Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Comic Review: East of West Volume One

    A little Alternate History never hurt nobody.  The first volume of East of West starts with an introduction to the world, a world where the States did not come back together after the Civil War, where things got mighty weird, mighty fast.  Then it throws us into the fire.  The Three Horsemen have risen…Wait, what?  Oh, yeah.  Death has started his solo career, and he’s got his own thing going.  We’re introduced to various ideas, both of the alternate world, which has a generally Western vibe, and to the overall plot.  It seems Conquest, Famine, and War are itching to bring it all down, but Death doesn’t want to play their game.  There’s some kind of cult devoted to the Horsemen that infects the halls of power.  And in what would have been California, in New Shanghai, someone waits for Death.  Someone who might just change everything.

    While steeped in the flavor of classic Westerns and Alternate History Science Fiction, there’s something operatic about this comic.  By the time it gets rolling, the orgiastic violence and sweeping speechifying is something to behold.  Death is a cool character, and his two companions Crow and Wolf are fun.  But it’s when Xiaolian comes into her own that things get interesting.  I think that’s the point where I started to really, really dig this series.  Now, I can’t wait to find out what Death & Co. get up to, what kind of hell Xiaolian is going to dish out.  And just what’s going on with all these conspiratorial cultists.

    The series is exciting.  A page turner.  I’ve been reading a lot of comics for various reasons lately, and reading this reminds me just how great a page turner can be.  As I’m reading it, I can also see some parallels between this series and Pretty Deadly (and to a degree, Saga).  But where I think Pretty Deadly gets everything wrong, this series gets it all right.  When the moments of extreme drama happen, it’s earned your emotional investment, not simply told you that you should feel something.  When Death and Xiaolian show their metal, and you start to understand what you’re reading, I felt giddy like when I listen to a swelling piece of Beethoven or Wagner.  And it looks nice.  The art is pretty darned good, and the panel work excellent (though, I'm a sucker for semi-contained, structured panels).  I can’t wait to see what happens next, and recommend you join me in my journey.  Heck, Volume One is only 9.99, so give it a try.

East of West Volume One
Author: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Nick Dragotta
Publisher: Image Comics
ISBN: 978-1-60706-770-2

-Matthew J. Constantine

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