East Of West #40 // Review
Lines are drawn in East Of West #40, by writer Jonathan Hickman, artist Nick Dragotta, colorist Frank Martin, and letterer Rus Wooton. This issue combines blockbuster action with gripping drama and sets the seeds for greater confrontations in the future. All in all, a standard issue of East Of West.
Death fights against the Horsemen’s robot servants as they give his son Babylon an ultimatum--come with them, or War will kill his father. In the Endless Nation, Chairman Mao meets with the Nation’s leaders, Wolf and Crow, asking to move her army through their territory. Wolf warns her that her decision can only end in disaster. She agrees to think things over, but, as always, only listens to her own counsel. Death is able to defeat the robots and confronts War, who reveals to him Babylon’s decision.
This issue is a masterpiece of pacing. Death’s battle against the robots is interspersed with Babylon’s confrontation with the Horsemen. Both of these events are battles and carry life or death consequences, and Hickman juxtaposes them perfectly. This one focuses on the decisions of Babylon, Death, and Mao, another nice touch because Mao and Death are Babylon’s parents, and each of these decisions will play an important role in their story. Babylon went with the Horsemen to save his father, Death is ready to take arms to get him back, and Mao wants her revenge. Where it all goes is anyone’s guess, but Hickman’s set-up is perfect.
There is a problem with all of this and it’s simply that everything in this book is set-up. There are payoffs, and they are spectacular, but Hickman’s playing the long game, and it’s a bit frustrating at times. Death versus War has been a fight readers have wanted to see since this book began, and, in this issue, they just talk about their coming conflict. While the whole fight doesn’t need to be in particular book, these two people hate each other with a burning passion, and they’re both ruthless killers. To think they would just have a contentious chat about the future doesn’t make sense, except from a writer’s standpoint of wanting to delay the battle as long as possible. Even with Death in a wounded state, it doesn’t make much sense that he just lets War go with a threat. In the long term, it makes sense from a plot standpoint, not to mention sales, but, for readers wanting a taste, it’s a bait-and-switch. Everything feels like it’s building up to them coming to blows, if even just in a limited sense, and it not happening is a bit disappointing.
The art by Nick Dragotta is its usual excellence, but, much like last issue, Frank Martin’s coloring really adds a texture and depth to the pencils that make them that much better. A more flat palette would still yield nice images, but the way Martin textures the colors, especially with the Horsemen and their one-color motifs, brings something extra to the pencils that make them really special.
Hickman and company have put out another quality issue in East Of West #40. The feeling of it being a bait-and-switch is a little disappointing, but, otherwise, everything in this book whets anticipation. The art, especially the coloring, is fantastic. Where it will all go is a mystery, but one thing’s for sure--it’s a great ride.