East_West_HCIf you’ve ever been in the Big B Comics Hamilton location for more than thirty seconds, you’ll have likely heard me talk about the comic series “East Of West” at least ten times in that time span.  Never have I read a more compelling plot, with rich characters and brilliant world building as I have with East Of West.  In my mind, it’s hands down one of the best current ongoing series and easily the best comic I’ve ever read.  Well this Wednesday sees the release of the first hardcover edition for the series, East Of West The Apocalypse: Year One, collecting issues 1-15 of the fantastic Sci-Fi Western series.

These first fifteen issues account for the first in-story year of the series, detailing the trials and tribulations of Death, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  Death sets out to seek retribution from those who wronged him, bringing along a reckoning like no other.  Meanwhile, the other remaining Horsemen Of The Apocalypse rise again and seek to bring about the “end times” with their secret, faithful followers, the Chosen.  These Chosen are a group of men and women who believe in a prophecy known as “The Message”, that tells of said impending “end times”.  Each member of the Chosen is a citizen from one of the Seven Nations, new world borders that were established following the conclusion of the American Civil War.  All while extracting his revenge, Death works diligently against the Chosen and the remaining Horsemen to prevent the “end times” and find justice for the life he was robbed of.

Now I’m someone who has re-read the story thus far for East Of West (currently sitting at issue #19) multiple times and can’t wait to get my hands on this hardcover.  The hardcover collects the first three volumes of the series, with each trade encasing an important chapter in the East Of West saga.  The first chapter closely details the return of Death and the other Horsemen, with the Horsemen assembling the Chosen whilst Death seeks out revenge.  In the second part of the story you get a closer focus on all the members of the Chosen, taking time to truly detail the key players of the story going forward, making you invest in some of these characters in ways you never would’ve guessed.  Finally, in the third portion of this collection you get to watch political seeds planted from the early stages start to bloom as everything changes dramatically for the series and spins all the characters around in new directions.  Issue #12 is easily one of the best single issues I’ve ever read and is a key point in the entire series thus far.  All this without even spoiling all the sudden twists and turns that give the story even more intriguing beats.

east_of_west_pg3Jonathan Hickman is the mastermind behind the story of East Of West, writing out an epic and enthralling tale with dozens of interesting characters, plenty of moving plot pieces and a world of which you’ve never seen.  This first hardcover in the series is a great collected format for the story, as Hickman is a deliberate plotter who takes his time aligning all the pieces on the chessboard before gleefully obliterating them all in masterful strokes of genius.  With so much of the story collected together for the first time, you’re allowed to keep the ideas and subtleties of the story more fresh in your mind, allowing you to pick up on even more of the brilliance that Hickman is laying down.  If you tried this series in the single issue format but ending up giving up because of how many plates were spinning at one time or the seemingly slow plot, I urge you to give this format a chance as it will lend to the storytelling in a more rich and inviting way.

But Hickman isn’t the reason you’ll pick this series up, as the series’ artist Nick Dragotta is a talent unlike any other in the industry today.  Building beautiful set pieces, unique character designs and having an eye for sequential storytelling, Dragotta shows that he is a true force of nature on this series.  Dragotta’s style is perfect for both comic book and manga readers, having a hybrid style that draws influence from both American and Japanese art styles.  Dragotta’s artwork holds a fast, frantic pace and scintillating line work that is commonly seen in the black and white pages of manga.  Seeing some of the designs for different settings reminds me of Akira, with (in my opinion) the appearance of Neo-Tokyo drawing a direct parallel to The Union and the White Tower oft seen in East Of West.  Alternatively, many of the character’s appearances appear to be geared to a more Western style, with sharp, angular faces that rip the emotion right from the reader and put it on full display of the page.  The look and feel of an American comic, with the designs and action of a Japanese one.  It’s the best of both worlds for a reader who is looking to go from comics to manga or vice versa.

So to recap, East Of West is all about a future where Death works against the other Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to bring about the end times.  Jonathan Hickman brilliantly plots out an epic story with groundbreaking artwork from Nick Dragotta.  It comes out this week and will be at your local Big B Comics shop for only $49.99.  Trust me, this isn’t a story to be missed and this is the perfect format to read it in if you’re looking for a new, exciting series to get hooked on or give the series a second chance because it didn’t grab you in a monthly format.