Group Review: East of West #1

With East of West being one of Image Comics' biggest releases of the year, we decided that a group review would be the best way to give all of us a chance to talk about it. Everyone was asked to give it a rating of Buy, Borrow or Pass, which you'll see next to their name. Instead of us recapping it for you we've left it to Image to handle.

From Image Comics: "The things that divide us are stronger than the things that unite us. A Sci-Fi Western set in a dystopian America where all hope for the future rests in the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse...who just happen to be trying to kill the President of the United States."

Now enjoy the many opinions of Comic Bastards.

Ed: Buy

I absolutely adore Nick Dragotta's artwork, his flowing yet tightly controlled inks are powerfully expressive and his style has never looked more confident than in this issue. Jonathan Hickman seems able to bring the best out of his artist and he's done so again in East of West. Frank Martin's colours are similarly excellent, being just far enough from pure realism to give the comic a foreboding atmosphere.

Hickman's plot is well paced, balancing action with back-story and buildup as well as setting out a promising group of characters. As you'd expect from Hickman the series looks conceptually strong, offering a unique take on alternate American history and supernatural apocalypse. I'm not keen on his use of the omnipresent narrator to explain the setting and establish the conflicts, a device he seems to use a lot these days, but hopefully it served its purpose as a shortcut into the story and we won't see too much of it in future issues. 

Jordan: Buy

I’m not going to pretend to know exactly what happened in issue #1of East of West, but what I will tell you is that it was really fucking cool. Cyber frontier? Yep. Monochromatic Horsemen of the Apocalypse? Sure. Uber-Violence? Plenty. A lot happens in this one issue and all of it made me want to play this thing as a video game. The art is pretty, clean and the colors pop. The characters are well-realized and awesome and the universe (what little could be shown in the first issue here) was interesting and really damn original.

Who is the deserter horseman? How does one kill one of the riders of the end times anyway? Could someone please try to put even more blood into these pages next time? Is there any way a human being could write a more badass character than Death? These are all questions I was thirsty to have answered after reading this issue. This book is kick-ass, and I can`t wait until the next issue.

Samantha: Buy

The cover is pretty cool. Nothing too exciting, but I like the fact that the gun is pointed at the reader. To me it shows an interaction with the audience. The four horsemen will not rest till all is dead even if it is the people who read this comic. I also like the art of the children. They are creepy, which I would hope the four horsemen would be. I love how dispassionate they are about humans. They even relate us to cattle. For them it is simply a job of wiping away this existence into a new one. I wonder if any of them will show compassion for a human though? Of if they will face an uprising of humans to fight death. It is interesting to think that humans could fight death. I also freaking love how the other death characters are black and white too. Nothing is grey, life is black and white, death is black and white. The only negative thing I can see about the art is that a lot of the pictures are up close and when the comic does pan out the background is always one color. Not much detail going on. Maybe this is another sign telling the readers that the environment in which we live doesn’t matter; only the humans that occupy it. We shouldn’t be focusing on how the world looks because humans control it. Or maybe I am looking too much into this comic all together.

Anyway, I think the comic offers a lot of questions as to what is really going on. I like asking a lot of questions when I start something new, that means the story can last a long time answering all of them. I will definitely keep up with this series. I just hope it doesn’t ask too many questions and drag the answers out forever.

Eric: Borrow

Apocalyptic stories always catch my attention. Each of them is written differently but all contain the end of the humanity and a character of Death. We can go on and add the other three Horsemen Conquest, Famine and War.  All are an interesting take on how the world is going to end or how humanity avoids it and is saved from the end.  

I tried to get into this book the art had me from the beginning and the setting of a futuristic American West. Let’s stay with the good it’s greatly detail without being over powering. The colors of the rust, dusty browns and blues bring you into the American West feel.   You can see the emotion on characters, the wrinkles of the older, it just very well put together. The colors of Death and his crew make them stand out which works.  It does amaze me how outfits of the futuristic West look like they are still from the civil war. The problem is it didn’t pull me in and it still vague who the hero or anti-hero is. I know the time frame in the story, but I can’t see the story develop here.  It’s not a complete loss it’s not like the story is so bad that you can’t finish the book.  I just feel lost in the direction of the story.

Steve: BUY the shit out of this book

So wait, lemme get this straight. Jonathan Hickman’s new Nick Dragotta-drawn book East of West has pallid cowboys, shady natives and one of the creepiest, most fractured versions of the horsemen of the apocalypse in recent memory? Well, fuck me ... you bet your ass I’m in!

Visually, this book is downright exciting. Everything from the look of and destruction by, the three nonplussed horsekids of the apocalypse, to the robot rocket-horse ridden by the once dark, now pale rider is an absolute treat. The world itself looks like a sinewy technological monstrosity, and I’m confident that the way in which the forces set against it will rip and rend the flesh from its bones will be a visceral, gravelly torture.

This is a lofty, multi-faceted premise, which, in other hands, I’d be afraid would canter into an odd afterthought. Luckily, Hickman’s at the reins, and I personally love his brand of inanity. We’re still not entirely sure what’s going on yet, but the lovingly-rendered sketch we’ve been offered thus far is carved with grooves that already run deep. Death has come east of west, and in the words of the good book, I can’t wait to see what hell follows with him.

Matt: Buy

So after reading this issue, I feel as though my brain has been turned to mush. Not in the way you might think; in a good way, like that the sheer awesomeness of it burned out my brain cells. East of West combines so many things that seem as though they couldn’t fit together at all. A Sci-Fi Western including the four Horseman of the Apocalypse, who the fuck thought that would work? Not me, but it did. Hickman does some really quality writing in the issue and the plot is out of this world. Everything flows seamlessly because of Hickman’s grandiose method of storytelling and an entire world is created. He completely re-writes history in a somewhat believe-able fashion and then just says fuck it; let’s throw in some creepy ass robot horses that look like engine turbines crossed with grasshoppers and then the four Horsemen.  Making Death the protagonist was a great move and he seems kind of reminiscent of Kratos (from God of War) except that he’s a goddamn cowboy. Hickman has officially given the reader several reasons to continue buying the series and it would really surprise me if this didn’t at least get a third or fourth printing.

Oh right, the art is bomb. All the characters look great, and the art style makes a damn good western. Death and his two assistants are all white, and I’m not really sure what the significance of that is or why that is, but it looks sweet. The four horsemen all look good to be honest, even though three are children, it isn’t hard to immediately figure out which is which just based on their look; especially famine, that’s just fantastic character design.

Everything about the book is fucking awesome, and there wasn’t anything in issue that wasn’t great. This is how a series needs to kick off, with a bang. The characters have been introduced, the world has been created and a great story has begun.