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 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 21

east of west 21

Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing East of West 21, originally released October 14th, 2015.

Taylor: The stories that keep me on the edge of my seat are the stories that reveal just enough, but never the whole thing. While this is true of any story, it is especially true of any story that is syndicated; you need to keep my attention sustained not just over a short amount of time, but possibly years. The TV shows Lost and Battlestar Galatica were able to do this simply by withholding information from me. While that was maddening at times, I openly enjoyed it because it let me engage the world in ways other stories didn’t. Instead of passively watching events unfold, I was always guessing what would happen next. While East of West may not possess the same level of intrigue, it does keep me guessing where it’s going next each issue. It’s wildly unpredictable in the best way possible.

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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 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 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 11

Alternating Currents: East of West 11, Drew and TaylorToday, 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

Clever girl…

– 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.

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