East of West Vol.1 Review
By: Rob Neil Gruszecki
Atop a mountain of corpses, War, Famine and Conquest relish in their genocidal destruction in the search of their counterpart. A voice calls out in search of mercy. Its struggle for breath is applauded in a twisted adoration of its fighting spirit.
This is the World
In New Shanghai, the House of Mao is under siege by Death itself as a Lotus, the death and resurrection of love, waits in chains fastened by her own family. The great wall is about to come down along with a dark legacy.
It’s Not the One We Were Supposed to Have
There is a schism in the leagues of the Chosen. The orchestration of the apocalypse is underway and the Message is beginning to become clear. Prophesies fulfilled, a few of the willing gather to watch the world burn.
But it’s the One We Made
In the pit of an electronic zoo, a child of the one who conquered death is heralded as the Beast of the Apocalypse. Spinning forever, an empty boy awaits his turn as a pawn in a game championed by the bloodthirsty and ruthless. The prisoner’s genealogy, one that reinvented Death, is a powerful and frightening concept.
You Have Earned What is Coming To You
Comprising the first five chapters in a story of the World’s End, volume one of Hickman and Dragotta’s East of West is an epic saga chronicling the quest of a horseman of the apocalypse, the woman he loves, their impossible child, a secret Chosen Illuminati and those within who seek its downfall, reanimated vessels of the remaining horseman and the ending of a dream. Deeply complex and labyrinthine in its mythology, the creator-owned series from image comics is a frightening and fully realized dystopian future mashing Cormac McCarthy with Isaac Asimov. Dark and heavy, the series burns slowly but explodes into a fourth chapter drowned in violence and a fifth answering many of the series’ initially poised questions. Shining light on all the cryptic prophesies from the Message and tying together the significance and appearance of characters allows for more emotional attachment with the universe and its players.
My review of the first issue (also available on the Alpha Comics site) gave it high praise and I hold to that. Although the pace of the book may have begun to lag with issues two and three it was merely a case of a significantly dense story that is difficult to keep track of monthly and not read in immediate succession. I still maintain that East of West is one of the best new titles of 2013 (alongside many of its Image siblings such as Satellite Sam & Lazarus) and reading the first arc in collected format simply reinforces this. The story is far easier to comprehend, characters far more fleshed out and plot obviously more coherently displayed when devoured in larger bites, which makes East of West almost better to read in trade. Not to say that it is necessarily ‘written for’ trade format or that the single issues don’t deliver excellent, concise comics, just that certain titles read better collected. Titles like Morning Glories, Change, The Filth or 100 Bullets are just a style of book that have so many interwoven stories running simultaneously, characters and enormous worlds that only a few pages a month isn’t enough to help me recall what had happened in the last issue or get a real taste of the mystery, foreshadowing, or significant plot beats. East of West is a book that has much more impact when revealed on a larger scale as it is such a gigantic concept, setting and theme. Also it should be mentioned that Hickman’s intensely metaphoric and poetic script style is one that demands a lot of attention and when it is interrupted for a month at a time it’s harder to get the weight of a lot of dialogue or narrative. He shares this with writers like Grant Morrison or Peter Milligan who at times write what seems like incomprehensible or confusing comics when in reality their books are intense and intricate, warranting (and deserving) focus and contemplation during and after a read through.
The first volume of East of West from the creative team of Jonathan Hickman (God is Dead, Manhattan Projects, Secret, Avengers, Infinity) and Nick Dragotta (FF, X-Statix, Howtoons) features the first five issues of the series alone, without any extra content however with an incredible ten dollar price point (thanks Image) and sincerely some of the best writing and artwork coming out of comics today, this is a trade paperback you will definitely want in your collection and a series you will not want to miss out on.
Rob Neil Gruszecki is a writer, musician, podcaster and Wednesday Warrior
Dear Ghost Factory. What Should I Read? Comic Reviews & Weekly Comics Round-Up Podcast at www.Geekstampede.com