The publisher Image Comics is doing some great things. I already told you about The Manhattan Projects, for example, and today I wanted to bring Jonathan Hickman's East of West, illustrated by Nick Dragotta, to your attention.
Alternate histories have been a staple of science fiction for a very long time. Some look so much like our own history that you can't see the differences until they're right up on you, while others feature drastic, sweeping changes: East of West falls into the latter category. In this story, the American Civil War continued on far longer than it should have. The Indian Nations became one and threw their hats into the ring. By the end, the continent of North America was split into the Seven Nations of America. Fast forward hundreds of years and three of the Four Horseman of the apocalypse are working to bring about that end. What about the fourth horseman, Death? Well, he's on a more personal quest. And the other three want him dead.
When I say that Image Comics is doing some great things, I really mean that they're breaking out of the superhero/ meta-human box that has dominated the comic landscape for oh so very long. East of West blends myths, legends and religions from different cultures and shakes them up into something original and interesting. Gunslingers riding robotic horses, cultists and dark magics, and a classic, tragic, love story are all a part of this fantastic book.
Death is our main character. He's a gun-toting albino cowboy on a mission to find the people who hurt him and took something from him. Or someone. And he isn't afraid—or shy—about getting his hands dirty on his quest.
The major theme being the apocalypse, and the presence of the Four Horsemen, means this book is quite dark and violent. Not only does Death dish out a lot of violence, so do the other Horsemen as well. As such, I don't recommend it for the kids in the family.
But anyone who is looking for something that isn't a superhero book, or if you're a fan of The Dark Tower, I think you'll love this one.
Patrick Hester is an author, blogger and 2013 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fanzine (Editor - SF Signal). He lives in Colorado, writes science fiction and fantasy, and can usually be found hanging out on his Twitter feed. His Functional Nerds and SF Signal weekly podcasts have both been nominated for Parsec awards, and the SF Signal podcast was nominated for a 2012 and a 2013 Hugo Award. In addition to his Kirkus posts, he writes for atfmb.com, SF Signal and Functional Nerds.