There are so many moving parts to East of West, I occasionally forget some of them. East of West #32 not only revisits a bunch of them, it also shows that Archibald Chamberlain might be the most dangerous man on the field, outside of the Horsemen. I always suspected the man was not only the smartest man in the room, but also the most cunning. Turns out, he’s bloody as hell, too.
The issue actually starts with a visit to times past, when a certain barkeep earned his sentient eyeball. It also explains how Archibald came to be in possession of the other eye ball. For a man who seems to be pulling all the right strings in all the right places, a eye that answers questions would be particularly useful. Attaching it to a gun, though, seems especially bold, even for Archibald.
But, then, now as bold as striding into the King of New Orleans’ palace and telling his son John that he (Archibald) is no longer playing by the rules. I can’t quite tell where the Kingdom of New Orleans fits into the overall plot, if I’m honest. John has his own scheme brewing, of course, but what Archibald is hoping to gain, I’m not yet certain. All I know is that in everything he does, there is an end game.
I suppose it’s not even as bold as calling Xiaolian to not only insult her, but to acknowledge that it was he who sent a nighttime assassin. He’s clearly playing Xiaolian, goading her into a fight, and this is one of his few plans to which I do see a clear end; it’s all part of his plan to be last man standing.
The real meat of this issue is him finally tracking down Bel. I confess I had almost forgotten about Bel and the lawman out in the wilds. Or maybe I just hoped that Bel had truly escaped his own machinations and was free, despite his not deserving an ounce of peace or freedom. I guess I’m just desperate for someone to have a peaceful ending in this series. But, I digress.
Kudos to Hickman for honoring Chekhov’s gun, as well, in this scene. After being told that Chamberlain was, in his youth, the best gunman in the land, we finally get to see him in action. His cruelty shouldn’t be surprising, by now, but I was still shocked that he chose to shoot the robotic dog. In a sea of blood and death, that felt especially cold-blooded. But, thus is the way with Archibald. Yet again, I’m not certain what his end game is with Bel, only that if Chamberlain was hunting him, he clearly has a plan in sight.
I do wonder about Constance, in all of this. I adore Chamberlain’s niece because she seems to be every bit as cunning and devious as her uncle, and I adore seeing her as his second fiddle. I have to wonder, though, if she, too, has her own end game and plans in motion. So many characters in here are not what they seem, it’s only a matter of time before Constance’s scheme is revealed. Or maybe — and I truly hope this is the case — Constance is one of the few honest snakes in this viper’s nest; she only wants to be part of her uncle’s plans. If anyone in this web sees Archibald’s endgame, it’s Constance.
The art in East of West #32 is particularly good, too. The panel above is one of my favorites within the entire series. I love that with each piece of his puzzle in place, Dragotta makes Chamberlain look more and more like the cat who got the canary. The only question remaining is whether or not he can keep this house of cards standing.
Author(s): Jonathan Hickman
Artist(s): Nick Dragotta
Publisher: Image Comics
Publish Date: 03/15/17
Acquired via Purchase