I actually read this one about a month ago (and it was released over a year ago), but in the interest of holding your attention until Secret Wars in May, I thought it might be worth it to actually write up a full review now.  It’s also relevant because the writer, Jonathan Hickman, is the architect for the Secret Wars event.

Simply put, East of West is sci-fi, but also part Western, all all rolled into a story about the end days.  It’s the story of the apocalypse as told by writer Jonathan Hickman (Avengers, New Avengers) and artist Nick Dragotta (The Losers, FF).  Except, it’s not the same apocalypse you’ve always heard or read about.  The four Horsemen have returned in the form of children, but there’s a problem.  War, Famine, and Conquest quickly realize that the Horseman of Death is missing.  So they set out on a quest to find and kill him because they feel as though they’ve been betrayed.  We get brief, early glimpses of a remembered confrontation between the four, but not enough to really grasp a motive for anyone’s actions until later in the story.

The other half of what makes East of West so interesting, is the setting.  As the story goes, about mid-way through the American Civil War, there was a power shift in the native tribes of the mid-west, which caused the Union to have a war on two fronts.  This extended the war into the early years of the 20th century, when all sides witnessed the “fire in the sky” and took it as a sign from God that they should stop fighting.  Rather than having one united America, there are now seven different nations where we would normally expect one to be, creating an alternate history for this dystopian future to grow out of.

I’m generally on the fence when it comes to Hickman’s writing, as his work in Marvel’s Ultimate line was decent, but not really groundbreaking, but he definitely seems to get it right with this story.  The narrative jumps around a little bit trying to follow all of the major players, while at the same time sliding back and forth through the history of the world to illustrate their motivations.  It sounds confusing, but it works, for the most part.  The true motives of Death and the other three Horsemen become apparent as you get further into this volume, and by the end of the book, it’s very clear why their hatred for the other is so visceral.  The only persons in the story that don’t get a deeper characterization are the human leaders of the seven nations.  Their goal becomes clear relatively early on, but the motivation to achieve that particular outcome is a little hazy.  I feel like more time could have been spent there, but since this is merely the first story arc in an ongoing series, I’ll hold out hope that those points are cleared up in future issues.

Nick Dragotta’s art works well with the story it gets coupled to.  It’s just strange enough to feel “off” and not what you’d expect from a future drawn out of our own timeline, but given the history of the world in the story, it seems to make sense.  It’s a very angular style, full of hard edges and gigantic, monolithic buildings.  Characters tend to be tall and thin, with long, lanky limbs, not the typical over-muscled superheroes one gets used to in comics.  The thinner characters just seem to fit into the desolate landscape in a way that a typical “hero type” never could.

In short, I would highly recommend this story to anyone looking for something different.  This definitely has “different” covered.  It’s also good for those who like fiction worlds with a lot of history and back story between the characters.  In a sense, you could say it starts in the middle.  There’s enough for you to follow along, but not quite as much as it would take to have you fully understand, so you’re always on the edge of your seat, trying to guess at what’s coming next.

Since I’m a pretty big Simpsons fan, I’m going to base my rating system on Homer’s.

East of West, Volume 1: The Promise gets 8 Thumbs Up.

Until next time,

Stay nerdy, my friends.

  1. […] I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’m hooked on this series now.  If you’re not already reading this, what are you waiting for?  Get on board, because this looks like it’s only going to get better from here.  Also, read volume one, so I don’t have to worry so much about spoilers 😛  You can find the review for Volume 1: The Promise, right here: […]


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