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

The Story: Solomon becomes the target of the council, as he himself decides to seek the help of someone else to deal with them.

The Review: It’s a great time to be a Hickman fan. His event and his general Marvel work is going strongly without seeming to be losing steam for the time being and this goes the same for most of his indie work. With Manhattan Projects still going on and Secret supposedly continuing soon, his star is continually on the rise, yet it seems it never is enough as Hickman continues his ongoing projects.

One of his latest is East of West, an ongoing story featuring an alternate take on American history with a splintered U.S.A in three factions. Continuing the ambitious style of storytelling Hickman is known for, there are a lot of elements put in place with each issue as the world-building is never completely done with. However, does this issue continue to use this new setting in inventive ways or did the concept run a bit fry after explaining its premise in the first five issues?

It is my delight to affirm that the world-building still continues and find ways to continue being utterly fascinating. Putting Death and the other horsemen away for this issue, Hickman instead focus on the politics and some of the history of this different America he has created to great success. Focusing instead on Solomon and Chamberlain, Hickman starts yet another subplot as the treachery and the motivations between some of its characters become apparent and mysterious at the same time.

Most of the effect is the result of those characters, who become as mysterious and easy to invest in as this strange new world. With the treacherous, yet utterly entertaining Chamberlain and the noble yet completely lost Solomon being the focus of the first part of this issue as there is a problem within the council. I will not spoil what happens, but suffice to say that if Chamberlain had fans for his roguish manners, those fans shall be utterly pleased by the evolution and the definition of his personality.

Another character that is heavily focused in this issue is a new one, a ranger from Texas. With that character comes a lot of particularly interesting back-story, serving as an hyperbole on how the judicial system may turn out if the corruption comes to a crux. Not only does it deepen the world and allow for some particularly memorable scene featuring a character that I do hope will become important*, but he also propels the narrative forward by making sure the focus of the series won’t just be on Death. Setting newer stuff down the road, Hickman proves once more that he is an ambitious writer as he try to fill in the history of this fictional world while he uses it for the future of this title.

There are still some minor problems with this issue, though, as one of the scene feature something that almost beg to have a deeper analysis on, yet is pushed away for bigger theatrics. While readers are usually very fond of big moments and huge symbolism, the judge scene is perhaps a bit too much. While the point is particularly explicit, the methods are less-than-subtle which does not serve the narrative very much. It provides excitement, yet does not make much logical sense in terms of exaggeration. If the judges had so much power, for how long did they possess such abilities to proceed in legal matters? When did they start getting so transparent? There is a possibility that this is something Hickman may touch upon in the future of this title, but the lack of information on this subject do seem to be a tad annoying. It’s nothing major, but it could have been handled in a better manner, considering the way Hickman is usually able to mix poetic symbolism with big ideas.

Still, despite this minor annoyance, there is a lot to like here, with Nick Dragotta being one of the major reasons. His panelling, his characters, his expressions, the action and how he convey the big idea Hickman throws at the reader is simply brilliant. There is a dynamic and fluid pacing that flows within the panels that never let the visuals get dull for the readers, which allow the ambitious ideas to resonate throughout the pages. The action, when shown, is brutal and memorable, as it really put down the bizarre violence that is at the heart of this series. Over all, it’s brilliant work by Dragotta.

However, it would be an immense disservice to the issue not to mention Frank Martin who really bring the disparate elements together thanks to his color work. While his trinity of color technique is much less used in this issue, there are still a lot of his techniques that makes this worthy of praise. Borrowing a bit from Manhattan Projects, Martin Really play with the contrast between cold and warm colors, using colors like orange and red against several shades of blue in a lot of pages, accentuating the violence or the more important aspects throughout the issue. It’s a simple technique, yet one that Martin uses very effectively in this issue, proving that he is a colorist of great talent.

The Conclusion
: Another brilliant issue that showcase the world Hickman has built while propelling the narrative forward. New ideas, new characters and some delightful art from Nick Dragotta and Frank Martin manage to continue the winning streak of issues that constitutes East of West.

Grade: A-

Hugo Robberts Larivière

*A Texas Ranger that acted as the law by killing corrupt judges while wearing their mask and a cowboy hat? It’s like both an homage and an anti Judge Dredd at the same time. How can I not be pumped for such a character to be featured?