East of West 36: Discussion

By Drew Baumgartner and Taylor Anderson

East of West 36

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.

James A. Baldwin

Drew: The sci-fi trappings of East of West can at times make its alternate history feel particularly exotic, but for better or for worse, much of its history resembles our own. I mean, sure, our own Civil War ended in just over four years, and there was no comet that brought with it an apocalyptic prophecy, but most of the makings of that world lie in the very real history of the antebellum United States. Indeed, the ugliest parts of East of West‘s history are based entirely on the truths of American slavery and Manifest Destiny — the legacies of which we’ve never truly reconciled as a nation. Case in point: the Union’s capitol is built on the literal bones of the Endless Nation, turning a symbol of our own shameful past into a potent image that had heretofore given the Union power over the Nation. It’s only by — again, literally — digging up that history that any progress can be made. Continue reading

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Father and Son Bonding Time in East of West 35

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.

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You Need Wings in East of West 34

by Taylor Anderson

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, read on at your own risk!

The bullshit piled up so fast in Vietnam you needed wings to stay above it.

Captain Benjamin Willard, Apocalypse Now

War is a messy business. Aside from the needless death it causes, war destroys communities and families, wrecks economies, and has a way of dragging people and countries down into its bloody maw. Those who try to keep their hands clean often find, despite their best efforts, that war has a particular talent for drawing the unwilling into its embrace as well. Xiaolian Mao has tried, for 34 issues, to keep her hands out of not just war, but the apocalypse, but with attempts on her life and a final attack against her people, she finds that even she can’t avoid her part in ending the world.
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East of West 18

east of west 18

Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing East of West 18, originally released March 12th, 2015.

Taylor: Somewhere in several reading and writing classrooms, there hangs these words:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Depending on how maudlin the teacher, these may or may not be accompanied by a picture of two paths in a forest, to really drive the point home. Most of us take these words as offering a message of support — your life choices are good and you can sleep comfortably at night knowing you made the right choice. But what if these words held a deeper, darker meaning? East of West 18 asks this question, and in doing so once again calls into question the nature of our own perception of the world.
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East of West 17

east of west 17

Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing East of West 17, originally released February 4th, 2015.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Star Wars

Drew: Myths are almost all told from a third person omniscient perspective in the past tense; not only do we get a glimpse into the separate actions of both the Tortoise and the Hare, we understand that this race already happened. That second part is natural to storytelling in general — everything from personal anecdotes to the high-flyingest science fiction is told as if the events already happened. Curiously, both tense and narrative mode tend to disappear when working in a visual medium — the illusion that these actions are actually playing out in front of us is strong enough to override any confusion about who is telling this story, and when. To give visual storytelling a mythic quality requires making the past tense nature and omniscient narrator explicit, perhaps with a framing device a la The Princess Bride, or perhaps just with that innocuous introduction I included above. East of West 17 finds writer Jonathan Hickman slipping his narrator in, lending the proceedings the mythic qualities they rightly deserve. Continue reading

East of West 15

Alternating Currents: East of West 15, Taylor and DrewToday, Taylor and Drew are discussing East of West 15, originally released September 10th, 2014.

Taylor: Some of the oldest and most enduring philosophical questions ever asked have to do with the nature of reality. Actually, maybe that’s basically a working definition of the subject in general. The question of what is reality is one that spans the world. The Taoist philosophers of Ancient China believe that what we perceive is actually an illusion. Likewise, in the West, the Ancient Greeks believe that reality is but a shadow of some ideal world crafted in our minds. That two such disparate cultures should come to similar conclusions shouldn’t be surprising. After all, it’s long been known that we can’t trust our senses to accurately inform our world view. Given the ubiquity of this idea, it’s not surprising to see it spring up in the latest issue of East of West. The series is nothing if not philosophical and the question of reality seemed like a matter of ‘if’ not ‘when’. While this doesn’t surprise in issue 15, what does is just how destructive this question might prove to the world of the Seven Nations.

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