East Of West #43
It’s an all-out war in East Of West #43, by writer Jonathan Hickman, artist Nick Dragotta, colorist Frank Martin, and letterer Rus Wooton. Hickman and company deliver an exciting, back, and forth battle between bitter enemies while also building towards the ultimate confrontation between Death and the rest of the Horsemen.
Babylon learns his first lesson on his way to becoming the Great Beast under the tutelage of the Horsemen. At New Armistice, Prince John Freemen and Wolf await the clash between the Confederacy and the People’s Republic. As the battle starts, it seems like Premier Mao’s forces have the upper hand, but Archibald Chamberlain and the Confederates have an ace up their sleeve that stalls the People’s Republic’s Army’s advance. At the Axis, Death makes his way to the bottom of the maze to bring the Eye back. Back at the battle, the Confederates cut through Mao’s forces before they reveal their little surprise- the Widowmakers. They cut through the Confederate mechs, but before they can attack the main army of the Confederates, Chamberlain has one last surprise up his sleeve.
The centerpiece of the issue is the battle between the People’s Republic and the Confederacy. It’s a wonderfully paced, back, and forth action. Each side has a surprise up its sleeve. This isn’t surprising for the Confederacy- their leader, Archibald Chamberlain- is never without a trick or two to level the playing field. The surprise comes in Xiaolian Mao’s answer to Chamberlain’s method. Mao is an honorable woman and not one much for tricks, but she knows the stakes of this battle and has prepared a way to counter any of Chamberlain’s methods. One of the biggest shocks of this issue isn’t the way the fight is going, but the sadistic glee and mania on Chamberlain’s face as he tells his prisoner, Bel Solomon, about how he’s going to wipe out the People’s Republic. Chamberlain has always been a cool customer, so it’s a very unnerving moment. He’s played the game of power so well throughout this book, and he’s played it in a brutal yet level headed way. For him to give in to bloodlust, the way he has in this issue is scary. While he’s easily one of the most enjoyable characters in the book, Hickman never lets readers forget that this is a dangerous, terrible man and under his genteel exterior beats the heart of a beast.
Speaking of beasts, Babylon, the Great Beast of the Apocalypse and the son of Xiaolian and Death, is beginning his education with the Horsemen and learns a valuable lesson- for beings like him and the Horsemen, the rules of the world don’t apply. He also learns that even though his price for joining the Horsemen was that his father would be spared, War and Death’s feud will always be burning in the background. The only problem with this book, as usual, is that the shipping schedule is so drawn out that it’s hard to remember what came before. The scene with Death is a perfect example of this. It’s been six months since the last issue came out, so readers could very easily forget why Death is at the Axis and what his goal is. The Eye is very cryptic about what’s going to happen. It’s an exciting sequence that would be a little better with some more explicit exposition.
Nick Dragotta’s art is sensational. The opening page of the book is just gorgeous. It’s a simple splash page with the Horsemen and Babylon. There’s nothing important going on, just them standing there. However, it’s a masterpiece of linework and color. The art throughout the book is excellent, as well. The scene above with Chamberlain’s cool facade cracking into something insane and frightening works so well because of Dragotta’s colorful pencils. The battle scenes are wonderfully detailed and capture the ups and downs of the fight vividly. Frank Martin’s colors make the whole thing work, capturing the apocalyptic tension of the battle and making the pencils pop.
East Of West #43 begins the last story arc of the book explosively. Hickman gives readers an apocalyptic battle but makes sure to save the outcome for an upcoming issue to keep readers on the hook. Dragotta and Martin’s art is a fantastic compliment to the script, giving readers a breathtaking battle while also making smaller moments work. A recap page would be appreciated, but other than that, this is another excellent issue and a fitting way to begin the last story arc.