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 →
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.
Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing East of West 24, originally released January 29th, 2015.
Taylor: Anyone who has ever regularly practiced cardio exercise can tell you about the importance of pacing. I myself ride my bike to work whenever possible, and while I’m in the saddle, I definitely fall into my usual rhythm. There’s something about finding the proper pace to your workout, race, or commute that is incredibly important to helping it run smoothly. Pace is similarly important with story telling, the only difference being that instead of a steady pace, you want one that varies and excites you. Comic books are interesting when you consider the pacing of a story. Does each issue need a varying pace or should the series as a whole vary its pace as needed regardless of individual issues. East of West is a series that seems to fall into the latter and while this is cause of equal parts frustration and excitement. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing East of West 22, originally released December 2nd, 2015.
Patrick: The world of East of West exists in a state of ceaselessly progressing apocalypse. Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta’s series is appropriately grim to match the tone of a world mired in sustained war, famine, disease and death. And while that’s all terrible, it has sort of become background noise against which millions of people still lead their lives. It takes a specific moment of invasive violence to snap readers out of their apocalypse-apathy, and issue 22 doubles down on both the specificity and the invasiveness of that violence. The result is a haunting, immediate issue that preys on our fears of being attacked when we are at our most vulnerable. Continue reading →
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.
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, 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.