Posts Tagged ‘Four Horsemen’

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One of my new favorite series has returned to bring us Volume 4.  How well does it stand up with the greatness of its predecessors?  Let’s find out.

East of West, Volume 4: Who Wants War TPB has a slightly shorter story arc, as this volume also contains the East of West: The World one shot, which is a helpful little guide that gives a little bit of back story for each of the seven different factions involved in the main narrative.  It also provides a timeline that spans several pages that gives a brief overview of what happened to lead up to the current conflict.  Once we get past that, the story picks up immediately after the end of Volume 3, with the “Beast” and his mentor on the run following their escape.  They meet another interesting character in their travels, and the Beast is forced to learn some very difficult lessons… It’s getting harder and harder to write these without giving anything away…

Jonathan Hickman takes a different approach in this story arc and chooses to focus the narrative predominantly on one character rather than what is happening in the world at large.  We get a few glimpses here and there of a large scale war going on between two of the factions, but for the most part the focus remains more intimate, which leads me to believe that Hickman is telling us this story is not so much about the big action itself, but more the characters that manipulate and steer the action to where they want it to go.  It still works, but it makes for a slightly slower story, especially when he’s given us three volumes chock full of intrigue and backstabbing leading up to this one.  Ultimately, the story still moves, but it took a little bit of a detour in this volume to add some life to one of its secondary characters, who appears to be working his way into a much larger role.

Nick Dragotta’s artwork is just as solid as it’s always been.  No major complaints in this area.  I will point out that it’s quite interesting to see the Beast’s perception of the world, as shown to him by his mentor, vs. the way the world actually looks.  He does a great job with the juxtaposition of the two perceived “realities” … I guess you could call them that.  One other really bright spot in this issue is the killing fields that the horsemen War, Conquest, and Famine encounter early on on the volume.  The art is conjunction with some of the dialogue in that particular segment is actually kind of chilling to read and see.  It’s like seeing something out of the machine ruled future of the Terminator movies.

All in all, this volume won’t blow your mind, but it does accomplish the task of moving the main story along (just a little), while simultaneously giving us a much deeper look at a character who had kind of been on the sidelines up to this point.  It certainly was not the best of most interesting volume in the series so far, but it’s still a worthy addition to one of the best series currently on sale.

The Verdict for East of West, Volume 4: Who Wants War TPB:
4/5 – I can dig it.

Until next time,
Stay nerdy, my friends.

Upcoming reviews:
Secret Wars #4
Ultimate End #3 (Secret Wars Tie-In)
Secret Wars Journal #3
March of the Crabs, Volume 1: The Crabby Condition
Terminator: Genisys (Movie)

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Alright, so Secret Wars has had me pretty tied up lately, but I wanted to get the review for East of West, Volume 3 out before volume 4 gets released this coming Wednesday, so here it is.  Does this book hold up to the high standards set by the first two volumes?  You’re gonna have to read on to find out!

East of West, Volume 3: There Is No Us continues to tell the story of the end of days in the dystopian future of America.  As can be expected among a group of characters plotting to bring about the end of the world, there are some unsavory characters here, and again, as to be expected, they don’t all trust one another.  Betrayals and murders abound in this volume and we quickly learn that everyone involved has an ulterior motive, even the characters that one would least suspect.  The backstabbings take their toll however, as the world seems to be headed toward the brink of war.

Writer Jonathan Hickman continues to weave an impressive and epic narrative in this volume.  The story in this series just keeps getting bigger and more interesting with each issue.  Between this and his work on Marvel’s Secret Wars, it’s becoming quite apparent that he has a talent for writing massive stories with a large cast of characters.  I can’t even begin to imagine how he keeps everything straight in his mind.  However, an unfortunate downside to having such a large cast with nearly every character playing at least two sides is that the story can sometimes be confusing.  A few times in this volume, after a major event or betrayal, I found myself having to back track a few pages to try and figure out what was going on.  It wasn’t terrible, but it was a little distracting from time to time.  Aside from that minor flaw, the story kept me glued to my seat until I finished the entire volume, and I must say, the last panel surprise reveal is really something amazing and lets you know that absolutely no one in this story is to be trusted.

As with the previous two volumes, Nick Dragotta’s artwork is fitting for the story that Hickman tells.  A danger one runs in illustrating this kind of story is making the characters look too “normal” or mundane.  Fortunately Dragotta doesn’t have that problem.  His characters and layouts clearly separate the world of the story from the one we live in.  In most cases, looking at any panel on any page, you would be able to tell this is an odd, futuristic story, and it really helps to engross the reader in the world.  I wasn’t crazy about the art when I first started reading the series, but over the course of three volumes, it’s really grown on me to something that I look forward to in each new volume.

Truth be told, this volume is not my favorite of the three that are currently out, but in my opinion it’s still part of one of the best comic series on the shelves right now.  The writing is absolutely enthralling, even with the occasional confusion as to who is working for/with who, and the art works with it brilliantly to tell a marvelous story that seems to be building toward an incredibly large scale event.  I’m eagerly awaiting volume 4.

The Verdict for East of West, Volume 3: There Is No Us TPB:
I can dig it.

Until next time,
Stay nerdy, my friends.

Upcoming reviews:
Ultimate End #2 (Secret Wars Tie-In)
Ghost Racers #1 (Secret Wars Tie-In)
Weirdworld #1 (Secret Wars Tie-In)
Secret Wars: Journal #2
Wytches #1-#6
East of West, Volume 4: Who Wants War TPB
March of the Crabs, Volume 1: The Crabby Condition

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Twists, turns, and blood.  Lots of blood.  That’s about the best way I can describe the second volume of East of West without getting too far into spoiler territory.  In a genuine effort to keep this thing out of spoiler territory, this will probably be a relatively short review, but I’ll try to be as informative as I can with it.  A few new characters are introduced here, as well as some important backstory involving a few of the major factions at play in this world.

Jonathan Hickman continues to weave the story of the Horseman of Death in his search for someone very dear to him, while the other three Horsemen continue to push forth their agenda that will bring about the Apocalypse.  The mortal leaders of the seven nations work together as one with the three Horsemen, while also working independently in secret to back stab one another in an ultimate push for power.  If it sounds like there’s a lot going on here, it’s because there is, but somehow Hickman manages to walk the fine line of keeping this coherent while giving the readers just enough to keep them coming back for more.  He also gives the readers a little more background on how the nation known simply as “The Kingdom” operates and a glimpse at their leadership structure, but not quite enough to understand it completely.  I’m certain there is more to that, but like I said, Hickman seems to know just how to keep us wanting more.  Also, if one thing is sure, it seems as though all characters introduced in this series, no matter how minor they may seem, will most likely have an important purpose.  Yes, it’s going to be one of those kind of stories.

Nick Dragotta’s art is once again, otherworldly.  I very much mean that in a literal sense.  This volume introduces us to few creatures that are absolutely grotesque, but within the confines of the story, they fit in a way that’s almost, dare I say it, beautiful.  Speaking of the story, it leans much more toward action in the second volume, which seems to suit the artist a little better than a group of people standing around talking.  There’s a speed and motion to his action scenes that can be difficult to convey even for some of the more popular comic artists.  As I mentioned in my review of volume one, the narrative and the art just seem to mesh and flow fantastically together.

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:
https://kdubsgeekspot.wordpress.com/2015/04/07/review-east-of-west-volume-1-the-promise-tpb/

The Verdict for East of West, Volume 2:  We Are All One:
Must have moar!!!

Upcoming reviews:
Halo: Broken Circle (Novel)
East of West, Volume 3: There Is No Us TPB
Squarriors #2
The October Faction #1-#6

Secret Wars #1
Avengers: Age Of Ultron (Movie)

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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.