Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Review - East of West #1

The Civil War was such a violent time in the history of the US. The concept of slavery was so divisive that it ripped apart a country still in its infancy of independence; an instance where the things that divide us are stronger than the things that unite us. It's a feeling that resonates equally as strong (and is the tagline) in East of West #1 from Image Comics.

The title is written by Jonathan Hickman, with art by Nick Dragotta, colors by Frank Martin and letters by Rus Wooton.

Dark times have descended upon the United States. Well, not the US you know and love, but a twisted, sci-fi, dystopian western landscape where lawlessness seems to run rampant. Roaming the landscape is a mysterious, pale gunman, accompanied by the Wolf and the Crow. The trio are extremely proficient at making both an entrance and an exit, with the pale cowboy seeking his target. Their journey occurs in parallel with the arrival of three of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, seeking to find the fourth and then destroy the world afterwards.

Saying Hickman isn't good at his craft would be a grave, grave mistake. East of West #1 is paced exceptionally well, slowly peeling away the story while revealing more layers as it gets further along. The trio of travelers are terrifying, relying on little speech and tons of violence to make their statement. They epitomize the concept that actions speak louder than words. The fact that the three "remaining" members of the Four Horsemen are seeking out the fourth is actually quite unique and feels fresh.

East of West feels a lot like it could inhabit the same universe as Saga. Hickman relies on a sense of wonderment and world-building that serves Brian K. Vaughan so well in his series. The world the characters inhabit here feels alive and organic, really helping the reader to feel even more immersed in its travails. The plot leads the reader along at the pace it wants to go, revealing information when needed and doing so in a manner that keeps you looking forward to the next page.

Dragotta's art is gorgeous. He relies on clean, defined lines to showcase the action. It feels extremely polished and no panel is wasted. Even panels such as a man's eye being ripped out with an eye patch attached are detailed and beautiful. Martin's colors are equally up to the task of the art, painting a desolate landscape for the characters to move through. When the Horsemen are on the page, things look bleak, while the trio of cowboys bring a pale and morbid brightness to the pages.

Series set in some sort of dystopia can often fall into cliches, but fortunately, East of West #1 doesn't do that. The dialogue is concise and it depicts a full world somehow made more vibrant by dark and foreboding art. The premise is fascinating and the possibility that someone can stop the Four Horsemen will be fun to read along with. The first issue is a really strong debut, giving readers a glimpse into a world that may not be that far off when it's all said and done.

East of West #1 is available March 27.


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