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"You have earned what's coming to you."

"If you find hell lonely, wait! Company is comin' soon!"
Death
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East of West is Jonathan Hickman's and Nick Dragotta's sprawling Alternate History Weird West, sci-fi, fantasy epic published by Image Comics. In the midst of the American Civil War that has dragged on for more than twenty years, a Southern soldier, a Native American chieftain, and an exiled politician from China record three separate parts of the Message, a prophecy foretelling the upcoming End Times. The War is then ended by a massive meteor strike in the desert, the site at which an armistice is signed.

Now, in the future (the series starts in 2064), the United States is anything but united. It is divided into the constantly warring Union, the Confederacy, the Kingdom of New Orleans, the People's Republic of America (formerly California), the Texas Republic, and the Endless Nation. The apocalypse approaches quickly as leading members of each nation have secretly formed a cabal of the Chosen, a group who works to bring about the end times. Meanwhile the Four Horsemen walk the earth and gather power. But one single man stands in the way of the Chosen, one who should be at their helm: the horseman Death. Betrayed by his brethren, Death is on a quest for vengeance. Something of value has been stolen from him and nothing will stand in his way to get it back.

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Believe it or not, the above is a much simplified summary which is mainly laid out in the first issue. Hickman's dark, esoteric world only becomes stranger and more interesting as the huge cast of characters interact and struggle for power. But perhaps what makes East of West most memorable is the beautiful and unusual art by Nick Dragotta. With slick action, creative character designs, and a style that is wholly unique, the comic is a sight to behold. After its premier East of West has garnered plenty of praise and favorable comparisons to Hickman's other Image comic The Manhattan Projects.


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Tropes:

  • 0% Approval Rating: Antonia Levay's presidential term is not well approved of by the nation's citizens. To the point that protest and riots have become a daily occurrence.
  • Action Girl: Crow, Xiaolin, and many of the female rebels in the Union.
  • Affably Evil: Chamberlain may be a two-timing, lecherous, silver tongued devil. But he is also well spoken, well-educated, and always shows some southern hospitality to whoever his guest may be. He even offers Death a drink when he shows up to murder him.
  • All Amazons Want Hercules: The reason behind the attraction between Death and Xiaolin. Both view the other as their equal.
  • Alternate History: The series history diverges from ours around the time of the American Civil War, which in this universe In dragged on for more than twenty years. The War is ended not through a victory, but by a meteor strike in the desert where the Seven Nations of America where born.
  • And I Must Scream: The fate of the oracle. Eyes ripped out and trapped underground forever unable to die.
  • Apocalypse Cult: The Chosen, the main group of villains, are a religious group devoted to helping the horsemen end the world.
  • Artificial Limbs: Xiaolin's hands which are now capable of incredible strength. She uses them to crush Hu's skull. Nice Job Fixing It, Villain! indeed.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Played with. On one hand, you have John Freeman, Bel Solomon, and Xiaolin, who are all in high positions of authority. With the latter two being heads of state and the former being a prince. All of whom possess incredible combat prowess and are among the series' most lethal characters. On the other hand, the leaders of the other nations rely more on their wits and manipulation of others as opposed to their actual fighting ability.
  • Badass Biker: The Ranger. Bonus points for said vehicle being a hoverbike.
  • Badass Boast: The series hands these out like candy.
    Death: If you find hell lonely... Wait! Company is comin' soon!
    • Chamberlain's response to The Horsemen of the Apocalypse after he angers them.
      Chamberlain: Boy, I have known War all my life. Conquest, I am a conquistador. Famine? Well...lean times are for the peasants, aren't they? And do I look like a man whose wants have long surpassed his needs? All I fear...is one thing. And it's the same thing you do. Death.
    • As Death makes his way to New Shanghai, Mao sends a messenger to deliver a warning.
      Messenger: In the city are the armies of Heaven. The House of Mao's Dragons and the Great State's Widow makers. Each child appointed at conception. Selected for service. They are born to serve and bred to die.
    • To which Death has the perfect retort.
      Death: Good. 'Cause that's what happens next. Me.
  • Badass Grandpa: Bel Solomon, Premier Mao and Chamberlain. Especially the former.
  • Badass Long Coat: Bel Solomon wears one of these to go along with his cowboy outfit.
  • Badass Native: Hawk, Crow, and Cheveyo. Especially Cheveyo. The Endless Nation, a union of various Native American tribes, is mentioned as being the most powerful and influential of the 7 warring American states.
  • Badass Normal: The Ranger is possibly the most badass character and yet is one of the few without powers. John Freeman appears to be this as well, much to his brothers' dismay.
    • Bel Solomon, who shows prowess with a revolver equal to that of The Ranger, made all the more impressive in that he appears to be twice his age.
    • Xialoin also qualifies, even before she was augmented with cybernetics.
  • Bar Brawl: The series begins with one when a bar full of union troops take offense at Crow and Wolf's presence. Crow and Wolf destroy them while Death talks to the bartender. It occurs offscreen, but you can tell it was something else.
  • Battlecry: The Wolf lets out one of these as he Death, and The Crow, charge into battle against the army of Mao.
  • Beast of the Apocalypse: In this story, it's Death's son.
  • Big Entrance: In classic western style, Death's first appearance has him throwing open the doors to a saloon.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Following The Endless Nations' victory and subsequent conquest of The Republic of Texas. They decide to solidify their victory by hanging the leaders of The Republic. But just as they are going to hang Governor Bel Solomon. The Ranger shoots the rope just as Solomon was about to take a long drop on the rope. Meanwhile his mechanical dog creates a distraction. Allowing Solomon and The Ranger to escape amidst the chaos.
  • Blood Bath: In volume 4 when The Horsemen of the Apocalypse come across a river filled with the blood of fallen soldiers. They decide to bathe in the river of blood. And describe the taste of it as the sweetest thing in the world.
  • Body Horror: Ezra is shot while holding a creature from the void. The creature merges with his arm to become a tumorous-looking, tentacled (and toothed) growth. By the third volume, the beast is the size of an elephant and Ezra is attached to its chest by his arm.
  • Bring It: This is Death's response to The Ranger, as he dares him to attack him.
    Death: Don't sing it. Just bring it!
  • Bullying a Dragon: When Conquest, Death, and Famine chase after Death's son Babylon. Conquest is the first to find the boy and in a display of overconfidence makes the mistake of insulting Babylon, even though he is well aware that Babylon is the Beast of the Apocalypse, though the Horsemen don't buy that much. Suffice it to say it doesn't end well for them. This event convinces them otherwise.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Conquest, Famine, and War. Befitting their nature as the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, they are very proud of they're cruelty towards humanity. And often partake in random atrocities for the sake of cruelty.
  • The Chessmaster: Each leader of the Chosen, to varying degrees. Of particular note is Chamberlain, who has orchestrated the assassination of his own president (to take the job himself), put out a hit on Xiaolin (unsuccessful, but Chamberlain tied up every loose end), and started a riot that led to the death of Ezra and the near-death of the other Chosen). He has also managed to help kill Antonia Levay.
  • Children Are Cruel: Taken to a darker level then most other examples. As in this case, the children are the literal reincarnations of The Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Chamberlain is silky smooth and gives off a veneer of pleasantry to everyone. However, when the chips are down, it is clear that his only loyalty in the world is not to the Chosen or even his former president: Chamberlain's loyalties lie with Chamberlain.
  • Code of Honor: Death suggests that the Trackers have this. The barman replies that Death should be used to people giving up honor to stay alive.
    Death: Doesn't your kind have a code? Never give up a contract?
    Barman: Doesn't your kind have experience with men selling their souls just to breathe one more time? Honor gets buried with the body. I wanna live.
  • Collapsible Helmet: The armored suits worn by the soldiers of Mao have a simplified version of this.
  • Color-Coded Characters: Each of the four horsemen has a color unique to them which helps to identify them since in flashbacks they have different genders and appearances. Red for War, Blue for Conquest, Yellow for famine, and Black then White for Death. Death's shift from Black to White indicates a significant character change as well as a near-death experience.
  • The Conqueror: Conquest himself obviously. As well as self professed "conquistador" Andrew Archibald Chamberlain.
  • Cool Pet: The Ranger has a robotic dog that doubles as a cool gun. Death rides a weaponized robot cannon-horse.
  • Cool Old Guy: Chamberlain and Bel. Especially the former.
  • Cool Shades: The Rangers from the Republic of Texas all wear these as part of their uniforms.
  • Cowboys and Indians: An integral part of the setting although twisted to its far future setting. And what's more by volume 4 The Republic of Texas and The Endless Nation actually have gone to war.
  • Crapsack World: While not immediately obvious, this world qualifies with its various nations being filled with corruption, violence, and strangeness. Generally, as is typical of Hickman, the work is extremely cynical.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The battle between Death and his allies versus the army of Mao quickly becomes this. As Mao's forces are quickly overwhelmed by the combined might of Death and the witches from the Endless Nation.
    • To call the war between The Endless Nation vs. The Republic of Texas a curb stomp battle would be a gross understatement. Curb stomp slaughter would be a more accurate description.
  • Deep South: The Confederacy. One of the seven nations of America. Complete with soldiers wearing Confederate themed uniforms.
  • Demonic Possession: Cheveyo to Bel. Who under his possession forces Bel to murder one of the representatives from the Endless Nation. Which kickstarts a war between The Republic of Texas and The Endless Nation.
  • The Determinator: Death and The Ranger. One can only hope they eventually fight each other.
    • They did. And it was as awesome as you can expect it to be.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu??: Done in a particularly ballsy move by Chamberlain to the Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
    War: You dare?
    Chamberlain: Oh indeed I do. What is there to fear here? You?
  • Divided States of America: One of the comic's central plot points. As it presents an alternate history in which the Civil War led to the separation of the United States and the formation of the Seven Nations of America.
  • Dominatrix: Doma Lux uses her status as such to insert some things into a politician's body.
    • It's actually a bomb, which goes off during a critical meeting between the leaders of America that ends up sparking a war between the Republic of Texas and the Endless Nation. The reason? Doma Lux was turned as a Double Reverse Quadruple Agent by the People's Republic of America, and was acting on their behalf to destabilize the other nations.
  • Dragon Lady: Hu. Xiaolin's aggressive, traitorous, and cruel sister. And Xiaolin herself, who could qualify as a rare heroic version of this trope.
  • Eat the Bomb: Doma Lux uses this to further her goals during the meeting of the nations.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The beast from the other side is a gift from the horsemen, and it is not to be messed with (poor Ezra).
  • Elite Mooks: The Rangers from the Republic of Texas.
  • Everything Is Big in Texas: Played with. On one hand, Bel Solomon is the largest of the Chosen. On the other hand, The Ranger is much more sleek and lean.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Literally, the Tracker's eyepatch conceals a powerful talking eyeball.
  • Eye Scream: The Oracle removing Death's eye via her tentacled sockets is shown in particularly gory and explicit detail.
  • Fan Disservice: It would be really nice if Antonia Levay would wear more clothes. And even worse is the sight of Doma Lux and a fat politician engaging in BDSM activity.
    • Issue 22 has Lady Xiaolin entirely naked for the duration of the issue. She's very attractive, but the fact that she is fighting for her life and splattered in blood takes away any appeal.
  • Flaming Sword: War's Weapon of Choice, which can also be retracted allowing him to easily conceal it and carry it with him.
  • Gambit Pileup: Part of the fun of the series is reading and following the spider web of scheming that the Chosen engage in against one another. While they are all ostensibly on the same side (trying to bring about the End Times), the fact remains that they are all a greedy, power-hungry and suspicious group. The Horsemen seem not to care that their pawns are in the business of backstabbing one another. If anything, they seem to condone it.
  • Girl Friday: Doma Lux is a darker version of this trope. She is every bit as cruel and sadistic as her Boss, President Antonia Levay.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: The Ranger and Death decide to settle their duel this way. Unfortunately for the Ranger even with his fighting prowess he still is no match for the superhumanly strong Death.
  • The Great Wall: The Peoples Republic of America has one of these as their main defense against outside forces. Unfortunately their great wall isn't enough to keep out Death.
  • The Grim Reaper: Death. The former Horsemen of the Apocalypse himself.
  • The Gunslinger: The series is filled with these. But the two who stand out the most are Death, and The Ranger. The Ranger from what we have seen from is a definitive example of a trick shot. Meanwhile Death is a combination of both a Trick Shot, and a solid Vaporizer.
  • Hazy Feel Turn: Despite being the "hero" of the story, it's difficult to characterize Death as "good": he is a being driven by revenge, has no scruples, and will not hesitate to murder anyone that crosses him. On the other hand, he is the only Horseman who refuses to help usher in the apocalypse, is devoted to his close friends Wolf and Crow, and deeply loves his wife and son.
  • Historical In-Joke: The meteor strike at Armistice lines up with the Tunguska strike. One character even notes that it felt like it was supposed to land elsewhere.
  • Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Death's former comrades turned arch enemies. Who search the nation, looking for him.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Bel Solomon joined the Chosen not because of religious fervor but because he thought it would protect Texas. Eventually he quit when it became clear this was not the case.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: President to be Samuel Wayne Williams was this. Loyal, honest, and answers to no one but his conscience. Even when face to face with the Horsemen of the Apocalypse he refused to become a pawn in their scheme. He was so incorruptible that even Conquest couldn't help but be impressed by him. Unfortunately for him this leads to his death at the hands of said Horsemen.
    • Ditto President Burkhart of Confederacy. Knowing nothing about the Chosen and the Horsemen, he immediately sides against the war with the other states that are immune to their influence, even rebuking Chamberlain (who is trying to make him think otherwise) in the process. Chamberlain kills him two pages later.
  • Indian Burial Ground: The massive area known only as the Grave in The Endless Nation is littered with bones from thousands of dead.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: The Ranger can snipe his target from about couple of mountain ranges away (specifically he kills a target 96 kilometers away or 59~ miles-he had to be up in a mountain to actually see that far). He still needs his sniper rifle for that. Death on the other hand can shoot through same distance with his revolver without scope, though he's not quite as accurate-he hits his target but its one of the rare instances where he doesn't kill them, wounding the Ranger in the shoulder. The Ranger (who just shot that far with his super science robo-dog/gun) whispers that Death's feat couldn't be possible. In short, The Ranger is the greatest human marksman alive, armed with cool gadgets, whereas Death is an inhuman killing machine.
  • Interspecies Romance: The relationship between Death and Xiaolin is what kicks the central conflict off. Neither of them regrets it.
  • Iron Lady: President Antonia Levay. And now the new leader of the Peoples Republic of America, Xiaolin.
  • Kneel Before Zod: Done awesomely by Xiaolin when she demands that the forces of Mao, Death, and his allies cease their fighting and bow before her.
  • Knight Templar: Inverted by the Ranger who disbands the rangers so as not to get used to having so much power over people.
  • Lady of War: Xiaolin. Very much so in her case. Carries herself with a sense of grace that not even 10 years of imprisonment could damper. A War Master by the age of sixteen. And by the age of 20 a one women army who single handily killed one hundred men in a single day. Did we forget to mention that she is also the women who conquered death?
    • And in his previous lives, War himself was once this trope (she even mentions that she had magnificent lady parts). That is until he was reincarnated in the body of a "dirty little boy".
  • Lots And Lots Of Characters: While Death is ostensibly the main character, the cast grows exponentially through the members of the seven nations, the horsemen, and various one-off characters. While it may seem a little off-putting at first, it eventually settles into something of a Game of Thrones style ensemble piece.
  • Love Redeems: The romance between Death and Xiaolin serves as the catalyst behind Death's Heel–Face Turn.
  • Magical Native American: Crow and Wolf are called "witches" for a reason.
  • Man in White: Death himself. His color scheme is meant to indicate a change in character and his near death experience.
  • Mexican Standoff: In vol 3 one of the meetings involving the seven nations quickly escalates into one of these.
  • Mook Horror Show: Mao gets to have a front row experience of one these when his forces come face to face with Death and his allies. His expression quickly goes from defiant to down right terrified as he witnesses his men being massacred by Death. The sight is enough to have him suffer a mental breakdown.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast:
    • Death, The Ranger, Conquest, War, Famine.
    • And as of volume three Babylon.
  • Neck Lift: Mao does this to his daughter Xiaolin after she decides to test his patience. Made all the more impressive by the fact that he appears to be a good few inches shorter then her.
  • Nice Hat: Death wears a cream white hat to go along with his white suit.
  • No-Dialogue Episode: Issue 22 is almost entirely silent, a format that Hickman and Dragotta previously used to great effect in Fantastic Four #588. In this case it's an extended action sequence.
  • No Name Given: The Ranger, Crow, and Wolf's real names are never revealed. In the case of the latter two, it can be presumed that those are their real names.
  • Oh, Crap!: The reaction of the tracker when he realizes just who has walked into his bar. Violence ensues.
    • The look on Mao's face as he witnesses Death and The witches annihilating his troops.
  • Pet the Dog: When The Horsemen of the Apocalypse finish slaughtering an entire village full of pilgrims Conquest decides to spare the lone surviving infant. He even adopts the child and raises him as his own-Babylon's robo friend Balloon mentions Conquest has done this a few times in their long life.
  • Portal Network: The lakes are hinted to be this with Wolf describing them as "reflections of other worlds".
  • Precision F-Strike: Delivered by a rather pissed off protestor to President Levay.
  • President Evil: The newly elected President of The Union; Antonia Levay.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Averted with extreme prejudice: heads do not fair so well under bullet fire.
  • Public Execution: The fate of the Republic of Texas' leaders following their defeat and subsequent colonization at the hands of the Endless Nation. Had it not been for the Ranger's intervention then this too would have been the fate of Bel Solomon.
  • Puppet King: President Antonia Levay. Her presidential position was given to her by the Horsemen of the Apocalypse after she swore her loyalty to them, and now uses her newfound power to serve their every will. What's more is that the leaders of the other nations are well aware of this fact.
    Ezra: How unsettling it most be to have such a quick rise to power and knowing that that power is dwarfed by an even greater power.
  • Ranger: The Rangers from the Republic of Texas and each one fittingly badass. Too bad they were all slaughtered save for one by the invading Endless Nation.
  • Retired Badass: See Knight Templar.
  • Really 700 Years Old: The Horsemen of the Apocalypse may have the appearance of children but they are actually said to be older than the earth. This is even lampshaded in a conversation.
    Barman: You, ah, appear to be a bit underage.
    Conquest: Oh I'm ancient. Older than the world.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The Ranger after the death of his family, although he notably tries to get lawful justice first. And to an even greater extent, Death. Who has made it his goal to kill everyone who was involved in taking his wife and son from him.
  • Robot Buddy: Death's son Babylon has one of these which doubles as both a companion and a mentor. However, it is also a darker variation of this trope. As the robot's knowledge is meant to influence the child's world view so that he may become the beast of the Apocalypse. And bring upon the end of times.
  • Say My Name: While Death won't let the barman say his name, he makes a big deal of The President saying it. It's hinted he wants (or even needs) people to say it before he kills them.
  • Science Fantasy: Witches and prophets intermingle with energy weapons and robots.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Chamberlain; combined with his polite manners, southern hospitality, and unflappable sense of grace is the quintessential example of this trope.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Xiaolin and Hu with particularly nasty consequences. Apparently this is also the case among all of the king's sons in the Kingdom of New Orleans, not that it bothers John Freeman.
  • Skunk Stripe: President Antonia Levay has one of these running down her very long hair.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Like most of Hickman's work, the series is extremely cynical. Complete with oppressive governments, power hungry rulers, and manipulative schemers all working together to bring upon the end of times. And just about any character who shows the slightest hint of idealism is quickly dealt with in some horrific fashion.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: The Ranger took power as a reaction to this permeating the judiciary and government of Texas.
  • Sniper Duel: In interesting variation of this occurs in the duel between The Ranger and Death. In this case one of the snipers was using a revolver.
  • Southern Gentleman: Chamberlain, as head of the southern union, fits this trope perfectly.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": A trope Hickman seems particularly fond of.
  • Tailor-Made Prison: As punishment for her relationship with Death. Xiaolin spent 10 years of imprisonment in a well kept garden with her only company being the mute guards who watch over her.
  • Title Drop: "Born of the East, child of the West. The one true son of America." is one of the cryptic verses from the message. Seemingly it refers to Death's son who is indeed born from the East and West.
  • Warrior Prince: Prince John Freeman of the Kingdom and by extension all of his brothers. Each of who seeks to inherent their father's throne.
  • Was It Really Worth It?: Mao questions his daughter Xiaolin if her relationship with Death was truly worth all the hardship that she has had to endure. To which she simply answers. Yes.
  • Waving Signs Around: The White Towers protestors. The new president does not take kindly to it.
  • We Are Everywhere: The Barman explains that no client is ever in contact with more than one tracker. This is meant to create the idea that they are only a few in number. When in fact they are everywhere.
  • Wearing a Flag on Your Head: The Confederate soldiers all wear flag themed uniforms.
  • Weird West: One of the comic's main draws is its fusion of Western tropes combined with science fiction and fantasy elements. Complete with cowboy versions of The Horsemen of the Apocalypse, talking eyeballs, and massive living lakes. Weird West indeed.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The sole reason Bel Solomon joined The Chosen wasn't because he believed in their prophecy, but because he believed that it would be the best way to protect his countrymen from the other nations.
    Bel Solomon: I joined the Chosen because I figured selling my soul was worth protecting my nation...saving them from the ambitious and power mad.
  • Whip Sword: In a flashback, Conquest can be seen using one of these as his Weapon of Choice. Interestingly enough, he has not been seen using one since.
  • World of Badass: As mentioned earlier in the badass entry above, just about every established character is some sort of Badass. Whether they be a skilled gunmen, a powerful witch, a brave leader or a master manipulator. Every character has some sort of defining trait that makes them a force to be reckoned with.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: A major theme as the prophetic message predicts very specific things that seem destined to happen, but then again, as War notes, interpretation is often tough.
    • War convince his brothers to try to defy the Message by killing Babylon, who is supposed to become the Beast of the Apocalypse and their leader. This ends up fulfilling the Message to the letter, as Babel escapes them and his father (who was coming to release him) at the same time and is therefore able to start setting his own destiny in motion.
  • You Have Failed Me: When an assassin organization fails to kill Xiaolin, their leader promises his benefactor that the next time will be better. Unfortunately for him, Chamberlain isn't willing to give him a "next time," and promptly has him and his entire organization killed off.
  • Your Head A-Splode: In retribution for her betrayal, Xiaolin crushes her sister's head with her mechanical arms.

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