The concept of EAST OF WEST is really quite brilliant. During the Civil War, all the tribes of Native Americans joined forces under one leader and took on the Union Army, thus extending the conflict by 20 years, during which American military technology advances so much that they have nukes before the turn of the century. After that, America becomes the Seven Nations of America: the Union, the Confederacy, the Endless Nation, the Republic of Texas (of course), the Kingdom, the Burning Plain, and the PRA. In addition, there’s another zone simply called the Armistice at the very center of the country, presumably where the nuke went off, and where the Seven signed their peace treaty.
Fast forward to 2064, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have showed up to end the world … except Death has gone renegade, apparently pursuing his own agenda. Holy shit, right? Now that’s a fucking story! Hats off to writer Jonathan Hickman for coming up with something so crazy, but there are a few flaws.
First of all, with alternate reality stories, the real fun for a reader is tracing back the history to see at what point it diverges from our own world. It takes a lot of skill to pull off a such a trick without being obvious, but sadly Hickman doesn’t have the patience for something like that. Instead, he just tells us. He does a very good job of telling us, but by doing so, he has robbed his readers of quite a good deal of fun.
Another problem is his theatricality. Everything is so far over the top that he should be writing Coffin Joe comic books. Even the dialogue is superheroes-duking-it-out-and-bantering bad. Remember back in the old days, when just about everything in a narration box had to end with an exclamation mark? Hickman all but does that.
That also seems to be the problem with the artwork, too. Nick Dragotta has to exaggerate just about everything, like silent movie actors used to have to do, since they couldn’t talk. He’s got a good style in his rare moments of restraint, but the simplest gesture turns into a big production in this book.
Despite these overwhelming problems, the story is actually interesting enough to merit a reader’s attention. It will be very exciting to see where Hickman brings us.
EAST OF WEST #1
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Illustrated by Nick Dragotta
Published by Image