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


East of West 31

east-of-west-31Today, Patrick and Ryan D. are discussing East of West 31, originally released February 8th, 2017. As always this article contains SPOILERS.

Patrick: In our write-up of East of West 16, over two years ago, Drew made the observation that this series “is no fun, but it might be important.” I have long considered “no fun” to be one of the more damning criticisms of this series. For all of its interesting, impactful ideas and harsh truths about human nature and the corrupting influences of power, greed and faith, East of West seldom has an enjoyable narrative to buoy its grim headiness. I now believe this to be the point. With pages and pages of static boardroom scenes, we are meant to feel the excruciatingly dull banality of evil. Writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Nick Dragotta only allow their creation to be truly exciting when the good guys actively resist the powers oppressing them. Continue reading

East of West 16

east of west 16Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing East of West 16, originally released December 31st, 2014.

It only ends once. Everything else that happens is just progress.

Jacob, LOST “The Incident”

Patrick: What’s so appealing about the concept of the End of the World? There have been a couple of studies and polls conducted that collect this information, but around 45% of American adults believe that we are living in the end times. There’s something comforting about that idea — if the world ends, then we end together, and existence need never be without me. The much more likely truth is that the world is not ending and humanity will persevere for countless centuries. This has always been at the heart of East of West, apocalypse be damned. Issue 16 launches “The Apocalypse: Year Two,” and any ending seems achingly far away. That’s where the real horror sets in: the realization that this nightmarescape isn’t the end of the world, it’s just progress. 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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East of West 10

east of west 10

Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing East of West 10, originally released March 12th, 2014.

Taylor: Anyone who’s been reading the news lately has been spoiled by a surprising amount of entertaining stories. The mystery of the vanished Malaysian airliner has captivated the world since each day new and more confounding information is released about its fateful voyage. Then there’s the ongoing political crisis in Crimea. Vladimir Putin’s bizarre quest to take back a former Russian province has set the Western world afire. With stories such as these making the news one would wonder why we need to read fiction since the real world seems capable of delivering enough entertainment on its own. As if in answer to this question, East of West 10 tells us why fiction and comics are important. This issue seems to hold a mirror up to the world and the reflection, while twisted, is all too recognizable as belonging to nothing but humanity.

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East of West 9

Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing East of West 9, originally released January 29th, 2013.

Taylor: When successfully writing a story about a fictional world, there is one thing the author must do if they want their work to be believable. It’s not necessarily high-flown concepts or a strong thesis, though those certainly help. Instead, it’s important for the author to create a world that follows its own rules and mythologies. The author must not break away from these or else the world he or she so deliberately built will come crashing down. In the land of comics where fantasy worlds become reality on a regular basis, Jonathan Hickman has established himself as a skilled observer of this rule with such titles as The Manhattan Project and of course East of West. In the latter, Hickman has created a bleak landscape where death roams the world, both literally and figuratively. The world Death inhabits, along with its inhabitants, is fascinating and dark, and learning more about it is part of the joy of reading East of West. Issue 9, like issue 8 before it, indulges the reader with world building which is both a delight and a little frustrating at the same time. Continue reading

East of West 8

east of west 8

Today, Shelby and Taylor are discussing East of West 8, originally released December18th, 2013.

Shelby: The occasionally tempestuous relationship between the church and the state has a longer relationship than one might realize. In ancient times, being a ruler often came with the title of deity; your word was law because it was divine. Martin Luther was one of the first to begin to call for a separation of the two, and by the time the First Amendment of the United States was drawn up, Thomas Jefferson was speaking of “a wall of separation between the church and state,” in order to guarantee religious freedom. Personally, I believe very strongly in the idea of the separation of the two, namely because there are many religions in the world, and I see no point in a government forcing someone to follow a set of beliefs. That is not genuine worship. In East of West, however, Jonathan Hickman presents a trickier situation; there is no religion, there is no government, there is only The Message, and if the Message demands political leaders keep the populace dumb and under control to prep them for the four horseman of the apocalypse, the politicians hasten to obey.

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