Oliver Davis reviews East of West #10…
“Death finally tracks down someone who knows where his son has been hidden, right as the Ranger finds that exact same man. Someone shoots, someone gets shot, and someone dies.“
East of West #10’s synopsis above hints at a frustrating trait of the series so far: “Death finally tracks down someone.” Which roughly translates as: Good grief, this has been going on for a bit. After three months of painfully slow story progression, with Jonathan Hickman introducing new characters and profiling facets of the book’s increasingly complex backstory, issue 10 finally gets back to the good stuff.
The opening scene is paced rather well, a three page sequence that ends with Death leaving the Oracle after she had yanked his eye out from its socket. Then comes a two-page spread containing the comic’s name and chapter title: ‘A Sea of Bones’ (the only issue thus far that could also be a nautical-themed porno). Few books devote as much space to itself as East of West, but, once you get past the solipsism, the double-page title does make for a nice piece of grandiosity. It’s paced exactly like the opening credits of a television episode.
Death’s ocular extraction was the price he paid the Oracle to find the son he never knew he had, commonly referred to by everyone else as The Great Beast, echoing the old adage, ‘an eye for…an-important-piece-of-plot-development.’ With his skinchanging buddies, Wolf and Crow, in tow, Death tracks down the former’s father to a grave where the next piece of the puzzle resides. But it isn’t just any grave – keeping with East of West’s obsession with the definite article, this is The Grave, where, like, loads of things go to die. It’s a lovely idea, but is lost among The Oracles, The Message, The Ham and Cheese Baguette, and all the other things of which there are only one.
The quest to find Death’s son is intercut with The Great Beast himself, some pasty kid hooked up to a multitude of cables and wires, living in a virtual reality designed to simultaneously teach and control him. The visual-style is very much informed by Akira’s Espers. The Three Horsemen reckon they might have to kill it soon, introducing an element of tension that will hopefully propel the story forward more urgently than in recent months.
The previous issues of East of West haven’t been bad, they’ve just been stagnant. Realms or characters are explored to issue-long length, distracting the story from the main narrative. After three months of waiting, Hickman here gives the central line centre stage again. And – what a surprise – it’s the most enjoyable issue in ages.