The End of Days has been a running them throughout East of West since the beginning, which makes sense, since the story revolves around Death, leader of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and his quest to reunite his shattered family at any cost.
The story has taken us through an alternate reality, one where the Civil War never really ended, where magic exists side by side with dark technology, and where the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse square off against each other to settle a grudge.
East of West is a Story About Loving Death
Mao Xiaolian, descendant of Chairman Mao Zedong, meets a lone rider on a pale horse. He is Death, leader of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Xiaolian and Death fall in love, and have a child together. Sadly, this throws the plans of the other Horesemen into doubt, since they cannot finish their mission to fulfill The Message without him.
The other three Horsemen- Famine, War, and Conquest, steal the child of death and have it raised as the Beast of prophecy, while convincing Death that his wife and child were killed. Death doesn't take well to that news, and sets out to enact vengeance. Somewhere along the line, the other Horsemen are killed, and end up reincarnated as younger versions of themselves later.
Xiaolian was not killed, though. She was allowed to live within the confines of her father's garden, and did so for 10 years before killing her father and assuming control of People's Republic of America. She knows that her husband is out there, somewhere, searching for her son.
Death is accompanied by two guides, Crow and Wolf, witches of the Endless Nation.
The other three riders are now in pursuit of Death, while adhering to the three prophecies that make up The Message. The Message is all about the end of the world, and the Horsemen are convinced that Babylon, the child of Death and Mao Xiaolian, will be the instrument of the End of Days.
There's also five other nations that make up the the Seven Nations of America, each with its own collection of movers and shakers. Each of these seven nations has a delegate pledged to obey The Message, but each has their own agenda as well.
Secrets Long Buried Are Unearthed
East of West Volume 9 brings a few long dead secrets to the surface. Death has found his son, and the two are making their way through the prairies when they are attacked by robotic psalms, set upon them by the other Horsemen. the two are separated, with Death blasting his way through the psalms while Babylon escapes with his robotic balloon.
Babylon is intercepted by War, Conquest, and Famine, who make a deal with the youngster. Xiaolian Mao prepares for war. The Chosen continue to scheme.
And we finally learn what fate befell the Four Horsemen in the past, and why Death alone was spared the rigors of resurrection. This showdown is epic in depth and brutal in execution.
There's also a ton of mythology at play in Volume 9 of East of West that would probably stump anyone who hasn't been reading the series from the beginning, so I really beg caution for anyone looking to dive into this story this late in the game.
Jonathan Hickman has written an incredibly vivid alternate version of our world, with compelling heroes jockeying for position at the end of the world. The story itself would make an excellent read, even in a long form prose format, but Nick Dragotta's art brings the whole exercise screaming to life.
Each and every page of East of West is a treat, and one of the few books I've read that vividly rewards another read. There's so much to take in on every page, whether its the characters, machines, or landscapes. I couldn't think of a better pair to bring a project like this to life.
East of West Volume 9 is highly recommended for fans of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Apocalyptic stories with a twist, and bold storytelling with incredible art. But seriously, make sure you read the other 8 volumes first. You'll thank me later.
SUMMARY: Script: Jonathan Hickman; Art: Nick Dragotta; Colors: Frank Martin; Letters: Rus Wooton; Publisher: Image Comics; Release Date: May 22, 2019; Cover Price: $16.99; 122 Pages
East of West Volume 9 collects issues 39-42 of the series.