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East of West vol. 1 [Review]

eastofwestvol1Volume One

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Nick Dragotta
Colors: Frank Martin
Letters: Rus Wooton
Published by: Image
Cover Price: $9.99
Collects: East of West #s 1-5

I’m not a fan of Hickman…I’ve been more turned-off by his work than I’ve been impressed. I didn’t enjoy his Shield (I never even managed to finish the first issue); couldn’t get into his Fantastic Four, was actively turned off by his Avengers. So by rights I should have left this volume on the shelf. But, it’s a healthy-sized 5-issue volume…and only $9.99 cover price. Which is the “sweet spot” for me…especially as that’s a bargain whether the single issues were $2.99 or $3.99 originally…and just as I’ll check out pretty much anything at $1/under, I have little problem trying the first volume of a series for $10 or so.

I noticed the chapter-heading pages pretty quickly, which I’d also noticed in Infinity #1, so that was a stylistic thing for me immediately. Not quite the sort of thing I enjoy with Quantum and Woody, but this being its own thing, I found it a little more fitting than I did IN Infinity. Otherwise, visually, this had a different feel than I’m used to and I could almost see this being all silhouettes for the characters. The color palette is definitely not what I’m used to, but for this particular story–not being something I already knew, or involving super-heroes–it works very well and I like it. I also like the quasi-“Western” sense I got from it.

Story-wise, I’ve long since read Gaiman‘s Sandman, which to me has the definitive take on the personification of Death. However, here Death is brought in as one of the Four Horsemen rather than “just” the embodiment of an abstract, so it’s a bit different, and works. Reading this, I wasn’t looking to analyze or dig deep; and it being Hickman I expected to have a sense of high-brow pretentiousness to things; and for this to be totally over my head. What I got was a followable story where Death had fallen in love, married, lost a child and his wife, discovers both to be alive yet and seeks them out. His wife’s less than thrilled at his return, and she has quite a bit of status as a woman who has conquered Death. Meanwhile, the other Horsemen are seeking to reunite with Death in order to usher in the end of the world. I mentioned above getting a sense of a quasi-“Western” from the visuals; the story seems a mix of things, and actually put me somewhat in mind of Stephen King‘s The Gunslinger, which is a credit to East of West.

Given my being able to read this as a larger chunk–5 issues’ worth of story–I rather enjoyed the volume. I couldn’t quite identify the end/beginning of issues because of the chapter breaks’ pages, and I am relatively certain I would have hated this as single issues; but as something I knew nothing about and so had no real expectations for going in, I enjoyed it. (I think this is the first I’ve actually enjoyed Hickman’s work in general.) $14.95–the “regular price” for a volume this size, these days–will be a much more significant investment and “risk” for me for the next volume…but having read the first volume now, my picking up vol. 2 in a few months won’t be out-of-the question as it would have been before.

This is no Sandman or Gunslinger…but for the price, a pretty good volume. I probably wouldn’t specifically seek it out, but for the $9.99, it having been right there and my having the money to spend at the time, it was worthwhile and I’m definitely glad I picked it up. If you’re a fan of Hickman in general, you’ll probably enjoy this; and if you’re a fan of Sandman, the Gunslinger books, or a mix of Western/dystopian future/etc. this might tickle your fancy. And whether you typically enjoy this type of fare or not…I’d say that cover price makes for a solid bargain for just checking it out (Especially compared to most volumes…particularly as this is less than half the price of a 5-issue Marvel premiere edition.

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Infinity [Checklist]

AUGUST 2013
Infinity # 1
Avengers # 18
New Avengers # 9
Avengers Assemble # 18 [tie-in]
Captain Marvel # 15 [tie-in]
Thunderbolts # 14 [tie-in]

SEPTEMBER 2013
Infinity # 2
Infinity # 3
Avengers # 19
Avengers # 20
New Avengers # 10
Avengers Assemble # 19 [tie-in]
Captain Marvel # 16 [tie-in]
Infinity Heist # 1 [tie-in]
Infinity: The Hunt # 1 [tie-in]
Mighty Avengers # 1 [tie-in]
Nova # 8 [tie-in]
Superior Spider-Man Team-Up # 3 [tie-in]
Superior Spider-Man Team-Up # 4 [tie-in]
Thunderbolts # 15 [tie-in]

infinity_checklist_01a

infinity_checklist_01b

source: promotional postcard (pictured above)

Marvel Now: Avengers, New Avengers, and A+X

Avengers #s 1-2

avengers(now)001While I’d heard plenty of good about this title, which contributed to my reluctantly deciding to try these issues, I was fairly disappointed. I’m all for big, epic Avengers stuff…but I guess I’ve largely been “out” of Avengers stories for so long that I’m just not interested by these first couple issues. I’m not familiar with the antagonists, and the sheer scale of this story suggests line-wide crossover, and the fact it’s not happening kinda makes this seem like no more than some one-off out-of-continuity story.

I’ve heard so much good about Hickman and praise for his runs on Fantastic Four and FF that perhaps I’ve allowed my expectations to get the best of me, at least for being only two issues in. Still, at $4/issue I’m not inclined to patience, and if this is truly yet another reads-better-in-five-to-six-issue-chunks deal, it’s not enjoyable enough for me as a single issue thing.

avengers(now)002The art’s not bad, though it also seems a bit “off,” and I’m not quite sure what to make of it so far.

The title is not helped by my being strongly reminded somehow of the Justice Society of America mega-arc Thy Kingdom Come a few years ago.

While it’s possible I’ll pick up #3 at some point, unless it’s a slow week I may just cut my losses with this title, as I hadn’t even planned on giving it a shot at all, and have already given it two issues.

New Avengers #1

I bought this issue primarily because I’d given Avengers 1-2 a shot, and was lured in at the prospect of the Marvel Illuminati, and Infinity Gems and such.

newavengers(now)001I was quite disappointed to find this first issue virtually entirely a Black Panther issue, with a lot of stuff seeming to make it very much a “zero issue” rather than a solid first issue.

I really, really liked the art, though–it was a huge treat to look at, and if the series was $2.99 instead of $3.99, I would actually be inclined to give it a few more issues for the art alone.

As-is, I’m frustrated at #1 issues being no more than “just the first chapter” of a graphic novel instead of truly standing on their own, and at $3.99 and not being truly hooked going in…the title’s not predisposed to do well with me.

Add to that that this seems to be set in some totally different time than Avengers #s 1-2 and I’m not interested in just another Avengers-related story that’s not even tied to the “regular” Avengers title.

While I’m not completely opposed to giving this another issue…like Avengers, I may just cut my losses and stick to other stuff.

A+X #s 2-3

aplusx002I really do like the concept of putting characters together that usually aren’t, for the different dynamics. That each story is told in half an issue really means a lot of compression and getting to the point–something that seems all too rare these days in comics (at least from Marvel or DC). Being “continuity-lite” keeps things accessible–not being mired in ongoing stuff, nor forcing me to go buy other titles to keep up with what’s going on.

But that strength also hinders–as it doesn’t seem like this title really “matters” overall–it’s just these quick shorts with characters thrown together for highly brief slice-of-life stuff.

The Rogue/Black Widow story was kinda disappointing–both characters seemed a bit “off,” particularly Black Widow; and by the end of the story it was like the two had been subbed into some sort of alternate take on the “Girls of Gotham” concept with Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. aplusx003The Iron Man/Kitty Pryde story was more interesting–and I suppose contrary to what I said above, does matter: I don’t think I’d ever really seen Kitty as being an official “genius” within Marvel, but after reading that noticed reference to it a couple other places.

The Hawkeye/Gambit story was forgettable and virtually inconsequential to either character; something to it just didn’t sit all that wonderfully with me. And while I never cared for the Black Panther/Storm marriage stuff…the way it was ended seemed sudden and equally forced, almost written off the way the “Angelic Punisher” stuff was when Ennis kicked off the “Welcome Back Frank” arc ages ago. But this quick look at stuff with T’Challa and Ororo kinda “redeemed” the way things went down in AvX.

Ultimately, this series is proving hit or miss, and while I’d be all aboard for only $2.99, I have the feeling that the $3.99 price point is going to really contribute to my leaving this behind sooner than not. By its nature, though, it’ll make great dollar-bin fodder.

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