East of West #17

by Kalem Lalonde on February 03, 2015

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Nick Dragotta

Following September’s awesome finale to East of West’s first year, this book got a drastic change in its status quo. From the first page of December’s issue, I could feel how different the book was going to be from there on out. With year one, Hickman paved the way for a tense, character-filled and grandiose second year for his creative indie series. And with year two, he seems to be hopping straight to the payoff to his infamous layers of set-up. God, it’s so great to have East of West back.

If anything East of West is Hickman biggest comic because it follows so many different character and so many different nations. Whereas his Avengers run has the fate of the multiverse in the balance, East of West is about a crumbled nation that has failed to come together. With the nature of its story, this series can’t focus on one character at a time. It would be extremely detrimental to the scale and change the core of the comic. This issue jumps from 4 different character journeys but it never feels unfocused. Hickman has become quite adept at shuffling through multiple plot-lines and making it all feel like one story. It makes me even more excited for further issues, to catch up with characters that weren’t featured here.

Speaking of characters, this issue prominently features the protagonist of the first arc, Death. It was great to have him back in a large role because he carries the leading part quite well. He’s reunited with his wife in a poignant sense with Lady Mao that ends with the suggestion of a cruel, imminent event. With this, Hickman was able to cap the issue on a quiet note that comics rarely tend to do nowadays. If anything, Hickman is experimenting the medium through East of West and I couldn’t be happier to see what he can come up with. There’s no doubt that he’s quite the original writer.

The art team of Nick Dragotta and Frank Martin continue to work wonders with this series. There’s no surprise here. In this issue, there is a panel that I particularly enjoyed that introduced a really cool creature and apparent hunter, right on the trail of Babylon and his trusty balloon. But Dragotta’s design work isn’t the only powerful element of his pencilling. He always aptly captured Hickman grand sense of scale and resonant emotions. Dragotta really is a fantastic artist and perfectly fit for this series.   

When it comes to scale and imagination, I don’t think many books outclass East of West. Jonathan Hickman’s powerful mind is completely unfettered in this book. The results are a diverse cast of characters and cultures, alongside a grandiose and complex story. With issue #17, East of West continues to be a must-buy while elevating itself back to the top of my reading-pile. It became completely evident to me this week that this is Jonathan Hickman’s Game of Thrones and in terms of creativity, it just might be his masterpiece.

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