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East of West #7: Are You an Agent of the End Times?

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Rain Partier

Postby LOLtron » Fri Nov 08, 2013 7:12 pm

East of West #7: Are You an Agent of the End Times?

Have you become what the message demands?

Once again I get the amazing task of getting to review my current favorite comic creator’s work. I’ve stated it before, but I’m a bit of a Jonathan Hickman fan boy, and if you can deal with it long enough to read this review, then I commend you. That being said, East of West #7 has come out and I am excited to delve further into the expansive world Hickman has created.

This issue takes the liberty of finally explaining a little more of the backstory of this whole infernal world. We are treated to flashbacks of the horsemen in another apocalypse/world changing time on the same planet it seems. Death and the rest of the horsemen are decreeing their righteous and unholy judgment upon the weak religious sheep of the world. During this slaughter, there are some lines of dialogue that caught me that I truly loved that said, “They can’t help themselves…these humans. They want something to worship, something to believe in…and if they can’t find it they’ll manufacture it. It’s what they do…” It resonates a great deal how we as humans have gone through life since our own mysterious creation, creating one belief after another, and for what? (Scientology anyone?) These lines of dialogue are gently dispersed between panels of elegant death and chaos from the horsemen, killing all the fanatically religious in their path. It would make any religious cult mass suicide look like a vacation in paradise. So, with that in mind, less about philosophical religious ideals and back to my original point about this issue.

This issue interweaves between a shared past memory of the unified horsemen in all their unholy glory and the present where 2 separate stories are taking place, one with Death separated, ostracized and hunted by the rest of the reborn horsemen and one with the horsemen who are still seeking the end of times and the end of death. But the real question is, can the horsemen truly function or inflict their deceptive plans without him? Death has been searching for his son, long thought to have been killed, and answers to his mysterious whereabouts. He is consumed by this task to appease his love and to get her back. As we saw in a previous issue, Death’s son is alive and being kept in secret and what looks like experimented on, or being kept possibly as a failsafe, or an even worse case scenario, a weapon against Death. All of these moments have just been building onto the mystery of the maniacal end scenario the horsemen with the “help” of their human puppets, have orchestrated with ease. Where this leads to is unknown, but I like to think all roads lead to death.

I really enjoyed how much this issue built onto the history of the badlands and this whole world Hickman has built, it’s futuristic and gritty western rolled up into one sci-fi apocalyptic menagerie of mother fucking awesome. With this only being the 7th issue of the series I can only imagine what Hickman has planned and how long this series will run for. Hickman’s best stuff has always come from giving him the extensive creative freedom to build and write his stories, I can only imagine how much MORE awesome Red Mass for Mars and the rest of his early work could have been if he was able to write it for 10, 20 or even 50 issues.

But alas, we have Hickman’s current work to entrance our senses, and, frankly, he’s been doing a damn good job these past 2 years (as well as his early work) of keeping comics fresh and exciting, East of West is no exception.

The art on this comic is a previous collaborator of Hickman’s, Nick Dragotta, who did some fantastic work with him on FF and Fantastic Four. Not to talk too much about Fantastic Four, but I loved Dragotta’s rendition of Black Bolt during the series.

With East of West, seeing Dragotta give visual life to all these futuristic machinations can be quite overwhelming sometimes. The scenery and buildings always feel monolithic and oppressive while the vast landscapes of desert seem void and endless. The whole world feels very spread apart and like nothing is close together. The characters are all visually unique and also colored in such a way to differentiate. The horsemen especially are Red, Green and Blue, while Death is a ghastly white visage of doom and despair.

In this issue there is an amazing full page of the horsemen in action, butchering “innocents” off page. Some panels of interest were the endless spiral staircase and an opening page panel where Death and the rest of the horsemen are entrenched upon these mechanical behemoth looking horses and are ready to slaughter everyone (see the banner image). Its truly a sight. Dragotta has done a lot of boundary pushing work with this comic and I always look forward to what he brings to every issue. That’s all for now…Pilgrims.

Written or Contributed by Wildcard

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Staff Writer

Postby Punchy » Sat Nov 09, 2013 4:36 pm

Much like how last issue explained who and what the Texas Rangers are in this strange universe, with this issue, Jonathan Hickman is slowly revealing more and more about the fascinating back-story, and it’s great to see. I love this setting and all of it’s mysteries, but finding out some answers, especially to questions I wasn’t even asking is even better.

I’ll get the short scene featuring Death out of the way with first, as he and his two companions are still searching for his son. They come to a lake, which he wakes up and talks to. I’m guessing the sea-spirits are real in the world of East Of West? I dunno? Death says he’s here to see ‘The Lady’ whoever that is, and he and his gang head through a secret door and down a massive spiral staircase. Whilst I am glad that Hickman is delving into a lot of back-story at the moment, I do think he could probably do a better job at keeping the main plot going alongside it, Death didn’t even show up in the last issue, and here, he has 4 pages.

But really, when the back-story is so good, it’s a small complaint. The real meat of this issue is the explanation of who Ezra Orion is, and what his relationship is with the Horsemen. Ezra is the member of the council who called up the tentacle monster to attack Bel Solomon with, but now it’s merged with him and is causing him great pain. The Horseman are there with him, and trying to work out what to do with him. Hickman flashes back to tell us that, for a long time, Pilgrims would head to the site of the Armistice, to pray and worship, But every time they came, they would mysteriously disappear. What made them disappear was the Horsemen, who would kill them all brutally. In the aftermath of one of these massacres, one of the Horsemen (the blue one, I’m not sure what her name is) finds a baby, and rather than kill it, she adopts it and raises it, teaching it about the Message.

This baby is of course, Ezra Orion. Throughout the issue, at various points, Ezra is asked by his mother ‘are you an agent of the end times? Are you what the message demands?’ and each time he says no, he can do more. It is Ezra who built the large citadel at Armistice, with the purpose of stopping Pilgrims from coming to the site. I wonder why it’s so important for the Horsemen to keep people away from the Armistice site? That’s an intriguing mystery for sure, and probably a central one. Back in the present, Ezra is begging his mother (who is now a small boy, which is… weird) to chop his arm off and remove the lovecraftian horror on his arm, even finally saying that ‘yes’ to his mother’s question. But she refuses, telling him he’ll wear it until he dies, and that being bonded to a monster like this was always his destiny, which is fucked up.

This was a very enjoyable, creepy issue that did a fantastic job at making a character like Orion, who had previously just been a background player, into someone tragic, and fascinating. This is a huge world, and with each issue, Hickman peels back another layer and makes it even more interesting. Nick Dragotta’s art was once again beautiful, nobody does better landscapes than him a the moment, and I feel I should also give high praise to Frank Martin’s colours, particularly in the flashbacks. This is just good-looking comic, not much else to say.

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