Publisher/Year: Image, 2016
Artist: Nick Dragotta
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Collects: East of West #20-24
I was one of the few fans out there that was late to the East of West party. The series was already three graphic novels deep by the time I picked up my first trade and it wasn’t long before I caught up with the rest of the comic loving world.
Hickman has built as series that rivals George R.R. Martin in political intrigue and violence, the difference being the heavy Sci-Fi bend to the tale that Hickman tells. If there was ever a decent alternative to Game of Thrones then East of West would be it. There is layer upon layer of betrayal and conspiracy. Every character that we meet is nothing more than a pawn on a larger chess board to be moved around at Hickman’s whim, and at times the reader themselves become a pawn in the game, lead to throw favor to one character only to find that their own loyalty is misplaced and better served to be saved for another camp of characters. It would take five thousand words to properly summarize a work of this scope, and let’s face it, if you’re not reading this title this is not the volume to jump in. That would be the equivalent of doing a cannonball in the middle of a half-finished swim meet. It accomplishes nothing and you end up looking like an ass for trying. New readers need to seek out volume one and start at the beginning.
As for readers who are familiar with the world that Hickman has built through the previous 19 issues, you’re getting more of the same, but now the stakes seem higher as war looms on the horizon for all the nations and characters involved. We watch as political leaders try to grasp at the fading strands of peace before the unstoppable ending starts; you can guess at their success.
There are a handful of high points in this graphic novel, a fair share of them belong to the beautiful artwork of Nick Dragotta, who does not fail to impress with every panel. His unique style has been a cornerstone for the series and maintains its high quality in this volume.
As for the plot, there are also a handful of great moments. I’ll give a short description of each here but the over-all plot is far too extensive to cover in one small review. I suggest that you read the book for yourself if you’re experienced with this series.
- Watching the transformation of Doma was thrilling. Going from the right hand of the President to being thrown to the wolves of the Endless Nation, we watch Hickman peel layer after layer off of this character to reveal a woman whose loyalty is to only to the one she loves, placing herself firmly in the machinations of two major camps, playing both sides against the middle, in the hopes of surviving long enough to see her lover once more.
- The leader of the Endless Nation takes a trip to the deadlands. A place where if his feet touch the soil he will be pulled to the underworld. His fix to this problem is not only clever but humorous.
- The assassination attempt on Xiaolian, leader of the House of Mao, is one of the high points of action not only in this volume, but also the series. There are shades of Frank Miller in the artwork, with just enough nods to Miller’s work Ronin to make an old fan like me smile.