That’s when the attack comes — not from the front, no, from the side, from the other two raptors you didn’t even know were there.
– Alan Grant, Jurassic Park
– Robert Muldoon, Jurassic Park
Drew: I’m not sure I can explain why, but some of my favorite movies feature surprises that are actually spoiled within the movie itself. Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy perfected this idea, basically using it to structure each film, but my all-time favorite example has to be the raptor attack from Jurassic Park. The attack doesn’t come until towards the end of the movie, but is actually explained, virtually point-for-point, by Grant within the first ten minutes. In the excitement of the scene, we forget what Grant said about raptor attacks, and can only piece it together after it happens — after we realize that we already knew what would happen. While Jonathan Hickman doesn’t hide anything quite as shocking as a surprise velociraptor in East of West 11, he does blindside us with an element that has been hidden in plain sight since the beginning: the Endless Nation.
It’s a trick that’s mostly achieved by focusing on what we already know. Hickman tracks the Chosen from each of the other seven nations, recapping what we know about all of them. By this point, every single one has had an issue more-or-less devoted to just them, so this is just a quick refresh. Xiaolian Mao of the People’s Republic of America is packing weapons, Archibald Chamberlain of the Confederacy is asserting his personal interests entirely separate from the Message, Bel Soloman of the Republic of Texas is haunted but driven, John Freeman of the Kindom of Louisiana is busy watching his back, Antonia LeVay of the Union is fighting civil unrest at home, and all are heading to Armistice for a big meeting. It feels like a pretty standard recap, reminding us of everyone’s motives and interests before getting to the actual conflict, but then Hickman hits us with the reminder that this isn’t everyone. We may already be in awe of all of the plates Hickman currently has spinning, but this issue ends with him effortlessly adding another.
I may be focusing too hard on the reminder that we haven’t yet taken a closer look at the Endless Nation, but there’s really not a whole lot going on here, otherwise — this issue boils down to one long “Previously, on East of West…”. It’s not that it’s unnecessary (it’s been a long time since some of these conflicts were introduced), or even that it’s boring, there’s just not much new to say about it. For me, the recap mostly serves to lull us into a false sense of familiarity, banking on the fact that we’ll forget that there was still a member of the Seven Nations that we hadn’t yet taken a closer look at. That worked like gangbusters for me, but mostly just makes me excited for the next issue when we get to take a closer look at these guys.
My initial thought: doesn’t the eyewear of the guy on the right look an awful lot like the thing Death’s son his hooked up to? Maybe there’s a connection, or maybe Nick Dragotta just likes drawing those.
Hey, speaking of Dragotta’s work here, the quick survey nature of this issue gives him an opportunity to show his design range. Each nation has its own aesthetic, and Dragotta is able to transport us to those locations instantaneously (it’s no coincidence there’s no text to identify the location of each scene — it simply isn’t necessary). I’m particularly fond of the designs of the Enldess Nation representatives. Even beyond their headdresses, their facial features are mostly implied with a few simple shadows, lending them a graphic simplicity that pulls against the more intricate designs of their headwear. That colorist Frank Martin knows to stay out of the way there is a testament to his assuredness (plus, he has plenty of opportunity to flex nuts elsewhere in this issue.
Taylor! I wish I had more to prompt you with, but I’ll be damned if this didn’t feel like a condensed version of all of the Chosen-centric issues. There’s plenty to like, but maybe not that much to talk about? Or maybe I’m glossing over some important details. Or maybe I’m just impatient to get back to what Death and the other Horsemen are up to. Sorry, none of these are prompts, but hey, I quoted Jurassic Park up top — that’s got to count for something, right?
Taylor: Drew, you know me too well. Any article that begins with a Jurassic Park quote is going to appeal to me immediately. I love raptors, I love raptors attacking humans, and more than anything I like recognizing a quote from a movie which I know virtually every line. My reaction when I saw the JP quote? Basically this. Sad to say, however, this reaction of mine is something this issue of East of West failed to elicit.
As I was reading through I became increasingly aware that everything we were seeing was simply a recap. It’s like those insanely clever specials ABC aired before every season premier of LOST. Not only did they refresh our memories but we get a little more detail and insight into the things we already knew. In similar fashion, this issue catches us back up to speed and gives us a little more information about each party of the Chosen. For instance, we learn that John Freeman is traveling to the Wall with his 9th brother and that Soloman’s mind and dreams are plagued by some disembodied voice. Of these revelations perhaps the most interesting revolves around Archibald Chamberlain. He’s talking to…something…in this issue and I really have no idea who or what it could be.
Whatever or whoever it is, it ssseemsss sssssinissster, but I can’t recall what Archibald might be communing with. It serves as a reminder that there are lot of parties in play in this series. Having just watched the entirety of season Game of Thrones season 3 I can’t help but notice the similarities. Both titles deal with large, warring factions all of which seem either unaware of or aiding a threat which will mean the end of mankind. The comparison really is nothing but praise, and the two entities have enough differences that each will continue to interest for quite some time.
I do have to question why Hickman decided to give his readers a recap at this exact moment in the series, however. When I discussed this title last month, I could barely contain my excitement about the return of Death to the forefront of this series. It seemed the narrative would begin to focus on our her0(?) once more this week decided to focus out attention elsewhere. I guess I just don’t understand why Hickman would ramp up the momentum of this series one issue and then the next have it come grinding to halt again. While I don’t question the need for a refresher issue, I do wonder why we need one exactly at this point in the series. My hope is this question will be explained next month, and if not, that it will ultimately make sense to me when East of West is collected in the near future.
So, with not a whole lot of content to discuss, let’s look at some of Nick Dragotta’s artwork. As always, I’m impressed with how cinematic and grand all of Dragotta’s work is. He understands how to set a scene’s tone and mood with important establishing shots.
The two pages above are a perfect example of this technique. Dragotta starts with a huge shot that shows exactly where we are, but on a marco level. Each subsequent panel brings us closer and closer to the main subject of the scene. In this case, it’s all a slow build up to the reveal of the Endless Nation, and in terms of making an entrance and damn if it isn’t good. And come on, it reminds of the scene from Return of the Jedi when the Emperor arrives at the Death Star. In all seriousness, its pages like those above which make this universe so compelling. All of the attention to detail and thought that goes into crafting those scenes makes of East of West so interesting. Much like Star Wars, the design of this story is so memorable that it’s easily carrying a fair portion of the story-telling load.
So there you have it. In this review you get allusions to two of my favorite movies. While I don’t begrudge Hickman for the recap, I’m looking forward to a strong showing next month where events are furthered along. If anything, this issue reminds just how much I love this title, and how it’s eating me while I’m still alive.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?