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East Of West vol 1: The Promise

East Of West vol 1: The Promise back

Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta

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Page 45 Review by Jonathan

“He should be here.”
“And you are sure that..?.”
“Yes! He was dead on his feet. Something must have gone wrong... more wrong.”
“So we roll, and find out the truth.”
“The eye... the feather... the bullet... the bone... No mistaking those. He’s really left us. We were four, but now it’s just us three.”
“Well... that settles it then. We kill him.”

And so EAST OF WEST opens, with some children whom we soon learn are apparently three of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, performing a divination ritual using animal bones, to see what has happened to their headlining colleague, Death. Their location? A huge stone circle in the desert, right in the centre of what we know as the United States of America. In this world, however, it’s also the site of a huge comet strike, a seismic event that perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, marked the end of the American Civil War, and also the war with the native Indians, resulting in the formation of the Seven Nations of America, with an armistice signed at the site.

The comet strike and resulting armistice also may or may not have caused the Prophet Elijah Longstreet, a former soldier, to write the Second Book of Revelations, whilst at exactly the same moment Red Cloud, leader of the Endless Indian Nation, was having a waking vision which he recounted to his council of elders. Upon the conclusion of these two apparently unconnected events, both men promptly collapsed and died. Except it seems these two events were connected, as their respective words were in fact interlocking apocrypha, forming what would become known as The Message, a mystery that remained unsolved for another half century. Until the missing third portion of The Message was inadvertently provided by a very surprising person indeed, Mao Zedong.

Fast forward back to the current day, well 2064 actually, and the location of the errant Death (if indeed that is what he is) and it seems he’s out for revenge, cowboy-style pilgrim. Dressed as an albino gunslinger, so presumably he has been drinking his milk as the real Mr. Wayne suggested, and also an adult rather than a child, I note, which upon reflection makes the tiniest bit of, I suspect, very significant sense and, oh, he’s looking for those who did him wrong. Precisely how and what they did, we don’t know at this point, but there are some very well known names on the list, very well known and politically connected, right to the very, very top of the establishment. Death would have those luminaries on his shit list believe the End Times are a coming and I can’t honestly say at this point he’s not telling the truth. Eek!

What a set up! This could easily prove to be Hickman’s most comprehensive piece of speculative fiction yet. This first volume reads very, very much like the opening chapter to a prose novel, it is that rich with detailed promise of what is yet to come, and also to be revealed, of what precisely has transpired in the distant past to bring us to such an... unusual... time and place.

The closest comparisons to previous Hickman works so far would be PAX ROMANA for the intriguing premise, but also S.H.I.E.L.D.: ARCHITECTS OF FOREVER for the beautifully bizarre cast of characters and insane, pacy action. Excellent art from sometime FF compadre Nick Dragotta too, though no Hickman-penned work is really complete without a cheeky page or panel designed and illustrated by the man himself, in this case a map of north America simply entitled “The World As It Is” laying out the various territories of the seven nations.

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