East of West #37 // Review
East of West #37, by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta, Frank Martin, and Rus Wooton, focuses on the Ranger and his quest for quest for vengeance. How far will he go to the destroy the Chosen?
The Ranger, having survived Archibald Chamberlain’s attack on him, finds his way to medical aid. A week later, he awakens and leaves, going to The Atlas information brokerage. As he gets the there, the three Horsemen of Apocalypse are leaving. They decide to leave him alone, because they can sense the death and chaos he’s going to bring to the table. He gets the information he needs and makes his way to Antonia LeVay’s former aide and her lover’s farm. They agree to help him on his quest for vengeance against the Chosen, bankrolling him with Kingdom gold that LeVay’s former aide stole before her death. With money for all the weapons he needs, the Ranger decides to go after the Crown Prince of New Orleans, John Freeman.
Right off the bat, the problem with this issue is the fact that it doesn’t really reintroduce any of the characters in it. East of West continually has this problem. Hickman has so many plots and characters in the book that it would be hard to keep track of them all even if he was hitting them all every issue, but the way he does it, where one character or plot will disappear for multiple issues then have a whole issue devoted to it, makes it hard on even long time readers to know what’s going on. Only a few character names are even given, and not ones for any of the main players, although the first few pages do give a recap of the end of Archibald and the Ranger’s encounter. Readers will recognize the characters, but remembering their names and status quo will take a minute. It’s frustrating and it’s the only real drawback the book has.
Dragotta’s art is at its usual level of quality. The opening page is a full page splash of a fly, and it’s gorgeous and detailed, down to the hairs on the fly’s body. There isn’t a lot of action, but Dragotta keeps the reader engaged with his expert acting and highly detailed panels. That’s tough to do in an issue like this; the whole thing is setting up a character’s next move, with the character learning things that readers already know. In the hands of a lesser artist, it could have easily become a boring slog.
Another thing that keeps the book from becoming tedious is Hickman’s script. There are a lot of panels per page, moving the reader along with the Ranger on his quest. It gives the whole affair a kinetic feel without having to stack the book with action. Hickman’s plotting in East of West is as intricate as clockwork, and this issue is no exception. Even as hard as it is to keep things straight, once you get caught back up with what’s happening, the momentum of events pulls you along. This issue moves one piece around the board, setting the Ranger back on his quest for vengeance, and it does it masterfully, whetting readers’ appetites for his next move.
East of West #37 starts out very slowly and can be confusing for readers who haven’t been re-reading past issues to remember everything, but once it hits its stride, it presents a tight story of a man getting back on the road of revenge. In the hands of lesser creators, this installment would have started in a nosedive and never recovered, but Hickman and Dragotta pull it out of that dive with a combination of deft writing and detailed art.