East of West Volume 1: The Promise, is a collection of the first 5 issues of the series. Although you can collect individual comics, it’s generally easier to absorb the art and storyline of the series in these five issue volumes. The series itself is full of fantastic artwork and riveting dialogue, but if you have a tough time following the storyline, feel free to check out my plot summary; it’s an overview that might aid you in navigating the richly conceived world of East of West. Now, if you’re ready, let’s dive in to East of West Volume 1.
Illustrations That Tell a Story
I have always been a fan of indie comics because generally, much more care has been taken to make sure the artwork is what sells the series. In the case of East of West, that idea couldn’t be more true.
The amazing illustrations rendered by Nick Dragotta, as well as the fantastic coloring done by Frank Martin, more than make up for the tough reading found in the beginning of the series. The artwork and coloring found in the first few pages is absolutely out of this world. It was probably the fantastic artwork that led to the first issue selling out in its first week.
One bone that I do have to pick with this series is the utter lack of creative cover art. It’s understandable that Image Comics might not have the budget of Marvel or DC to hire additional artists for variant and original covers. However, it’s something lacking that could have potentially hurt the series in the beginning. Had it not been for an interesting plot premise, the series may have died out due to those who truly espouse the adage, “Judging a book by its cover.’
Getting the Ball Rolling
The storyline of East of West is very unique and interesting – once you get the ball rolling, that is. The art helps the reader understand the story, however, you may need to read the first volume two to five times before you grasp what is going on.
The individual dialogue scenes are done very well. Hickman’s stunning writing ability is demonstrated in this series; the thoughts, character dialogue and flashback sequences tell the story better and better once you start moving through the first volume.
Colorful language and the broad vocabulary utilized by this series make the reader feel like they are part of this future dystopian version of the United States. Flashback scenes used when a character is recalling a memory help tell the back story of what’s going on. These dialogue sequences cleverly keep the reader desiring more since they don’t reveal everything, initially. As you move through volume one, two, three and four, the reader is able to get glean little snippets of the back story as the plot line progresses.
To the Summary
East of West Volume 1: The Promise begins with the reincarnation of Conquest, War and Famine who are three of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. At this point, if you are already confused, check out our plot summary HERE to understand why they are being reborn. The book officially opens with the beginning of the Seven Nations of America and the prophecies told by Elijah Longstreet and Red Cloud.
The prophecy storyline stops abruptly, and then Death, Crow and Wolf walk into a bar (no, this isn’t the start of a bad joke). You get to see Death’s amazing skills as he clears a bar full of bounty hunters and Union soldiers in seconds; he then proceeds to question the bar tender who had a contract to hunt Death. Death spares this man but keeps the contract the hunter was given.
We then cut back to the other three Horsemen as they ravage an area killing anyone who is around. Then a quick cut back to Death questioning the President of the Union who, at the time, is one of The Chosen. Here we discover the bounty for Death was made by the President. Learning this, Death makes short work of the Union President and leaves, setting out to kill all members of The Chosen in his mission to find his son.
The remaining Horsemen arrive shortly after to find out who will replace the President and select Antonia LeVay as the Secretary of Interior because they can control her easier. In the process, they lay waste to the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, the Secretary of War, the Vice President and the Secretary of State.
From there, President LeVay of the Union, meets members from five of the six other nations at Armistice and speaks about the state of the Union and how they can bring things back together. We see Death traveling to meet with Archibald Chamberlain of the Confederacy, where Archibald confesses that Death’s wife, Xia, is still alive. We then discover that Archibald was one of the five other members that just met with President LeVay at Armistice.
Thus begins the cat and mouse game of the other three Horsemen and Death. The bartender and bounty hunter, questioned by Death at the beginning of the book, is also questioned by the Horsemen as Death is on his way to the new People’s Republic to question Mao III. Whew, lots of questions…
Death, Wolf and Crow show up and lay waste to a gigantic Chinese army in seconds. Xia kills her sister Hu and her father Mao III. Xia is announced as the new leader of the People’s Republic and a new member of The Chosen. Ironically, Hu was also one of the characters that met President LeVay and other members of the other nations. Coincidence? I think not. Death then rides into the sunset (classic) and East of West: Volume #2 picks up!