Oliver Davis reviews East of West #4...
"Flashback to the fallout of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Learn
what shocking event tore them apart and the secret that has been hidden
ever since. The most exciting new book of the year, EAST OF WEST
continues in: THE PROMISE."
What could stop the Apocalypse? Humanity working together? Some super being flying really quickly round the globe? Not in East of West. Stalling the End is down to matters of the heart.
Issue 3 spent its time invariably between telling East of West's complex mythology and Death storming the gates of New Shanghai. Issue 4 moves on by storming New Shaghai itself.
The first pages contain only a few panels, the second of which framing an exchange between father and daughter while Death is quite literally at their door. WAS IT WORTH IT? he asks. The middle panel shows her kissing a previous incarnation of Death in flashback. He's black there, but white now. A purification presumably occurred during his rebirth, or he visited the same Purgatory stylist as Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. Her hand clasps his cheek, starkly in contrast to the colour of his face. YES, she answers, with the slightest hint of a Mona Lisa smile on her lips.
It's like the calm before the storm. You can almost hear the muted knocking of Death at the gate, like the build to a movie's climactic battle sequence. Yet when the fight begins, Jonathan Hickman becomes more concerned with again filling in more story mythology. New Shanghai's Premier regales the history of their great city over Death and his two cronies' destruction of it. The contradiction between image and words works, but it also draws attention away from what feels should be a bigger obstacle. At the moment, Death feels too unstoppable. But it is only issue four. The Apocalypse stuff is surely still to come.
Speaking of Apocalypse, its pesky horsemen are getting on. Famine, in particular, appears to have decayed rather than aged. They reveal why they desire Death so badly (the entity, not the act), and suddenly a very human story emerges amongst the sci-fi and magic and myth.
Essentially, East of West is about a woman's love pulling him away from his friends. It's just that the man is Death and his friends are the three other horsemen of the Apocalypse.
With so much complexity, the core of East of West is relatively straightforward. And therein lies its merit.
Oliver Davis is one of Flickering Myth's co-editors. You can follow him on Twitter @OliDavis.