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. Continue reading →
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, read on at your own risk!
Mark: Everyone in Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas, and Daniel Irizarri’s beautiful Cloudia and Rex 1 is just trying to survive. For the deities like Death, Hypnos, and Ala, the threat to their existence is very literal; their entire plane of existence is under attack from Seraphim sent by the High Waveform as it looks to consolidate power and become the one, true God. For 13 year-old Cloudia, her younger sister Rex, and her mom, the threat is more existential. A close knit family, their ties are beginning to fray in the aftermath of Cloudia’s father’s death. Continue reading →
Today, 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 ofEast 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 →
Today, Drew and Ryan D are discussing Thanos 1, originally released November 16th, 2016. As always, this article containers SPOILERS!
What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?
Drew: This line is often used to sell a given story as some kind of ultimate showdown, but it always strikes me as thoroughly self-defeating: either one or both of those adjectives simply prove to be false. That is, the answer can’t be as interesting as the question suggests, since the answer necessarily reveals that the question was built on a false premise. Or, if you’re feeling more diplomatic, you might take Superman’s answer to this question from Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman: “they surrender.” It’s an elegant solution, but is ultimately far less entertaining than the premise suggests — “they surrender” isn’t exactly the white-knuckle conclusion the question implies, and again, betrays the falsehood of those adjectives.
Such is often the case in superhero comics, where villains are routinely trotted out as unstoppable, only for our hero to miraculously give lie to that claim. It’s enough to make anyone doubt the increasingly hyperbolic claims made of villains. This becomes especially true of big name villains, who continue to be heralded as some kind of ultimate threat, in spite of the fact that they’ve been beaten in virtually every appearance. Thanos is a prime example of this — the seriousness of his threat diminishes with each subsequent return (especially after that time Squirrel Girl defeated him) — leading to even more hyperbolic claims made next time. Cleverly breaking that pattern, Jeff Lemire and Mike Deodato’s Thanos 1 sidesteps the Worf Effect by lampshading the inevitable conclusion in the first issue. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
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…
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 racealready 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 →
Today, 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 →
Today, 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.
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.
Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing East of West 11, originally released April 9th, 2014.
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.