It should be clear to anyone reading East of West thus far that writer Jonathan Hickman is most definitely playing the long game. Seemingly with each passing issue, he introduces either another character or another facet to his rich, fully-developed world, laying the groundwork for the next chapter of the story. It makes for a truly gripping read, and it’s exhilarating to see Hickman’s ‘world building’ approach being employed quite so enthusiastically.
Adding to the intrigue is the fact that, for the most part, none of the characters we have met over the previous eight issues are particularly black or white. Everyone has their own agenda, their own motivations, their own unique shade of grey. And that’s an approach that makes the introduction of the latest character, “untrustworthy scoundrel” and Crown Prince John Freeman, all the more exciting.
Giving us yet another perspective to the ongoing narrative and the growing political instability, Freeman undergoes quite a change during the pages of this single issue, going from a relaxed, almost resigned heir to the throne to… well… I don’t want to delve into spoilers, but let’s just say that Freeman turns out to have his own shade of grey just like all the rest.
Nick Dragotta continues to absolutely knock it out of the park with every issue here, bringing the characters to life with emotion and intensity while also giving the whole book his own unique imprint with its distinctive architecture and inspired character design. He also cuts lose in a major way during the scene between Death and the Oracle in the Axis, a bleak, twisted and stomach-churning moment which will linger with the reader long after they’ve put the book down.
My only minor complaint is also perhaps one of the main strengths of the book. I want to know more! Hickman continues to play his cards close to his chest, drip-feeding information and moving the plot along at a glacial pace, revelling in every small detail. And as much as I would be a fan of this approach were I reading a trade paperback, it makes East of West a painfully impatient experience for the single-issue collectors. That said, this is still an undeniably remarkable world with some truly three-dimensional protagonists, brought to life by an artist at the very top of his game. Highly recommended.
The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson (aka Ceej)
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