Overall, I found the first volume of East of West to be full of potential.
There was plenty to like and enjoy, but also plenty of room for improvement. That being said, East of West: The Promise is the best thing I’ve read by Jonathan Hickman and I’m curious to see where the next volume takes us.
Is it good?
East of West Vol. 2: We Are All One (Image Comics)
Written by: Jonathan Hickman
Drawn by: Nick Dragotta
Xiaolian is free and now in charge of New Shanghai. Meanwhile, Death and his comrades continue on their quest for revenge and seeking out the location where Death’s son is locked away.
Things are getting tenser for each representative from the Seven Nations of America. A traitor is uncovered, their countries are on the brink of war, and we start to learn about their histories and past. The end is nigh for this land and in the end, none may be left alive.
East of West Vol. 2, like the first, is good but problematic. It addresses some issues I brought up before, but it slacks in other areas. This is most noticeable with the story itself. The book still feels like it’s in setup mode. It’s still introducing new concepts, characters and ideas. The story itself, beyond a few plot points like Bel Solomon getting the help of Judge Dredd/Punisher type of characters to take out the other members of the “Chosen” or the death of one of the members, doesn’t make that much progress; We Are All One just gets a bit dull because of the lack of progression and the overabundance of dialogue in some scenes.
Of course, there are still plenty of interesting things going on and the setup is establishing some plot threads that have potential, like the Oracle that Death visits (though that plotline got stretched a bit thin at points) or the unrest in the Union, so the comic isn’t boring to the point of detriment — the narrative could just use a little livening up.
I got a foot in this jar and you all know what that means!
Strangely enough, the one story element that didn’t get expounded upon is the “Message” that everyone follows. As I said in the previous review, I find this whole element to be more of a plot device given how vague it is and how it almost seems like a justification for future plot points to come out of nowhere. It’s something that most everyone knows about and that a lot of the villains believe in and follow, but we still don’t have much of an idea of it. We get a better scope of the religion that seemed to spawn from it with some flashbacks and how the members of the Chosen discuss it, which is nice of course. However, I feel that learning a bit more about this “Message” would not only help make it feel more special within the narrative, but also help let the audience understand the characters a bit better. After all, with so many people following it and wanting to enact the apocalypse because of it, wouldn’t it be nice to learn some more and what draws the characters into this “holy” word?
Characterization is where the most improvements came in We Are All One. We learn a bit more about these characters, their past, their motivations, and even gain a better understanding of their homeland. Most of the Chosen get a lot of focus as well, such as Bel, Ezra Orion (the Keeper of The Message), Crown Prince John Freeman (not related to Gordon Freeman), and even President Antonia LeVay. We sort of learned about Cheveyo from the Endless Nation, but it wasn’t all that much since we had three whole pages worth of any form of characterization and he ends up dying in the end, so there’s not much to say about him as a character. The extra focus given helps to make the characters more three-dimensional, but they honestly still aren’t particularly compelling at this stage. (With the exception of Bel.)
As for the rest of the cast: Death himself doesn’t really get to do much this whole volume and sort of fades into the background; no real development or much progression with his story, which is rather disappointing given how much focus he got in the previous volume.
His two buddies, Wolf and Crow, don’t fare much better. Crow is barely in the comic and doesn’t do anything besides fighting something at one point, but Wolf gets some actual development. Mind you, it’s all confined to one issue and there’s less emotion than you’d expect from the son of Cheveyo — who hasn’t seen his progeny in a long, long time but getting a bit of backstory, seeing the things that changed him as a person, and even getting some motivation for why he is hanging around with Death is very much welcome. There’s also Death’s son in the book, but he’s hard to comment on given the fact the fact he’s only appeared in one entire scene in the book and at best, it can be said that he is intelligent. So far.
We also get a look into the other three Horsemens’ pasts and see how that connects back to Ezra, building up a rather interesting relationship between them. It’s done rather quickly via a montage, but it feels very believable.
That leaves us with the rest of the noteworthy characters: The Ranger, the Oracle, and Doma Lux.
Doma has a particularly memorable design (she looks like Domino from Marvel Comics) and is given some time in the spotlight — so she seems like she’ll be a recurring character. The Ranger has a bit more depth, with a bit of a clichéd, but effective enough, backstory and makes a hell of an impression later on when we see him in action. That being said, he’s barely in the book (though for some reason, he is the title character on the front). Oracle is pretty much a big mystery here, being able to see into the future and constantly taunting Death, but that’s pretty much it for her. She’ll probably play a bigger role in the future. But in the end, despite some characters, it felt like there was an improvement in regards to the character work here.
Ten bucks says the obviously evil looking woman who needs a suntan turns on the president.
I’m glad we got a bit more of glimpse at the more futuristic cities and places to build up the world a bit better. Sure, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before and a lot of the technology seems weird for the sake of being “futuristic”, but it is appreciated. There weren’t many surprises or twists with the story or characters this time around, besides the opening and conclusion of the volume. That’s a shame since there were plenty of good and quite intriguing surprises in the first issue at points that kept things exciting at points.
The dialogue is better in comparison to the previous volume, but still needs some work. The first issue of the book, for the most part, is a good example of that and is the montage with the one of the Horsemen and Ezra. After some interesting exchanges and witty banter in the first issue, the dialogue and narration veer back into that overly flowery and unnatural speech — like the scene between Doma and Antonia for instance.
You can tell someone is a colossal and corrupt jackass if they are A) Fat B) Say ‘Tut. Tut.” C) Sit in a flying chair and D) All of the above.
Heck, it even has characters discussing and explaining things that the other characters should already know about. There are scenes that should clearly have a lot of impact and effect on the others, like the ending scene of the book, but they are often not built up well. Going back to the end, Cheveyo dies and in front of Wolf, his son, no less. We don’t see how Wolf reacts and frankly, even if we did, this was the first issue to even establish they were related, let alone the fact that they even knew each other or even saw a bit of Cheveyo outside of the Chosen meetings. It comes across as a shock death and not even a particularly good one.
Then there is the artwork by Nick Dragotta and although solid overall, it still retains some of the same flaws I had with the previous volume. The characters are very well designed and very capable of conveying the mood required for the scene they are in. The layouts are decent and are easy to follow, though are not particularly memorable and there are quite a few empty backgrounds (most noticeable in the action scenes). Speaking of action, it’s pretty decent looking overall, but there’s not much to write home about this time around. With the sci-fi angle and more horrific… things in the story, the designs are interesting to look at in all their odd and gory glory. Some of the sci-fi objects, accessories, and vehicles come across as being bland and or just impractical (like that mask the Ranger is wearing since part of it goes up his nose), but at least it is all well depicted. Combined with some lovely coloring East of West Vol. 2 is a very good looking book in the end.
Is It Good?
East of West Vol. 2: We Are All One is good, but still flawed. I appreciate the build-up and development for the antagonists in the book, along with the additional world building. However, the slow story progression, the lack of development with the lead characters, and some parts of the writing that didn’t get much improvement on still put a damper on the book. The series isn’t quite amazing yet, but there is still plenty of potential with it and hopefully, the next volume can show me what makes this comic truly shine.