East of West #2: The Message

East of West #2

 

If only presidential elections were really like this. Jonathan Hickman returns with the second installment of his entertaining and disturbing tale East of West. What have we learned thus far? Well, at some point, the history of the Earth split drastically with what we know and a violent, dystopian world was born. Currently, three of the four horsemen are out for revenge against those who killed their brother. Children who may be another version of the four horsemen have murdered the President of America, and now they hold court to decide a new one. Not just any president, one who believes in The Message.

East of West #2 opens with this election, which is more of the children slaughtering all those in line for presidency that they deem unworthy. Finally, a woman is chosen. Her name is Antonia LeVay. I’m assuming Hickman is insinuating that this woman is a direct descendant of iconic Satanist Anton LeVay. While the name is corny, it may fit into Hickman’s story if this “Message” is built on Aleister Crowley’s idea of “Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be The Whole Of The Law.” Regardless, Antonia LeVay is made the president by the three evil children and sent to meet the other leaders of the world.

Armistice. Another large tower, this time in the middle of the desert. It is here that President LeVay is introduced to others looking to bring about the end of the world as foretold by “The Message.” Thus far, we don’t know what this message is, but President LeVay and her cronies are looking to use it to bring about destruction. One particularly ornery member is Andrew Archibald Chamberlain, the Chief Of Staff of the Black Towers. Once exposed to the Message via blood and blue light, LeVay is now privy to the fate of the world. Chamberlain heads back to his Black Towers, where he’s met by Death. Their exchange is some of the best-written comic book dialogue in recent memory.

Like his current work in Avengers and New Avengers, or his previous stuff involving the Fantastic Four, Hickman excels at complex stories and layered plots. East of West teeters at times on being excessively confusing, but Hickman’s magic with words stops it just before the edge. The dystopian future idea is common and often boring. Hickman keeps it interesting by blending history, folklore, mysticism and adventure. East of West, thus far, is  exceptionally entertaining.

I also give credit for the success of this story to Nick Dragotta. His pencils are perfect for the atmosphere Hickman is trying to convey. The world of East of West is stark, malevolent and cruel. Dragotta’s art is the same. Outside of the flawless character work, there is little in the way of detail or backgrounds. Everything is put into the action and the moment. It gives a real sense of dread and horror to the proceedings. Helping to complete this package is Frank Martin, who does some wonderful color work here.

While East of West is still in its infancy, so far it is one of the best series of 2013.

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(4.5 Story, 4.5 Art)