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East of West #1 (Image): Wooooo-Weeeee! Where to start with this thing? First of all, Nick Dragotta’s art is just haunting. He’s able to seamlessly weave together so many different aesthetics, from Western, to warfare, to futurist, all with a design panache that’s so distinct, unique, and memorable. The uniforms, the structures, the landscapes, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. I think special appreciation should be paid to colorist Frank Martin, who just kills these pages. The colors are instantly up there with people like Laura Martin or Dean White, people who I consider to be among the best colorists in the industry. There’s no real exposition in the book from Jonathan Hickman, so as best I can tell, the story revolves around The Four Horseman of The Apocalypse, before, during, and maybe even after a dystopian future takes hold and ripples out from the late 1800’s, after a comet strikes the central United States and results in "Seven Nations" being created at an Armistice. It’s a sci-fi western. It’s a revisionist history that bounces to a speculative future. It’s presents a sort of alt mythology that’s deeply fascinating in the way post-apocalyptic films like, say, The Book of Eli are. It’s many things. It tickles a lot of the buttons that I like tickled. It maybe defies description. It’s a hybrid genre blender that is the strongest creator-owned debut we’ve seen so far this year. It’s already eclipsed Saga in my mind. This book should be getting all that hype and acclaim and more. It has the potential to eclipse things like Firefly. This is going to be the book to beat right now. I loved every second. Grade A+.
Think Tank #6 (Image): One of the most interesting aspects of this issue is the explanation of how the military can get around executive orders by manipulating loopholes, which essentially negates the checks and balances intended in our political system to provide mutual oversight between the different branches of government. Meanwhile, David Loren appears to be feigning content with a life he’s doomed to serve. As usual, there are frightening riffs on acceptable losses and margins of error, along with how quickly something like medical research can be reapplied to devastating military applications. The science in this arc is largely about targeted genetic warfare and the bleak morality of that makes the black and white art a very smart choice. It’s devoid of color (and to some extent, the insinuated emotion that color provides), just presents the facts in a straightforward fashion, and forces the reader to consider what they think about all of this. The senator’s wife running an anti-landmine campaign is a latent joke full of staggering hypocrisy. I’m still digging the backmatter and the fact that David is revealed to be running a very long con. Grade A-.
Clone #5 (Image): Despite Juan Jose Ryp being one of my favorite artists to emerge in the last decade, in all his violent visceral glory, I don’t think this book has proven to be very memorable beyond the basic storytelling conceit of “clones,” and the moral implications that follow that idea. There’s political machinations, decent action, and now a super-solider riff, in addition to… uhh… the main guy, I can’t even remember his name now, that can't be a good sign, being revealed as the alpha. It’s a good book, not a great book, which for me means that I have to make the decision to vote harder with my spending power. I’ll be switching this title to my “buy it for cheap in trade” list. Grade B+.