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 33

Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing East of West 33, originally released May 24th, 2017. As always this article contains SPOILERS.

Taylor: I recently finished watching the second season of Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, and can say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Why exactly I like the show could be an essay unto itself, but suffice it to say that Dev, Ansari’s character, is so damn likable it makes it hard to dislike the show by extension. The reason I bring this up is to illustrate how important likable and relatable characters are to any story. Master of None is by no means perfect, but the characters are so lovable that they more than make up for any of the show’s shortcomings. East of West, by comparison, has a dearth of likable and relatable characters despite its large cast, and this often is too the detriment of the series. Issue 33, however, bucks this trend, and in so doing makes the apocalypse more engaging than it’s been in a long while.

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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 13

east of west 13

Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing East of West 13, originally released July 2nd, 2014.

Shelby: It’s no secret ’round these parts how much I dislike the trope of “Two Heroes Meet For The First Time And Punch Each Other.” It’s such a transparent trick to introduce conflict to an issue, and is so often completely avoidable. I just feel like shaking these characters sometimes, and telling them if they just took two seconds to talk it out, the fake conflict would be gone and we could get back to the story. It’s rare for that sort of conflict to play out in a way that makes sense in the context of the issue; so rare, in fact, that when Jonathan Hickman uses it in the latest issue of East of West I didn’t even realize it.

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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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