Comics as a medium are often accused of being formulaic. Stories and themes are rehashed and repurposed, the overarching character beats remaining largely the same. There’s definitely a grain of truth to that belief, and that’s what makes Jonathan Hickman’s East of West so incredible. The story he is weaving is so complex, so ambitious, and so new that it serves as a breath of fresh air in a crowded market. Whether or not he can maintain said vision remains to be seen, but if issue #3 is any indication the fun is just getting started.
Fresh off the cliffhanger of last issue, Hickman continues to build his world with the introduction of the Mao family, leaders of the People’s Republic and one of the seven members of The Chosen. The main focus is on the two Mao sisters, one of which is the region’s Security Minister, the other a prisoner by her sisters’ hand (and Death’s wife!). A brief bit of back story explains the enmity between the two, but the initial cause of their feud is as of yet unexplained. While the siblings remain steadfast in their differences, their father and his army prepare for Death’s imminent arrival. As Death leaves a swath of bodies in his wake, the hellacious trio of War, Famine, and Conquest continue toward their own ends, with Death squarely in the cross hairs.
Though less head-smashingly violent than last issue, the book still features plenty of great moments impeccably rendered by artist Nick Dragotta. He and colorist Frank Martin again amaze with every panel, their sense of scope and vision truly a joy to behold. Dragotta’s pencils are so damn meticulous, yet never feel overdone, with each character and set piece given the perfect amount of detail. When paired with Martin’s vibrant colors and subtle hues, the art is elevated beyond the comic norm to a place of genuine beauty. Seriously, this is one pretty book.
Though only three issues in, Hickman has created a wildly imaginative world featuring remarkably nuanced characters. The rate at which he’s unveiling the story is well paced and never feels forced, and each new discovery or revelation feels earned and hastens the desire for more. East of West is top notch in literally every regard, and you’re doing yourself a disservice if you aren’t already reading it. So strap on your six shooter, hop on your (mechanical) horse, and grab this week’s featured pick, East of West #3.