06 April, 2013

The Post-Apocalyptic Sci-Fi Comic You Didn't Know You Wanted


East of West is the craziest comic I've read since. . . well, the last time I read a Hickman comic.

East of West feels like a blend between a high-concept indy comic that you saw at a convention (and would likely never read) and the most low-brow, straight forward pulp to fall out of Image's ass in the mid-90's. Due to what alchemy, I do not know, the results are something rather amazing. Violent, oblique, and ambitious, and amazing.

Did I say it was amazing?

East of West tells the story of. . . I don't know what. There's a supernatural trio of murder machines (with a missing sibling) that exist in an alternate future where the United States was segmented into seven different nation and a nuclear war went down in the middle of the 21st century. Then there is a prophetic Mao Ze Dung and the president gets his head blown off. It's pretty good.

At the very least it's a fine first issue and considering how much of this world has yet to be revealed, I think this might end up being a very fine trade indeed.

My interest flagged slightly when the exact identity of the Four is revealed, which takes the mysterious power of these characters and then anchors them to one of the more well-worn pieces of Biblical mythology. It doesn't ruin anything, it just seems to present an answer where I didn't need or want one. Ideally, as the story unfolds, the intent and origin of the Four will reveal itself as something slightly different than that great Biblical quartet.

I know I throw the word “crazy” out quite a lot. Too much, probably. That's the trouble with not having an editor currently and that's the trouble of having the same thought over and over again. East of West is demonstrably a crazy book.

I know I've said it about Nowhere Men and I know I've said it about Prophet (hey, both are Image books, strange. . . ). It's true with this book too.

Ignoring psychiatric diagnoses for a moment, let me ask you a question: Is there anyone in comics doing as much varied and exciting work as Bryan Hickman is right now?
Between The Manhattan Projects, Secret, The Red Wing, his Fantastic Four run, and this I'm hard pressed to think of someone doing as many out-there projects as he is-- and that's without including his mainstream comic book work. At the risk of naming the Great Bearded One and bringing up all that name connotes, Hickman's current position in the industry reminds me of Alan Moore.

Time will tell if Hickman is also a bitter, old crank. We already know that he's a wizard, but that could mean anything.

You should read the first issue. It doesn't matter if you like science fiction or westerns or. . . whatever genre this actually is you need to buy it.

Another congenital defect of my writing is my repetition of the phrase “This is what comic books should be.” In this case it's still true. This is what a comic book should be. It's what the market needs more of.

At the very least I know it's what I need more of.