Review: East of West #18

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Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Nick Dragotta
Colours: Frank Martin
Letter: Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics

Hello again brave explorers of post-apocalyptic America, another month has passed and we come again to the latest chapter of “The Apocalypse: Year Two”. Leading off from the revelations issue #17, East of West #18 follows Babylon, still very much “virtually” blinded to the ruined wastes of America. The first few pages are well constructed, cutting from close ups to widescreen panels showcasing the optimum sizes for full figure and expressive illustration. The colour palette is a muted mix of blue, grey and black, ever speckled with luminescent red info symbols and a gradual pixelation, a great piece of dramatic irony as we are reminded of how false the program is that flashes before Babylon’s eyes. The dialogue this time round seems too heavy: it’s still very well written but the speech bubbles tend to cluster leaving little space between bubble to bubble particularly in the landscape panel compositions, becoming a chore to read.

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Moving on, having encountered Ezra and his void demon steed (the virtual image looking eerily creepier than the original image), Babylon is subjected to a few truths and inadvertent origin stories. The origin story in question is very stylish and keeps the same white saturated palette, keeping with previous flashback sequences within the series. The Horsemen as ever are in another iteration of their gender roles, this time sporting: a female War and a rather masculine Pestilence that would look comfortable in an X-Men book thanks to the big techno shoulder armour and venting devices. Other recognizable cameos are made throughout and few more questions are answered in conjunction with the series’ backstories, including the addition of one of the most distressing and possibly controversial images within the series. Overall the sequence broke up the tension between the Erza/Balloon/Babylon sequence without any awkward points inbetween.

The meeting between Ezra and Babylon is brief, both shrouded in a vale of lies and visual forgery. The real world is given a live palette of fertile green and vivid blue, a contrast to the weathered and rotting colour schemes of Babylon and the demon-steed Bauer. As much as the comical and subversively cute illustrations of the demon and child at play are, it’s the small details that make it unsettling. The fact that Babylon has no eyes, that the creature he’s playing jump-rope with is using its tentacles and reveals its colossal yellowing teeth. Meanwhile Ezra’s conversations with Balloon remain intriguing and present a reflection/recollection of the events at Armistice from his transformation up to the destruction of his facilities, something not readily forgotten but ultimately forgiven with the character’s current development.

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Onto the west coast of America, we head back to Xiaolian and Death- their love reignited since East of West #17. The panels are magnificent from the first to last, making use of one page and multi-panel page compositions. There’s a an emphasis on shadowing contrasting with flesh and red tones- all contrasting with Death’s alabaster skin/attire drawing the reader’s attention direct to him. The background detail is also significant during this closing segment as the skies become the predominant background colour- peach/purple gradations- similar to A New Hope or a lone cowboy walking off in a spaghetti western, framing Xiaolian and Death’s intimacy. The pages are also a nice reminder that there are true relationships within the series, as the duo’s respect and love for each other comes through in some of the most sincere dialogue I’ve come across yet and in the concerned/broken expressions generated by Dragotta’s pencil work. As for the rest of the issue, you’ll find East of West at your LCS.

 

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