EAST OF WEST #11 cold opens with a page that I'd call a sequential storytelling power combo: not only do the art, script, and lettering work seamlessly to get us immersed in the story, but there's also a great parallel between the pattern of the balloons and the structure of the story-so-far. On the heels of a "world tour" of issues that spotlight individuals, we get an issue that brings everyone together as swiftly and cleanly as those balloons pare down to one.
As always, Nick Dragotta and Frank Martin deliver beautiful illustrations packed with the kind of details that make the world of EAST OF WEST confidently unique. Their execution on "old meets new" is done flawlessly; not only does future tech fit cleanly with old-world style (see: Chamberlain's sterile future office as a backdrop for his Mark Twain suit and wooden mystery box), but the hybrid effect is also well-executed (see: the Endless Nation's entire aesthetic). And the little details -- like the design of Xiaolian's blades -- are just plain cool.
There's a cinematic quality to the way this issue plays out; the series of vignettes that swirl around the gathering of the Chosen are timed and placed precisely to build subtle tension, and the last panel feels like a dramatic freeze before a cut-to-black. The whole issue feels very designed, and it works.
All large-scale stories have a calm before the storm, and this issue is one of those; it's not a true "bad," because it still reads well and moves the plot forward, but suffice it to say that this issue is more setup than action. It'll fit perfectly in trade, but is a bit of a simmer relative to the impending explosion, and besides some fresh nuances, the gist is "everyone reconvenes."
EAST OF WEST unfolds quite like a chess match, with each issue involving strategic moves and losses on every side, building towards a dramatic final encounter. Fresh off the second trade, this issue is both a concise recap of the locations and statuses of key Chosen and a lining-up-of-moves for the brutal action that's sure to ensue next month or the month after. EAST OF WEST is no miniseries -- it's playing a longer game, and pacing very deliberately -- and this month's installment is a solid beginning to the third volume.