Friday 24 October 2014

East of West, Vol. 3

Jonathan Hickmam and Nick Dragotta, 2014
(October 2014)

So this is what it’s like experiencing an ongoing series at the rate at which it’s produced. It’s agonizing, isn’t it, knowing that you aren’t limited only by your own monetary and temporal resources but must conform entirely to the whims of someone else’s schedule? This is the 21st century people! I want my content here and I want it now! Bend to my fickle desires for escapist entertainment! Dance! Dance for me my pretties! God, I think the last time I consumed any sort of serialized media on an installment by installment basis dictated by the distributer was the first series of Heroes. I tried the second as well, but probably the less said about that the better.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. There are a couple of webcomics I look at too (Strong Female Protagonist is particularly recommended) and with them you’re very much tied into the creator’s timetable. I tend to phase out for a few months at a time though, and then catch up all in a rush, so the effect isn’t too pronounced. Frustratingly, however, I discovered Nimona a couple of months ago with particularly cruel timing; it only finished the story run a couple of weeks back, you see, so I read 95% of the it in a single sitting only for it to break off unexpectedly at exactly the most infuriating point. No one’s fault, of course, and it wouldn’t have been half as rage-inducing if the story hadn’t been so good.

Which brings us (finally) to the third volume of East of West. It should be apparent that I’m reading these as trade paperbacks (the only viable legal option given my location and preferences, really), and this is, I imagine, a different experience to reading single monthly issues. Most of the other comic TPs I’ve read collected a single story arc (or part thereof), whereas this one is very much part of a continuing series. And the nature of that series being what it is, volume 3 give us three strands ploughing along in parallel without ever really intersecting, so this all feels a touch disjointed. Moreover, despite getting star billing on the cover there’s a depressing lack of Crow in this one. She’s literally only in half a dozen panels and this makes me sad. On the upside, there’s a hell of a lot of Xaolin, and this makes me happy (even as she goes out of her way to make a host of powerful people distinctly unhappy), and we get a bit more of her son, too, who proves to be more than a match for at least of on the horsemen while being wholly dependent on his rather spooky AI companion.

Last time round I mused on the significance of substituting Conquest in for the more traditional Pestilence (War, Famine, and Death all being if not correct then at least present), and the intrigue continues as a character claims he was at both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This in an alternate history America which fractured into seven nations after the civil war, which rather begs the question as to what exactly happened in Japan; no United States means no Truman to drop the bombs. While you can certainly claim that East of West is both compelling and brutal, I think it’s far too early to label it as ‘intelligent’. It is, though, undoubtedly setting up some very interesting positions. If only I didn’t have to wait so long to find out how they get resolved.

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