, what started as an interesting look at an alternate history and how it reflects on our society has only gotten better over the course of it’s five issues.
One of the complaints I had going into “East Of West” with its first issues was that there didn’t seem to be much of clear focus in terms of who to follow. It introduced so many different elements so fast that it almost sacrificed an anchor for the reader to grasp. Thankfully, Hickman has solved that problem by focusing more and more on the character of Death. Over the last couple of issues, elements have been introduced to make Death the reader’s anchor by giving him more humanising elements like realising his wife wasn’t quite as dead as he thought she was. Here, it becomes even more clear that, at least for the time being, Death is our protagonist as he takes on the role of the estranged husband trying to win back the trust of his wife. This is what makes “East Of West” so much stronger as it continues as it gives the reader a clear, human emotional connection to the story through Death’s stuggles with love. And, because of that, the reader can then engage more with the alternate history the series has created.
Not only has Hickman’s writing become more clear and engaging, but so has Nick Dragotta’s art on the series. Dragotta’s renderings of Death and his wife really bring the emotional weight to Hickman’s writings as we see the contrast between the two now and when they were first together thanks to flashbacks. It’s a simple scene that makes up the first major section of the issue and it is simply heartbreaking. It may be a simple dialogue scene, but Dragotta’s constant use of close-ups show the tension bubbling behind their calm demeanour only for what Death’s reveal to let it all ignite. Dragotta is joined here by Frank Martin on colors and it is his colors that make all the difference in the world. The colors for the sequences set in the present give a realised, almost three dimensional feel to the characters; especially to Death, a character who exists only in white. Then, with the flashbacks, the panels take on a lower contrast look, as if we are viewing the past through the haze of memory. It’s the little things that really make the book work.
Overall, there are very few things I could bring myself to complain about over this issue. Coming off some action-heavy issues dealing with the siege of New Shanghai, the series needed a breather and it’s here in the form of the first real confrontation between Death and his wife. It’s simple and it’s heartbreaking and it’s emotional and it’s everything series needed to draw readers even deeper into this alternate world that Hickman and Dragotta have created. The issue is a love story in the middle of a global conflict and Hickman slows down just enough on his information train to give us a look into the mind of Death and why he fights and what he fights for. It sets up his emotional stakes in the coming, supposedly imminent war and it gives us a reason to care going forward because, knowing Hickman, it’s likely that nothing will be the same after this.Continued below
Final Verdict: 8.7 – Definite buy. This series is only getting stronger and stronger.