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East of West #4 - Four: Last Deals of Dead Men Review

5

The latest chapter in EAST OF WEST brings thunder. And fury. And judgment without mercy.

The Good

Explosive action, poignant family drama, history, and political intrigue abound in this issue. If you haven't been pulling EAST OF WEST, go back to your comic shop and fix that right now.

Jonathan Hickman has perfected the art of layered storytelling. There's so much happening in this issue that it shouldn't fit into twenty-odd pages, but it does. The history of New Shanghai and the House of Mao is draped over a ruthless battle, and it's just downright calculated how well those panels play out. That house's patriarch may have wagered on a deal with the devil, but he's not the only one; every other scene in this issue is saturated with other such deals, and we're certain to see equally bloody endings to most of them.

Xiaolian may be my new favorite character in comics. She's brutal, she's ambitious, she's the woman who conquered Death. She's also feminine, merciful, and has a sense of honor as sharp as her sword; the word "Khaleesi" is totally relevant here. This book? It only looks like it's about the Four Horsemen. It's all about her.

Nick Dragotta makes this book as visually exciting as the story it's telling via carefully-crafted panel layouts and directorial angles. It's decidedly sequential (obviously), but feels cinematic in its movement -- especially with Frank Martin's splashes of fiery oranges and reds at high-tension moments (I'm also really digging the unchanging palettes on the Four Horsemen.)

The Bad

I don't even have a complaint so much as a request: an annotated history of The World As It Is to go along with this book. There's only so much historical background that can be reasonably woven into the story without interrupting its pacing and turning it into an alt-history textbook, but those little snippets keep making me wonder "but what ELSE happened?" Also, more maps, please.

The Verdict

EAST OF WEST is absolutely my pick of the week, and as a series, it tops my pull list. It's astonishing how much Hickman and Dragotta have been able to fit into just four issues -- the world is bleak and scary, yet totally immersive, and the balance of violent action and tender emotional moments is carefully cultivated.

17 Comments
Posted by Cavemold

Great issue agreed with them more maps. I saw interiview saying it would last 50 issue at least:!!!!! Also the ending was just perfect.

Posted by stevencarver_

I've been reading this series digitally, but I'm always on the look out for series that deserve another purchase in trade. While I appreciate the mystery that this series started with, I do need a bit more to chew on as the series progresses. I had decided that if this issue didn't build well on #3, that I wouldn't preorder the trade. Well, this issue did more than I could have imagined. This deserves a hardcover treatment, but I'll settle with the paperback in September.

Posted by MadeinBangladesh

Man, I wish I enjoyed this series much as you. Just can't get into Hickman's writing. Read the 1st issue and had no interest in reading further.

Posted by iaconpoint

I wish I could find the first couple of issues. Sold out!

Posted by hufnagel0

@madeinbangladesh: The first issue only intrigued me, but by the end of the second one I was in love. If you can get a hold of the second book, I'd take a chance on it. Reveals some characters' motivations but really hits you with why I should care about what happens with the cliff hanger.

Posted by manwithoutshame

I don't always know what's going on but it's cool as hell!

Posted by kilomac29

Hickman is such an excellent writer. He live tweeted his reading of Fraction's Sex Criminals #1 last night, sold me an issue. BTW if you're not following @IAMSTERANKO on Twitter you're missing out, he's redefining the medium.

Posted by MissJ

@kilomac29: I am obsessed with Steranko's twitter storytime.

Staff
Edited by skyjumpermike

This issue was bad ass!

Posted by kilomac29

@missj: Yeah, me too. The story about buying the fur coat for his girlfriend was gripping, and I won't lie, it got a little dusty in my house when I read that story about him befriending his neighbor's dog. So great.

Posted by MadeinBangladesh

@madeinbangladesh: The first issue only intrigued me, but by the end of the second one I was in love. If you can get a hold of the second book, I'd take a chance on it. Reveals some characters' motivations but really hits you with why I should care about what happens with the cliff hanger.

alright I will give it another shot.

Posted by Michael_Moran

I just got turned on to this run...super excited to star t

Edited by derf_jenkins

I still give Saga a slight edge over this as my fave current title, but after a few more issues that could change.

Posted by Perfect 10

i like your annotation, i have also wanted that to be added though after reading the first issue 3 or so times i got a good sense of it. hopefully we will get more info on the background of this world. i just finished reading it and wow wow wow. so glad i picked up and stayed with this series. beautiful, haunting. its like reading a hong kong film in comic book form. this is everything i love: love conquers all, strong female central character, asian, and mysticism. that last page where they all bow to Xiaolian and the narration says "you should fear her the most for she is the woman that conquered death" i smiled and had to give it two snaps. just too good. hickman is perhaps my favorite writer now (sorry scott, you kinda went down the pooper) he's just killing it these past few years for me. hopefully next issue will tell us what it is that they "took" from death cause in the flash back death is "black" but now he's "white", what could they take that would cause that change? i havent seen him use any powers, is that it? or his weapon?

Posted by Perfect 10

@cavemold: thanks for that you just made my night. i thought it was going to be a 6 issue mini but i can deal with 50 issues. and yes that ending was awesome sauce

Posted by Provehito

This issue was amazing. Good pace, solid action, and the dialogue was enjoyable. Really liking this comic, easily the best indepented series this year so far.

Posted by TheUnN4med

Awesome issue. The story in all this is really deep and fun. I love Death character, and all of them. And that ending was brillant.