Oli Davis reviews East of West #21…
The Apocalypse: Year Two continues.
Issue 21 picks up where the previous issue’s cliffhanger concluded. Doma is a double agent, secretly working for PRA. The opening few pages sees an old scene from this new perspective. The meeting of nations, the one that sparked the war, is now told through clandestine taps; morse code plotting between Doma and her PRA lover.
The lettering is inventive. Each speech box begins and ends with ‘TAP!’ Hyphens split words into individual characters. “You have orders,” becomes “TAP! Y-O-U-H-A-V-E-O-R-D-E-R-S. TAP!” It’s the best to way to depict typing in the medium’s speech bubbles I’ve ever seen.
That opening few pages works in multiple ways. Re-experiencing an old scene through eyes anew makes for some thrilling continuity. The lettering is strikingly punctuated. But most of all, it’s the relationship between Doma and her lover. The two-dimensional character you thought you knew suddenly gets an extra depth.
Which is why it’s so frustrating to proceed through the issue. More new characters on which we have no emotional hook are introduced; more tactical discussion from yet another nation. The middle of the comic drags. Another month, another non-event in story.
The closing scenes are better, but only for the dialogue. The Endless Nation’s Chief of Chiefs sojourns into the Dead Lands. He meets someone with a skull for a head…for more tactical discussion on the fate of a nation.
The ending neatly wraps on Doma and her lover’s parting; their subtle tap-tap-tapping goodbyes. Yet for a second month running, nothing feels like it’s progressed. Jonathan Hickman has undeniably crafted an immensely detailed and rich world for East of West, but, like the most tedious bits of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, he’s ignoring all the best characters, introducing too many others and deviating on annoyingly slow tangents. Drop the Brienne stuff. Give us Tyrion.