REVIEW: “East of West #13” Back in the Saddle

Written by: Jonathan Hickman

Art by: Nick Dragotta and Frank Martin

Published by: Image Comics

$3.50

It’s been a long time since I’ve reviewed an issue of East of West but I’ve never stopped reading or loving the series. With every issue writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Nick Dragotta deliver another epic slice of their incredible genre-defying masterpiece. With the wonderfully talented Frank Martin providing the colours, this is a creative team that is thirteen issues into their run and still haven’t missed a beat. Kinda like those crazy kids at the movie theatres that play the Dance, Dance, Revolution game like it’s their job.

Pacing has always been a great strength for this series. Hickman is a writer that really understands when to let loose and when to whisper soothingly and Dragotta is an artist that is so good at what he does that you never think that the visuals are anything less than spectacular. So when “East of West #13” starts with a graphic, gory splash page which picks up from the cliff-hanger from last issue, I was impressed at the powerful imagery.

What follows is a story that’s actually pretty by-the-books as far as this series goes. Two heroes meet under confusing circumstances, decide to beat the hell out of each other for a minute, before realizing they’re on the same team and opting to tea- up. Hickman and Dragotta provide a solid end to the installment though with another well-placed and compelling cliff-hanger. This series never lacks a twist to make you want to follow the plot the next time out.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Death is possibly the least interesting character in this narrative though. While initially his focus on revenge and pain was enough to propel the story, it’s becoming more difficult to empathize with the character while he refuses to change his ways or evolve. Hickman and Dragotta have made it clear that Death is the quote-unquote main character but they haven’t shied away from allowing the supporting cast screen time. Seeing Death’s companions get a few extra panels without his authoritative presence was great. At times those scenes seemed a little over-written but Hickman’s distinct voice makes up for some of that.

The book starts with an act of violence and it ends with the threat of war. While these two events aren’t necessarily related, it remains a testament to Hickman and Dragotta’s ability to tell an epic story that constantly changes the status quo. With the possibility of the Endless Nation going to war, Dragotta successfully crafts a gorgeous splash page that gets to the heart of how massive and epic this impending doom really is.

Dragotta was able to sustain both violent action and dark sorcery throughout this entire issue. Hats off to him for pulling it off with style and grace and not letting this demanding installment be any less impressive than the previous ones. The consistency in voice, tone and atmosphere that this art team has been able to create makes this book a joy to read. You know exactly what you’re getting when you open up an issue of this series, an understated value in the comic market today.

Verdict:

East of West is one of the strongest series around. It isn’t as invincible as I initially suspected earlier in its run, but if these are the only wrinkles that we have to deal with then there’s no reason to stir up trouble. Hickman and Dragotta successfully navigated a cliché-filled issue and delivered not just an eye pleasing comic book but managed to tighten the noose around these characters as well, adding a certain level of depth to some of Death’s companions that sorely needed it.

7.5/10

EastofWest13page