“East of West” aims to tell a sprawling epic story, and for the most part it succeeds. Its biggest flaw is that it adheres to this sprawling narrative with such conviction that characters sometimes feel lost in a massive plot. Last month things were made much clearer when the story was revealed to be about love. That thread is continued here.
Hickman’s “East of West” somehow becomes more complex and clearer at the same time. The slow boil continues, in another effective, but plodding issue.
Death found someone who could defeat him. Someone with whom he settled down and had a child. Hickman handles this reveal in a masterful way. This information builds from what we learned last month, and manages to take the story in a new direction.
However, Hickman’s slow boil approach wears thin. The story does constantly feel like it is changing direction, but most plot points in the first five issues could have been handled in one better paced first issue. With that being said, the series works within its own rules and seems to revel in this slow pace.
It is profoundly interesting to see Death personified in such a way. His character is vulnerable and powerful at the same time. An interesting combination that provides an incredibly compelling read. His character is the series saving grace. He embodies so many feelings, while also being the embodiment of death.
The new character introduced in this issue serves as a fantastic threat. With Death being so vulnerable, we are sure to see a confrontation between him and his son. He won’t be able to defeat his own child, and the wheels are in motion for something cataclysmic. Lets just hope we get there sooner rather than later.
Dragotta’s art is on par with every other issue. His masterful paneling continues here. He effectively uses many four-panel pages to illustrate flashback moments. We are quickly treated to incredibly vivid snapshots of Death’s past. These snapshots are organized on the page in an effective manner and allow us to fully understand how Death became the being we currently know him as.
My patience with this series is wearing thin. The world is rich and compelling but most issues don’t seem to evolve past conversations about the apocalypse in the future. Which is all well and good if said conversations are accompanied by some action. Yet, as it stands this series fails to have any sense of danger for our protagonist.
Death is infinitely powerful and any conflict he has found himself in, he has overcome with relative ease. For “East of West” to remain compelling it must focus more on action, and provide a challenge for Death that he may not be able to overcome. Perhaps that challenge rests solely on his son’s shoulders. I just hope we get there next month. As this series is sorely lacking action and conflict.
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