This one has been out a few years, I think it was first released in 2013. I know I am a little behind the times when it come to reading the newest stuff. It’s near impossible to keep up with all the new releases when they come out. Honestly, I cannot remember when this one was released, and really was not on my radar until recently. There is quite a bit of hype around it and I had heard from a couple people that it was a good read. So the last time I was at my used book store I found a used copy and picked it up.
If by now you do not know who Jonathon Hickman is then I do not know what to tell you. I will be nice and explain, basically he is one of the newest and best writers out there, that is all you need to know. I have reviewed quite a few of his books so I am not going into much detail. I have read Transhuman, The Red Wing, The Manhattan Projects, Secret, and now finally East of West. God is Dead and Pax Romana are also on my list to read here soon. Needless to say he has quite a few of the more popular books out there right now.
This one is a sifi western, yeah, you heard right. Set around the 1800’s sometime where this universe seems to take an alternative timeline. There is an event that changes the future of the world causing the United States to split into 7 different regions ruled by those who call themselves The Chosen. As far as I can tell from the story Death, one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, has returned and he is angry. He and the rest of the horsemen are ready to destroy the world, but first he has some unfinished business to attend to. He must find his wife, the only person to conquer Death, who is being held prisoner. The story takes quite a few twists and turns across a very different western landscape.
WOW! I do not even know where to begin with this one. The description above does not do the story justice. I tried my best to sum up the first trade but I am not all together certain what was going on, so it was is little difficult. I was blown away by the creativity of this story. There are a ton of different elements at player here, and there is so much going on in these fist five issues that it is very tough to understand and grasp the story.
First, I want to again reiterate how creative this story is. I have never read anything like it, ever. The only thing that comes close is Ronin by Frank Miller, and I think one of the reasons I am saying that is because it is fresh in my mind, I recently finished that one. Still Hickman built a very bizarre world and added so many intricate details to make the world real. On top of that he threw in the four houseman characters to really add a truly unique spin on the story. Honestly, I would have been fine just exploring this totally new world that was laid out, that would have been enough for me. This one is near over the top with so many ideas at play.
Because of that I also think this one was really hard to follow. When I finished this first trade I was mostly confused as to what I just read. I felt like I did after watching Prometheus for the first time, I had way more questions than answers. That is kind of the same scenario here, at least in my opinion. Although, I think the last chapter did a better job of bringing a few things together and mostly making the story make sense. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. Because of all the questions I am certainly sucked into the story, but at the same time I really am not sure what is going on or what I just read in the first five issues. It goes both ways.
The characters in this one are truly unique. I always love omnipotent characters and this story has a few of them, mainly Death. I also love the setting of the story. As I have already said it is beyond different from anything I have ever read. The idea of a sifi western fascinates me to no end as it is something that I would never have thought of. There is such a miss match of ideas colliding in this one that it is really hard to compare it to anything else. There are elements of a Western (obviously), a sifi story, and an apocalyptic epic all rolled into one, a somewhat dystopian society, and I dare say some sort of love story that I am sure will develop in the next trade. I have read quite a few of Hickman’s works and this is by far the most unique bizarre and interesting story of his that I have read. Not everyone could take so many different ideas and throw them together and make them work so wonderfully.
Although I did find this story quite interesting it is not without its flaws. As I have said I felt it was very difficult to follow, and I was having trouble making the story make sense from issue to issue. This is hard to judge as in the first few issues, as a writer, you want to suck in the reader with few details, basically just enough to keep them turning the page. With this one there was quite a bit going on and I was having trouble understanding what the characters were doing or what they were after. At times it just seemed like a bunch of random things going on, but the final issue in this trade does do a fairly decent job of melding the previous four issues together.
I will also say that I did like the weird technology that was in the story. From the strange mechanical black horse that Death rides, to his weird looking revolver, even the cool weapons and swords that are displayed in a major fight scene. There is a great deal of detail that went into thinking up these things that you can easily glance over and not think about, but it is worth taking time to mention them as they do add a little more detail to the story.
The artwork is very clean and crisp. I would classify it as a mostly traditional style with loads of detail that bring the story to life. I briefly mentioned above, but I liked how the characters are drawn, they are some of the coolest around, and the cool thing is that they are colored, or lack thereof, in black in white. So that is also pretty neat. Speaking of colors the color pallet is really great in this book, with a wide range of bright and deep colors that leap off the page. You would think that with a story set in the west most everything would be brown and Earth tones, not the case at all. There is a wide range of vibrant colors that make for a wonderful visual experience. I also thought the page layouts and scene selections were above average, with some very stellar scenes thrown in as well. There were a few pages that I was very impressed with, but for the most part the page layouts were normal.
I recommend this one. It is not a bad read and for me the weirdness and creative scaffolding was enough to get me through a very hard to follow story, but don’t get discouraged. Plus the artwork is very solid with some very interesting characters, not to mention they are drawn pretty cool. I did think the cover art was very plain, but still adds an element of intrigue when you see them, so that one goes both ways as well. Check this one out it is a cool book, plus there are a ton of people out there raving about it.