Jonathan Hickman (Writer), Nick Dragotta (Artist), Frank Martin (Colorist)

The Story: Death and Xiaolian have a lot to discuss about; now that a multitude of people have died in trying to make sure they did not meet.

The Review: Mixing genres, for writers and the like, can be a pretty challenging notion. Making sure that none of the elements clashes against each other, negating what makes them work is something that sounds difficult, as a lot of writers tend to stick to a single genre or to experiment with others without completely leaving behind what they know. For readers, it creates worlds and concepts that can make them invest their time toward the book. For creators, though, it must be an accomplishment to see that nothing stumbles against each other as the world they built continues to work.

This very notion is what makes East of West a particularly unique and satisfying book. Combining the tropes and other such elements of western, politics, science-fiction, romance, post-apocalyptic in its narrative in a successful manner, Hickman made a world that we may think we can completely understand, yet continues to go in directions and adding new stuff to surprise us. Characters, ideas and action become then something meaningful as we never know what to anticipate from this strange version of America that is presented to us.

In this issue, following the bloodbath of the previous one, we finally get the meeting between Death and his loved one, Xiaolian, the new ruler of the house of Mao. Right from the very beginning of their conversation, Hickman goes toward a route that is unexpected, as the baggage that both characters carry within themselves gives the dialogue a whole new flavour– combining traditional lover’s quarrel, like an old couple that have marital problems, with the prophecy of the message as it written for us to read. Mixing the prophetic, the metaphysic and the down-to-Earth situation between those two lovers create a scene that create a slow build toward a very potent revelation, one that propels this book toward a new direction that is full of potential for the book itself. The poesy that a warrior and Death ceased to be such things in order to love make for a touching irony, yet the scene they do share after such an act is filled with revelations and some neat moments.

There are, of course, some other neat moments as the conversation between those two characters shares the spotlight between Chamberlain, the man who conversed with the other three horsemen and survived, Bel Solomon, another character that is still a mystery to the readers as they speak about something closely related to the other scene. The way the switch between scenes goes, the pacing is kept, as information add up to the other for the readers to enjoy. The way Solomon and Chamberlain talks speak volume about their characters, creating a mystique around them that makes them incredibly interesting. Their dialogue is just as poetic at times when compared to the situation between Death and Xiaolian, which keeps a consistency of tone within the book that does wonder for the general atmosphere.

Speaking of atmosphere, a lot of it is the result of Nick Dragotta handling of the artistic duties. The way he lets the background and simple emotions speak volume about the tone is great to look at, which he does in multiple instances in this issue. Chinese architecture, high technology, environments straight from westerns are incorporated in the visuals, which sells even more the world constructed by Hickman and himself. While there is little action or little experimental approach to action like in the last issue, Dragotta still succeeds in adding his own voice to the script as his imagery truly adds something more to the dialogue and story. There are many instances in which we could have no dialogue and the story flow would not be halted at all thanks to his art, which makes it spectacular in term of visual storytelling.

A lot of this effect is also achieved with the help of Frank Martin, who really heightens some of the bigger panels with his coloring. In many pages, Martin seems to use a certain technique that uses a trinity of colors put to the forefront, with colors like white, orange and black always being pushed to the front with scenes featuring Death in the present day. As the story switch with each character, we get a new trinity of important colors that set for a different tone, a different atmosphere that never clash with the rest so much as it progress with it. It’s beautiful stuff and it really adds up to a very gorgeous book.

The Conclusion: While it certainly isn’t the issue filled with the most action, the gravitas around the many revelation and the characters make for a splendid read, thanks to the beautiful dialogue and the stunning work from both Dragotta and Martin.

Grade: A-

-Hugo Robberts Larivière