By Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta, & Frank Martin
East of West is typically one of those books that cause a stir every time a new issue is released. The entire series has been phenomenal. However, the latest installment was by far the weakest up to this point. To put it succinctly, it didn’t feel like there was much to be gotten out of issue #7.
One point about this series that has been discussed before is the cryptic nature of its delivery. Admittedly, there have been times, even in the best issues, where the plot can feel bogged down in an overabundance of mystery. It is true that most of the time this aspect of East of West is executed with impeccable form and provides plenty of gripping intrigue that always leaves the reader guessing. This month, however, the enigmatic appeared to overtake the story in a way that felt a bit excessive. A lot of events in this issue seemingly appeared devoid of any clear relevance, and others were just confusing. Jonathan Hickman is a master story-teller, and it is surely safe to assume that all of this stuff is going somewhere; the delivery just felt unsatisfying this time around. As per usual, the best scenes were those featuring Death and his strange companions, although these were few in number.
Similarly the artwork in East of West #7, while still quite good, seemed to pale in comparison to previous installments in this series. Nick Dragotta’s visuals really help enhance the overall feel of the entire plot with his excellent design of both characters and landscapes. However, the art in issue #7 felt inconsistent. There were a number of panels that felt rushed and lacking the detail that has been typical of the rest of the series. Furthermore, Frank Martin’s colors typically make this book particularly vibrant and lush in appearance, although this too felt relatively muted in issue #7. This seems to be due to the relatively bland scenarios which most of the scenes take place in, at least compared to the fantastic landscapes and towering structures featured in earlier installments. The flashback sequences also limited the vibrant sensibility typical of this series, as the colors in these panels are purposely muted in order to indicate that these scenes are indeed flashbacks. Again, though, this aspect felt more detrimental to the issue as a whole; there was no clear suggestion of when any of this was actually taking place as the only indicator that a flashback was even occurring was the fairly subtle muting of colors.
This review may sound quite negative, but it is important to remember the baseline frame of reference in this particular situation. East of West is one of the top books available each month and issue #7 was still fairly enjoyable. The dialogue is always interesting and the visuals can get pretty wacky. However, this month felt lackluster compared to previous installments and there was a clear pang of disappointment which accompanied the overly cryptic delivery of this odd side tale. There are clearly a number of issues which need to be resolved before the central plot can progress beyond its current point though. There was so much about earlier issues that was wildly enigmatic that these side plots are sure to be revealed as necessities once more pieces of the puzzle are put into place. East of West remains a strongly written series with incredibly interesting characters and locales, and a vastly interesting plot unlike anything else out there. A slight increase in background information could have been all that was missing from issue #7, but as it is this issue felt murky overall, if still fairly enjoyable as a standalone read.