Indie Comics Week: East of West

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Nick Dragotta
Publisher: Image Comics
Currently on: Issue 1

As predicted/promised/threatened, today's selection is yet another Image release, this one hot right off the press. Jonathan Hickman's new series is a western taking place in an alternate history where the the Europeans didn't completely wrestle the Americas away from the First Nations, the Civil War didn't really end, and a game-changing meteorite hit the center of the U.S.A. Now it's the year 2064 and despite the high tech, it's still a wild frontier. To complicate matters, three of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have just been incarnated on the Earth, while the fourth, Death, is already running rampant through the world (which seems to annoy the rest). It's a fabulous set-up, up there with Hickman's current indie hit, The Manhattan Projects (which you equally should be reading). Hickman's trademarks are present, including designed chapter starts/stops and a narrative structure that asks the reader to put together the pieces of the puzzle as the issues roll out. Hickman always plays the long game, but East of West really starts with a bang and seems more straightforward than Projects or his superhero work on SHIELD, FF and now, Avengers.

Co-creator Nick Dragotta provides art that's at once slightly expressionistic, which is well-suited to the subject matter, and slick and technical when it needs to be to create this future world. I particularly love the pale rider's mechanical mount, a crazy image worthy of this crazy, crazy story. I don't think it's too early to call East of West one of my favorite books.

Long weekend ahead of us, so this ends Indie Week (something I should probably do, in some form, every 6 months), but I won't let you go without mentioning some great indie books that didn't meet my criteria for this series. Every series I lauded in a Get In on the Ground Floor column but one is still going (and only one other is about to end), so that's six books I still heartily recommend. I'd also throw in The Hypernaturals (Boom!), a superhero book that blends Doom Patrol strangeness with Legion of Super-Heroes brand futurism; Higher Earth (Boom!), an imaginative action story set against a multiverse; Mind MGMT (Dark Horse), Matt Kindt's wonderful riff on The Men Who Stare at Goats; and The Massive (Dark Horse), Brian Wood's post-enviro-crash thriller and his best replacement for DMZ. These are all further along than their 6th issue, but none are yet at their 12th. If we're talking mini-series, let me recommend Brian Wood's OTHER book, Mara (Image), about a volley-ball superstar in the future who's hiding some unusual powers; The Private Eye (Panel Syndicate), another gorgeous SF tale by Brian K. Vaughn and Marcos Martin; and High Crimes (MonkeyBrain), a noir thriller set at the foot of Everest (I was under the impression this was a mini, but now I'm not sure...). And though I disqualified licensed properties, I'd like to say how much fun I'm having with Boom!'s Steed and Mrs. Peel.

Well? What are you waiting for? Get reading!

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