EAST OF WEST #2
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Nick Dragotta
Release Date: April 24, 2013
There are a lot of dystopian, post-apocalyptic stories out right now. The end of the world is a popular, interesting topic. East of West differentiates itself as a PRE-Apocalypse story. There is a plan for the End, if the Horsemen can ever get out of the stable. Issue #2 pushes us further into the dark of the time right before the end, while also bringing parts of this deep and detailed world to light.
The basics: Death killed the President of (what’s left of) the United States. It was intended as a message for both his siblings, the other 3 Horsemen, and the cabal of leaders (7 total) who, guided by a prophecy called “The Message,” actively seek to bring about the end of everything. These people took something from Death a while ago, and he’s out for revenge. One of the leaders seems to disagree with the others, and possibly betrays them.
I’m new to Jonathan Hickman’s writing style, and it’s taking me time to adjust to it. This issue is more straightforward than last, with no jumps backwards or forwards in time. However, we still don’t have all the pieces of the story yet. I’m really enjoying getting to know the world and the characters via immersion, rather than just having everything narrated directly to me. If this style doesn’t work for you, I can already tell this book is going to be phenomenal in trade. You may have an easier go of it reading 5-6 issues at a time. I definitely had to give Issue 1 another reread before I read this one.
Hickman’s Death is a slicker, more powerful version of The Saint of Killers, from Garth Ennis’s Preacher. I love Westerns to the “hard man of few words” protagonist is an instant, bone-deep hook for me. Only 2 issues in and there’s plenty of characterization for him as well as the supporting cast. The new President positively screams Bellatrix LeStrange, with a dash of Cruella de Vil. The Chief of Staff of the Black Towers (essentially president of the South) reminds me a bit of Crowley from Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens; he’s gotten to like life on Earth and isn’t keen to see it end, even though it’s supposed to be his duty to make sure it does.
The art is, front to back, fantastic. Nick Dragotta’s faces are expressive and clean. You can feel the malice in the Pale Rider’s eyes. The stark western landscapes of Armistice and the Dead Lands are dramatically beautiful, and pairs perfectly with the incredibly detailed mega-cities that also occupy this broken America.
What sticks out about this story in particular is that even the protagonist isn’t primarily concerned with stopping the end of the world. He’s more concerned with revenge. The Message has taken root so deeply in the leadership and government structures of this world that there seems to be no stopping the end. And how ironic is it for the world’s only hope for continued existence to rest with Death himself? As he tells his companions, “I am constant, or I am nothing.” Whether it’s death for Some or for All, there will be a period at the end of the sentence. I cannot wait until next month when I get to turn the page.