What Parents Want in East of West 38

by Taylor Anderson

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

It’s generally assumed that parents always have the best interest of their children at heart. However, as is often the case in our world there is a difference between what is assumed and what is reality. In my job as a teacher it’s sometimes my sad duty to witness parents putting their own interests before their kid’s. Such was the case of one student who was forced by his mother to be in student council when he had no interest in it whatsoever. He hated all the meetings and eventually started to skip them which led to him breaking down in tears in front of me when his mom wanted to call a meeting about the ordeal. No one was happy then and I am reminded of this when I read East of West 37, where parents put their needs and wants before the kid’s resulting in sorrow for all.

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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

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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Love, Survival, and Loss in Cloudia and Rex 2

by Mark Mitchell 

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

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In our discussion of Cloudia and Rex 1, I praised creators Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas, and Daniel Irizarri for their honest portrayal of a grieving family in extraordinary circumstances, and their work continues to sing in this second act. I’m especially taken with their ability to deftly inject humor into the darker moments of the issue, like when Death sends Cloudia a text message posing as a boy she likes that reads, “Hello, would you mind engaging in a phone speak?” The fine line they walk between making Cloudia an honest-sounding selfish, reluctant teenager, but still relatable and likable is, frankly, remarkable. Continue reading

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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Cloudia and Rex 1: Discussion

by Mark Mitchell & Ryan Desaulniers

Cloudia and Rex 1

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

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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

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

Thanos 1

thanos-1

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?

Traditional

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

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