Jonathan Hickman (Writer), Nick Dragotta (Artist), Frank Martin (Colorist)
The Story: The house of Mao stands between Death and his loved one. Battle and destruction ensues.
The Review: It’s always a nice thing to see something that is quite ambitious in its ideas succeed. Not all stories told try to go big, which can be fine a lot of time, yet stories with big concepts, big ideas and big characters are always so satisfying to read when done right. God knows those kind of stories must be hard to pull off, to be able to write a big world that makes the readers want to invest their time into discovering.
This is why this series is special. This may seem a bit premature to come and say something like this after only four issues, yet the quality of the book has been consistent on every front. Hickman, Dragotta and Martin have offered us a big new world full of potential that seems larger than life and filled with potential that definitely sucks the readers in.
One of the main reason of the book’s appeal, as noted before, is the world itself. Hickman has created a really weird, yet compelling mix of sci-fi, western, political, fantastical and post-apocalyptic to create an America that is so different to the one we know. By using many historical elements from our own world and twisting it into a new version, Hickman makes a connection with the readers, creating both a sense of expectation that he can crush every second and he opens up new possibilities to surprise us at every corner.
He does this very effectively in this issue with some information on the house of Mao, of Mao Tse-Tung’s fame. Here, Hickman asks a simple question and extrapolate on it in a very effective way: what if Mao had exiled himself to America? This, of course, opens up tons of other questions, some that would be very interesting to follow upon. The aforementioned house of Mao, in this issue, is key to the action and to the story, which gives us some interesting insight in how some parts of the world function.
Another part which makes the title so fascinating in a lot of ways are the characters. You can have a great world and a great story, yet you need a good point-of-view, a compelling lead or at least someone to follow that is interesting. Here, we have many choices, from Death itself, to his brethren, Xiaolian, his beloved or Chamberlain, all characters that have big personalities, goals and depth just waiting for us readers to discover. Their dialogue, their interaction, their actions, everything is big, poetic or just plain captivating, which is always so satisfying to read. There are some titles that people follow for a specific character or two, yet here everyone is just interesting enough for us to want to know more about them.
What’s new, however and is a big plus specifically for this issue, would be the action. While the other issues had not been very big on violence and such likeness, here we are given plenty of it. However, it is not just violence or action for its own sake, but rather one full of meaning, as much as it is brutal. We are, of course, following most of Death’s action, which are pretty similar in nature to his name. Huge, bombastic and absolutely delightful to see, the action is one full of consequences, one that may very well build on what will come next.
However, as much as I praise the world, the characters, the action and everything else, I believe the very best part is due to Nick Dragotta. The art here is simply spectacular, with a beautiful flow, a sense of epic scope and some stunningly beautiful design for everything. There is a specific page with 18 panels that is just absurd in its quality, with the action going from smaller panel to panel in a way that is free-flowing, large, yet all connect in a satisfying way. He makes the action feels so big and alluring to see, the expressions and emotions intense, yet also subtle and nuanced enough in some scenes. It’s a beautiful book that connect very well with the story.
Frank Martin, for his part, really does his job well. He has a predominance over certain colors here, notably white, orange, black and grey in some scenes, yet he mixes and mesh them up in ways that render everything clean. He uses subtle colorization that really do bring the more serious elements out of the script.
The Conclusion: East of West has been a beautiful book and this issue is no different, with more of the great world-building, the interesting characters and the superb art. This is a stunning example of originality and creativity and I strongly urge anyone wishing to read a good story to pick this up.
-Hugo Robberts Larivière