“East of West” takes a giant leap in quality this month. Hickman and Dragotta’s hard western about the future demise of mankind has been a difficult tale to get behind. Often the story feels too grand for its own confines and strays between characters in pursuit of a larger narrative, but this month has the book finding a new sense of pacing and focus.
When ‘East of West’ first launched I remember being about as psyched as I could possibly could be. The debut issue was stellar and the characters were wrapped in this beautiful sense of mystery. As that mystery peeled away the narrative felt limp and devoid of focus.
Now with all the pieces in place the motivations of the main characters are clearly outlined. Hickman has more time to commit to the story itself. This is a good thing, as issue 7 has a frenzied pace that doesn’t let up. Hickman takes the properties of any old western and spins them on their head – namely the fear and worship of God.
Hickman is an enlightened man. His voiceover this month proves it “They want something to worship – something to believe in… and if they can’t find it, they’ll manufacture it.” This seems to be in direct reference to Death and his acolytes. Although it works both ways for almost every character. As ‘East of West’ is defined by larger than life personalities.
Which is to say most characters in this story are built to the status of legend, but not by their own efforts. Instead by the stories others tell of their adventures. It’s a interesting nod back to the times of the old west that invigorates the book. Time and time again Hickman has shown that these are deeply human characters with simple motivations. Yet, when experienced through the lens of others everyone feels grand and sweeping in their actions.
Which translates well to Dragotta’s work. He has been able to channel something really special with this book and this month is no different. Seemingly taking some influence from Carpenter’s “The Thing.” Dragotta absolutely ruins Ezra, making him some sort of unrecognizable monster.
Equally amazing is his work with the architecture of this world. Showing the building of Ezra’s tower was an incredible choice. Thematically these panels show off everything this series is about. Creating a foundation for belief, and creating tribute from that foundation. These are the core concepts that have built the legend of any of the main characters.
The stellar work of Frank Martin is often left completely untouched in my reviews each month. So I wanted to take this time now to marvel at his use of blues and reds that have come to define much of this book. The feeling Martin evokes creates this otherworldly warmth to every panel that truly completes the story.
Hickman and Dragotta have set themselves up with the perfect Western. All the right themes have fit into place and the characters finally feel developed enough to carry their own plots. Westerns are typically quite slow, so it’s nice to see the training wheels off after six issues. The narrative finally hits full stride and if it keeps up ‘East of West’ will be remembered for a long time to come…
Dare I say it’ll become legend.
Rating: 4/5 Skulls.