By: Jonathan Hickman (Writer), Nick Dragotta (Artist), Frank Martin (Colorist)
The Story: Turns out Death fell in love with a woman, one that is still alive and that he wants to see again. However, the Chinese might have something to say about that…
The Review: There are several types of reading experiences. There are some that are direct in their approach to things, giving uncomplicated, yet inventive and exciting concepts that fuels the imagination in ways that are stimulating, like many superheroes comics (though not all). There are also some that are much more complicated and intricate in their revelation of information, giving us a few hints and letting their world and characters slowly suck you in as you get invested in the bigger questions that the book leaves for the reader to figure out.
East of West, in many ways, is close to the very definition of the latter type. While there are many more ways to interpret a reading experience, this book is one that rewards those that pay attention and allow for speculation for the readers. How did things turn out this way? Why is Death in love with this woman? What kind of powers does he actually possess? What his is agenda and for the matter what is the agenda of his siblings? Those are but a few questions that Hickman leaves for us readers to ponder on as we read and discover this world he has created and fleshed out with three issues so far.
While this may not seem like the most rewarding book in the way I describe it, it is absolutely so as there are just enough answers given to the readers for him to want to find out more. What’s quite smart about this book is the fact that it’s throughout the story and the action that you find out many of the mysteries of this world built by Hickman. Through the voyage of Death, we find out more about him, the other riders of the Apocalypse and just how this might turn out in this interesting and inventive world. It is made for people to get invested in and for people to want to see the long game in which Jonathan Hickman excels.
If there’s an area where he can have trouble, however, it’s in enabling the dialogue to reflect the character that is speaking. It is a problem that he can sometime have in his current stint on Avengers, whereas his character seems to speak mainly in exposition rather than plainly, which makes the book a little bit cold sometimes. Here, though, the book does not have any problem as the dialogue is simply beautiful, reaching poetic heights that balance both characterization and exposition in a mix that feels satisfying while feeding us information about the many situations about the series and its characters.
As much as the mystery and the dialogue are worth exploring and enjoying, it is the plot that is the best part so far. What we do find out in this issue does answer some questions that had been put in place since the inception of the series, which gives a more defined direction for the book in general, one that is full of potential in the long-term. Just like the two witches following Death discuss about, love is what this is all about as Death moves along to find his beloved in New Shanghai. Even though it is hinted that this is not the only objective that Death has, his actions toward that particular goal makes for some terrific scenes as it builds up toward something that I am very sure will be very memorable.
As memorable as they will be, however, I have to say that I find that the focus on the actions of Death and the effect they have to be a rather smart way to handle such a series. Considering what he represents, what kind of actions he can do and what kind of power he possess, it is pretty interesting to see it all through other characters. It does not remove him from the central position he occupies in the plot, as it even magnifies the fact that his character is of utmost importance, which does add to the myth that grows around him constantly both for the various characters and the readers themselves.
Of course, as great as the plot, the characters and the mysteries are a blast to follow, it is all held together by Nick Dragotta. As an artist, he follows the scope of Hickman’s vision with equally big panels and designs that works in collaboration with the script itself. His sci-fi western vibe creates some amazing contrasts in design that only amplify each element. The flying bike does give some leeway to the rock and the dust of this strange version of America, as does many of the other technology Dragotta designed.
As for the colorization, it is equally a great work of contrast, with the more nuanced, yet sober colorization of several background elements with the more fleshed out characters and their clothes. It is specifically that comparison between those elements that make the colors stand out, which only heighten the work Dragotta did on this book.
The Conclusion: East of West is a superb series that only gets better with each issue, with this one not being any exception thanks to superb dialogue, an engaging world and tons of questions that can make people want to invest their time in finding out the details of this world Hickman has created.
Hugo Robberts Larivière