I recently checked out a batch of graphic novels in search of a few must-reads. I’m a collector by nature, and I enjoy having a series (or twelve) to follow. East of West could be counted among the batch, but honestly, I picked it up only because it was available. I didn’t particularly like the summary I read online, nor did Volume One’s cover particularly catch my interest. However, I heard good things, so I thought, “Why not?”
I’m hooked. I had zero expectations for this book, but I knew it hooked me within the first five pages.
Here’s the premise: The Four Horsemen have been reborn to ravage mankind yet again, only there’s one problem—there’s only three of them. The fourth, Death, did not die along their side to require a rebirth, and the other three don’t like that. Though reborn as children, they already plot Death’s decimation.
Know, though, that this is not happening in our version of reality. In East of West, America is divided among seven nations due to events dating back to 1908. There is also a prevailing religious fervor within the population referred to as “The Message.” The time is “now,” but “now” seems to be a mixture of the old west and the far future.
We soon meet Death, and Death seeks revenge. He travels with two witches, the Wolf and the Crow. The three of them are a formidable posse, and also three of the most visually interesting characters in comic books. Why does Death seek revenge? You’ll have to read the book to find out, but it involves his former Horsemen, a romance, and a child.
Nick Dragotta provides exceptional artwork you have to see to believe. Let’s be honest: the graphic novel covers are rather boring. Trust me, though, the interior artwork is exquisite. Dragotta makes futuristic cities and barren desert landscapes equally interesting. But it’s the sense of movement that sets Dragotta apart. His battle scenes are clean, violent, and frenetic. He knows just the right angles, just the right times to open the panel up or draw it in tight. It’s a delight to look upon.
You know I’m a color guy, so we can’t leave out Frank Martin. Death, the Wolf, and the Crow are almost entirely black or white, but even so, Martin makes them unbelievably dynamic. In the hands of the less talented, they would look washed out or bleed into the background, but Martin knows how to make them pop.
Hickman has built a complicated world comprised of diverse mythology, cutthroat politics, maniacal religion, insane science fiction, all-out action, and some chilling horror. Somehow he blends it all together seamlessly, and the result is that must-read I so desperately craved.