When people ask me about East of West, I tell them it is, above all else, a love story. Sure, it’s got the four horsemen and an impending apocalypse, but at its heart it is about love. Not just romantic love, either. It’s about familial love, love of a thing (ideals, causes, etc.) and loyalty as love. East of West #33 explores just how complicated a concept love can be.
One of many subplots to Death’s story has been the love affair between one of the House of Mao’s elite guards and President Antonia’s second-in-command, Doma Lux. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I thought this subplot had been cast aside in the name of the larger narrative, but I should never have doubted Jonathan Hickman. As Antonia’s empire crumbles around her, it seemed that Doma’s fate was all but sealed, and despite not liking Doma as a character, I nearly cried as her rescuer appeared.
Duty and loyalty is a complex theme with East of West. Some characters blithely cast it aside, while others cling to it like a shield. Loyalty as a form of love has been explored with many characters; more specifically, disloyalty in the face of love. First Xiaolin turned her back on her family for Death, and now one of her chosen guards turns her back on Xiaolin for Doma. Her heartbreaking confession of how unwavering her loyalty should be does not fall upon deaf ears, though. Xiaolin cannot be angry. She’s been there before.
To an earlier point, though, Antonia finally reaps what she has sown, and it could not have happened to a nicer lady. I will confess, again, that I worried Antonia would make it to the end game. She has cheated death so many times, and it seemed she would continue to do so. Not only does she finally get her reward, it’s delightfully poetic.
Both the Endless Nation’s Narsimha and Antonia are given a funeral pyre. Both are seen deserving their ultimate fate, and both are acts of empowerment for their people. But Narsimha’s is far more symbolic — it’s a message to the gods and all others that the Endless Nation is to be feared, and that they are strong in their unity. Antonia’s death, on the other hand, is at the hands of an angry mob; few outside their numbers saw or will remember it. It’s fitting for a woman who craved such power to be relegated to such an ignoble death.
East of West continues to be one of my favorite series. There is so damn much going on, and Jonathan Hickman is able to keep all of the plates spinning. Just when you think something is forgotten, it creeps back into the forefront in a powerful manner. Every issue is a violent, bloody examination of the human heart, and I love it so.
Our Rating: YUS
Author: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Nick Dragotta
Publisher: Image Comics
Publish Date: 05/24/2017
Acquired via Purchase