The year is 2064 and the world looks nothing like we would recognize, and that's not just because it's 51 years in the future. In Jonathan Hickman's latest alternate world creation, East of West, the American Civil War ended very differently than it did in the reality we live in and technology has developed in ways that are strange yet familiar. Mechanical steeds exist side by side with six shooters and ten gallon hats. The US President lives in the White Tower and The Seven Nations of America exist in place of a pan-North American United States. Mao Zedong (yes that Mao), Red Cloud (a leader of the Endless Indian Nation), and the Prophet Longstreet (a religious leader living in Atlanta, Ga) have penned the Second Book of Revelation, and three of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have been reborn...as children. One of them is missing though. A pale mechanical steed rider, whom vaguely resembles The Saint of Killers from Garth Ennis' Preacher and rides with two powerful Indian spirits(?) (and is fully grown), has designs on the most important resident of the White Tower...
East of West #1 is the kind of trip that fans of smart alternate reality sci-fi readers will love pouring over and deciphering. Hickman sets up this strange world that appears inspired by ideas (which Hickman often enhances upon and makes his own) from everything to Stephen King's The Dark Tower to Garth Ennis' Preacher. The end product though is something as far out as his Manhattan Projects, but with a little more heart and seriousness. Here, Hickman is bewailing and commenting upon our real world through his sci-fi alternate reality lens and (to me at least) perhaps looking to jump start something in the collective unconscious of his readers that will motivate them to help get us off the path of destruction that the human race seems so hell bent on racing down...yet again.
Bringing this alternate future Wild West parable to life is the incomparable Nick Dragotta (X-Men First Class, FF). His style, which consists of slight whimsical elements (which make his Apocalyptic Horse-children so cute and repulsive at once) and great kinetic energy and detail suit Hickman's weird, east of west storyline perfectly.
If Manhattan Projects has kind of ground down to a halt for you with its plodding pacing (except for its slight revival last issue), then the more grounded and streamlined narrative of East of West is what you've been praying for. It's Hickman being his best Hickman while hitting on all cylinders and charging full speed ahead.