Review: East of West #17

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Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Nick Dragotta
Colours: Frank Martin
Letters: Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics

The world of East of West moves onward through an ever increasing war through the seven nations. Texas has been razed and now the Endless Nation seek to entreat their rivals, the PDR. Death continues his journeys through the wastelands on the search for his son, Babylon and, as ever, Archibald of the Confederacy is scheming away, drink in hand, watching as the world turns to cinders. There, ladies and gentlemen, is your intro.

We start the issue with Archie as he begins to watch the fruits of his labours, like any decent villain. The art as ever is on top form. Dragotta’s pencils are slick and sharp to the point, depicting Archie with all the swagger of the stereotyped business tycoon, lazing back smoking a very large cigar. In arrives Constance, the picture of 1930’s pinup mixed with a hint of Soviet military wear and looking very stern. The exchange between the two characters is brief, serving as an insight into The Confederacy’s stakes and position in the ongoing wars spreading across the nations. The accompanying pages are paced well and look minimal in the best of ways: negative space and black fills perfectly frames the profiles of both characters, emphasising both the vivid colouring and pencil detail.

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Moving onto the Kingdom of New Orleans: Prince John the First is overseeing the training of his 8 other legitimate/illegitimate brothers, whilst consulting the Vizier of his King-Father. John, personally for me, is a very underused character in the series, not often left with his own story to tell but more of an addition to the main plot or converging character plot point. John’s part in East of West #17 is a great look into what drives the character forward into the oncoming event in the second year of the apocalypse. Refusing to be dominated by the other nations and fueled by a great zeal, he is a character of great bravado and caution. The action featured is suitably slick, full of motion and distress lining, capturing John as both regal and a renegade, guns blazing but still taking the time for some dry humour.

Moving onto Babylon, the son of death, and the series’ biggest general shock pages yet. To say this child is creepy is an understatement. The lack of traditional eyes and placement of baroque cyberpunk gear make him look at home with designs that sprung from Ghost in the Shell but with all the added grunge of H. R. Giger. This segment acts as a reminder of where the character stands within the new events taking place in East of West whilst also introducing another significant participant within Babylon’s plotline.

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Finally we reach the end segment of East of West #17 and back to Xiaolian and Death, dining after his entrance in issue 16. The scene is tense moving between very tight close ups and widescreen panels capturing the best of the contempt, despair, pity and heart between the ruinous couple. Martin’s colours again continue to amaze as the shadow of the tent never wavers, its shade still as dark and tone throughout the remaining pages. Dragotta’s pencil work as well becomes very flexible as nearly every type of horizontal shot is taken advantage of: switching from tight close-ups, long distance shots and mid-range, capturing full detailed profiles and skewed minimal features. It’s by far the best of the emotional content with the series, as both characters are equally guilty of exuding great indifference and malice, however Death’s ability to raise her from such a place is heartfelt and a joy to read. Even Dragotta’s artwork mirrors the intent by initially drawing her from a depressive almost zombie-like appearance back to a stronger, more expressive visualization. The culmination of the segment rectifies some nagging questions, however open the door to so many more.

Hickman and Dragotta continue to draw out the intricate webs that connect the characters of East of West together, never revealing too much or showing too little of their journeys. So far almost everyone is accounted for in the Apocalypse: Year Two but no doubt we shall see the others very soon.

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