You should fear what the future holds.
It always feels so long between issues of this series. Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta’s apocalyptic western epic has been taking the slow burn these past several issues. It has been more focused on world building as well as developing the characters of the “Chosen,” people in key positions of power in the nations of America. But this issue brings the story of Death, the closest character we have to a “protagonist,” back to the forefront.
When we last left Death, he is in the middle of an exchange with an Oracle in an attempt to find the location of his missing son. The price, well his eye, in perhaps the most gruesome panel I probably will see all year. The Oracle gives Death a location, of a person who knows the location of his son. Speaking of Death’s son, the “Beast,” we get to learn a bit more about him as well as the other Three Horsemen’s thoughts on him.
I have to say, I feel there is quite a nihilistic feel to this book. I guess it would come to be expected when a great deal of the central characters are trying to orchestrate the Apocalypse. The feeling that this world is rotten and doesn’t even deserve to continue on. However, Jonathan Hickman gently sprinkles in traces of humanity and love in Death’s attempts to save someone he cares for as well as the relationship between Wolf and his father, who we also meet in this issue. I have seen complaints about this series that it lacks character, but I respectfully disagree. It is much more subtle; things left unsaid are more important at times than what is actually said.
Nick Dragotta and Frank Martin’s attention to detail is astonishing. They are able to bring desolate and barren wastelands to life while bringing a horror to the more futuristic technologies such as the inside of the Tower of Armistice and the creepiest children ever in the Three Horsemen. When the fighting begins, the two create a smooth dynamic (plus, they get quadruple points for shaping a panel like a sound effect, which I always love).
In summary, East of West has been my favorite Image comic almost since its debut. I love it more than Saga, Zero and Invincible. It is a tale of a world nearing the edge of the abyss and even among its very inhuman cast, humanity can be found. I am already pre-ordering the second collection (which contains issues 6-10) and I highly recommend you catch up on the series as well.