While three of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse continue to try and hunt down their wayward brother, the battle of New Shanghai begins as Death and his compatriots storm the Great Wall to save his wife, Xiaolin. Does she need saving or is she capable of doing it herself? More after the jump!
Strong lead heroine
Fluid and seamless transitions
Need the other books for it to make sense
The art isn’t for everyone
Previously in EAST OF WEST: Death continued rooting out those that would align themselves with the other horseman. His bloody rampage is momentarily put on hold, however, when he learns the location of his wife, Xiaolin, daughter of Mao III, who was being held hostage by her own father and sister. Death prepares for war to get his ladylove back.
XIAOLIN: RULER OF MAO AND ALL AROUND BADASS
The house of Mao fights the forces of Death—meaning just Death, his two witch buddies, and a robotic Cyclops horse thing. Death, with the full intention of saving his wife, serves as the distraction she needs in order to strike. On the other side of the country, War, Conquest and Famine learn that this woman, Xiaolin, is not to be trifled with.
This story just keeps getting better as it goes along. The world that Hickman has created is brilliant with every turn. With a deeper look into New Shanghai, we see a city that was founded by a disgraced conqueror and in turn was raised by a small dynasty of his heirs. It could be argued that this has parallels to the current state of China, making this Hickman’s commentary on it. However, looking past that, it’s an interesting culture he’s created, one that has an undying loyalty to their current leader, Mao III, and are willing to stupidly sacrifice themselves for said leader. It’s a striking contrast to the other cultures we’ve seen so far in this series, that maintain the illusion of freedom.
Since Mao’s daughter Xiaolin is the only free thinker among them, she’s naturally the most engaging of the characters of this particular book. Death’s wife, she fears very little and has no qualms about doing what needs to be done, including taking her family dynasty by force. She’s not a damsel in distress, even though that’s initially how it looks in previous books. She’s more than capable of taking care of herself. She even goes so far as to point out that she’s not the girl she once was, a girl who thought she was as “hard as the hardest stone” but was brought low, losing her husband and her hands. Now that she’s disillusioned, she’s all the stronger for it.
Overall, she’s a good character, one that does what has to be done. Plus, she’s a badass with rock hands.
Dragotta really brings something special to this series. Given that these books could easily become convoluted if the artist doesn’t talk with the writer, Dragotta really manages to dig deep and bring a good deal of action and fluidity to the story. Since this particular book is very action heavy, it could become very static without the right artist. In this case, Dragotta is the right artist and each panel of the battle is very alive, allowing it to translate quite well if this series was ever done as a cartoon or film.
One particularly striking detail was a set of panels that sort of pay homage to the action sequences of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, as it has a series of quick square boxed panels instead of the more popular rectangular ones. Normally, this was personally a turn off as far the look of books that have employed it in the past. This one, however, works, with Dragotta having each panel transition easily into the next. It was striking to look at and catches the reader’s eye.
BOTTOMLINE: WHY AREN’T YOU FOLLOWING THIS SERIES YET?!
Every once in awhile, a series comes along that is good every issue and manages to maintain that high standard each and every time. East of West is one of those series. It is good time and time again and has yet to have a bad issue. This particular book is no exception. The plot only continues to thicken and you can’t help but care about the characters with every read through. Pick this one up to continue this epic journey that Hickman and Dragotta have started. Overall, East of West #4 earns four and a half stars out of five.