The latest creator-owned Jonathan Hickman series has the credits Story By: Jonathan Hickman;

Art By: Nick Dragotta. It's notable that the TPB collection doesn't show the subtitle anywhere, nor does it contain the usual blurb summarizing what the story is about. So here's the description from the Image website: "This is the world. It is not the one we wanted, but it is the one we deserved. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse roam the Earth, signaling the End Times for humanity, and our best hope for life, lies in DEATH. Collects EAST OF WEST #1 - #5."

It's clear from the first few pages that we're in some kind of dystopian future, and it has a frontier tone reminiscent of the traditional Western. One of the first characters we meet is Death, a gunslinger dressed all in white, a deadly character who recalls the Saint of Killers in Preacher. But there's also evidence of advanced technology, giving the story a steampunk atmosphere.

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Three issues in, and it's still unclear what drives Death, and how he came to be. He's after the Chosen, a group that wields the real power in the world. And the other three Horsemen are after him: apparently he was supposed to be reborn with them, in the scene that opens the series. When Death discovers that his wife is still alive, he heads for New Shanghai (is this the East of the title?).

I've read the fist arc and have a few issues of the new one I have yet to read. I like the series, a lot.

Glad to hear this TPB is out.  I'll have to pick it up the next time I visit a comic shop.

New Shanghai appears to be San Francisco, unless that's a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

Right as usual, Cap. I missed that bridge shot. It's made more explicit in the following issue, where the whole history of the House of Mao is spelled out. So it's culturally East, but geographically West.

Captain Comics said:

New Shanghai appears to be San Francisco, unless that's a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

Hickman clearly wants to just toss the reader into the dystopian deep end with this series. He does fill in background to this world, but he does it only occasionally, mostly via flashbacks. He and Dragotta have created a striking group of characters here, so they take the stage very well without any preparation. I got carried along most of the way without stopping to try to figure out what was going on.

But now that it's been a few days since I finished reading the collection, I thought I'd set down a few facts from the first five issues. There was a Third Great Awakening that happened about the same times as the Civil War. In 1862 a Confederate soldier abandoned the war and became one of the architects of The Message. The war went on for twenty more years, until a comet strike ended the hostilities; armistice was signed in 1908. Territory was remarked, and the Seven Nations of America were formed. So the story is set in an alternate history. 

The next time stamp is the ever-helpful "Now." But a few pages later there is a divider page that says "2064. The Apocalypse: Year One." This explains the more advanced technology. In many ways this is a world that is trying to die. Those who believe in The Message are actively trying to manufacture the end of the world.

This includes many of the people in power. Theoretically it includes all of the members of the Chosen, but there are some members who would rather see the world continue. Death should be working for the end as a member of the Four Horsemen, but he has cheated death himself to join the opposition. These are the good guys, but it sure is hard to tell by looking at them and what they do.

Death and Xiaolian (the heir to the House of Mao) had a child, who the believers think is the Beast of the Apocalypse. They are training him for the role by raising him in an isolated, virtual reality environment. At the close of the collection Death tells her their son is alive, and goes off to save him.

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