by Taylor Anderson
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, read on at your own risk!
Father and son stories have been written since the beginning of time, literally. Many myths focus on this relationship and still today there are movies, books, tv shows, and comics written about this foundational familial connection. It’s obvious to see why. The father-son relationship is…complicated…so it promises an endless well of commentary and creative ideas. And while this is true, I can’t recall ever seeing a father and son story where one member is a horseman of the Apocalypse and the other is promised to destroy the world, but in East of West this is what we have. Even though this may seem bizarre, Jonathan Hickman still finds a way to make Death and Babylon’s relationship meaningful.
Death has finally found his son and is enjoying time with him wandering wherever they please. They stop to fish, they talk while on the road, and they camp together. All in all, it seems like a pretty ideal situation for both Babylon and his dad. However, this being East of West there’s still some sinister weirdness that permeates even the most feel good moments. In this case, it’s Balloon, the AI that has raised and trained Babylon since his birth.
One night, while Babylon sleeps, Death confronts Balloon, wondering why his son seems to see the world in such a rosy light when by all appearances, it’s fucked up and terrible.
This exchange between Balloon and Death is interesting for a couple reasons. First, it’s revealing that Balloon tells death that he shows Babylon the way the world should be. This raises questions about what Balloon’s plans are for his ward. It has always been assumed that Babylon would somehow end the world, but Balloon’s remarks suggest that he has a very different plan for him. By showing Babylon the world that could be, is he preparing him to create that world too? This would certainly be a wrinkle in the message, but if Babylon destroys the awful world of East of West and rebuilds it better he would fulfill his destiny and Balloon’s plans all at once.
The second thing that’s interesting about this exchange is what it reveals to us about Death. It’s clear that despite his name and occupation, Death is a caring family man. He loves his wife and his son and seemingly will go to the ends of the Earth to protect them. That manifests here in his threatening of Balloon not to “fuck it up” which shows he wants his son cared for. More than that though, it shows that Death wants his son to have a world worth living in. He doesn’t want Balloon to fuck “it”, the world, up because he wants his son to have a future — a place that’s actually worth living in. So even though Death may be an unconventional dad, here we see that he’s still trying his best to protect and provide for his son. That’s an old sentiment, but given the setting and the characters, it feels new here.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?