By Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta, & Frank Martin
This was a huge week for excellent releases from Image Comics. One of the titles that has found its way onto so many reader’s pull-lists is the wonderfully strange and epically grim East of West. Despite the fact that Jonathan Hickman’s creator-owned titles tend to be very strange and relatively indirect in their delivery, the rampant creativity and brilliantly unique world-building typically employed is one of the reasons he is so prolific and has remained a favorite with readers.
East of West is a prime example of this penchant for world-building, which also incorporates a lot of mythology-building. One of the reasons this aspect of the book has been considered “difficult” in previous issues is due to the indirect nature with which it is conveyed. However, it is also partly due to this exposition through allusion which makes Hickman’s stories feel so epic in tone; the characters often discuss integral concepts without providing detailed explanations to the reader, as layers of plot are slowly peeled back through subtle pieces of the greater puzzle with each passing installment. This certainly felt like the case with issue #6, but the manner in which the story was structured was executed in a way that not only kept the reader engaged and curious, but also satisfied a number of questions later in the book as more and more backstory was revealed.
Another key feature in East of West is the number of colorful characters found scattered throughout the plot which allows for a much more varied and dynamic tale given the ability to jump around between different players of the story, while each perspective adds something different to the overall plot and further explains the details on which the series is based. In issue #6, the story quickly becomes relatively confusing, but as with the series overall, adequate explanations are provided once we cut to another perspective. This issue was primarily focused on the Rangers and their quest for bloody justice. The issue was action-packed, full of mystique, and introduced an interesting new character into the fold who had a very intriguing backstory.
The artwork in East of West #6 is equally magnificent. Nick Dragotta’s illustrations are incredibly clean, with excellent character renderings and sharp backgrounds. The minimal action sequences that are present in this issue are dynamic and bloody, which is perfectly suited to convey the anger, suspense, and violence associated with the original Ranger. However, it’s the coloring that really brings this book to life. Frank Martin’s work employs a wonderfully vivid palette which simultaneously enhances the apparent realism, particularly regarding the characters, and the fantastic nature of the story and setting. Furthermore, the slight muting of tones in the true flashback sequences fit these scenes very well, while the rest of the book is vibrantly lush in appearance, even when focused on a darker setting.
East of West has certainly been a slow burn regarding the amount of detail provided surrounding the central plot up to this point. Despite this fact, it is incredibly satisfying to see various pieces of the puzzle snapped together with each passing month. The latest installment put a halt to the progression of the current tale and ignores the main protagonist all together. However, the introduction of the Ranger was very well-crafted and certainly quite interesting. This book has really carved out a niche of its own and issue #6 is full of the intriguing and intelligently-crafted story fans now anxiously await each month.