Pick of the Week

March 2, 2013 – East of West #1

What did the
community think?

Avg Rating: 4.5
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 60.4%
Users who pulled this comic:
Story by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Nick Dragotta

Size: 32 pages
Price: 3.50

Hey! Remember BraveStarr?

“This is the world. It’s not the one we were supposed to have, but it’s the one we made. We did this. We did it with open eyes and willing hands. We broke it, and there is no putting it back together.” 

Comics have wrought and witnessed the End Times so often, Walter Kovacs has thrown down his alarmist sandwich board and crumpled to the curb, head in hands. We live at the brink and have long since transferred our mail here. Envelope says Ragnarök. Return address too. Don’t always bother with the umlaut, but it always gets here.

Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta have whistled for the Horseman once more. The fact that, initially, only three arrived is not what sets this Armageddon apart from all those that came before. It’s the world they’ve been summoned to obliterate.

East of West sounds like one of Rod Serling’s squint-eyed directives to the Twilight Zone, and indeed, this world seems just through his diastema in a realm of alternate history. Though largely set in 2064 and jutting with futuristic spires, the heartland remains arrested in other aspects of its development, drawing aesthetic cues from the bloody days of its frontier youth. Outlaws traverse the dusty landscape on mechanized cricket mounts and drown their synthetic livers in rustic cantinas, wooden saloon style doors hinged firmly in the past. It’s not simply a Westworld for 2013 though. Not with a Golden Gate Bridge re-imagined quite that way. Not from these creators.

Something happened.

It starts with a Confederate soldier’s sudden revelation, struck enlightened like Saul on the road to Damascus. It starts with the consolidation, the union, of America’s Indian tribes under one man called Red Cloud. It starts with the exile of Chairman Mao, a time for repose and addendum to “The Little Red Book.” It starts with three horseman climbing naked and androgynous from the soil only to find their fourth missing, a traitor.

What happened next remains to be seen, save for flashes of betrayal and of wanton genocide. But its fallout is as compelling a landscape as has been terraformed in American comics. I’d say it reminds me of no other realm in science fiction or fantasy, but unfortunately I’d be lying. Anyone playing Ken Levine’s astonishing Bioshock Infinite this week won’t escape the eery parallels, particularly in Elijah Longstreet’s ascendance as Prophet. They even share some crow imagery. Luckily, the two stories diverge from there, Bioshock to the clouds and East of West to solid earth, heaped as it might be with bodies. The series is still new, but I wonder whether it’s a glimpse at our nation’s sins made manifest. A bald depiction of the scarlet letter forever branded on America, not for adultery, but for human bondage and derision. Or maybe it’s just a cool, nihilistic revenge saga.

It’s a fascinating vision of an alternate tomorrow, and as with any new vision of revised demarcation, it’s presented piecemeal. It doesn’t simply toss some goggles and dirigibles into the mix, label it steampunk and call it a day. There are cultures involved here not typically tapped for Harry Turtledove style What-Ifs. This series wells the Trail of Tears, subverting one of the nation’s most appalling sins and imaging a world where native groups came together to form a powerful, influential sector. The two Indians we do meet are practically metahuman, walking gods. The Union and Confederacy each maintain sovereignty over much of their original territory during the Civil War. Part of this is felt. Part of this is yet to be felt. I know, because there is a map.

And maps are one of my check boxes.


Nick Dragotta is operating at a different level than in previous works. Or perhaps this milieu best suits his style set. I was won over instantly with the prologue. His depiction of the three young horsemen during this and a chilling followup scene straddles the line between ethereal and feral, resulting in the scariest depiction of children since the Japanese horror movie boom of last decade. Then of course, there’s the reveal of Abaddon, a character turn, no…introduction that occurs pages and pages after we first see the man.

“Now…Say my real name, you son of a bitch. Call it out!”

The Grey Walker’s transition from cool calculation to brimstone heat might be the perfect metaphor for the best Hickman collaborations, juxtaposing his usual clinical detachment to the wild and woolly ferocity of his best artistic partners. It’s positively Kubrick.

Like The Manhattan Projects, East of West also feels like the ideal balance of Hickman’s triply austerity with his ability to entertain on a more visceral level. There’s a film strip history lesson and a lot of grim portent in lofty prose, but there’s also some pew pew and some robot horses. Fun for the whole twisted family.

Much has been said of Hickman’s prolific frequency, his perceived inability to pause amidst this spree of creation. His boundlessness. It’s not so much that he has more bright ideas than other comic writers. It’s simply that he has the gumption, the audacity, to bring all of them into being, and the discipline to make that abandon seem predestined. As such, he juggles a multiverse.

As for this particular world? I’m ready to ride off with it into its apocalyptic sunset.

Paul Montgomery
Will always remember BraveStarr.


  1. My comic store didn’t get a single copy. I’m debating if its worth the $10 on ebay.

    • Wait till 2nd printing. I wish these people trying to make money off these new issues would go away. Jack up the price 7 bucks more that’s flat out stupid. Boycott that madness.

    • It’d probably work out cheaper to buy it off of comixology and if you still want the actual issue get the second printing

    • Pick it up digitally & if you like it [ maybe ] buy the TP/HC.

    • Amen GorillaMonsoon!

    • Trade waiting sounds like the best option. I wonder how some creators over at Image feel about their books being bought solely for profit.

    • It’s all just a debate of content vs. collection. If you just want to read the story, digital digital digital. If you want to own a copy as a declaration of collection and ownership, $10 for a first printing isn’t too steep considering how much Manhattan Projects #1 is selling for or even Saga #1.

    • The books you mentioned are months old. Not a day old.

    • Right, but regarding a 1st printing as an investment takes more than a day. It’s a gamble and if it works out you’ll see more than a return of investment as time passes if you ever choose to sell your books.

    • @gorilla I was looking for a copy of Sex and one of the local dealers had it for $10 the Friday following its release. I laughed and hung up the phone. It’s shit like that, that sent me running to DCBS.

    • Midtown currently has the 1st print in stock for $2.97. Plus $2.99 shipping, for a $5.96 total. Cover price is $3.50, so you’re not overpaying by too much. You could also buy some more comics to defray the shipping costs; an order over $75 is free shipping. I’ve always found Midtown to be pretty reasonable. Hope this is helpful.

    • Thanks Master Destructo! I’m going to a convention today and if I don’t see it there for a reasonable cost, I will make my way to Midtown comics.

    • I bought a first printing of Sex #1 off the shelf at Midtown yesterday for simply cover price. I agree with Master Destruco that they’re usually pretty reasonable with their pricing . . .

  2. This was a tough egg for me to crack, though I was still mesmerized throughout by the fascinating world and beautiful art. I am eagerly anticipating future issues.

  3. I wish all the exposition at the front of the book had been cut, as I had almost lost interest by the time I got to the cool stuff. Johnathan Hickman has this inescapable desire to explain everything all the time. (Remember the pages of notes at the end of Fantastic Four)? Sometimes I just want him to chill out and let me be confused.

    • Ha! This might be the first I’ve heard of someone calling a Hickman book too expository. Usually folks complain about his work making them feel like they have a reading difficulty.

    • Dude stay’s winning but just can’t win

    • I still feel like I’m one of the VERY few people who actually liked Val’s iPad notes at the end of those few issues of Fantastic Four.

      Also, I didn’t really find East of West overly expository at all. He’s got to tell us something, if he just had the 3 Horsemen digging themselves out of a hole in the ground and then wandering around it wouldn’t make any sense. I can get behind not spoon feeding the audience, but I get very tired very quickly when author’s just leave the audience in the dark because they can’t be bothered to set up their story well. Further, while I guess it was a bit spelled out at the end, I never got the sense that the “main character’s” identity was supposed to be a mystery for us, but rather that his presence in this world was supposed to come as a surprise to the world’s occupants.

      The only thing I can ever complain about with Hickman is that sometimes it seems like the broad strokes “big idea” of the story are what is interesting to him, and as a result actual plot and characters can feel like chess pieces being manipulated around the board until they’re in the position he (Hickman) wants. In particular, I felt that way about Pax Romana and The Red Wing. They were cool ideas, but it all seemed like set up to get to a point where the world was constructed enough that actual stories could be told, but that’s how Hickman wanted to leave it. Not to say I didn’t like them, I really did, but they did feel incomplete.

  4. This was a fantastic comic from beginning to end. Everything about this was near perfection in my eyes. Yeah the plot is a bit non-existent right now sans the introduction of characters. But who cares when the characters themselves are amazing to read? Just like Manhattan Projects, Hickman has set up a universe full of colorful people and a plot that (I’m sure) will get intriguing as time goes on. Plus that Dragotta art…..Oh god how great this book looked.

  5. This was a really well-written review! (Hah, I guess I am reviewing your review.)

    • Montgomery’s poetic turns of phrase seem to reflect the stark landscape of the comic he is reviewing, a style that is too affected not to be deliberate, but serves to make the review a kind of companion piece to the comic, moving it beyond simple commentary. There is a disjointedness to the review that also reflects the “East of West” narrative; like Hickman, Montgomery isn’t holding the reader’ hands. If you haven’t read the comic, the review might be tough to follow, but in creating that difficulty Montgomery has laid down his reviewer’s gauntlet: “I thought this was the best comic of the week,” he seems to be saying. “If you want to follow this review, go out and buy it. You won’t regret it.”

      I’ve read a lot of reviews this week (big week!), and this is the one that’s going to stay with me. I’ll definitely be picking it up in trade, as well.

  6. I haven’t been this sad since I missed out on Chew #1. I recently found out that one of my comic shops is open until midnight on Wednesdays (the other, bigger store closes at 8:00). I was crunched for time today, so I decided for the first time to go late at night. Of course it was sold out. Sounds like it’ll get several reprints, and I might get lucky and find it at the bigger store tomorrow, but I’m disappointed to likely have to wait a few weeks. Sounds like it was as good as I was hoping!

  7. I wasn’t even planning on getting this in issues, but when I flipped through it in the shop, I couldn’t resist the gorgeous Dragotta art. I hope this comes out with some regularity like Manhattan Projects, as opposed The Secret.

  8. Reading this comic made me think that for some writers, a little structure brings out the best in them. I feel the plains may be too wide and open here, maps or no.

  9. It was an enjoyable issue but kind of all over the place. Big chunk of exposition, some freaky kids (it’s like Bentley13 x1000!, ha), and badasses talking all badassy. Gorgeous art though, that shot of the white tower was amazing. Didn’t grab me like Manhattan Projects but i think i’ll stick with it for a couple more issues at least.

    I think Batman Inc will end up my PotW.

    • Yes I agree, although I think i’m on board for this completely. Still needs some character to dev and more fleshing out to start getting into my potw range, Batman Inc will likely be my potw as well. I found I enjoyed this issue of Uncanny Avengers more than I have so far this week as well but strong week for batman inc.

  10. Alright. I’m sold. Gonna call my shop tomorrow and order me a second printing.

    Beautifully written review, Paul.

  11. I would love to get this, but i’m a bit done with floppies, so i’ll trade wait or HC wait this. All singles I currently have ongoing will be dropped on creator change, end or disinterest.

  12. This first issue followed the style of Manhattan Projects in that there is no clear protagonist. Every character seems to have motives and they are all primed to do whatever is necessary to achieve them. It’s a very difficult thing to pull off, having no relatable characters, but Hickman has a way of wrapping you into his stories nonetheless.

  13. Dragota’s art was really on another level in this issue. I found it pretty astonishing and better then anything I’ve seen from him on Fantastic Four or FF.

  14. wow a lot of comments, im shocked its not planetoid issue 5

  15. Great review, I really enjoyed this issue. I love Image comics packaging of issues now, this is very similar to NoWhere Men & Manhattan Projects.
    I’m looking forward to re-reading this issue, and maybe then some confusion will be cleared up, but in the mean time maybe the community can help?
    So the three kids at the beginning; I was uncertain of whether or not they are the same three characters we see later in the issue, (the very white/gray/black colored characters) or its a two totally different trios of characters. I was reading it as those little kids are a flashback.
    How did everyone else perceive this?

    • No they are the same characters. The four horsemen of the apocalypse are: Conquest, War, Famine and Death. The 3 reborn children are Conquest, War and Famine (the rotting like girl with clear malnourishment). Death it would seem is the pale white cowboy who has seemingly abandoned the other 3.


      Here’s how I saw it:

      For whatever reason, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are “reborn” from time to time. This is what we saw at the beginning of the issue. Conquest, War and Famine were reborn, but Death was not. This upsets them.

      Death is the adult gunslinger in the white suit running around stirring things up.

      So for some reason, Death decided to ditch his comrades and skip the rebirth process this time.

      I think the other white/black man and woman with him are some kind of lieutenants/minions of Death.

      So essentially, Death has gone rogue on some kind of personal mission, and the other Horsemen are trying to track him down.

    • Conquest, war and famine? I always thought it was supposed to be pestilence, war, and famine. Huh, learned something new

    • Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      Conquest is the traditional. Pestilence, I think, is a more modern interpretation.

    • So is Conquest still Pestilence? Conquest sounds like War, but anytime I start to write Conquest, I want to write Convoy. Mercy sakes, looks like we got us a convoy.

    • Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      We do tend to equate conquest with warfare, but think about the Americas and how conquistadors and other conquerors spread disease just by harboring and introducing new pathogens that wiped out countless peoples.

    • Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      In other interpretations, Arn Anderson and Ric Flair are considered constants in the ranks.

    • Good point about Conquest Paul, I hadn’t really thought of it. Are Arn Anderson and Nature Boy Ric Flair up for roles in the Four Horsemen? A Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse featuring Nature Boy, Macho Man, Jesse The Body Ventura, and Gene Okerlund would be AWESOME.

  16. @microwave25 & KenOchalek:
    Cool, thanks. I knew that the white gunslinger was Death, but I think I mistook his companions to be the other Horsemen, I like KenOchalek’s theory that they are just lieutenants/minions, they certainly show some skill.
    It makes me wonder if Death killed the other 3 Horsemen? There is that one panel page that shows him with the other two Horsemen, facing off against someone (the shape of the legs seemed to be womanly).
    I’m excited about this series, and that map at the end totally sealed it.


    I love that a comet strike brought an end to the Civil War and the US government’s war on Native Americans, and the whole country was divided up. Such an awesome idea.

    And yes, Bravestarr. There is a channel here in Chicago that plays that show at one in the morning. I woke up on the couch once not knowing what the hell I was seeing.

  17. Oh yeah! All good stuff from my favourite comic-book writer at the moment & I must say a jolly good review to boot, Mr. Montgomery!

    This was most definitely my pick of the week by a mileeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

  18. Death is riding a locust right? That’s really cool. This series seems like a winner. Sort of reminded me of Dark Tower which I dropped ages ago. Very happy I picked this up. The world is well thought out and the plot gas lots of resources for good storytelling. Excellent POTW.

  19. What’s up with the title? Any ideas?

  20. This was excellent I read it three times already, but guess what I read four times??…..PLANETOID #5 worth the wait!!

  21. This one works for me as PotW in as much as it’s a gorgeous book, an intriguing setting is being created, and it’s engaging right from the get go, more than many Hickman book’s I’ve read. This was also an extremely light week, with very limited competition as far as PotW goes.

  22. After reading this review I went back today to pick this up and I’m soooo glad I did . . This book was aWWWWesome.

  23. This sounds intriguing, but my experience with Hickman is pretty mixed (he often loses me over the long haul) I’ll probably wait for trade.

  24. Wasn’t interested in this at all until you (Paul) mentioned on the podcast that it reminded you somewhat of the Incal/Metabarons style of science fiction worldbuilding. Then I was sold. I’ll be picking this up in trades once it’s collected.

    • Avatar photo Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      I hate to bring up Moebius every episode/review, but I keep seeing the influence in more and more projects these days. There’s a lot going on in this book, but I see so much of the Incal in this. The fashion. The tech.

    • Dude don`t apologize. In my opinion the more people who know about the Jodoverse, the better.

  25. Man, this book sounds like my jam. I’m on the edge of my comics budget though. Not really looking at dropping anything. Is it really worth jumping on in issues or should I just wait for the trade?