How does one lay down a foundation for something so structurally big, so epic in nature, that it has the proper support structure while still being able to build and build and build?
Plan it in advance. Root concepts down early on and then lay them into the concrete. Establish a formation and just build every element it. Eventually, it will expand into an empire. A Babylon so to speak.
East of West #15 is the culmination of a few major events that have been building in the series ever since its debut back in March of last year. The roots of the apocalypse had been laid down as conceptual idea, and in this issue, they occur.
East of West #15 mixes together a combination of suspense, ominous foreboding, and a playful sense of black humor more commonly seen in Hickman’s other series The Manhattan Projects. It opens with Xiaolian prepping her servants for war, and discussing the advantages they hold over the other nations. The story quickly switches to what was teased last issue and some issues prior: the three horsemen hunting the great beast of the apocalypse.
What follows is an extremely tense, claustrophobic escape scene tempered with dense amounts of exposition and some majorly, bloody violence. The Great Beast is everything they doubted he was, and there’s somehow a dark sense of humor seeing children take each other’s legs and faces out illustrated with so much verve and gore. Dragotta looks like he’s having fun drawing children murder each other in distinctly science fiction villain lair.
Other pages have a sort of symbolic weight to them, like Babylon (the Great Beast’s new name) standing in a field of grass and sunflowers, talking about burning down the world and making a new one. All he sees is a projected image of death and despair, and the way Dragotta alternates between the wasteland of the projected vision and the bright future of the real world draws a sort of ominous parallel for the future of the series. It could go either way. Hickman may have written the scenes in the book, but it’s Dragotta who sells it with the visual portrayal. It feels claustrophobic but expansive.
One of the things I really liked was the way Hickman characterized Babylon. He seems cold and emotionless but he has remnants of a child-like quality about him. He takes pleasure in simple things, like naming his sphere “Balloon” or running through escape scenarios. And yet, he feels like a machine designed for killing. It feels utterly ruthless and downright terrifying.
East of West #15, as a culmination of things, stands on its own as a towering beast. This issue has real weight and impact that you wouldn’t find in most series. It makes things feel downright hopeless. What Hickman and Dragotta have crafted is a dark, dark tale devoid of optimism.
My rating: 5/5