writer: Jonathan Hickman / artist: Nick Dragotta / Image Comics
What a fascinating and disturbing issue from our homies Hickman and Dragotta. East of West finally picks up the story of The Beast (or Babylon) after his dramatic escape from the Horsemen and his home/prison and gives us some insight into his relationship with “Balloon.” Masterfully, Hickman turns our perception of Bablyon’s dependency and agency on its ear by introducing a third party into the mix that can manipulate the situation with the A.I. “Balloon.” Let’s be clear about something, it seemed more comforting when Babylon had just decided that this was a wretched world that needed to be burned and rebuilt. It seems more disheartening that he might now be manipulated for other purposes because they may not seem to be his own goals. I don’t know how to reconcile that.
Dragotta is so on point with the art in this book, per usual, but his addition to the storytelling cannot be undersold. His imagination in how Babylon’s sight is inverted is creepy and proficient. One has to imagine that at some point, Babylon is going to get to see with his own eyes and that will have real repercussions for those that have dissuaded him. Maybe. If nothing, this issue reminded us that the most feared being in the world is also a child that has no real world living experience outside of the billions of simulations that he’s been run through. All this is extremely fascinating and can go a million different directions. And knowing these guys, it probably will.
There is a small added bit with Death leaving the House of Mao, which is basically an epilogue on their union since we were told last issue that they would never see each other again. The House of Mao is joining the war in earnest in cooperation with The Endless Nation, but there are always subplots and schemes involved, so the true motives of all involved parties will come out eventually.
Another great issue of East of West as it continues to tell a story pretty unique to anything else out there. The very brief goodbye between Death and Xiaolin was good, but Babylon and Balloon (and their pursuer) are the stars of the show this issue, as it opens the possibilities up to anything.